For this module in my Educational Technology Leadership course we are looking at “Developing Coaching Skills” using ISTE Standards for Coaches 1d (Implement strategies for initiating and sustaining technology innovations and manage the change process in schools and classrooms) and 2f (Coach teachers in and model incorporation of research-based best practices in instructional design when planning technology-enhanced learning experiences) (ISTE, 2017). Our guiding question for this work is “What roles do communication and collaboration skills play in successful coaching?”. When I I began considering this question I found myself thinking about feedback that has been given to me over my fifteen years as an educator. While I have appreciated the time and thought that all who have provided me with feedback have put in, I wanted to dive deeper into understanding how and why some feedback has made a positive impact in my instruction and, consequently, increased student learning and other feedback, while leaving me feeling appreciated and confident, has not be impactful on student achievement in my classroom.
The Importance of Feedback
Providing our students feedback on their work in our classes is one of the most important parts of our jobs as teachers. Simply delivering instruction, giving assignments, and assessing student work will not result in the student learning experiences we hope for our students. And, in order for the feedback to be most valuable to students, teachers should provide feedback in a collaborative environment. Instructional coaches, although working in a more peer-peer relationship, should be providing feedback to teachers in similar ways. Feedback should be timely, descriptive, and include a plan for follow-up. Feedback should also, when possible, happen in real-time and in-person.
Types of Feedback
When researching this topic, I found a great resource on the EL Education website about giving feedback. One of my favorite parts of this piece on giving feedback was the discussion on using “keepers” and “polishers” when providing feedback in a coaching role. Keepers are defined as “instructional moves that support students’ learning and achievement to both honor the teacher and ensure transference” and Polishers described as “a limited number of next steps that will have the greatest impact on student achievement” (EL Education, 2018). The article recommends the coach provides 3-4 “keepers” and 1-2 “polishers” during a feedback session.
While I had never really thought of giving or receiving feedback to be a structured and scripted process, the more I read about the coaching role and providing feedback the more it seems that consistent organization and thoughtful pre-planning is key to ensuring the feedback achieves the goal of improving student learning. The EL Education article talked about a book (Leverage Leadership) by Paul Bambrick-Santayo and listed 6 steps of effective feedback as described in this book. I really liked the structure of using these 6 steps and I imagine using these steps would provide the teacher being coached with the tools they need to make positive changes in their class.
- Identify the Problem & Create an Action Step
- Plan Ahead
- Set a Timeline for Follow-up
(6 steps from the EL Education website referencing “Leverage Leadership” by Paul Bambrick-Santayo)
Summary and Next Steps
Through my research on this topic my most significant new understanding is that feedback should always be focused on student learning. When offering praise as a coach it should be centered around student achievement and when asking probing questions to get at ways teachers could make changes in their classroom, coaches should be sure that these are tied to “student achievement and evidence, rather than on instructional strategies alone” (ELL website). Another “take away” for me has been the importance of a coach describing the behaviors of both the teacher and students when providing feedback. When feedback is less personal is it more beneficial to all parties.
Next Steps for Teachers:
- Tell the coach what kind of feedback you would like before the meeting.
- Share your expectations for student learning and unique characteristics of your class.
- Invite “coaches” into your classroom.
Next Steps for Coaches:
- Don’t get personal. Avoid the word “you”. Describe behaviors.
- Have a plan and stick to it. Include many types of feedback.
- Make sure your feedback results in a plan that will provide support going forward
EL Education website. Coaching for Change: Giving Feedback. (Retrieved on 2018, October 16) from: https://eleducation.org/resources/coaching-for-change-giving-feedback
ISTE.org. (2017) ISTE Standards for Coaches. (Retrieved on 2018, October 20) from: https://www.iste.org/standards/for-coaches