Article three of the “Teacher Responses to Principal Feedback” series discussed how teachers will change behaviors as a result of principal feedback. If you recall, findings from that study indicated that teachers will change behaviors when they perceive principal feedback suggests that a change in behavior would be appropriate. It also revealed that teachers will respond to principal feedback of classroom observations with written explanations of the teaching practices and learning environment observed during the classroom visit. More than any other response, they preferred to respond to principal feedback using written explanations of their teaching strategies and the learning environment that was observed during the classroom visit.
Teachers prefer feedback after classroom observations be in writing and will often respond back to the principal using written communication. They want observers to know what was going on during the visit to their class. Often, the teacher will respond with an explanation regarding their reasoning for certain actions or behaviors if the feedback they receive from the observer in any way communicates a misunderstanding between the planning and implementation phases of the lesson.
Initially, I was thinking to myself that these teachers wanted to explain away any constructive feedback that resulted from the observation. In some cases I feel I was accurate in my opinion. However, as I analyzed the written explanations more closely I soon realized that this was an effective source of information and that my opinions may be the exception, not the rule. These explanations provided detailed information regarding what the teacher was trying to accomplish with the lesson.
What I was observing in class began to make more sense.
As a result, I am a more informed observer now that I have more background information regarding the teacher them-self, the learning environment, and the students in the class. Teachers are often very methodical about what they are doing in class and these explanations have reinforced my opinions of my them.
“I have found that these explanations have been most beneficial in educating me on just how great our teachers are.”
I was recently observing one of my English teachers and noticed there were several students missing. Our classes are usually pretty full and having several empty desks in the classroom caught my attention. During the lesson I observed that several students were having difficulty understanding concepts and were asking several questions of the teacher. In fact, students were asking several of the same questions and it appeared to me that the teacher kept answering the same questions over and over. I began to wonder why the teacher did not simply stop the lesson and answer questions for the group instead of answering the same question over and over.
The feedback I provided to this teacher after the classroom visit asked “How might you maximize instructional time by addressing the class as a whole when several students are having difficulty with the same concept?”. I thought I had a fairly good understanding of the learning environment and thought the feedback I provided was fair and accurate. The teacher responded to my question, thanking me for my feedback and explained to me that the class was a co-taught class. The co-teacher had taken the higher achieving students to a different classroom to do some enrichment activities while this teacher (Content Teacher) was working with the lower achieving students. What a change, the content teacher working with the lower achieving students instead of always working with the higher achieving students. Their explanation informed me that this group of students performs better when a teacher spends more time with them individually even if it means having to repeat information several times. I was not surprised when learning of this as these two teachers are absolutely fantastic and often differentiate the learning environment by working with smaller groups of students to decrease the teacher/student ratio. The explanation they provided to me was not in any way an excuse. It was a validation that they were working for students and doing all things possible to ensure our students were successful.
I have found that these explanations have been most beneficial in educating me on just how great our teachers are. It is the exception that these explanations are submitted by the teachers to offer excuses regarding what is observed during a classroom visit. In most instances, they are explaining the reasons for their actions and why they feel their actions are appropriate. I have also learned that in most cases they are right.
Article 5 of the “Teacher Responses to Principal Feedback” series will discuss my findings on how teachers responded to principal feedback of classroom observations by reflecting on their teaching. Reflection is a powerful tool and when used effectively can assist teachers in improving their skills in the classroom. Be on the lookout for article 5, it should drop in a couple of weeks.
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