This study was born out of my passion to spend less time in my office and more time in classrooms. What I have learned from this study is that teachers want school leaders to visit their classrooms and see the great things they are doing with their students. To maximize the visit, prior research suggests that school leaders not only visit classrooms but should also observe and provide meaningful feedback to teachers (Tuytens & Devos, 2011).
In article one of this series, I mentioned that teachers preferred to respond to principal feedback in a variety of ways. Teachers overwhelmingly reported that one way they preferred to receive feedback was in writing. Teachers reported that feedback in writing allowed them time to review the feedback and reflect on the lesson and the learning environment in the classroom at the time of the observation. Teachers also reported that they would often revisit comments provided by the principal after a classroom observation to continue their review and analysis of the feedback. Teachers preferred to revisit written feedback from the principal to interpret and internalize the information. Teachers would use this time of review to make decisions about the validity of the feedback and whether or not they agreed with what the observer was communicating to them.
Once teachers felt comfortable with the feedback, whether they agreed or disagreed with the comments, they would make decisions about how to respond. In some instances teachers responded with a change in behavior. In other instances teachers would consider if a change in behavior was appropriate. Some teachers would respond back to the principal in writing and provide an explanation as to why the principal observed specific classroom occurrences or why the learning environment was in a specific state. Regardless of their response, teachers continuously reported that written feedback was preferred.
“I like when feedback comes through email, it gives me an opportunity to sit down and think about why I did it this way”
Written feedback was provided to teachers through the electronic template created on eWalk. I have been using these templates for years to conduct classroom observations and provide feedback to teachers. It has been my experience that providing teachers with feedback via the eWalk platform has decreased the levels of anxiety among teachers. Teachers have reported that they enjoy administrators being in their classrooms and offering feedback after the visit. Teachers have also reported that receiving feedback via the electronic eWalk template decreases their “anxious” feelings about the observation process. This was supported by a participant who stated “I think an email is better to get feedback because it is informal, not condescending, and it doesn’t make teachers feel as if they are on the spot”. Written feedback emailed to the teacher is less intimidating and provides the teachers with control of the observation process. Teachers have opportunities to read the feedback in their classroom or at home on their computer and can interpret the feedback on their “turf” where they are the authority and have control. I think this makes a big difference in how teachers view the observation and the feedback process we have established in our school.
Participants offered some interesting responses regarding their preference for written feedback. One participant of the study indicated that written feedback was preferable when he/she stated “As far as the walk-throughs I really do like the walk-throughs cause I can read through it and I can make a change if I need to.” A Math participant stated that “I prefer getting feedback on the walk-through form. I appreciate having a hard copy so I can see what the observer is seeing”. A Social Studies teacher communicated a preference for written feedback by stating “I like when feedback comes through email, it gives me an opportunity to sit down and think about why I did it this way”. Teachers often reported that written feedback was preferred and that the ability to review the feedback several times and formulate responses was also desirable.
Stay tuned for article three of the Teacher Responses to Principal Feedback Series. Article three should drop in a couple of weeks. Article three will address participants reporting they would often change a behavior as a result of principal feedback. Teachers who participated in the study often changed behaviors when principal feedback was perceived to either encourage or suggest a change in behavior would be appropriate. A Social Studies teacher stated that “I think it would be ignorant for me not to try something that is suggested by the principal”. These sentiments were consistent with other participants of the study.
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Be on the LOOKOUT for Article 3: Teachers Respond to Principal Feedback by Changing Behaviors.