As a school leader, I understand the importance of giving effective feedback to teachers. But even after reading the research, I have doubts. Sometimes these doubts even prevent me from following through on giving the feedback. I wonder:
- Am I a hypocrite because I’m giving feedback, but no one gives it to me since I’m the boss?
- Is the feedback I give even helpful?
Similar concerns bounce around my brain when I’m making decisions for the school. While I’m constructing the schedule, purchasing/creating curriculum, and choosing professional development, I wonder if anyone will agree with my decisions? Then I think, if they don’t would they share it with me anyway?
The answer to this doubt is an effective feedback loop that goes back and forth from principal to teacher. There are so many reasons why a feedback loop is important. One of the most important is that when I’m getting feedback and not just giving it, I feel like I’m part of a team.
Here’s a few ways to get your feedback loop going:
1. Conduct leadership surveys
Twice a year, I have another school leader send out a 15-20 question survey to a random sample of teachers. Most of them are Likert scale questions about a range of topics. I might have questions about my effectiveness in observation coaching sessions, impact on school climate, and consistency in communicating with staff. There are also three open-ended questions: 2-3 things I am doing well, 2-3 areas of improvement, and anything else they might want to tell me. The self-awareness I gain from this survey is invaluable.
2. Establish working committees
Every winter, we create committees for decisions for the next year. One committee for the daily schedule, one for professional development, one for report card revisions, etcetera. Each committee is headed by a school leader and has as many teachers as want to join. This always ensures decisions are made from the bottom up, not the reverse.
3. Make goals transparent
Each school year, I hand my staff our strategic plan for the school year. This names two specific goals our school can reach. Midway through the year, I do a 4-6 question survey about how well we are doing in reaching the goals. Then, I share the results and possible action steps created in response to where we are.
4. Feedback meetings are reciprocal
At the end of a coaching session, I often ask the teacher about what he/she felt I did that was helpful in the coaching session. I also ask what I could do differently to be more effective. I’m not naïve enough to think that every teacher shares everything on their mind. My hope is that if I ask these questions consistently and make changes as a result of the feedback, they are more apt to share.
Being a school leader is a lonely job. The only way to make sure I’m on the right track (and modeling my expectations) is to create a feedback loop.
Join our Facebook group Principal Life for more ideas on how to transform your school.