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Using Feedback to Create a Culture of Excellence

Growth is a huge component of the change process. In order for each of us to pave a path for success, there must be feedback along the way.  When it comes to navigating the process of change, this might be the most essential element to help individuals improve while also validating efforts made to get better.  Cultures of excellence are created and fostered when feedback is used to commend effort while providing considerations for growth regularly.  In a previous post, I highlighted five considerations to help maximize this powerful tool, which you can see below:

  • Positive facilitation
  • Practical and specific
  • Timely
  • Consistent
  • Use the right medium

In my role as a coach, I am constantly providing educators with feedback based on qualitative and quantitative evidence in alignment with the principles listed above.  On a typical day when I visit classrooms with principals in my partner districts across the country, both the building and district leaders receive a 1000-to-5000-word document laden with practical feedback. They get this before I physically leave for the day.  I have always done this because I know that timely information has been critical to my professional growth.  The best outcome of this process has been the feedback I have received from leaders who have stated how valuable this resource has been for them.

During my recent work with the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE), I had the honor of sharing what I have learned from the field while helping them look at and analyze evidence from their change efforts during our time together.  During each virtual coaching session, they were pushed to bring artifacts from their respective cohort.  Recently I shared what Jill Angelucci, an assistant principal from George Rogers Clark High School, created as a result of the project.  My role was to provide then direct feedback on all the evidence shared while also engaging the group to do the same. One of the key points I tried to make was how important it is to do the same with teachers.  It warmed my heart when Amy Rhodes, the principal of Bevins Elementary, shared what she had recently implemented in regard to feedback. The result was “Feedback Fridays.” 

You can see examples of the slips she created HERE and read the summary below:

While our district was on all virtual learning, I began asking my teachers to submit one thing each week they wanted me to give feedback on from Canvas. Teachers could ask for feedback on a module, lesson, or recorded video from Canvas. They could ask me to join a Zoom for the upcoming week or look at a piece of student work. The options are endless. I gave each teacher feedback on what he/she submitted. If the teacher submitted something to me before 2:30 on Friday, I allowed them to leave work 30 minutes early (while we are on all virtual learning and students were not in the building). 

I recently checked back in with Amy Rhodes after reviewing the feedback slips she had shared during the KDE coaching sessions to gain more insight into her views on why and how she moved forward with this strategy.  Below are her thoughts.

Feedback and coaching have been part of my professional growth goal for the last few years.  Being an instructional leader is my top priority, and I know how vital teacher efficacy is to student achievement. When our school closed in March of 2020, we were not prepared for virtual learning. We did the best we could with the resources we had. Going into the new school year in August of 2020, we needed a learning management system and ways to improve virtual learning. Being all virtual, I was unable to observe instruction in the classrooms, and I had to teach myself how to conduct virtual observations through Canvas and by participating in Zooms. 

I noticed that my teachers worked very hard at making their virtual classrooms presentable and designing their Canvas courses so they were easy to navigate. I did not see the sound instruction that I would see in the classrooms if we were not virtual. Some of the things I look for while doing classroom visits, using our district walkthrough document, are learning targets, higher-level questioning and discussion, active engagement, student feedback, technology, and formative assessment. I knew my teachers were already overwhelmed with all the changes, but I also know how vital it is for our students to receive sound instruction rather than be virtual or in person. 

We meet in PLCs every Wednesday and were able to use this time to discuss and have teachers share out their Canvas pages and virtual lessons. When I would see something from the week that I liked, I asked that teacher to share out at PLC. For example, while conducting a virtual observation in Canvas, I noticed a third-grade teacher found a fantastic way to engage students even through virtual learning. I asked her to share her screen I PLC and show her colleagues what she did. This was an excellent way for teachers to learn ideas from others. 

As I already said, my teachers were so overwhelmed, so I chunked the things I look for from our walkthrough document.t I started with learning targets, and I provided coaching and feedback until every teacher had learning targets on their virtual lessons each day. Next, we moved on to formative assessment and then on to questioning and discussion. We chunked the areas and worked on them in small groups. With the coaching and feedback I provided, along with the PLC discussions, it did not take too long until I was observing high-quality teaching and learning virtually!

If there isn’t a concerted effort to improve progress, it is often hard to come by in many cases. Most educators need and want feedback to grow. There is no one right way to do this, in my opinion.  However, once feedback is prioritized and consistently provided, the stage is set for a culture of excellence.