Technologically and linguistically adventurous EFL teacher, trainer, writer and manager

I just wrote these guidelines for post-observation feedback to supplement an MA assignment and feel like they’re worth sharing. What would you add/remove/change?

The aims of post-observation feedback are to:

  • boost teachers’ confidence.
  • develop teachers’ ability to reflect on their own teaching.
  • help them build on their strengths.
  • identify 2-3 key areas to focus on developing and come up with concrete ideas for how to do this.
  • deal with any questions or concerns the teacher may have.
  • explain, if necessary, any areas of methodology or terminology which may be useful for teachers in examining their future practice.

Effective observation feedback is

Timely / Prompt
The closer in time the feedback is to the observation, the better, as events will be fresher in both of your minds.

Factual and non-evaluative, describing behaviour without judgment
Feedback should clearly establish what, when, where, and how, and avoid commenting on why. It should address the actual lesson based on direct observation, rather than the assumptions and interpretations of the observer, or criticisms of the person (You’re not organized at all, are you?). It also avoids value judgments (The students were engaged in the activity. rather than That was a good activity.)

Specific
Feedback should address specific aspects of the lesson and provide clear examples of what was observed.

Balanced
Both positive and negative aspects of the lesson should be discussed, and always should always be reinforced by specific examples.

Something which can be acted upon
Action points should be based on things which the teacher can do something about, not things over which they have little or not control (e.g. Teachers can make sure late students come in quickly and quietly, but they can’t stop them from being late). Any suggestions for action points should be accompanied by discussion about how to work on these, with ideas preferably coming from the teacher rather than the observer.

A space for learning within a dialogue / Not over-directed
The observer should ask relevant questions to encourage teachers to come to their own conclusions as far as possible, rather than presenting them with the observer’s conclusions (How do you think the lesson went? Why do you think the students took a long time to complete that activity? rather than I thought that lesson was too difficult for the students. They didn’t understand the activity so couldn’t complete it.) If the teacher is talking more, they have the space to formulate and articulate ideas, process thoughts and form new understandings – they are less likely to do this if they are just listening. The more the feedback comes from teacher reflecting on their lesson, the more ownership they have over it, and the more likely they are to be able to act on it. Dialogue also reduces the danger of giving advice without fully identifying the problem.

Caring and respectful
The amount of feedback given should be limited to what the teacher can handle, rather than covering everything the observer would like to say. Equally, don’t be afraid to challenge the teacher to push their thinking. The teacher needs to know that we have their best interests at heart. Remember that the teacher’s nonverbal behaviour can be a clue as to how they feel about the lesson and the feedback, not just what they are saying.

Checked for clarity
You need to make sure that the teacher has understood the feedback you have given, and what they need to do to work on action points. Asking teachers to summarise the feedback at the end of the meeting is an opportunity for the teacher to tell you the positives from the observation as they understand them, plus what the teacher needs to do next, and for you to clarify any confusing points.

Part of a process
Emphasise that you don’t expect teachers to be able to resolve any issues you have noted instantly, and that it may take time to work on them. Request feedback on your feedback too, so that teachers see you as a learning observer and feedback giver and you demonstrate how to successfully receive feedback.

A positive experience, balancing feelings and rationality
For post-observation feedback to be successful, teachers need to trust the observer and feel comfortable receiving feedback from them. They also need to feel ready to receive feedback. If they are already feeling very stressed, anxious, angry, or in any other way negative about the situation, ask them if they would like to rearrange the feedback session for a later date. If you are not sure about how to give feedback in a particular situation, discuss it (confidentially) with somebody else first if you can. Teachers have the right to have an emotional reaction to observation feedback – their feelings should not be discounted. Equally, don’t be afraid to say how things in the lesson made you feel as an observer. Emphasise strengths and improvements made, and encourage confidence and positive thinking as much as possible. Make sure the feedback meeting ends on a positive note.

References

These guidelines are adapted from the following sources, with my own ideas added:

  • Diaz Maggioli, G. (2012) Teaching Language Teachers: Scaffolding Professional Learning. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Education (page 92)
  • Mann, S. and Walsh, S. (2017) Reflective Practice in English Language Teaching. London: Routledge. (page 165 and page 159-160 based on Waring 2013:104-105)
  • White, R. Hockley, A., van der Horst Jansen, J. and Laughner, M. S. (2008) From Teacher to Manager: Managing Language Teaching Organisations. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. (page 65-66 based on Porter 1982)
  • Wallace, S. and Gravells, J. (2005) Mentoring, 2nd edition. Exeter: Learning Matters. (pages 55, 58, 69, 70, 74).

Comments on: "Observer guidelines: giving feedback" (11)

  1. Definitely worth sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Excellent points. Research has shown that there is often a mismatch between the communication of feedback and learners’ interpretations of it. How do we know that trainees have engaged with and understood the feedback provided (going beyond nodding and repeating the same points back to us)? I’m still working on this…

    Like

  3. Tyson Seburn said:

    I’ll shared this on 4C’s FB page tomorrow. Thank you!

    Like

  4. “The amount of feedback given should be limited to what the teacher can handle, rather than covering everything the observer would like to say”.

    Your point above is important. The word ‘handle’ resonates with me because it’s not just about coping in the sense of how many action points a teacher can feasibly manage to address in the time they have before the next round of observations, but also where they are in their own learning, their own stage of development

    For example, if someone is a few months into their first teaching job, it might be unfair to give feedback and set learning aims revolving around something such as applying differentiation strategies, especially when they are really looking for feedback on how they might have made their freer practice stage more interactive.
    ~ Olly

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the comment Olly. Yes, I didn’t make it clear that it should be aimed at the level at which they are ready to learn. I always compare learning to teach as learning a language, and it’s like trying to show somebody how conditionals work when they haven’t got their head around the past simple yet.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Sharadchandra Harishchandra Pawar said:

    Hi Sandy this is Sharad from India, I just have gone through the elements of feedback where the reflection of the teachers practices have been explored in a positive manner, it has given us guideline showing perfect epitome of the feedback, really praiseworthy and focusing on the teachers development in truly positive manner
    Thanks for such wonderful guidelines

    Like

  6. Thank you for including your references, Sandy. I remembered reading this post and came back to it today for the reflective practice references. Just what I needed.

    Like

    • Happy to help Anna. I’ve also just discovered the book Lessons Learned by Diaz Maggioli and Painter-Farrell, which is entirely based around reflective practice.

      Like

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