Last week, I taught a group of higher education and Pre-K educators (an unlikely combination, you say? Actually many were professors who worked with pre-service early childhood teachers) in Pennsylvania. We shared an amazing day of learning, complete with laughter and aha! moments for participants and the presenter alike. J
The night before I taught, I had the pleasure of dining at a local Friendly’s Restaurant. True to its name, the waiter who served me was talkative, congenial and extremely interested in what had brought me to their neck of the woods (ummm…ice cream sundae, I wanted to honestly say).
“What kind of work do you do?” he asked me, honestly interested in the answer, not just making small talk. I was really hungry and considered giving him the quick response (“teaching”) so he could go put my order in to the cooks, but alas, I was feeling particularly passionate about my love for what I do, so I gave him the extended version (“I work on educator effectiveness, which means I help teach teachers about what good teaching looks like and I help teacher leaders recognize good teaching when they see it”).
The guttural snort the waiter emitted told a story of its own, but he elaborated, “You need to come to my school and teach my teacher.”
I smiled sympathetically and said, “Tell me more.”
It was as if Old Faithful had just begun gushing. Chad couldn’t help himself. He told me more. And more. And more. As a student at a local university, Chad said he had turned in several papers already this semester but as of last week (May!), he had yet to receive feedback on any of them. “She has graded them but we don’t get any notes or comments on them. How are we supposed to know what we did well or what to do differently if we don’t get any feedback??” he asked exasperatedly.
After teaching a session, I always review the feedback I am given from the participants. It may not alter my every move next time I teach, but if I have several teachers admitting, “At first we didn’t want to move to different groups throughout the day, but by making us talk to new people helped broaden our perspectives,” it validates the importance of this presenter strategy (in spite of the groans I sometimes hear when I do ask them to move). J Likewise, if participants say, “You know these strategies so well, but when you talk about them, be sure to call them by name, not just by letter, because we don’t know them as well”, I need to be sure to adjust.
Grant Wiggins (2012) wrote a great piece in ASCD’s Educational Leadership about effective feedback. Helpful feedback, he says, is goal-referenced, attainable, personalized, and timely. I thought particularly about Chad’s complaint about his teacher and thought, “Wow, she isn’t giving him ANY timely feedback, so he can’t possibly work towards goal attainment.
One dear teacher with whom I used to work when I was a principal, said to me, “Thank you for talking with me about my teaching. I’ve never had a principal tell me anything but, ‘Great job, keep it up.’ You make me think about the steps I am taking in my own teaching.” What an incredibly important and powerful position----giving people feedback. I know I need it in my budding golf game. Without Dave reminding me of some of the tips and strategies I am learning from golf instructors, I am left to my own devices, which is a tremendously scary place to be. I revert back to bad habits (let’s be honest, I do this anyway) and then I am frustrated. The feedback serves as a guide, one we all need whether we love getting it or not.
Perhaps we need to make feedback a priority in our daily life and work. Giving it should be top on our list of important work if we supervise employees and accepting it is critical in our own growth. In between bites of my ice cream sundae, I made sure I gave Chad some feedback about his waiter abilities but also about some ways he could ask and get feedback from his professor. A win-win, you might say, even though I likely “won” more, as it was a really tasty sundae!
Wiggins, G. (2012). September 2012 | Volume 70 | Number 1
Feedback for Learning Pages 10-16