Teacher Evaluation: The Power of Instant Feedback

6 Feb

With a new school semester, my number one priority has become doing a better job of getting into classrooms and providing teachers with growth-producing feedback.  I currently supervise 54 teachers across three departments- and reflecting upon some of the observation forms I completed in the first semester, I gave my self a failing self-evaluation.  My feedback was not timely, often generic, and did little to have an impact.  My time was focused mainly on new teachers, and while there is nothing wrong with that- I realized I was not giving much time at all to my veterans.  Furthermore, I gave the teachers in my departments a survey to evaluate me.  While it seemed that teachers appreciate my leadership in a general sense, my lowest area was clear- they felt a lack of feedback from me on their instruction.

Well I knew this wouldn’t do.  There are hundreds of things that can happen in a given week to pull a high school assistant principal away from instruction, particularly in classrooms where I know teachers are “doing fine”.  But if I have a group of professionals desiring feedback, and I am not giving it, what is the point?

After brainstorming a number of ideas, I settled on using my iPad and Google Drive to get the job done.  So far, the results have been amazing.  I put my school division’s observation form on Google Drive.  I go into the room, talk to students, take notes, and for informal observations see at least one full segment between transitions.  I try to be specific, and include student quotes where helpful.  More than anything, I try to be positive, even in giving an area I see for improvement.  Right there in the room, I e-mail the Google Doc as a PDF attachment to the teacher.  The feedback is already sitting there in their inbox by the time they sit down after the lesson.

I gave my teachers one condition for doing this: they have to print out the form, sign it, and come talk to me about the lesson (or let me know when they are ready and I will go to them).  Where there would be some teachers I would go weeks without seeing, so far I have teachers coming down immediately after school to discuss aspects of their lesson.  I even had one teacher send me a note thanking me for the kind words about her lesson.  It makes my day to make teachers happy, and the door of opportunity for constant dialogue about quality instruction has been flung open.  Everyone, myself included, feels more effective by simply tweaking a system that wasn’t working, and finding a system to efficiently give teachers instant, specific feedback on their instruction.

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