Feedback is critical to promoting (professional) learning and teaching - it’s the foundation upon which we build improvement. Feedback can come from external sources such as teachers, coaches and mentors; or from internal sources such as self-monitoring and self-reflection.
Interestingly, most of us find it hard to receive, or even harder to give feedback. On top of that, many teachers identify they would like to receive more feedback around their practice.
The bottom line is - without feedback, you cannot effectively develop and grow.
What makes for effective feedback?
Effective feedback is evidence based, specific, timely and constructive. It provides direction and support that encourages the learner to continue building his/her skills and promotes self-confidence and resilience.
When is feedback most important?
When learning new skills, external feedback is particularly important as the learner may not have the understanding and insight to generate high quality internal feedback.
Feedback is also is critical when the learner is developing insight and understanding around when and where to apply the new learning for the greatest benefit.
Where do you get feedback that will promote professional development and growth?
Feedback is most likely to be available where professional relationships are based upon respect and trust.
Colleagues can be a great source of feedback, as can be your students. Actively recruit people to provide feedback that will invest in your professional development. These people will have your best interests at heart and are more likely to provide you with authentic feedback of high integrity.
Feedback should not and does not need to be limited to formal performance development conversations that may only occur a couple of times a year.
How can you promote feedback around practice?
Whoever you recruit to provide feedback around your practice, be sure that you effectively frame the process to maximise its benefits:
Adopt a growth mindset to establish a positive and constructive tone around the feedback process by being solutions focused. By being open to receiving feedback, you promote feedback. People are unlikely to provide feedback if you are resistant to receiving it. Also, be conscious that your body language doesn’t bely your narrative when receiving feedback.
Identify the area of practice and the type of feedback you are requesting. This allows all participants in the process to be “on the same page” and reduce the risk of ambiguity and confusion. It will also generate more specific and contextual feedback, rather than more general (and perhaps less useful) feedback.
Keep the focus for the feedback tight. This may require that you break down an area of practice for development into small, manageable chunks. By doing so, you will further promote more targeted feedback.
Qualify feedback by asking questions that further unpack the feedback, so as to make it more useful to you in developing your practice. This process should be strategic rather than reactive, and constructive rather than defensive (or dismissive).
Be grateful and thank the person for their feedback, no matter what feedback you receive. The person providing feedback has invested their time and effort in supporting your learning, development and growth.
The process of giving and receiving feedback is a skill that is developed through reflective practice over time. The more you engage with the process, the more capable and confident you will become in its application to inform your professional learning.