Guest Post: Increase the Impact of your Feedback as Instructional Coach

A teacher was talking to me this week about her instructional coach. She said, “You can’t instructionjust give feedback to me. Giving feedback in the wrong way has no impact.” Wow.

You have so many delicate relationships to navigate as an instructional coach. Your principal, associate principal, curriculum and district coordinator, and teachers all require your attention, expertise, and feedback. You wear a different hat for each role. You take a different approach with each teacher.

Can we simplify just one of these relationships?

Can your impact be increased?

Your relationships with teachers are the most critical. Teachers have the most direct impact on student learning. That’s where you have the greatest indirect impact on student learning. Is there a way that your conversations with teachers can be simplified and more effective?

I recently completed a research study that discovered four different types of feedback given to teachers. The study show significantly positive results using these four types of feedback. How can this research help your instructional coaching?

Four Types of Feedback for Instructional Coaching

The instructional leaders in the study visited over 100 classrooms during a six month period and offered feedback over 1,000 times. The feedback they gave to teachers can be categorized into four types.

Factual Feedback. Factual feedback is the simplest to give and is given the most. This type of feedback provides teachers with the raw description of what occurred in their classroom.

Affirmative Feedback. Affirming those practices that have a positive impact in the classroom. This type of feedback recognizes and praises the strengths you notice in the classroom.

Reflective Feedback. You can give feedback by simply asking questions. Ask questions with no correct answer, but that focus on prompting reflection for rich discussion points.

Corrective Feedback. Sometimes feedback needs to direct teachers away from certain practices or modify good practices. This type of feedback is not inherently negative (and is rarely given). It states ways that the classroom environment or instructional practice can be adjusted to have a stronger impact.

You can be confident that your feedback will have a positive impact on professional learning and instructional climate. You can also be intentional about giving feedback in your conversations.

Examples of Feedback from an Instructional Coach

What do these types of feedback sound like in a conversation? See if you can spot the type of feedback in the conversation below.

Coach: “Hi Malia. Thanks for letting me come by your room the other day. Can I give you quick feedback on what I saw?”

Teacher: “Sure. I’m on the way to a meeting. Can you walk with me?”

Coach: “I was only there for 5 minutes, but I did notice two strong impacts on student learning. First, you have an anchor chart that the student repeatedly looked at. Second, you had the same graphic organizer from the anchor chart in your handout. That’s such an effective strategy.”

Teacher: “Thanks. That’s just something I started doing last year.”

Coach: “Well, you’re really a natural. Would you mind if I share these strategy with the team?”

Teacher: “Sure, I guess so. Thanks.”

Did you say the feedback was affirmative? Good. The instructional coach recognized two strengths in Malia’s classroom practice.

Of course, you don’t have to hold in-person conversations to give feedback. You could just leave it on a sticky note:

“I noticed the students really used your anchor charts. Have you thought about creating a graphic organizer to go with it?”

The sticky note gave the teacher reflective feedback. Did you notice the slight difference? The teacher can choose whether to act on it – or if the idea is appropriate in the lesson. The benefit in this case is that the teacher reflected. Your feedback create an instance of reflective learning. That’s coaching.

Research Findings for Instructional Coaches

I worked with over a dozen instructional leaders at three different school districts in the Houston area. I found that each type of feedback had positive impacts on the instructional climates of the campuses. Teachers didn’t express a significant difference in their perceptions of the different types of feedback.

We might anticipate corrective feedback being tough to give and receive, but no. It was no more or less effective than the affirmative feedback. We might guess teachers enjoy receiving affirmative feedback more than factual feedback, but no.

We had over 300 teachers in the study, I found that the type of feedback was only second in importance to the quantity. The major finding: teachers consistently reported a positive benefit from the feedback given to them.

Coaches as Leaders

You are more than an instructional specialists or curriculum expert. You are a leader among your peers, at your campus, and within your district. Your real impact is in your relationships – the interactions and feedback you give to your teachers.

Take a moment to reflect on your three most recent conversations. Ask yourself three questions:

  1. Did the conversation involve feedback?
  2. Who was giving and receiving the feedback?
  3. What type of feedback did you give?

Take the lead in your conversations. Listen to teacher’s needs, visit their classrooms, and give feedback. Affirm, describe, question, and help adjust their practice.

Instructional coaching is role that can have immeasurable impact! On campus, in classrooms, and in students’ lives. Feedback is a tool that you can intentionally use in your conversations to make that impact. How will you use these types of feedback this week as an instructional coach?

About our Guest Author: Matt Foster is a learner and educator in Houston, TX with K-12 teaching and administrative experience. He holds a MEd in Administration and a MS in Curriculum & Instruction with particular interests in culture, climate, and school improvement. You can follow Matt on twitter @mafost.

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