Feedback for Flourishing

Many years ago, I worked in a factory that made potato chips. My job, though, was in the packaging department, where the chips were bagged. The bags of chips entered a conveyor belt where I would pick up the bags, place them in a box, fold the box, and push it onto another conveyor belt that went out into the warehouse for storage. Outside of being quite dull–packing boxes for 8 hours a day–there wasn’t a whole lot to it. After several years of doing this, the company decided it would be important to implement other practices, so everyone was trained on “continuous improvement” (C.I.). Within C.I., we were instructed to create S.M.A.R.T. goals and give and receive feedback. Even though I worked there many years ago, I have benefitted from the training I received on feedback and how useful I have found it to be even today.

ISTE 4.5.B states, “Build the capacity of educators, leaders and instructional teams to put the ISTE Standards into practice by facilitating active learning and providing meaningful feedback” (ISTE). After reading this standard, I then asked the question, “What does meaningful feedback look like—feedback that, as ISTE says, is ‘specific’ and ‘actionable’ to bring about change?” We all receive feedback in some form or fashion, mainly in a more informal way, such as a “Good job!” or “Yes, that’s correct.” Concerning the standard, the feedback ISTE refers to is more formal. In “Professional Learning with Staying Power,” author Thomas Guskey writes, “Successful professional learning initiatives include procedures for teachers to receive frequent and specific feedback on results. In other words, teachers must see explicit evidence from their students in their classrooms that the changes make a difference” (3). Guskey also mentions how important it can be for the timeliness of the feedback. Teachers will continually use something they learned when they receive timely feedback and see results from students just as timely. Changes will occur once the “actionable” item is implemented based on the feedback and teachers see the results.

Specific feedback is always vital because no one can bring about a change without knowing exactly what needs to be changed. It seems like this may be an obvious statement. If you tell a teacher, “You presented that lesson very well,” it almost sounds specific, but there isn’t enough specificity for the person to know if anything should be changed for next time. One thing that can be helpful to a coach is for the person receiving feedback to ask for the coach to look for something specific in their observation on which to offer feedback. In “The Place of Reflection in PD” by Aaron Marvel, Marvel suggests that the teacher asks for the administrator to provide feedback on something decided by the teacher. Marvel notes, “This gives them the autonomy to decide where they are growing and what they want to reflect on, and it invites the administrator to give useful and relevant feedback” (Par. 14). I like this because this, too, helps in giving/getting meaningful feedback. 

We all need feedback in our lives. Feedback helps keep us looking at our goals and working toward improving ourselves. I would be remiss if I didn’t also add that I believe it is essential for the person receiving feedback to thank the other person. I’m sure this happens in some more formal settings, but when I was working at the potato chip factory, we were trained to respond to someone’s feedback with, “Thank you for the feedback.” When we thank the other person, we acknowledge that we listened and took what they said to heart. From that, we can hopefully flourish from the feedback!

References

Guskey, T. R. (n.d.). Professional Learning with Staying Power. Uknowledge. Retrieved February 21, 2022, from https://uknowledge.uky.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1051&context=edp_facpub

ISTE standards: Coaches. ISTE. (n.d.). Retrieved February 21, 2022, from https://www.iste.org/standards/iste-standards-for-coaches

Marvel, A. (2018, June 7). The Place of Reflection in PD. Edutopia. Retrieved February 21, 2022, from https://www.edutopia.org/article/place-reflection-pd

3 thoughts on “Feedback for Flourishing

  1. Deanna Bush says:

    Jeff, I was struck by how many of the components of specific feedback for adults match best practices in feedback for students. For example, you mentioned keeping feedback specific as essential. Specific feedback is important for student writing too because they need to know specifically what they did well or on what elements they need to improve. There are other examples too, but thinking about them makes me think that giving good feedback for adults may just be a matter of educators taking a skill they already use with students and turning it toward adults.

    Reply
  2. Nick R says:

    Jeff, I really enjoyed reading that Guskey article and I’m glad it proved to be valuable for your investigation around feedback. I love strategy of asking a teacher for what specific feedback they’re looking for and I use it often. I think it is always best practice as a coach to let the educator have as much agency as possible in the coaching cycle.

    Reply
  3. J Freeman says:

    I enjoyed reading your explanation on using SMART goals to give and receive feedback. I also appreciated your discussion on the teacher determining what they would like feedback on prior to an observation. You make a great point that this is, in fact, a perfect example of giving meaningful feedback!

    Reply

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