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IH Teacher Trainer

Module Six – Managing Feedback

Pre-Module Reading
Overview
In earlier modules, we looked at different types of observations and came up with
some guidelines of what to look for; in this unit, we’ll go beyond the actual
observation itself and look at what happens next: feedback.

Feedback is the most important and challenging part of the observation process. It
can be challenging for the teacher to be part of, with teachers often nervous or even
defensive; it can be challenging for the observer too as you need to work out how to
manage a given feedback session and then do so well and with confidence. There is
no right way to give feedback, though there certainly are some wrong ways! First of
all, let’s look at some general aspects of feedback.

Hot Feedback
So-called hot feedback is immediately after the observed lesson has finished. It
should be organised appropriately to permit both the teacher and observer to
organise their thoughts and for the teacher to complete a self-reflection task. It is
often employed on initial teacher training courses, such as CELTA, and has the
advantage that both parties can clearly remember the lesson. However, it can be
disadvantageous in not allowing sufficient time for reflection to take place and
classes which did not go so well can cause knee-jerk reactions.

Cold Feedback
As one might expect from cold being an antonym of hot, this feedback is not
immediate, but delayed. This is perhaps the most common type of feedback in an in-
service context as it is relatively rare for a teacher to be observed on a whole class
(often the first half, for example) and then they often have other classes to teach that
day too. Cold feedback should be organised for a mutually acceptable time with
observer and teacher, though I would suggest no more than two days after the
lesson. It has the advantages of allowing for greater depth of reflection, but the
disadvantage that one or both parties involved may forget parts of the lesson. It can
also be advantageous for an observer is the lesson hasn’t gone so well and they
need time to really think about what to prioritise and strategies for doing so.

Teacher-led Feedback
As the name suggests, this type of feedback (which could be hot or cold) involves
the teacher leading the feedback session; that is to say, it would generally be
completely based on a teacher’s self-reflection and address points that the teacher
brings up as the session progresses. The observer will typically answer questions,
make suggestions and occupy the role of mentor rather than a didactic (in the
pejorative sense) ‘expert’. Of course, if there are specific points of weakness in the
lesson which must be addressed, then the observer can certainly make them, though
the skill is in trying to guide the teacher towards self-realisation based on their
comments and reflections.
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Written Feedback
Following on from the different kinds of oral feedback outlined above, is written
feedback. This should be a synthesis of the whole observation and feedback
process, though in practice is often written before oral feedback is delivered. It is
very important on such a document to be concise, balanced and to prioritise action
points as these are not just a record of the feedback for the teacher, but also often
for the institution. They should also be consulted before future observations to give
observers an idea of past areas for development, etc. Typically, they will include an
overall comment, a comment on the lesson plan, some teaching strengths and areas
for development (often with advice or suggestions). They must reflect the oral
feedback to ensure fairness and consistency. In many institutions, a one-page
document will suffice. We will see an example of such a document later.

Other institutions, however, may have feedback documents which require multiple
pages. These can involve anything from rating criteria for a lesson to detailed action
points. Sometimes teachers are graded or rated, e.g. satisfactory, outstanding, etc.
In other instances, there may be a pass/fail system (particularly on training courses).
As we saw when we looked at different types of observations, there is a lot of variety
in observation and this, coupled with individual institution requirements, means that
it’s impossible to cover every scenario here.

Post-Feedback Development
So oral and written feedback have been delivered, but now what? The observer’s job
does not finish here but should continue into a mentoring role. This is often not
possible, but in ideal world would be the case. The areas identified as action points
form the observation, prioritised and agreed with the teacher should form the basis of
further teacher development. If you’re doing a lot of observations in a school and
there are common issues, this could form the basis of a set of CPD sessions,
encouraging teachers to become as involved as possible.

However, if you’re in a smaller centre or have just observed one or two teachers, you
can help them further by offering suggestions for further reading, online resources
such as webinars/sites, peer observations of more experienced teachers strong in
the given teacher’s weaker areas, support with planning, etc. This could also take
the form of an individual development plan being drawn up in concert with the
teacher, with certain things such as a peer observation or the reading of an article to
be achieved in a specified time period.

As with all goal-setting, it is important to be precise and to ensure that all action is
taken within a given time period. The teacher needs to walk away from the
observation meeting knowing what their key areas of action are and with some
specific ideas about how to achieve them. A comment like “you need to develop your
language awareness” is not particularly useful. Better is something like:

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Action Plan Time


Improve knowledge of Read chapter 25 of About By September 15th
phrasal verbs. Language (Thornbury)
and complete the relevant
tasks

While the above is still basic, it is specific, manageable, and clearly actionable. It is
also possible for you to check the teacher has done the task through using different
assessment systems (which we’ll see later in the course).

Conducting Feedback
This is arguably the most daunting part of the whole observation process. You sit in
a room with a stressed teacher, feeling stressed yourself, and sometimes have to
give bad news. Sometimes teachers will be defensive, other times dismissive, and
still other times downright hostile. Of course, there are many times when everything
goes well, but those aren’t the times we tend to worry about.
In the module, we’ll try to come up with a set of guidelines for managing feedback;
however, for the moment, here are some dos and don’ts to bear in mind.
• DO be friendly and supportive in your manner.
• DO be aware of how you are feeling before feedback. If you are stressed,
this can feed into the feedback meeting. Take a moment to work out how
you’re feeling before you go in.
• DON’T use language like “you should’ve done x”, “I would’ve done y”
unless this is specifically relevant, e.g. brainstorming ideas. This can
sound like you are telling the teacher off or showing off your own skills and
ideas.
• DON’T dismiss points the teacher makes. Work with these and allow the
discussion to develop.
• DO leave enough time for a full discussion. A rushed 10mins could be
interpreted as dismissive and is arguably not even useful.
• DO encourage reflection where relevant. Ask guiding questions, try to get
the teacher to come to their own conclusions, but be ready to jump in
when necessary.
• DON’T be personal. You are giving feedback on the lesson, not the
person. Avoid making comments on personality or assuming motives. Ask
if necessary.
• DON’T talk and talk and talk and talk and talk.
• DO be an active listener. This means that you are present and fully
focused. Concentrate on what is being said and if you are not completely
sure what a teacher means, summarise what you understand and ask if
you are right.

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• DO suggest alternatives when making a negative point. If something did


not go well, it’s not enough just to say it didn’t work. Explore why not and
give some suggestions to help. Make sure you back up your points with
precise evidence and examples from the lesson.
• DON’T only focus on positives and then handover completely different
written feedback. It’s easy to do because you feel awkward about giving
bad news, but you need to be clear about action points and not ‘fudge’
them.
• DO remember where this teacher is in their own development. If they are
in their first year of teaching, give support relevant to them at that time.
Overloading them with discussions about ELF when they need to focus on
involving learners more is not useful.
Would you add any more to the above? If so, share them on the forums.
Further Reading
You can read more about observations and feedback on the following sites:
• Evidence-Based Observation by Silvana Richardson (webinar)
https://englishagenda.britishcouncil.org/continuing-professional-
development/cpd-managers/silvana-richardson-evidence-based-observation-
tips-and-tools

• On Being an Observer by Chris Ożóg:


http://eltreflection.wordpress.com/2012/02/23/on-being-an-observer/

• What do GREAT Classroom Observers “Know” – and, what do they do with


what they know? By Tony Gurr:
http://allthingslearning.wordpress.com/2012/04/09/what-do-great-classroom-
observers-know-and-what-do-they-do-with-what-they-know/

• Personal Misfires as An Observer by Mike Griffin:


http://eltrantsreviewsreflections.wordpress.com/2012/04/09/personal-misfires-
as-an-observer/

Many of the points made throughout this module are introduced in the above posts
and so read them all pre-unit.

Task

1 You are going to write about what you feel makes good and bad feedback.
Use your own experience and the dos and don’ts above, if you like.

2 Think about why the feedback you received was good/bad. Answer as many
of the following questions as you can.

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• How was the feedback organised?


• How did you feel before, during and after the feedback session itself?
• How was the feedback delivered? Teacher-led?
• How long did the feedback last?
• What kinds of points were raised?
• Did you agree/disagree?
• Was the observer telling you things or asking you things?
• Were there clear action points established?
• Did you implement the points to work on?
• Was the feedback hot or cold?

3 Make notes so you are prepared for the first task.

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