Because For Educators and Parents, Counting Our Blessings Just Isn't Enough

cc licensed image shared by flickr user Colin_K

cc licensed image shared by flickr user Colin_K

I notice. I wonder. What if? How might?

These four nonjudgemental prompts guide me as I share feedback with teachers. In the past, when I began my journey toward routinely and nonjudgmentally offering formative feedback to teachers in lieu of formal evaluations I avoided compliment as much as critique. What I like is, after all, as judgmental as what I don’t like. Yet, refraining from complimenting felt cold and detached. We all deserve appreciation.

The prompts (I notice. I wonder. What if? How might?) serve as  a valuable lens, shifting the way in which I see teaching and learning  during classroom visits, helping me to look with humility and openness. I have no “look fors” and no forms. I don’t carry my ipad with me or write feedback on the spot. Instead, I strive to engage in teaching and learning, being present with teachers and students in learning experiences. Later I write brief feedback for teachers: a compliment and four sentences (sometimes indulging in a bit more than four sentences, with potentially more than one sentence per prompt.) The sentences begin: I notice. I wonder. What if? How might? Teachers can embrace the feedback or question and refute it. They can engage in conversation about it with me, with colleagues, or with anyone they choose or they can elect not to speak about it with anyone. The feedback is not evaluative, and once given, belongs to the teacher as one of many venues through which to reflect, to learn, and to grow. It is a component of my efforts at supervision focused on professional learning rather than evaluation.

I consider myself lucky. As Head of an independent school, I have no state or district mandate on how I must evaluate teachers. That does not mean I have no one to whom I must answer. There is my school’s mission – the ultimate “boss” in mission driven independent schools, my Board of Trustees, parents who are electing to send their children to our school and are paying tuition, and ultimately to our students themselves. In addition, I must answer to our teachers. Although I am their supervisor, it is my responsibility to support them to succeed and to excel. The demands are high. To truly be effective, we need to remain open and honest about our impact; flexible and agile.

An example of feedback very recently offered; this one after visiting an upper elementary school math class is:

A compliment: You skillfully model for students the thought process required for estimation, or perhaps more accurately, mental math – an important skill. You carefully share with them the learning goal for the class and utilize language and visual cues in order to support student learning.

Reflective Feedback/Questions

I noticed students participating in a lesson, guided by your careful prompts.

I wonder ways of assessing the range of understanding of students in the class. I wonder ways of determining potential areas of misunderstanding. I wonder ways of determining whether any students are ready to delve more deeply into the material.

What if students completed pre-assessments and worked in guided groups based on their performance?

How might the classroom be organized in order to allow for even more individualized attention and differentiated learning?

The teacher, a skilled veteran who is highly self-aware and attentive to the needs of her students, in this case did engage in further conversation with me about the lesson. She reached out to let me know the feedback helped her to think about her teaching and she continued to wonder with me about ways of reaching the individual needs of her students. We brainstormed together how the collaborative, guided lessons typical of language arts learning in her classroom might be extended to math; reflected on possible ways of organizing the physical environment in the classroom to promote more collaboration; and considered supports that could be utilized to assist with enhancing respectful interaction among students during more independent learning time.  Such conversations do not follow each classroom visit, yet they happen frequently and are directed by teachers, serious about their own learning and about improving their own practice.

What approaches to feedback have been helpful to you? What are ways you believe we could transform teacher supervision from evaluation to opportunities for potent learning and professional growth?

About these ads

Comments on: "What if Teacher Supervision Really Focused on Learning?" (4)

  1. As a teacher, I would love the invitation embedded in this kind of feedback. I can also see an application in my own classroom to invite students to reflect on their learning–or as a model for peer review. Even if my current evaluator doesn’t use these prompts, I can use them to reflect on my day, week, or semester on my own. Thanks for the ideas!

    • Shira Leibowitz said:

      I find the self-reflection so valuable as well and also try to use these prompts for my own practice. The challenge for me is in “noticing” myself. Your words help me consider ways of inviting others to share with me their non-judgmental observations and to extend my own self-reflection. Thank you!

      • The “notice” piece for self reflection is definitely a black-belt level skill. I’ve been in the classroom over a decade now, but don’t know if as a newbie I would have had the mental space to notice the things I do now. Today’s quest is to notice who doesn’t get called on and figure out why: less eye contact? Body language? Consistent “I dunno” responses on cold-call? Then–wonder how do I make it safe to take a risk?

      • Shira Leibowitz said:

        Love that “notice” and “wonder”! What if you were to invite a colleague into your room to note how many times each child is called on? How might a peer support you to consider ways of encouraging participation for individual students?
        Thanks so much for offering an example of self-reflective noticing and wondering!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 101 other followers

%d bloggers like this: