Feedback for Performance: Low-Hanging Fruit
When giving feedback to improve the performance of those you supervise, where do you start?
If something is painfully wrong, it’s obvious where to focus your attention. If you observe practices that are harmful to students, unethical, unprofessional, or unsafe, it’s easy to know what to address first.
Most of the time, though, we need to provide feedback that isn’t so obvious. When someone is generally doing a good job, how do we decide what to mention, knowing that we have a limited bandwidth for giving constructive feedback?
In this situation, the critical question is “What changes will lead to the largest gains in performance?” More to the point in classroom settings, “What changes in practice will have the greatest benefits for student learning?”
These questions stand in contrast to the typical starting point for feedback, which is the “I noticed…have you thought about…?” line of coaching. Too often, what we notice from a lesson observation is based on a personal interest or pet issue, not the opportunity for improved results.
For example, if I know from informal observations that a teacher’s greatest challenge is adequately preparing for math instruction, I should not allow myself to be distracted by minor areas for improvement that I identify during a formal observation. While it’s important to cite specific evidence when providing feedback, leaders must be purposeful in collecting evidence that will support feedback in the areas of greatest need.
What is the low-hanging fruit for each person you supervise? What feedback would improve their performance the most? Think about it as you prepare for your next observation or discussion.