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How Should Feedback be Given

It is often a nerve-wracking experience to be observed for the first time, particularly for younger colleagues, and it is important to bear this in mind when feeding back. In this context, it is helpful to:
  • discuss the session as soon afterwards as possible, preferably immediately
  • put colleagues at their ease, i.e. conduct the feedback informally
  • stick to the agreed ground rules for feedback, established at the pre-observation meeting

With regard to the process of feedback, recommended practice is for:

  1. the teacher to be given the opportunity to describe or what he or she thought happened in the session. Some useful starter questions are:

    • Did it go as you intended?
    • What were the strong points?
    • What were the less strong points?
    • What would you do differently?

  2. the observer then to describe what he or she observed, i.e. to give their narrative of the session

  3. on this basis, and with due regard for the teacher's account, for the observer to:

    • identify what they had observed the teacher to have done successfully
    • identify those components which were less successful or where there were difficulties

  4. or the teacher to reflect upon and respond to the comments of the observer to jointly identify strengths and areas which may require attention

  5. to jointly agree on any steps which may be taken to improve teaching, e.g. appropriate forms of staff development

  6. to jointly agree to review the matter at a mutually convenient time.

In order to undertake this, it is essential that the observer:

  • listens carefully to the teacher's account
  • sticks to description initially
  • praises first
  • is sensitive in bringing points to the teacher's attention
  • is constructive about identifying courses of action

The person observed will often want to know what the observer thought of the session, and this is a reasonable expectation. It can be very irritating to be looking for an evaluative judgement from someone who is not prepared to express a view. The negotiation should include this issue. Where evaluative comment is made, it is important to remember that both are talking about perceptions, in an area where objective truth is hard, if not impossible, to establish. Phrases such as "It seemed to me ..." or "I felt that ..." are more appropriate than "This was bad ..." or "You didn't succeed in ...".

It is essential that the teacher

  • listens carefully to the observer's narrative
  • responds positively to the opportunity to reflect
  • responds constructively to advice

Finally, it is essential that both the teacher and the observer share responsibility for:

  • focusing upon the process rather than the content
  • returning the feedback to track if it becomes either anecdotal or judgmental
  • maintaining the confidentiality of the procedure