Sunday, October 22, 2023

Using Feedback to Drive Professional Learning

During this school year, I have been working with Stryker Local Schools in Ohio. Like all my implementations where the work is job-embedded and ongoing, learning walks are a core component. In September, the leaders and I conducted walks in every classroom over two days. As a result, I provided them with close to 5000 words of feedback. With the suggestions in hand, the leaders were empowered to review what we had seen and my recommendations to determine the focus for an upcoming professional development day I would be facilitating. I was excited for the opportunity to provide feedback to staff through a pedagogical design process. The three-hour sessions were tailored by grade level and developed based on suggestions for growth based on the learning walks that were conducted. 

Feedback is a critical catalyst for professional learning and growth. It serves as a valuable tool for educators, schools, and districts to refine their skills and improve teaching, learning, and leadership. Whether it comes from administrators, peers, consultants, or self-assessment, feedback offers insights that help educators identify areas for improvement and build upon their strengths. In schools, feedback should not be merely a one-time event; it is an ongoing process that fosters continuous learning and development. I have found this to be a critical success indicator in all the projects I am involved with, both past and present.  

One key aspect of utilizing feedback for professional learning is creating a culture that encourages open and honest communication. When individuals feel safe and supported in sharing their observations and receiving feedback, the environment becomes conducive to growth. In the sessions I facilitated with Stryker educators, there were activities every ten minutes at five to twenty-minute intervals focused on specific areas of potential growth. This psychological safety fosters a culture of mutual respect and trust, allowing professionals to focus on their own development rather than worrying about judgment or criticism.

Moreover, feedback provides specific and actionable information for educators to set goals and make targeted improvements. Vague or generalized praise or criticism can be less effective, as it needs more specificity for meaningful change. Constructive feedback should be specific, identifying what went well or wrong and how it can be improved. This level of detail allows individuals to take concrete steps toward enhancing their practice.

Self-assessment is another valuable tool for professional learning, as it encourages individuals to take responsibility for their own development. Hence, I provided numerous opportunities to reflect before and after giving specific suggestions. By self-reflecting, educators can gain a more well-rounded understanding of their strengths and opportunities for growth. Self-assessment helps individuals identify areas where they need improvement and enables them to set personal goals for growth. It is a proactive approach to learning that empowers them to control their development.

The feedback loop is not limited to just the individual; schools and districts also benefit from using feedback to drive professional learning. When organizations gather and analyze feedback curated during learning walks, they can make informed decisions about training, development programs, and process improvements. This data-driven approach ensures that professional learning initiatives align with the needs and aspirations of their workforce, promoting a culture of continuous learning and growth. Currently and over the years, I have been blessed to partner with district and school administrators committed to this process.

Feedback is a powerful tool for driving professional learning. It promotes a culture of openness and trust, provides specific and actionable insights, encourages self-assessment, and empowers both individuals and organizations to enhance their performance. By recognizing feedback as an ongoing process and a means to facilitate growth, educators can harness its potential to improve and evolve in their craft continuously. 

Reach out if you want to learn more about what this process could look like for your school or district through Aspire Change EDU's comprehensive suite of services. 

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