10 Tips for Effective Feedback

APs offer advice on critiquing teachers’ classroom technique.

Topics: Assessment and Evaluation, Assistant Principals, Teacher Effectiveness

To maximize student outcomes, school leaders need to provide thoughtful, actionable feedback to teachers that highlights areas for instructional improvement in a way that’s well received. APs Rising recently talked to two school leaders to get their input on providing feedback.

  1. Get up to speed beforehand. There’s no room to “fake it until you make it” when it comes to instructional feedback, says Diana I. Brown, assistant principal at Seatack Elementary in Virginia Beach, Virginia. “The administrator has to understand what it is that the teacher is expected to cover and should have knowledge of the depth and rigor in each unit [or] lesson.”
  2. Build a trusting, respectful relationship. Collaborating with teachers on an action plan will help build respect, trust, and communication, says Katrina W. Smith, principal of Buchanan Primary School in Buchanan, Georgia, and a former assistant principal. “People will not follow those they do not trust,” she says.
  3. Coach toward a target. Keep feedback reflection questions intentional to lead the teacher down the right path. “I always say teachers don’t really like easy; they like possible,” Brown says. “Trust their creativity and ingenuity, and help them envision how to get to the desired target.”
  4. Lead purposefully and equitably. Feedback isn’t a nice-to-have. “Instructional feedback is the backbone of the responsibility we assume when we are appointed as educational leaders,” Brown says. “It is the most important, authentic, and equitable practice we must carry out.”
  5. Keep it simple and straightforward. Don’t offer feedback that teachers need to decipher or interpret. “Keep it simple, clear, and aligned to objectives/rigor/needs of students,” Brown says.
  6. Communicate completely. Omitting critical information can make people feel anxious, reluctant, and neglected. “The one binding constant that will make or break a school culture is communication between the teacher and the leader,” Smith says. “[Start With Why author] Simon Sinek says it best: ‘Great leaders communicate, and great communicators lead.’”
  7. Fast-track feedback. Brown makes classroom visits an everyday expectation with immediate input. “If I see something that is not aligned, I address it the same day,” she says. “I do not let a teacher carry on with a misconception or misunderstanding about instruction.”
  8. Provide feedback on soft skills separately. Instructional feedback should focus on content delivery; the purpose of the lesson and its alignment to objectives; and the opportunities students are given to inquire, interact, and make connections, Brown says.
  9. Make follow-up flexible. Once you’ve outlined what might be needed for growth, break those actions into self-directed steps. Set a deadline, but give the teacher “choices as to how they want to accomplish the growth,” Brown says.
  10. Keep your door—and your calendar—open. “Teachers are encouraged to look at my calendar and send an invite to discuss any topic of their choosing,” Smith says. “Occasionally, I find those who are less likely to reach out, so I reach out to them. I always offer support.”

Ed Finkel is a full-time freelance writer who covers K–12 education and other topics.