8.2 Good practice in giving feedback
Developing effective feedback practice takes time and is not learned from books alone. However, what we know about good practice can help us to reflect and change what we do over time.
Feedback is an interaction between two people and like people, all interactions are different. What a supervisor does in one instance will take account of the student’s position and characteristics. Different strategies can be deployed to meet different student needs. For example, an expert Supervisor would take very different approach to a nervous student who underestimates their capabilities than to an overconfident student who is overestimating their capabilities.
Effective feedback depends on building trust between the Supervisor and the student teacher and starts when they first meet. Developing trust can be hard if you do not know the student or see them infrequently. Trust can be developed if you approach the observation and feedback in the spirit of supporting the student rather than simply judging them. What does this look like in practice though?
Here are some good practice points to consider for an effective feedback and discussion.
- Before the lesson
- A friendly face and reassurance from the outset of the visit are important in establishing a positive relationship.
- Show interest in the student by asking what he/she is trying to improve and what s/he would like feedback back on.
- Explain what you will do in the lesson (take notes, talk to learners etc) and why so that the student is not taken by surprise.
- During the lesson
- Be as inconspicuous as possible and do not intervene in the lesson unless the situation is dangerous.
- Gather evidence from learners by asking questions (e.g. “are you enjoying the lesson? What are you doing? What are you learning?”), looking at learners’ exercise books and asking questions that will check their understanding.
- After the lesson
- Find a quiet private place for feedback so the student teacher is relaxed.
- Give student teachers the chance to reflect on their own performance first. Let them say what they saw as the positive points of the lesson and what they felt needed improving.
- Use this as a basis for discussion. The student will have an agenda and if it is not acknowledged they may not be able to take in anything you say.
- Allow sufficient time for the discussion – 5 minutes is not enough!
- A key focus is what the learners learned and whether they made progress. Use questions and objective evidence from the observation to challenge the student’s evaluation when it is overly positive, rather than simply telling them they are wrong. This prevents the feedback from being confrontational and personal. By jointly considering the evidence, (e.g. what is in the learners’ books, what learners were doing, what they thought about the lesson, and assessment evidence of their understanding) the student is more likely to accept that they need to change what they do.
- Be specific in your feedback – avoid general comments such as “your classroom management was good.” For the student to learn they need to know why you thought it was good. Provide concrete examples, e.g.“It was particularly effective when you used this material, it really gained the learners’ interest as they were able to see the process you had explained in action”.
- Avoid providing very detailed negative feedback. It might be tempting to give detailed feedback on every aspect of the lesson, but this will not help the student teacher. Receiving a lot of detailed feedback is overwhelming and can be dispiriting. More useful feedback is focused on the two or three priorities for improvements that will have the most impact on learners’ learning if they are improved.
- Write down and agree together two or three issues that the student teacher will work on for the next lesson. It is tempting to have a long list of things, but two or three is the maximum that can be effectively dealt with at a time. If you are not going to see the student teacher after the next session, you might want to agree a way in which they can give feedback to you, through WhatsApp or by phone.
- Ask the student teacher what they have learned from teaching the lesson and how they will incorporate it into their practice over the next few days. The student may need help in acting on feedback. The TESSA materials can provide additional support.
- Conclude the feedback by revisiting the positive points of the lesson. Be encouraging. In particularly comment on the improvements that have been made, for example ‘It was great to see you put into practice the group work idea we discussed last time…’.
- Be prepared to leave your notes for the student teacher, or encourage them to write their own, so they can reflect on them later.
Activity 8.3: Preparing to assess the student teacher
This activity helps you to consider the points of good practice.
Go back to your responses to Activity 8.2.
- how do your responses compare to the good practice points given previously?
- would you change your answers to any now?
Use the good practice points to outline how you would approach a visit to a student who is very nervous, finds it hard to see the good aspects of their teaching and who underestimates their performance.
Looking back at Activity 8.2, you can now see that Christine should have started by asking questions that brought out some of the issues. Gradually, Danny would have begun to realise for himself that the lesson was not very good. Then she should have picked out two or three things for him to concentrate on, for example planning some questions in advance that will require students to think about the demonstration, positioning students so they can see the demonstration and moving around the room during pair work.
As a School Experience Supervisor, you need to help your student teachers to focus on teaching in ways that help learners to learn. You can support your student teachers by encouraging them to discuss other ways in which the strategies could be used in their teaching, both in other topics and in other subjects. The TESSA OER will help you in this. The materials have very clear learning outcomes for teachers within each section and provide a good framework for feedback if these have been used. However, there are many other aspects of the lesson that you might want to discuss.