No two students are the same. Each student has a different learning style, academic level, interest, behaviour, culture and family background which makes him/her unique. Thus, the role of a teacher is more than teaching specific subjects to all students using the same method. Teachers are often encouraged by the school management to adapt to each student’s learning behaviour. Only then, it is said to be possible to challenge and inspire all students, encourage them to participate in decision making and use their knowledge correctly. Therefore, teachers have to take on the role of a mentor, semi-parent and a role model, especially for children who come from socio-economically disadvantaged families. All these expectations create intense pressure on teachers and it is, therefore, very important to support them regularly.
Within schools, the principal is in a unique position to influence and affect the overall quality of teaching-learning processes. The most important responsibility of every principal is to provide conditions under which teachers feel supported and their growth curve increases exponentially. One way to do this is through regular lesson observations and providing constructive feedback. This needs to be done as a coach rather than as an evaluator. Although it may be challenging to schedule and observe a classroom every day, it is very important to plan and prioritise it. Every classroom needs to be observed at least once a month. It is also imperative that classroom observations should be followed by constructive feedback.
Offering feedback is not an easy process as sometimes teachers become defensive and non-receptive. So, it becomes important to communicate the purpose behind the process – that it is not to judge the teacher but to convey the learning process that happened in the class. Also, the tone (being critical), being sensitive to the comfort level of the teacher plays an important role in affecting the morale of that teacher. The way feedback is provided can make or break a teacher. In my work, I have experienced various feedback situations and found a few things which work well while giving constructive feedback.
- Share evidence of student participation and strategies used by the teacher
- Start with something they have done well in the class
- Ask clarifying questions rather than assuming and being critical
- It is important that questions are discussed and not raised, so teachers don’t get defensive
- Make them a part of the open-ended discussion that extends their thinking
- Help teachers identify the root causes for what’s not working in the class and let them reflect what they can do differently to improve it
- Lead them to come out with action steps for the improvement rather than giving direct suggestions/solutions
- Avoid using words that shut down effective communication
- Ensure that there is a clear consensus in the next steps
- Believe everyone can improve, no one knows it all
- Encourage experimentation
Feedback is not just about correcting the teacher, but making them believe that they have the power to bring significant change in the class through their actions and supporting them engineers that change.