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A framework for feedback
Ruth Wajnryb
In my experience as a TESOL trainer, as well as a trainer of trainers in this field, I have found that by far the most difficult aspect of the job is the feedback interaction conducted between trainer and teacher or teacher trainee after an observed lesson. This is so whether the teacher being observed is in training, is inexperienced or is very experienced; and whether the observation is for assessment or for professional reflection and development There are differences of course, but not large and substantial ones. Likewise, I feel the fact that the feedback is immediate or delayed does not significantly reduce its difficulty. Overall, it seems to me that feedback as a communication event is inherently fragile, and as such benefits from having a number of supports and safeguards. There is little mystery in why the interaction is so difficult. It's all bound up with people, their psyches, their needs, wants, goals, their self-perceptions, the fears, anxieties and insecurities. It is largely about 'face' (Goffman, 1972) and teacher supervision per se is entirely face threatening (Brown and Levinson, 1978). To compound matters, this applies as much to the trainer as to the trainee. The more research is conducted into this field, the more we find out about styles of feedback and notions of appropriateness in relation to pre-and in service (e.g. Gebhard and Malicka, 1991; Freeman. 1990, Wajnryb I992a). Such guidelines can only help trainers and teachers reap the maximum rewards from the feedback interaction. This article offers a framework for feedback which I have found serves me well for the post-observed lesson interaction with a teacher and allows us to maximise the benefits of the time spent. In a sense, the framework is 'idealised' for, with appropriate adjustments it may serve most interactions (Wajnryb, 1992b). It has five steps; negotiation, climate-setting, review and problem-solving, goal setting and closure, and the last, a stage for the trainer, personal reflection, borrowed from the last stage in the cycle of clinical supervision (Cogan, 1973).

Step I - Negotiation
At the outset, I find that it helps co establish between the two participants what the time limit is and how the process is expected to develop. Establishing the time parameters allows both parties a sense of 'finiteness' and highlights the need to use time wisely. Establishing the process is a form of sign-posting that allows the teacher to gain security from knowing where the feedback is heading. You can suggest an agenda and elicit a response, leading towards an agreement on how to proceed. Or the agenda can be arrived at more openly, with the trainer eliciting the teacher's suggestion for an approach ('How would you like to approach this?'). Generally, the more experienced the teacher, the less the need for direction; but personality factors play a role here too (see Wajnryb, I992a).

Step 2 - Climate-setting
Working to achieve a positive climate might start happening before the negotiation and this does not matter as long as it does happen. It is axiomatic that the teacher needs to feel as relaxed and comfortable and unthreatened as possible. Secure a place that is private, where you won't be interrupted. I find it helps to begin by focusing on some third/neutral ground. A handy one is a comment about the learners themselves - start off with something like They're a lovely (OR: cheerful, noisy, bright, unruly, etc.) class, aren't they?' This serves as neutral but necessary phatic communion and eases you onto the next phase. My experience with the well-worn trigger 'How did you feel about the lesson?' is that it is a non-starter. It doesn't relax the teacher; on the contrary, it often makes them edgy to start talking about the lesson without having an inkling of where the trainer 'is at'.

Step 3 - Review and Problem Solving
It's important here to remember that your feedback is finite - twenty minutes or whatever, and most probably you have far too much on the potential agenda than could be 'covered'. Remember that often a written report will follow the feedback and there is room in this for peripheral comments. Bear in mind, too the concept of 'saturation 1: there is a limit to the number of items a teacher can absorb/accommodate in a personal interaction. (In one feedback that was videoed, I counted 107 'bits of advice', handed down by trainer to trainee. Not surprisingly, the trainee himself shut down long before the feedback did). It is therefore crucial to focus on specifics and to prioritise these. Some helpful elements are;

• •

working from the tangible to the hypothetical: this is what you did...this is what resulted...what alternatives exist? might they work? focusing on a cause-effect approach: looking at outcomes and linking this with processes. This encourages a reflective approach to teaching and helps teachers understand that 'things don't just happen' and that they DO have control.

elic iting and gently steering the teacher towards the key points rather than imposing .

present a point.

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avoiding the language of regret: 'you should have...', 'you could have...' (Woodward, 1989). developing verbal cues for reducing trainer talk, e.g. 'talk to me about...', 'you have a great way with,..', I was wondering about the way you...', 'the class really seemed to respond to...'. As in the classroom, learning to manage silence encourages a reflective, co-operative ambience.

monitoring them over the next few days or week to ensure that, ultimately if not immediately, the experience is an affirming one.

Brown P and Levinson S C (1978) 'Universal in language usage: politeness phenomena' in Questions and Politeness (Ed. Good E N) Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Byrnes F 1985 Resistance to change in teacher training courses Paper given at National TESOL Teacher Training Conference Sydney Proceedings (Eds. Wajnryb R and Rizzo P). Cogan M 1973 Clinical Supervision Boston, Houghton Mifflin Freeman D 1990 'Intervening in practice teaching' in Second Language Teacher Education (Eds. Nunan D and Richards J) New York: Cambridge University Press Gebhard J G ad Malicka A 1991 'Creative behaviour in teacher supervision' Prospect 6/3 p40~49. Goffman E 1972 'On face-work: an analysis of ritual elements in social interaction' in Communication in Faceto-Face Interaction (Eds. Laver J & Hutcheson S) Harmondsworth, Penguin. Wajnryb R I992a 'Learning to help - an exploration into supervisory behaviour' Prospect 7/3 p32-4l. Waynryb R 1992b Classroom Observation Tasks Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Woodward T 1989 Taking the stress out of discussing lessons' The Teacher Trainer 3/2. Reproduced with permission from E A Journal (I I, I. 1993).

Step 4 - Goal

Setting and Closure

usin g 'raw' des cript ive data as evid enc e in whic h to grou nd your com men ts, e.g. scri pted lang uag e to

At this stage, the trainer is hoping to consolidate and set the agenda for what the teacher will be working on after the feedback. Perhaps have the teacher summarise where they feel they might now focus their attention. This can be expressed in terms of objectives: 'I'm going to work on organising my board in a more focused way'; 'I'm going to script my instructions before the lesson and see if that makes them clearer', etc. It is vital that the teacher emerge from the feedback with a sense of progress and a sense of purpose; armed with a tangible and specific grasp of the key issues, as well as the means (a 'handle) for continuing to learn. It is important, too, that the experience be placed on a continuum or chain of experiences and be perceived as a step, among others, within a developmental frame. Building in a 'concept check' to ensure that the 'trainee's message is the teacher's message' sometimes pre-empts later problems. Sometimes teachers fill in their own selfevaluation report or complete a diary or journal. If the trainer is able to access these, they may serve as a vital means of determining whether the trainee or trainer are on the same wavelength.

Step 5 - Reflection
Trainers, themselves on a learning curve, need to reflect on the experience and whether it was successful in terms of its priorities and objectives. Ideally it helps to sit down with another trainer and have them guide you through the process: How did the feedback go? Were there any difficulties? Did the teacher have similar perceptions? Would you handle anything differently next time? What follow-up is called for? Especially in a case where you perceive some resistance, it is important to air this and determine its nature, as it is often easy for a trainer to perceive as resistance what is in fact the overt signs of learning - of a teacher re-appraising sets of knowledge and understanding (Byrnes, 1985). It helps, too, if the trainer keeps a written record of the feedback as this will help where follow-up is appropriate. In sessions where there has been anything at all upsetting on the part of the teacher - disappointment, defensiveness, rejection, it is important that the trainer 'stay on the path' of the teacher (albeit tactfully and uno btr usiv ely ) ,


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