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Ensuring effective feedback for focussed CPD ■■■■■

Ensuring effective feedback for focussed CPD
Peter Taylor provides practical guidance on giving feedback to staff on classroom practice and shows how this can form an integral part of teacher professional development.

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■■■ The purpose
As a serving head of more than twenty years I have spent many years coaching and giving feedback to people in order to get them to a stage where they become self-generating, self-motivated and reflective professionals. Initially much of the feedback given was linked to lesson observations but as I developed my feedback and coaching skills I have reflected long and hard in relation to giving of effective feedback in all situations. In the giving of feedback I have always aimed to help colleagues become personally reflective professionals not dependant on my input but being prompted by me to think a little harder and deeper about their actions. I have found staff at all levels can appear to be effective intuitively but they don’t always know why. Staff who are less reflective can find it hard to analyse their own performance, develop their own solutions and generate their own plans and learning when things go wrong or circumstances change. Often they are not good at reflecting on, conceptualising or articulating their successes and failures and as such they tend to repeat patterns of behaviour. This inability to
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see ones own patterns of behaviour is most noticeable in the classroom, especially if those being taught are quite well behaved and not prone to react to a teacher who demonstrates patterns of behaviour that are less helpful than they might be. It is in the giving of lesson observation feedback that the effective team leader can most quickly develop the skills of coaching and learn to promote self-evaluation in the staff s/he works with. By being effective at the facilitation of feedback to colleagues, after lesson observation, team leaders can assist those colleagues who are prone to being active without the essential underpinning of reflection, selfawareness and continuous improvement.

■■■ The right mind-set
The giving and receiving of effective feedback is not always easy. It is so natural to be kind to a colleague or a team; it is also easy to be a little too frank when giving feedback, especially if there is conflict in the organisation. The giving of feedback is a two edged instrument and it can be very sharp and the instrument is only as good as the person

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Practice and Policy
I have found this three-stage approach to be very effective. If you read more of Egan’s work you will find that each of these three stages is sub-divided but in the heat of the moment during a dynamic coaching or consultancy session, I find the three stages sufficient.

using it. Before you give any feedback you have to learn to examine your motives and manage your manner and approach or the process can be a negative or unproductive one. To be very effective at giving feedback I suggest you need to have total focus on the team or team member you are working with. You need to notice small verbal and physical clues and be prepared to be adaptable and flexible in order to get the job done to the satisfaction of all concerned. To have this total focus I think it is useful to become an ‘expert single tasker!’ You hear so much about ‘multi-tasking’ these days; this is the thing men can’t do well, we are told! If the colleague/s you are giving feedback to sees you are thinking of something else, or even worse doing something else [like answering the phone], then any notion of quality feedback and coaching will almost certainly be lost.

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■■■ The right time
There is no single, correct time or method for giving feedback to a member of staff who has been observed in action. This is down to the judgement of the observer and his/her awareness of the colleague who has been observed. It is advisable to ask when it would be best to hold the feedback meeting. Negative or difficult feedback needs to be very carefully timed, as many colleagues have to go back into the classroom/office after feedback and so sensitivity is needed. If very poor or unprofessional performance is noted action should be taken immediately and in line with agreed protocol. As you become more proficient the giving of feedback will move from being a once a year event, at performance review, to being a key process in understanding the organisation, co-ordinating and maximising the talents and aspirations of staff, impacting powerfully on the organisation’s climate, culture and results. So as one’s own coaching skills develop, the giving of feedback goes beyond feedback after lesson observation and becomes an essential part of an ongoing process of continuous development. The feedback to teams and individuals becomes very context linked, personalised and effective. In this process it is not an event that takes place once in a while but a process that occurs daily and in context. This form of feedback puts self-evaluation at the heart of the process with you becoming more of a coach than an expert and staff learning to self-generate in the full sense of being a professional.

■■■ The right skill-set
Rather than thinking it is best for you to be good at giving feedback have you considered being good at getting your staff to generate their own feedback? In such a situation the expert coach can draw feedback from the colleague/s and then create a dialogue that allows them to identify the issues and ideally generate the solutions and further action/CPD. In this situation, as coach, you can still have the power to limit action, and this process often allows the colleague/s to generate real ownership of the issues and the solutions, in short they give their own feedback! This strategy is particularly effective in the giving or facilitation of feedback after lesson observations. To ensure you at least start to allow your team members to create their own solution, generate their own thought in relation to personalised CPD and performance, there is a method of coaching that is well tried and tested. During my coaching and consultancy work, the approach I adopt in most meetings is that of the ‘skilled helper’ as outlined by Egan (1998 p24):

■■■ The right place
There is no one place that is correct for feedback. So long as the feedback is effective and well received by the receiver/s the actual room or place is not important. Clearly this is contextual - the receiving or generation of in-depth feedback would be best done in a suitable environment that allows for subtle coaching and dialogue. Other forms of short term coaching and feedback can be done very quickly and easily in any context so long as confidentiality and

Stage 1 Current scenario (What are the problems we should be working on?). Stage 2 Preferred scenario (What do we need or want in place of what we have?). Stage 3 Action strategies (What do we have to do to get what we need or want?).

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Ensuring effective feedback for focussed CPD ■■■■■

sensitivity are held in mind. In some team situations the giving of open feedback is acceptable especially in situations such as team training events; this is similar to the sport coach giving verbal feedback quickly and very much in context. To be aware of what is acceptable in what context needs great sensitivity and a good knowledge of the team or the individual, this takes experience and a good degree of emotional intelligence.

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■■■ The right content for the individual/ team
Effective coaching and giving of feedback is based on evidence, gathered in a rational, ethical, transparent and professional manner; the data gathered is analysed and turned into information, which in turn informs a knowledge base relating to the processes in the organisation. The information and knowledge gathered informs feedback; effective feedback should be timely, relevant and from a credible source. In terms of lesson observation feedback the observer should have recorded facts or details which can be referred to in the feedback session. An example of such detailed feedback is the noting of the length of time a particular pupil is off task or how long a pupil had to wait for support or timing how long a teaching/input session was. Very often even the most reflective of colleagues is surprised that what seemed a well framed input was actually longer than expected, planned or needed. In terms of giving general feedback a sound knowledge of what is going on in an organisation is a prerequisite to effective feedback. To act on inaccurate or incomplete data, information and knowledge is not professional and may lead to damage being done to individuals, teams and the wider organisation. It is very difficult to ensure objectivity in the giving of feedback, especially in relation to human interaction, but it is incumbent upon those involved in coaching and feedback to attempt to be objective, ethical and professional at all stages of the process.

development planning and coaching/feedback. As the use of feedback becomes more effective the coach should be able to hold the needs of the organisation in mind and ensure the work of individual/team is aligned with those needs. As the skills and capabilities of the coaches improve further they will become more proficient in understanding the talents and aspirations of staff and be able to attune these with the organisation’s climate, culture and methods of working. This process of aligning the work of colleagues and attuning their aspirations should ensure the use of feedback generates professional development that benefits the individual, teams and the organisation.

■■■ The right process for the context
No matter how good one’s coaching and feedback processes are today, in no time they will become less effective. Systems and processes that once motivated soon become de-motivators if they are no longer suitable to a changed context. A process of review improvement is needed as evolution not revolution and can help turn a slow moving school or company into a ‘learning organisation.’
Much of this content is adapted from: Peter R Taylor, (2007) ‘Motivating Your Team; Coaching for Performance in Schools’, London: Sage. Peter R Taylor admin@worth.cheshire.sch.uk

■■■ The right content for the organisation
All processes in an organisation should, ideally, be aligned with the needs of the organisation. To start with the coaching and the giving of feedback may not be coherent but fragmented, having weak or no linkage between school