Changing Teacher Feedback to Improve School Culture

Be brave enough to ask teachers what they think of you.

professional development - changing teacher feedback

Feedback is most powerful when it is solicited in meaningful, intentional ways, and school administrators can use it to leverage momentum towards change in school culture.  In other words, changing teacher feedback from a pro forma administrative exercise to gaining knowledge from colleagues’ thoughts and ideas is like fuel in a gas tank.  Here are some ways to diversify feedback to drive powerful change:

It Doesn’t Always Have To Be an Email Survey

Make sure that you are creating opportunities for formal and informal feedback.  It’s wonderful to send out email surveys after major programming shifts to find out how your community is impacted by major changes. It’s equally important and helpful to mind the cultural barometer of your school. Tools like SurveyMonkey and Google Forms are great, but they may not be helpful in changing teacher feedback.  A principal friend at another school has his staff do an activity at the beginning of faculty meetings.  Upon arrival, he gives every member of his team a post-it note and asks them to tell him what went right that day.  It’s a small thing, but he gets great insight into the inner workings of their school.

Make It Personal

When you are asking for feedback, have a specific goal in mind about the information you are seeking.  Thanks for the Feedback suggests three types of essential feedback: appreciation, coaching, and evaluation. Likely, as an administrator, your default is to ask for evaluation, therefore, what you receive from colleagues will be along those lines.  No healthy relationship can rest if evaluation is the sole mode of feedback. You can gain important insight when you seek coaching from your school community.  Instead of asking those you lead to evaluate the effectiveness of a given program, initiative, or project, consider a two question survey.  Consider open-ended questions like, “What is getting in the way of our work together?” and “As we move forward, how can I best serve our community?” Direct questions signal your personal investment.

Consider A 360 Review

When was the last time your leadership was formally evaluated by members of your team? Formal feedback is limited to insights from people who don’t see us daily.  A 360 review gives individuals the chance to be evaluated by a small group of peers and can provide powerful insights. This can help you better see how others perceive you. It gives you the opportunity to continue to develop your leadership with intentionality.

Go Big Picture to Boost Morale

To address the big-picture needs of your community, consider conducting monthly culture surveys for one year.  In monthly all-school meetings, ask faculty and staff to complete a quick paper-based check-in with the following questions.  Respondents can rank the following questions by selecting “always,” “sometimes,” “not usually,” or “never”.

  • The community of adults I work with caring.
  • I feel comfortable approaching administrators with concerns.
  • My supervisor appreciates my contributions to our shared work.
  • My work with students contributes directly to the mission of the school.

These responses will reveal opportunities for growth.  We all know good feelings abound in September, but what can we do to keep staff feeling connected?   We can be intentional with our messaging and our actions so our colleagues see us as accessible and responsive.

Unless you use the feedback you get, asking for feedback will seem like an empty gesture.  Your colleagues must see policies, practices, and procedures that reflect the feedback they have given you. If they can see that you have thoughtfully considered their ideas, you can gain trust, appreciation and even better feedback.

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