Reflections on teaching, learning, and leadership.
Sunday, December 6, 2020
Feedback is Needed More Than Ever
I think we can all agree that this school year has been unlike any other and not for the best of reasons. The pandemic has upended the entire education system as schools have moved to remote, then hybrid, and back to remote in some cases with no end in sight. Even with the promising news of two potential vaccines, rising COVID-19 cases have resulted in a constant state of flux. Continuity and consistency have been hard to come by and finding a groove have become an arduous task in many cases. Educators, students, and families have never been in a situation as challenging as what they are experiencing right now.
The rapid state of uncertainty has caused a great deal of angst, and rightfully so. As a result, there have been increased levels of stress, anxiety, and fear amongst teachers, which has led to decreased motivation in some cases. It’s not that they don’t want to do a good job but more a battle to get through each day. The struggle is real. For students, a lack of engagement on their end has led to significant concerns across the globe. If they aren’t engaged, then the chances that meaningful learning is taking place are slim. Finally, administrators are searching frantically for answers while putting out fires and conducting contact tracing daily.
With all these challenges, growth becomes an afterthought. However, it is a necessity in order to provide the best learning experience possible for kids, even in times of crisis. Through adversity, some of the best ideas are developed and implemented with fidelity. The key to setting the stage for this to occur is a concerted effort to make feedback a daily phenomenon. While assessments, observations, and evaluations might have worked well in the past, a more sensitive approach is not only warranted but also a necessity right now.
Feedback can be a catalyst for motivation, engagement, and finding answers to questions or problems. First and foremost, we must be open to it in some form. One way to move the need is to seek it out from a variety of perspectives. Teachers can engage both students and families in conversations to elicit essential ideas on how to improve remote and hybrid learning experiences. Administrators can do the same with stakeholders and staff in order to gather intel on how to improve school culture immediately. In the classroom, providing regular feedback to learners might be the most critical key to engaging them.
Everyone benefits if we are diligent and sensitive as to how it is implemented as a means both to inform and empower. Below are some aspects to consider regarding quality feedback:
Facilitate with sincerity
Ground in practicality and specificity
Give in a timely manner
Dialogue over monologue
Align to advancement towards a goal(s)
Most people want to know how they are doing and what can be done to improve, even it is a small shift in practice or learning. Keep in mind the importance of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Feedback can be as simple as reassuring others that they are doing a great job in these trying times or using it as a way to find out what might be inhibiting motivation or engagement. The bottom line is that it is a great tool that can be used in a variety of ways. When it is all said and done, its best use might be that of relationship builder. After all, relationships are the foundation of learning and growth, no matter if we are in a pandemic or not.