Feedback to support school improvement is essential. School leaders must model the way in being open to feedback, so that teachers begin to see that feedback is valued and, where appropriate, acted upon. Furthermore, if leaders invite feedback, then asking teachers to seek feedback from their students becomes a more reasonable request to make.
Some evaluations require feedback from different people and, on occasion, the person being evaluated may get to write their own questions for feedback or choose from a list.
In considering the opportunity to invite feedback from our teachers, what would be the questions that you would ask? What would you want to know?
Thinking about this further, I have distilled the feedback that I would seek down to three questions, each with a specific purpose:
1. Are their any promises / commitments that I am not fulfilling?
To create a healthy school culture, a climate of trust is required. This starts with the school leaders. It is imperative that we walk the walk if we are going to talk the talk. Too many promises and we may not be able to deliver. This creates cynicism and distrust and is the breeding ground for a toxic school culture. It is really important for us to know how teachers might be interpreting what we say, what they think we have committed to doing. If we are under-promising and over-delivering, then things are heading in a good direction.
2. What is it I do that you do not like?
It is good to know what we may need to stop doing, in order to better support our teachers. Perhaps it is our manner, lack of communication or bias towards some staff members over others that may be areas for us to work on. Some of the feedback on this type of question may be positive rather than negative. For example, some teachers may feel uncomfortable with the changes that the school is going through – this may be OK, as change is uncomfortable but it may be a reminder that we may need to further support teachers who are having difficulty.
3. What one thing would you like me to improve in our school?
This question is great at getting teachers to prioritize just one thing that they feel is an important area for improvement. It prevents long lists of things and may help us to better understand what is important for our teachers and whether there is any disconnect between the leadership team and teaching faculty. It is always good to see if the teachers see different priorities or whether everyone is seeing the same area(s) for improvement, big or small.
As leaders, we do not need to wait for formal evaluations to seek feedback from our staff, we can request feedback at any time. The most important part of the feedback is that it needs to be specific enough for us to begin to take action that improves school culture and learning for all.