Evaluating and offering feedback to teachers is one of the hardest jobs a principal must do. Many teachers become defensive when a principal offers negative feedback, particularly if the feedback comes as the result of hearsay or a random one-time visit to the teachers’ classroom. However, in order to create a successful school environment and make sure everyone is meeting professional standards, principals must find effective ways to give feedback to teachers.
A principal’s day should not be spent in his office. He must make time to regularly visit classrooms and be aware of what teachers are teaching. While it is harder to visit every teacher’s classroom on a regular basis in a large school, principals must make a habit of visiting each classroom at least once a month and providing feedback after every visit. A principal should also make time to talk with teachers about their concerns or schedule quarterly conferences with teachers just to touch base.
Imagine taking a test and learning afterward that you were being graded not based on the correct answers, but for how well you bubbled in the answers. If the expectations had been outlined in the beginning, you would have taken care that each bubble was dark and entirely within the lines. When it comes to giving feedback to teachers, principals must also lay out the expectations from the beginning and provide feedback based on those expectations. Teachers are more receptive to feedback when they know what they are being judged on as opposed to receiving feedback and saying “I didn’t know I was supposed to do that in the first place.”
Encourage teachers to set goals and offer them feedback in relation to those goals. If a teacher’s goal is to improve classroom discipline, the principal’s visit to the classroom will focus on looking for evidence related to that goal and all feedback will relate to that goal. Rather than offering arbitrary feedback, focusing the feedback on the goal directly helps a teacher meet that goal.
All feedback must be offered in a timely manner. If a principal observed a teacher doing something in October and finally gets around to offering feedback in December, it will not be effective. In order for teachers to actually use the feedback given to them, it must be offered immediately. Not all feedback needs to be in the form of an elaborate report or a scheduled meeting. A principal can send a short email or note to the teacher or simply pass on the notes taken during a classroom visit and accompanied by an invitation to set up a meeting and discuss the feedback further, if necessary.
In order for it to be effective, a principal’s feedback cannot be negative. No teacher wants to hear that everything he or she is doing is wrong. When offering potentially negative feedback, a principal should start by identifying the teacher’s strengths. For example, “you have done an excellent job selecting challenging texts for your students and the questions you asked really encouraged students to think outside the box. However, I noticed a lot of students had not read the text you were discussing. What are some ways you can get those students to read the text so they can benefit from your excellent lesson?” The principal identifies a problem, but praises the teacher at the same time, making the problem less offensive.
When it comes to providing effective feedback, the principal must create an environment that is open to receiving feedback. Teachers need to know what is expected of them and understand that the principal is offering the feedback to help improve their teaching and improve the school. A principal who regularly visits all classrooms and consistently offers balanced feedback will find that his or her feedback is effective.