31 jul 2016 Feedback is a must… or is it?
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a developing teacher must be in want of feedback. Well, that is what leads many teacher educators to plan feedback sessions, invest on provoking reflection and action. It is also what moves many teachers to ask for feedback, willing to grow. I strongly believe constructive feedback has helped me become more aware of my own strengths and weaknesses. Also, all feedback moments I have had so far and the research I have been carrying out have been helping me improve both they way I receive and the way I give feedback.
In a recent presentation by Cecilia Lemos in the 15th Braz-TESOL International Conference, she reinforced the need for productive interventions to help teachers develop. She also pointed out the manner in which feedback should be given, to make it more effective for the teacher. I believe it was Goethe who once wrote that the way we treat people affects what they become. Although he was not talking about feedback, we may say it applies to the realm of education – especially considering the education of educators. The manner we treat people and the perception of their potential for development may impact their behavior in the classroom with their students.
In terms of attitude, both giving and receiving feedback need attention so that giver and receiver benefit from the communication. When giving feedback, listening is fundamental as it may inform how to approach the receiver, how to cause destabilization and reflection that will translate into action. Paying attention to the person we will be giving feedback will also ensure trust and allow content of feedback to flow. Furthermore, the giver needs to allow time for the receiver to digest information given – during the conversation and after that. People are different and think differently, what is said may not make sense at first or it may need some time to be accepted. Also, the receiver may need to ask questions, to give further information about facts, lessons in order to understand feedback better. As givers of feedback, we need to accept that we are not always clear and that our viewpoint may be enriched if added by that of the professional receiving our feedback.
When receiving feedback, listening is also extremely important. someone who is giving feedback to another is surely attempting to help and using time for that. Apart from paying attention to what the other person is giving us it is important to take all opportunities to clarify any doubts or questions during the conversation. Finally, make an effort to act upon feedback – if not immediately, plan to take action, incorporate new habits, techniques, attitudes or drop others. Personally, it takes me time to reflect upon what is given me and act to improve my practice, so I tend to write things down on a notebook and get back to my notes every now and then to choose a new challenge, to change bad habits that have been pointed out, strengthen skills, etc.
In any position, embrace feedback, make the most of it, grow and help grow professionally. Learn from both receiving and giving feedback and keep an open mind. Nothing can stop a developing teacher.