Assessment is an element that drives the work in most K-12 classrooms for students, and professional development for educators. When you employ assessment strategies, you use a tool (such as questioning, written prompts, test, survey) to get information from a learner that can help you develop further learning experiences.
For example, a teacher may issue a quiz at the end of a unit to assess what students have learned, your boss may ask you to complete an evaluation survey to better serve you as their employee, or you may prompt your clients to reflect through a few written questions in order to figure out next steps for working together. The data you get from your assessment is feedback. It is the information given (back) as a result of an experience (which was designed to feed someone’s mind).
Giving and receiving feedback is a process through which something can be improved. While the recent focus in the K-12 industry has been on student assessment, it is important to also remember the role assessment plays for educators.
In considering how we design assessments to evaluate the educator’s professional development experience, we have to be clear on the purpose and intention of feedback. The purpose can be thought of like a long term end goal. Your purpose for obtaining feedback will generally align with the mission of your company or organization. The intention is like an objective, and is often very specific. Your feedback prompts will generally reflect your intent. For example, you may aspire to improve delivery by showing an increase in participant ratings from a 3 to 4. In this case, improving delivery is your purpose and higher ratings are the intent.
Feedback has played a key role in the development of my career as a math- and data-focused professional development facilitator. As a facilitator, my goal is to help feed the minds of others through guided learning. When I ask participants to reflect on their learning they give insight into what worked well, what could be improved, what they are still wondering, and what they need– or, feedback.
When designing feedback for your team it’s important to be aware of where you are with processing feedback. Are you seeking to improve something specifically to help you? Do you want to know how an experience was like for others? Are you interested in learning what others need?
Feedback can serve you in various ways.
- Understanding the Self: My career has formally spanned 13 years. In the first 3-4 years I used feedback from students and adult learners to help me hone my craft as an educator. During this time I had an insatiable desire for feedback because I wanted to become better, and the feedback guided changes I made in my practice. I became better by learning more about who I was as a facilitator, and that reflection was given to me through feedback.
- Understanding Others: During the middle of my career, feedback helped me learn more about my client. I reached a level of confidence in my craft that allowed me to shift the focus onto those people impacted by my work. I sought to understand how people experienced learning and also what motivated them through learning.
- Serving Others: The past few years, my interest in the work has shifted to a more global perspective, as I seek to discover ways to impact educators on a broader scale through professional development. As you can imagine, the feedback I seek at this point is focused on ascertaining a greater need of not only clients, but the environments that shape their experiences in the industry, and the elements within that space that contribute to the client’s growth. The feedback I design at this stage comes more from informal assessments of the client’s experience, rather than direct and concrete feedback prompts.
These three ways show how my perspective of feedback has shifted over the past decade, growing from a desire to be a better educator, to aspiring to impact greater change. As my personal mission grew, so did my relationship with feedback.
Administrators, what are your teachers feeding you back? Your gathering of data needs to be purposeful and designed with intention in order to help you and your grow. After all, feedback really is the breakfast of champions!