Director of Professional Learning
To grow as learners, we need to find ways to improve. This is equally true for students and staff. Reflecting on our own performance is a good place to start; indeed, this is one element of the Ignatian Pedagogical Paradigm (the others being Experience and Action). Reflection alone, however, is not enough; our own view is necessarily skewed, and may well be one dimensional. We can only judge our intent, not our impact, and so we must be open to input from others who can provide us with alternative perspectives, and give us the benefit of their wisdom and experience.
Teachers are in the habit of providing feedback to students to help them identify areas for improvement and their next learning goals. It is important that staff are regularly receiving the same formative feedback as our students. Teachers regularly seek feedback from their students to help them measure their effectiveness in the classroom, and will often invite a colleague into their classroom to observe their practice and provide feedback.
We are all responsible for helping each other to grow, because it benefits our whole community. Of course, the giving and receiving of feedback is a delicate matter that must be handled with skill and sensitivity. It sounds so simple: “I’ve observed something that this person could do differently to improve their practice, so I will tell them”, but in reality it’s very complicated. There are many factors which prevent us from giving helpful feedback: we may feel we don’t have a right or the authority to give it; we don’t know if they can handle the feedback, or want it; or we are afraid of the possible repercussions. In this year of sincerity, as we strive to ‘be such as we appear and appear such as we are’, we should ensure that we are not letting our feelings get in the way of another person’s growth.
Feedback is most likely to be received well if there already exists a strong relationship based on trust and respect. It is most likely to be effective if there is clarity in the message, and it is kind, specific and helpful. Too much feedback at once is not helpful, and the ‘here’s what I would have done’ approach should be avoided. In a supportive community such as ours, we can start with the assumption that everyone wants to improve and grow, and that any of us would be upset if someone didn’t share with us an insight which would help us grow.
Whilst giving feedback is complicated, receiving it can also be fraught with pitfalls. It is not unusual for a recipient to adopt a self-preservation position of defensiveness, denial of the issue or dismissal of the messenger’s credentials. It is not uncommon for people to focus only on the negatives or take the comments personally. When we receive feedback, we should allow ourselves time to digest what has been said, and try to be thankful. However hard it may be to accept, we should remember that feedback is hard to give. We should assume that the person has your best interests at heart, and remember that it would have been easier for them to say nothing.
Feedback is an essential part of a healthy organisational culture. It may take practice to give and receive it effectively, but it’s worth it. This is how we demonstrate sincerity in our relationships, and foster student and professional growth.
Mrs Carol Osborne
Director of Professional Learning