Developing our Ability to Utilize Feedback from Peers in our Classrooms.
George Couros in his book “The Innovator's Mindset” suggests looking outside our field to develop our skills. My inspiration for this Feedback blog posts comes from Robin Barnes in an article she wrote titled “How to Get the Feedback You Need to Succeed.” in the Professional Ski Instructors of America Spring 2017 issue of 32 Degrees.
I have been a ski instructor for over 20 years, it led me to leave my advertising career and pursue teaching in the classroom. My professional organization has played a major role in how I teach in my classroom and I often gain insights from the coaches of PSIA.
The typical feedback article that I have read discusses how to provide effective feedback, Robin choose to write about how to receive feedback to improve performance. This is a flip from my traditional thinking and I wanted to explore how Robin’s article on ski coaching pertained to my classroom instruction.
At Bio-Med Science Academy, an independent STEM + M high school located on the campus of Northeast Ohio Medical University, we attempt to foster a collaborative teaching environment where teachers learn and grow from each other. The tools Robin provided in her article will help any teacher develop their ability to better utilize feedback.
Robin discusses two ways to seek and receive feedback; First Start with yourself, then seek feedback from others.
First start with yourself:
Finding feedback on your own. In the article Robin discusses how as snowsport instructors, we often “soft” assess every run - how well did I ski the run, was I struggling with the terrain? This can be casual, however she suggests experimenting by focusing in on specifics and outcomes.
As a classroom instructor, how often do we take time to deeply reflect on our lessons? I decided to compare the tools Robin suggests and apply them in order to focus my reflections on my classroom instruction.
Below I have adapted Robin's intrinsic feedback tip and applied to the classroom.
Second Seeking Feedback from Others
Robin suggests feedback from others is a fantastic way to grow in our sport, however many of us are not very good at seeking and receiving effective feedback. She suggests you “have a plan and take responsibility.” As a teacher this can be intimidating since our observations are typically evaluative and can be tied to our compensation. With Robin’s tips, I feel I can flip that perception and design quick observations from peers or administration with targeted and effective feedback that will impact my instruction.
Tips from Robin on how to get the most from extrinsic feedback.
The specific tools provided by Robin are going to be game changer for me. They provide the framework to develop ways to seek and obtain feedback. The next step will be to take the time to reflect on my colleague's comments and make improvements to my instructional practices.
It is often said “Teaching is an Art’ - we need to continually evolve and develop our skills as our students, classrooms and technology change. My first videos were intimidating to create and hard to listen to, but with time, I became more comfortable and am able to observe and reflect on my delivery. I know my first few visits from colleagues will be uncomfortable but the knowledge I can gain will allow me to develop my instructional practice.
Project Based Learning
Key takeaways that I want to start implementing immediately in my classroom
How can I frame my lessons so that students can understand how the skills they are developing will help them beyond their academic career? By reflecting on this idea, I am redesigning my curriculum to share with students our "big idea" project of year vs. waiting until after instruction to "launch" the project.
Sigh, yes rubrics. Typically the bane of any project I create. My opinion of rubrics transformed from a simple checklist to a powerful learning tool that will help students develop their need to know charts and help challenge students to move beyond standard expectations.
While many of these tools were not new to me, what was new was how they were being used, and that provided many "ah ha" moments. I appreciated experiencing the training as "student" living the process as it helped me gain a much deeper understanding of how we learn and how to teach more effectively using projects.