Feedback AND Evaluation: Two Pieces of the Growth Puzzle

Imagine teachers saying . . . “give me more” . . . “your feedback is critical to my ongoing growth as a professional.” Well, that is a reality in more and more schools. Schools are making the shift to a coaching culture with a growth mindset that presumes positive intent. And, they are using the evaluation process as the way to make it happen.

Take for example, Principal Keith McGee from the Little Rock School District, who after attending our Level II seminar committed to increasing his use of reflective feedback in the evaluation process. Specifically, he wanted to include more value and value potential statements in his conversations with teachers. When he said, “Your commitment to educate our students for the PARCC assessment is valued and is evidenced by student’s engagement in your class as they prepare,” the teacher expressed her appreciation for the feedback and requested more feedback. She asked the leadership team to give her more feedback because she viewed it as a way to improve as a teacher. In other words, she had a shift in her thinking and mindset about the value of evaluation for ongoing growth and development.

McGee’s testimony is just one of many examples we hear from you about the impact of reflective feedback. According to emerging literature in the business world, the kind of feedback that promotes growth + action will be the required skillset for leaders who are exceptionally successful in the 21st century. Jenny Rogers writes, “giving feedback is a high-level art . . . more talked about than done.”  Additionally, while Rogers admits effective feedback is tough, she challenges us by saying, “You have to become an expert in the art of giving feedback.”

So, Why Do We Want to Provide Reflective Feedback?

Because . . . The SCARF research from neuroscience coupled with over 3 decades of work from the Gallup group sends us a very clear answer. People do not grow from their weaknesses or deficits. They grow from their strengths and gifts. Status is a key factor! Knowing what I do well and seeing that you see it too, acts as an accelerant for what I will do next. When feedback sends the message that “you see me!” my brain can calm down and hear what you have to say to me. That acknowledgment is an essential feature that has been missing from most feedback. When my brain feels threatened, I stop listening and move to defensiveness or some other coping mechanism.

Previously, David Rock taught us that the best way to improve the performance of another is to improve his/her thinking about the performance. In a new article, he and others note that when talent is seen as fixed, it becomes a limiting belief. Most performance management systems built on indicators, scales, or checklists inadvertently encourage a way of thinking that limits the ability to grow talent. “By contrast, a belief that talent can be developed, will lead to more effective feedback, goal achievement, evaluation effectiveness, and a culture of collaboration and growth.”

In the educational arena, John Hattie and Helen Timperly speak about the power of feedback to improve the process of teaching and learning. They say, “Feedback is one of the most powerful influences on learning and achievement, but this impact can be either positive or negative. The evidence shows that although feedback is among the major influences, the type of feedback and the way it is given can be differentially effective.” Following is another story from you that describes the desired shift from fixed to growth mindset.

How Reflective Feedback Supports the Evaluation Process

School leaders across our country are working to integrate reflective feedback into their coaching conversations that support the observation/evaluation process. Principal Andy is working to show how evaluation and feedback are best accomplished through a coaching mindset. He, himself, had a mindset shift when he began to see the evaluation process as a tool for supporting his core value of growing teachers. As a result, he totally revamped his process for evaluation. Knowing the importance of certainty for the brain, he and his assistant principal, Sean, developed reflective questions that presumed positive intent, which they gave to their teachers prior to the observation. The questions became the focus of the growth conversation following each classroom visit. Teachers expressed value for this new process and feedback that was centered on their strengths and celebrations.

Andy, Sean, and others are finding their shift from a technical change challenge to an adaptive mindset change has a huge ROI (return on investment). Being in classrooms and holding reflective coaching conversations is the essential work of school leaders so that a coaching culture emerges with a clear focus on the growth mindset for all.

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Karen Anderson, PCC, M. Ed.

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2 thoughts on “Feedback AND Evaluation: Two Pieces of the Growth Puzzle

  1. Karen,

    Poignant as ever. Your desire to shape a pathway that leads us to high performance is evident in the way you meticulously crafted this post. Thank you for the David Rock reminder and for supplementing it with additional work that has provided me some coaching caffeine.

    To the Top.


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