From “I Don’t Want Your Feedback” to “Please Give Me Feedback” – A Shift in Mindset

Let’s begin with a recent conversation with Jasper ISD Superintendent, Gerald Hudson. It’s late on a Friday afternoon, long after the work day is over and the phone rings. Gerald, who has been in his position less than 6 months, says, “My folks want coaching!” Having known Gerald for many years, I respond with surprise, “Really. You haven’t been in your district that long. What specifically did you do to convince them that they want coaching?”  He says, “Nothing!” I’m surprised again. Then he says, I took them to my “people” in Garland ISD (Gerald’s former district where he served as an Area Director.) AND they sold them on the idea.

So . . . what did they say?

One thing they said was, “In a year’s time, teachers went from being reluctant to receiving feedback to asking their administrators to come into their classrooms to give them feedback.” Well, that’s a switch. To what did they attribute this significant shift in mindset? Several things were noted as contributing to this change – training in the language of coaching, a new appraisal process that focused on a growth mindset, and clear standards and expectations for teaching. Supporting these changes was considerable professional learning for teachers that included them as partners in the improvement process. Springing from the expectations for teaching, teachers set their own improvement goal which was a new element. As a result, this focused the observation and thus the feedback on what the teacher wanted rather than what was missing or absent in the lesson. The language changed from what was wrong to what was “seen” as well as any “missed opportunities” which created curiosity and motivation for possibilities for growth.

This sounds exactly like the feedback we teach – value/value potential statements and reflective questions for possibilities – both generated from the strength of what a teacher is doing well and what he/she wants to do next.

This is just one of the things the Garland people shared with Gerald’s team. In the blog, we’ll hear about what they said about the importance of creating clarity around the standards and expectations for the work.

In summary, here is the evidence-based data that coaching is making a difference.

  • A shift in mindset from compliance to growth.
  • A goal-driven process leading to focused observation and feedback.
  • The intentional language of coaching that looks for strength and what’s working.
  • Presumption that the teacher is a professional who wants to improve and grow. (Status and autonomy of SCARF)

What is the mindset about feedback where you work? How is coaching supporting the change in mindset that you want?

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Karen Anderson, PCC, M. Ed.

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