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Instructional Leadership

The Game Changer: Frequent and Immediate Feedback

Written by Patricia Williams & Paul Needham, TE Instructional Coaches

In the best-selling management book ­SWITCH: How to Change Things When Change is Hard, Chip and Dan Heath argue that having an expert “cut through the bewildering array of… choices and suggest a good place to start,” allows those learning a new skill to see improvement at a faster rate.  How does Teaching Excellence create this change?  TE IC’s (Teaching Excellence Instructional Coaches) touch base with their teachers every 1.5 to 2 weeks.  Touch points include 15-20 minute observations, 55 minute full observations, debriefs that involve video analysis, data meetings, mind-set conversations, and lesson planning.  IC’s even leave immediate feedback after an observation that allows teachers to make immediate adjustments in their lessons and for subsequent classes, shortening the application of feedback to just a few minutes versus hours over email or waiting for a meeting.

There are, however, other programs whose top priority is the number  of teachers they are able to push through the turnstiles of their organization. They may only see their teachers 2-3 times in an entire year!  How can this possibly be enough for a professional in a performance-based career like teaching? Any other profession where the emphasis is on performance, be it music, athletics, or public speaking, receives immense amounts of practice and in-the-moment feedback. Would you expect Apple employees to stay on the cutting edge of technology without testing their products for feedback on a daily basis? Would LeBron James be a high performing athlete if he only received feedback 3 out of a possible 72 games per year? Absolutely not! Then why should we provide teachers feedback 2-3 times per year when they teach over 200 days?

Let’s take Cam Newton’s success as an example of transformation due to frequent, immediate, specific and action-oriented feedback.  Newton, who currently plays quarterback for the Carolina Panthers, had arguably the best Rookie season in NFL history.  But that wasn’t always the case.  As a college quarter back at Auburn University he was a runner first instead of a passer. He didn’t have the mindset of Joe Montana and Tom Brady, who are passers first and runners second.  How did Auburn’s coaches change Cam’s mindset?  In daily practice they stood by Cam’s side correcting throwing motions, foot coordination and emotional responses to simulations.  “Cam grip the ball….wait for your receiver to get out there…don’t rifle the ball all the time …gauge your receiver’s distance… make the adjustment in force…trust your instincts.”  Cam’s coaches provided immediate feedback so that he could make small changes that would have a huge impact. Teaching Excellence Instructional Coaches provide this same service to their novice teachers…”circulate to the back of your room during INM…wait for 100%…model the problem solving process during INM before asking your kiddos to do so during guided practice….”  TE IC’s are in classrooms frequently providing accurate, specific and action oriented feedback.

Stephanie King, 8th grade Social Studies teacher at YES Prep Brays Oaks middle school in Houston, Texas echoes this sentiment: “My IC is in my class more than anyone!  She leaves immediate feedback while I’m teaching which is great because I can put it into practice immediately without checking my email.  My classroom is so much better than it was in August in large part because my IC has been there every step of the way.”

Stephanie pretty much summed it all up!  TE IC’s frequent and immediate feedback cycle is changing the game for cutting edge instructional coaching.

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