Mentoring Matters for Elementary Principals: October 2014

Leadership-life Fit:

Work toward your personal fit with these seven stress-stifling strategies.

Making the Most of Your Mentor:

Growing as a leader involves tapping into the expertise and experience of your mentor. Here you’ll find 10 questions you might pose at your monthly meeting to gain insight and ideas to support your own leadership development.

  1. Who has made a significant impact on your leadership and how?
  2. How have you leveraged mentors along your career path?
  3. Where do the great ideas come from in your school?
  4. How do you keep the “institution” (the policies, rules, and politics) from dampening the “inspiration”?
  5. How do you communicate your vision to your staff? When specifically does this happen? Do you designate specific time on your calendar?
  6. What is one characteristic you believe every leader should possess and why?
  7. What is the one behavior or trait you have seen undermine a leader’s influence?
  8. How do you keep current on issues related to curriculum, instruction and assessment?
  9. What protocols do you use to analyze data and how often? How do you ensure the data result in action?
  10. What strategies support your leadership-life fit?

Leading Learning—Giving Effective Feedback:

In his EdWeek blog, author and educational consultant Peter DeWitt discusses the key tenets of delivering effective feedback. He cites Grant Wiggins “Seven Keys to Effective Feedback” and builds a rationale using research from John Hattie.

Referencing the research, DeWitt argues that having a goal is fundamental to effective feedback. What is the student’s goal? What is the teacher’s goal? What is your leadership goal? We need to be driven by goals, and as educational leaders, effective feedback should be one of our most important goals. 

Receiving quality, goal-referenced feedback is engaging—think of that student who strives to move to the next level in her video game. Along the way, she receives feedback that keeps her engaged and motivates her to work toward the next level. Or, consider the runner who pursues a faster time with each successive run. The timer (splits) provides a form of feedback that keeps the runner engaged and motivated.

Though praise (Good Job! Way to go!! I like that.) has value, it will not move our students, our teachers, or us to the next level of performance. We need effective (descriptive) feedback. Hattie notes the significance of clearly understanding what the student or the teacher knows relative to the goal so that we can match subsequent instruction to the present understanding and stretch the learner toward the goal. This involves collecting and providing descriptive feedback.

“School leaders don't need to give advice. They need to provide specific examples that will help teachers meet their goals. The feedback provided can be simple and concrete, and schools leaders can offer follow up videos (Teaching Channel) or links to articles and blogs that will provide additional examples,” claims DeWitt.

The bottom line, there needs to be an agreed upon goal toward which the learner aspires. Wiggins seven key essentials to feedback:

  • Goal-Referenced – “Information becomes feedback if, and only if, I am trying to cause something and the information tells me whether I am on track or need to change course,” notes Wiggins.
  • Tangible and Transparent – Communicate clearly in language that the learner understands. Check for understanding.
  • Actionable – Ensure feedback is concrete, specific, and useful. I liked that!  Or C+ or 90% does not guide the learner to the next level of performance.
  • User-Friendly – Focus feedback on a single, most critical skill or segment of content and avoid overwhelming the learner with jargon so that the learner can make immediate adjustments and see noticeable improvement.
  • Timely – Learners and teachers need feedback in the moment so they can make any necessary changes to either the instruction or the learning strategy.
  • Ongoing – Learners should have opportunities to refine and adjust performance in order to meet the goal.
  • Consistent- Establish anchor papers, rubrics, performance standards that support inter-rater reliability.

The full articles provide specific examples of how you might provide descriptive feedback to your teachers.

Access the full article 

Grant Wiggins article

November Monthly Checklist: 

These lists are intended as a guide—we encourage you to process in your mentor-mentee team to identify other items that may need your attention!