Mentoring Matters for Superintendents: October

Leadership-life Fit

Work toward your personal leadership-life fit with these 7 stress-stifling strategies.

Leading Learning

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 the principal’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, our principals, 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 or the principal knows relative to the goal so that we can match subsequent instruction and support 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. Substitute ‘principal’ for teacher and the message is the same.

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 principals can provide descriptive feedback to teachers, but the concepts and strategies apply readily for all feedback whether principal to teacher or superintendent to principal.

Access the full article

Grant Wiggins article

Avoiding the Classic Mistakes of a New Superintendent

Watch this quick PowToons video to see the most common mistakes made by new superintendents and how you can avoid them.

Access the article from which the PowToons was designed.

Monthly Checklist

These lists are intended as a guide and are likely not all-inclusive! Process in your mentor-mentee team to identify other items that need to be addressed.