Guest post by Melissa King-Knowles
When I was a teacher, I started using feedback looping processes to survey my high school students about particular units and methods of assessment. I asked what they liked and didn’t like and sought input on my teaching practice. With their brutal (ahem, I mean beautiful) honesty, students brought me to my knees on a couple of occasions. Once I reconciled that my ego needed to take a back seat to the needs my students expressed, it became much easier for their feedback to play a powerful role in the learning process in my class. The feedback also provided useful insights into my instruction that ultimately transformed my teaching practice and made me a better educator.
After transitioning into the role of administrator, I knew feedback looping could be easily replicated campus-wide. If done correctly, this process could encourage essential conversations that foster collaboration and drive decisions that benefit even more students than any one classroom could.
Here are some important lessons I have learned about using feedback looping as an administrator.
- There are a few key non-negotiables when using feedback loops to foster a collaborative campus culture. As a leader, one must be willing to:
- Ask real questions that lead to honest answers
- Remain intent on listening, even when it’s tough
- Affirm those who share
- Respond through visible and transparent action
- Include others throughout the process
- To best involve stakeholders in feedback loops, one should:
- Solicit and gather feedback—I typically do this at least three times a year with all stakeholders
- Review and reflect on feedback and other relevant data
- Share the feedback and data
- Develop action steps in response—I recommend that you do this through teams, if at all possible
- Communicate the action steps to the appropriate stakeholders
- Collect and analyze data and mid-point feedback
- Revise action steps (if needed)
- Keep communication going—transparency is key
- Collect and analyze data and end-of-cycle feedback
- Determine if goals have been achieved
- Trust is a critical component in a culture of collaboration, perhaps the most vital of all. Although trust takes time, incorporating these lessons will help build trust more quickly.
Using feedback looping with teachers, students, and parents has helped my school foster a collaborative campus culture. Here’s how we use feedback looping with each of these stakeholders and the benefits that have occurred as a result.
Teacher surveys and questionnaires help assess climate and culture and collect feedback. The results assist us in planning professional development and defining individual and team goals and plans.
The outcomes of these recurring feedback loops allow our administrative team to address thematic needs with the staff. If we need to improve consistency with discipline or provide additional training for differentiated instruction, we can quickly detect such needs through the data.
Periodically, parents complete surveys on climate and culture, safety, and communication. The feedback they provide is synthesized and shared back to them through Principal Coffees.
Anonymous feedback opportunities as well as structured and transparent reports let our parents know their voices matter. The feedback looping affirms that parents truly are partners in helping to shape our school community.
Surveys for students provide them open-ended opportunities to tell us what they like and what they wish would change about school. But the surveys are just the first step; we further explore their input through feedback sessions, classroom visits, and specific conversations with the principal.
The feedback looping has helped our administrative team collaborate with teams of students to address their concerns. For example, last spring, a group of our eighth-grade students decided they wanted to create a kindness wall to help others who needed an extra pick-me-up. We provided support but empowered the students to create and sustain this added feature of our school.
Implementing these processes can be tough. Feedback looping will challenge the complacent and disrupt the comfortable. It takes time for some stakeholders to see the merit in sharing their thoughts. However, once it is clear that feedback is valued, once it is evident that the input is being used to drive improvement, collaboration takes on new meaning. This kind of collaboration engages stakeholders in a way that promotes sincere efforts toward continuous improvement.
How do you collect and share authentic feedback from your campus stakeholders? How does this input impact campus decisions?
Melissa King-Knowles is in her second year as principal of Sartartia Middle School in Sugar Land, TX, which serves 1,295 students in grades 6–8. She was the 2016 Texas Assistant Principal of the Year. Follow her on Twitter @K2Melissa.