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Common Mistakes When Giving Feedback

By Elena Aguilar — February 15, 2016 2 min read
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I’ve discovered a new podcast: the School Leadership Show, by Mike Doughty. Although it’s “for school administrators, by school administrators,” there are lots of episodes that are meaningful and relevant for coaches and teacher leaders. As a devourer of podcasts, this is a great work-related addition to my feed.

On the most recent podcast, Doughty interviewed two people whom I also recommend: First, Doug Stone, the co-author of Difficult Conversations and Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well. And second, Jenn David-Lang who writes The Main Idea: Current Education Book Summaries. Every month, Jenn offers an eight-page summary of an education related book--these are very thorough, thoughtful digests which often inspire me to read the whole book.

Now, onto sharing the ideas shared in the podcast, an interview with Doug Stone and Jenn David-Lang. Doug Stone first reviewed the three kinds of feedback that are needed in schools:


  1. Evaluation--which we need because it gives us a sense of whether we’re meeting goals and how we compare to others.
  2. Coaching--the purpose of which is to help people improve.
  3. Appreciations--we want and need to feel seen, understood, and appreciated. So often in schools we don’t get enough appreciations.

I appreciated these clear buckets for feedback. And I really appreciated what Jenn David-Lang shared about the second kind of feedback. She commented that John Hattie has done an exhaustive analysis of over 50,000 studies that shows which school factors have the highest impact on student achievement. Hattie’s analysis concluded that giving formative feedback to teachers--offering coaching, has an effect size of .90, which is a huge, huge influence on achievement. She emphasized that if schools can effectively offer teachers feedback, there’s tremendous potential for improvement. I capture and cite anything that validates coaching and we need all the research (and meta-analysis) we can get.

Mistakes When Giving Feedback

Jenn was asked her opinion on the biggest mistakes that administrators make when giving feedback. Again, I think this applies to coaches as well. Here they are:


  1. Not being aware that teachers need coaching, appreciation, and evaluation. Teachers need all three. (Coaches need all three too! And site administrators!)
  2. School leaders don’t work hard enough on developing relationships before giving feedback. Principals need to develop relationship, trust, credibility before giving feedback. (Coaches need to develop relationships before giving feedback too!).
  3. We give feedback that is too vague. We need to share one specific thing that we observed and one thing that the teacher can do to change. (Coaches--even if we’re firmly grounded in facilitative stances, we can, and perhaps need to offer specifics for change at times).
  4. We don’t always provide teachers with clear criteria. We need to be clear about what we’re coming in to observe and the criteria we’ll use. (For coaches: when we’re supposed to give feedback in a context in which there isn’t criteria or agreement on what we’ll observe or give feedback on, it makes our work much harder).
  5. Not following up on feedback. After giving feedback, go into the classroom and see what is being implemented. (So true for coaches, also. Our follow up is essential).

I hope this has inspired you to read Doug’s book, or subscribe to Jenn’s Main Ideas, or listen to the podcast, or reflect on your own feedback! So many learning opportunities...so little time.

The opinions expressed in The Art of Coaching Teachers are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.


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