Saturday, February 27, 2016

Feedback: Taking it to Heart

Feedback. It's a topic about which I have written quite a bit, especially in the realm of its integral role with student learning. However earlier this week, I got to experience the role that feedback should have upon the instruction provided to the learners. I know that all of us have dutifully completed surveys at the end of a day of professional learning only to see that no changes are made to subsequent events. As a participant, it implies that your voice isn't important; others know better than you. You become a victim to what others want for you rather than having that control over the learning process.

I can honestly say that my experience with the Network to Transform Teaching Hub team was the complete opposite. Never in my experience, have I observed a group of organizers take the feedback left at the end of one day, to immediately turn around and spend hours making alterations and adjustments to the following day's agenda based on what the learners needed or wanted from the experience. I want to point out that all the participants received an agenda (a plan) that I can only imagine took days to create in advance of the learning session. Yet, the Hub team valued what everyone said and were willing to make adaptations to meet our needs.

For me, this served as a perfect model for how accomplished teachers would approach their classrooms. We all collect information and data from our students, but the real question is what do we actually do with it? Do we listen to what our students are actually saying and make changes to our plans based on what we hear? Are we valuing what our students need, what they want out of their learning experiences?

For several years, I have asked my students to provide me feedback on our classroom throughout the school year: What went well? What didn't go well? What goals do you have? What changes can we make to better support your learning? As the recipient of that feedback, you have to be willing to hear some things that may be very hard to hear. I've had some learners provide feedback that has brought me to tears, but when I honestly looked at the choices that I made, I could see the disparity between what I thought I was doing to support learning and what the student perceived.  Even though we may spend hours planning to meet the needs of our diverse learners, the truth is we don't know how our intentions translate to each one of them unless we take the time to ask, truly listen, and put their ideas into action. Because the reality is that this learning is about them, not us. They deserve the best learning opportunities possible. We just have to provide the tools, guidance and pathways to get them where they want to go.

Want to read more about feedback in our classroom?

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