One of the questions I get most often from educators and non-educators is how to ask for feedback from a colleague or boss. Here are a few steps that I would take:
Step 1: Create and share specific goals with an action plan
Every year I set a SMART goal or two for myself. This was part of my practice as a NYC public school teacher and I am grateful that it became a habit. I tend to be a this is where I am, this is what I want to learn and this is where I hope it will go-type goal setter. I like to anticipate the bumps in the road and prepare some possible solutions. After the plan has been developed, I share my goal and action plan with anyone who might be a collaborator. For example, if my goal is authentically incorporating tech into my instruction I may want to collaborate with our tech facilitator or director of innovative learning. I am lucky to work with amazing minds who are generous with their great ideas so I find that this step often leads me to the most revision on my goal.
Step 2: Narrow your focus and prioritize
One of the things I learned last year after I implemented my feedback folder was that open-ended feedback was difficult for those giving feedback and I was overwhelmed with the scope of feedback I was receiving. I had to narrow my focus and prioritize. I decided to take a page from Doug Lemov and identify a Look For. This doesn't have to be anything formal or written, but if you email someone for feedback on a report or blog post, identify the areas you want to target and ask for specific feedback. If you want someone to come in your room to observe, give them something specific to look for. There were a lot of components to my goals last year so I identified where I needed to practice and grow...first.
Step 3: Listen & reflect
If you are asking for feedback it means you want to grow, improve and reflect. Hopefully whoever you are asking will practice effective feedback strategies (one thing that went well, one thing to consider or try) that focus on your Look For - but they might not. Initially, no matter what type of response you get, make sure to listen and reflect. I have found that even when given ineffective feedback there is always something I can take away and apply to my practice. After reflecting if you need clarification or suggestions for implementation please follow-up. Then, if you find that you aren't getting effective feedback, use guiding questions to begin your feedback conversations.
I am trying to clarify introduction to this report would you suggest ____ or ____?
Can you come in during math to observe whether ____ and ____ are collaborating effectively during our independent practice?
Step 4: Keep the door open
The most effective and productive feedback loops are ones that are continuous (hence - the loop) not isolated events. Keep the door open can be literal; keep your door open so people feel comfortable entering and metaphorical; keep the conversations going, ask for follow-up, practice together and collaborate.
Praise isn't feedback.*
Feedback isn't evaluative.
Don't get defensive.
Asking for feedback from children (students) is terrifying, raw and absolutely life-changing.
Model effective feedback strategies whenever possible.
You might need to teach people how to give effective feedback - learn and practice together.
The formula of one thing that you loved or worked well (heart) and one thing to consider or try (brain) works.
*Praise isn't feedback BUT people should be told when they are doing something that is really working well - be specific please. Good job just doesn't work.
How do you ask for feedback?