What’s Your ‘Feedback Loop'?

While I don’t pretend to know much about business, I do know something about education.  Since we’re nearing the end of the typical school year – what, maybe two, three weeks left for most students? – I thought this post should focus on the value of feedback.

Feedback is critical for the sake of a business to continue building, growing, creating and prospering.  Take a close look at the label of any product.  It asks us, the consumers, for our comments, usually encouraging us with a 1-800 number or an address.  Businesses want feedback, they need feedback; heck, it’s what keeps them in business.  So I thought I’d see what Forbes.com had to say about feedback.  What I found can easily be aligned to our classroom and our students.

According to Forbes.com, the Feedback Loop goes something like this:

The work of companies like Yelp and Amazon has transformed the world of business through the creation of an ongoing process of dialogue and response. These “feedback loops” empower consumers and enable companies to innovate, allowing them to constantly provide new and better products and services that directly address consumer interests. Well-functioning private markets excel at meeting customer needs based on their continual feedback.

“We’re in education, not business!” You might be justifiably wondering.  “We work with children, not companies!  How can any of this possibly relate to me in my classroom?” Actually, all of this relates to education and in a neatly wrapped package.

Take a look at the bold language used:

  • We want an “ongoing process of dialogue and response” from our students, our colleagues and our administrators.  Without that continuous conversation, we cannot differentiate lessons, we cannot support our colleagues and we cannot improve student learning.
  • We want “empowerment” for our students, colleagues and administrators.  We look forward to when our students are able to find the main idea on their own; or when our colleagues model the lesson we coached; or when our administrator entrusts us with a project because he/she respects our expertise.  We are the “company” to empower our “consumer.”  Let’s give them the tools to be successful!
  • We need to “provide new and better products and services” for our students.  When lesson planning, don’t you search for just the right strategy to fit the skill you’re teaching?  When I want to teach a questioning technique, I’ll go to Raphael’s Q-A-R or if I want insight from my students regarding their choice book, I might bookmark Gallagher’s One-Pagers for student connections.  I am always on the lookout for “better products and services” to support my students, my colleagues and my administrators.
  • Finally, take a look at the loaded language:  innovate; well-functioning and excel.  This is what a classroom based in best practice looks like:  the teacher uses innovative techniques in a well-functioning space to create excellence.  It doesn’t get any better than that!

According to Yelp and Amazon, their Feedback Loops:

1.  Create pathways for broad-based feedback.

We want our students, our colleagues and our administrators to be able to share with us the successes and challenges of an assessment, a lesson or a project in a mutually respectful way.  Therefore, be open-minded to their comments and use your coaching language to hear what they’re saying.  Creating these “pathways” will keep you open to new ways of learning which, in turn, will benefit all stakeholders.  After all, who wants to work with someone who’s not interested in growing?  Since you want to be the one to initiate the feedback, I’ve created for you a Coach's Feedback Form (found under “Resources.”)  Feel free to revise for your specific situation.  Remember, you want to demonstrate the value of feedback by asking for it!

2.  Combine the wisdom of the crowds with the knowledge of experts.

Since collaboration is the key to success in any classroom, it makes sense that as professional educators we are humble enough to realize we don’t have all the answers and are smart enough to seek those who do!   Begin with your students.  I always give my students an opportunity to share with me not only what they learned, (see Student Feedback Forms under “Resources”), but how they learned it (can they metacognitively verbalize their learning for you?  If not, why not?). 

Next, seek assistance from your peers.  Often, teachers are afraid to ask for help from fellow educators.  We are concerned it might be perceived that we don’t know our content or best practice.  Trust me, not asking for help will solidify those fears.  Asking for help makes you look brilliant.  Finally, seek out your trusted administrator and explain that you need some support.  A little encouragement by the boss can give you the wisdom you crave!

3.  Build strong incentives to act on feedback.

According to Forbes.com, Feedback Loops should result in “altered” behavior.  You want to reward your stakeholders for giving their feedback to you.  You want them to know that you not only graciously accept their feedback, but will indeed, act upon it.  Therefore, (and I know you know this is coming) a little baked treat goes a long way!   In true Peg form, it was important for me to thank the staff for their kindness, hospitality and courteousness in welcoming me to their community, and embracing my experience and expertise. Therefore, I baked!  I offered the staff an “affirmation” for all of their feedback throughout the course of second semester.

Begin crafting your own “Feedback Loop” to create the fulfilling and inspirational relationship you want with students, colleagues and administrators.  Remember the language? Innovate, well-functioning and excel.  Use these words as guidelines as you challenge yourself to ask for feedback, and embrace it!