Wednesday / April 24

How to Give Teachers Quality Feedback to Move Students Forward

What does it mean to lead learning?

At no other time in the history of education do we have such a powerful opportunity–given federal policies such as Race to the Top and now ESSA–to redefine instructional leadership in our schools and focus on how and when students are engaged and learning. We know that for students to be cognitively engaged and to construct new understandings, our classrooms must be dynamic, challenging, individualized, and highly supportive.

How do we support teachers in this work?

To support teachers in the creation of these learning environments, instructional leaders must view themselves as teachers of teachers. Just as in our classrooms with our students, we know that ongoing feedback is one of the most impactful ways to influence learning–and is a known factor in the growth of teachers. However, the quality of the feedback matters.

Current observation and feedback practices often reinforce supervision and evaluation as an inspection model–versus a blending of these two essential leadership practices. As a result, teachers are provided lists of evidence or summaries of their actions. These do not promote reflection or efficacy and rarely influence teaching practice or levels of students’ thinking and understanding. Instead, feedback must feed forward and should be based on a growth model focused on student learning in classrooms and professional learning for a teacher.

How do we create feedback that feeds forward?

Based on John Hattie’s research, just as with our classroom learners, feedback to teachers should ensure a clear understanding of:

  • Where am I going?
  • How am I going?
  • And where to next?

Feedback providing the answer to, “How am I going?” should be rooted in a teacher’s impact on engagement and learning. Teachers must recognize effectiveness through the lens of cause and effect relationships occurring during a lesson (e.g “Because you created the learning criteria with the students and modeled how to use the rubric, students were successfully self-assessing to improve their essays…”).

“Where am I going?” and “What’s next?” should reflect expectations not just for teaching, but learning outcomes—helping a teacher see how additional or alternate actions and choices would serve to increase  (or continue to increase) student ownership, engagement, and understanding.

What do leaders need to make this shift in practice?

Providing teachers with this supportive feedback requires a fundamental shift in how leaders observe and collect evidence. It requires that leaders analyze the evidence, rather than just give a summary of events witnessed. The shift requires a new skill set, one for which leaders have received little to no support either through pre-service or on-the-job training.

To lead learning, instructional leaders must master three core competencies:

  1. Effective observation and evidence collection with attention to the learners
  2. Explicit analysis of teacher effectiveness
  3. Development of high quality feedback

This is the focus of our new book, Feedback to Feed Forward: 31 Strategies to Lead Learning, arriving on the shelves this July (perfect summer reading!). Though there is power in verbal feedback, we aim to help leaders capture, organize, and process evidence, and craft written reports–steps necessary to engage in a highly impactful conversation. You can read Chapter 4 to find three targeted strategies that enable a leader to:

  • Determine Student Engagement Levels
  • Determine Teacher Impact on Learning
  • Determine Teacher Impact on Engagement

How are you leading learning through your teacher feedback?

Written by

Patrick Flynn has worked as a teacher, teacher leader, curriculum director, and executive program director in K-12 settings in over eleven different states. As the Executive Director of High Schools for Edison Schools and the Chief Academic Officer for Great Schools Workshop in Sacramento, CA, Patrick worked with building and district administrations in nine states to implement systemic high school reform. He has provided professional learning in the areas of transformational leadership, performance management systems, standards-driven instruction, and data-driven decision-making. Patrick is Founder and Executive Director of ReVISION Learning Partnership, providing professional development and support to districts and educational organizations in CT, NY, NJ, and LA since 2010. He has led several school improvement initiatives in rural and urban settings and internationally in the United Arab Emirates with the Abu Dhabi Education Council. He has presented nationally and internationally, including as a keynote speaker at the Forum on Big Data at the Tianjin University of Technology, in Tianjin, China. ReVISION Learning is highly sought after for its leadership in providing the highest quality professional learning opportunities for teacher, administrators, and district personnel.


Amy Tepper has served as a teacher, administrator, and program director in various K-12 settings and startups to include virtual, homeschool, blended, and public schools. She held the position of Executive Director of a Sylvan Learning Center, opened an alternative 6th-12th school in Okaloosa County, FL, and later was actively engaged in Florida high school redesign and career education reform, providing technical assistance across the state. Amy had the opportunity to collaborate with a team of parents to develop the Ohana Institute, an innovative blended school, focused on global citizenship and discovery learning, serving as Director in its first year. As a consultant, she provided instructional and administrative coaching at an international school in Panama, before joining ReVISION Learning Partnership in 2013. Amy has since completed countless classroom observations through work as a peer validator evaluating practices in Newark and New Haven schools, and in providing embedded, ongoing support for instructional leaders and teachers in the areas of high quality observation, feedback, and teaching and learning across Connecticut.

Latest comments

  • The link to chapter 4 doesn’t seem to go anywhere.

    • Hi Cherry,
      The link has been fixed now! 🙂 Thanks for letting us know.

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