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Giving Feedback to a Teacher by Stretching Their Brain Muscles: A Coaching Tip

25 Oct 2013 by Curry Ander

Supporting teachers with the CLASS tool means walking the talk. As we support teachers to help children develop cognitive thinking skills, we can take it up a notch ourselves. Instead of giving advice, question teachers and really listen to their answers. Scaffold with hints and assistance, have in-depth back-and-forth exchanges, prompt teachers to think, provide good information, encourage, and affirm. Provide good Quality of Feedback—don't give the solutions; let the solutions come from the teachers.

Choosing Feedback over Advice: A Coaching Example

A few years ago a teacher in the MyTeachingPartner (MTP) coaching project sent me a video of an art activity she was doing with children. We had agreed to focus on the Behavior Management dimension because the children “weren’t listening to her.”

In the video, she sat children down at an empty table and went to get the materials. Within seconds, the children found their own amusements—poking each other, climbing under the table, getting up, even leaving! When she came back, the teacher was particularly irritated with a child we'll call “Billy.”

The advice was screaming in my head: “For heaven’s sake, get the materials out before you bring them over—it’s a set-up for misbehavior!” Holding back advice is difficult (just ask any teacher), but I know dishing it out prevents Quality of Feedback. So I took the conversation another direction:

Coach: Wow, I see what you mean, the kids are all over the place.

Teacher: Yeah, they just don’t listen. They know that they are supposed to sit in their chairs and keep their hands to themselves.

Coach: I see that you spent some time with Billy. Let’s watch and see what’s going on for him. (We watched the beginning of the tape again.)

Coach: What do you think is going on for Billy here?

Teacher: Well, he didn’t listen.

Coach: Why do you think he didn’t listen?

Teacher: He had his hands all over the place, and on other children!

Coach: Why do you think he did that? What’s up with Billy?

Teacher: Well, he’s a busy boy and always has something going on, always touching something or someone. He drives us all crazy.

Coach: What do you think he needed here in order to be able to follow the rules?

Teacher: He needs to be busy, probably have something in his hands.

Coach: How could you have prevented him from misbehaving and been one step ahead of him?

Teacher: He needed to have something to do, and I made him wait with nothing in his hands. It didn’t work.

Coach: So what can you do next time?

Teacher: I’ll get the materials out before I call him over, or give him something to do while he’s waiting.

Coach: That sounds like a great idea. Please try it and film that for next time.

This teacher changed her practice because she saw on her own that there was another way to help Billy with his behavior. When problem solving comes from the teachers themselves, it sticks. Be the teacher that you want them to be—give good Quality of Feedback instead of advice.

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