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The Open-Faced Sandwich and the Power of Negative Feedback

18 Dec 2013 by Ginny Vitiello

I’m very excited to say that Teachstone is finally putting together a one-day training on giving CLASS-based feedback to teachers. People in the field have asked us to weigh in on this for years but we were so busy preparing observation trainings for all six age levels that we’re only getting to it now.

I’ve been digging into the research on effective feedback that spurs professional growth. The training will ultimately reflect research-based best practices as well as input from experienced feedback-givers. (The lead content writer is Hilary Ritt, a former teacher and PhD in Instructional Technology, who did a great series on organizational change on the Teachstone blog.)

Here’s one thing that has really jumped out at me: People respond much better to negative feedback than to positive feedback alone. In fact, although people are happier when they receive praise and positive feedback, they make greater performance improvement when they get constructive negative feedback.

The research literature is also really critical of the so-called “feedback sandwich"—starting with praise, giving negative feedback, and ending on praise again. Apparently, people remember positive feedback more easily than critical feedback, and the feedback sandwich plays right into that tendency. The feedback recipients walk away remembering only the good comments.

So, what do you do if you want to be supportive of your teachers but also spur them to grow? I would recommend an “open-faced feedback sandwich” like we do in MyTeachingPartner Coaching: point out something the teacher is doing very well and move from there into critiquing an area for growth. Keep your feedback specific, behavioral, and actionable. For example:

“Did you see how Susie’s face lit up when you got on her level and helped her with that puzzle? She was really engaged. I’d love to see you do more of that with the other children. Let’s talk about how to make that happen.”

Compare this to the more vague, less actionable, “Try to get the children more engaged.”

There will be lots more to come as we develop this new training, so stay tuned. In the meantime, share your feedback tips in the comments.

If you're interested in learning more about the feedback training, fill out this short form and we'll be in touch with more information as it becomes available.

Photo credit: http://www.thekitchn.com/openfaced-sandwiches-10-recipe-144154

Webinar: Using CLASS Data to Provide Effective Feedback

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