Feedback

The term feedback is used a great deal in education, coupled with adjectives such as timely, actionable, and constructive.  The LEAD Connecticut Coaching Model uses a specific model for feedback; briefly stated, the premise is that one of the major goals of the coach is to help the educational leader become skilled at asking and answering questions that build self-regulation, because our goal is to ensure that the educational leader knows what quality performance in the domains crucial to school success looks like, is able to self-assess relative to that target, and can take steps to move from current to desired performance.

We use the work on the effective feedback by Hattie and Timperley, who refer to the feedback questions that are indistinguishable from self-regulation:

  1. Where am I going?
  2. How am I going?
  3. What steps do I need to take to advance?

Hattie and Timperley draw on the research on the efficacy of feedback to suggest that there are four kinds of feedback that can answer the feedback questions:

  1. Feedback about the self
  2. Feedback about the task
  3. Feedback about the process
  4. Feedback about self-regulation

The following quotation from Hattie and Timperley summarizes the roles of these different types of feedback:

Thus, there is a distinction between feedback about the task (FT), about the processing of the task (FP), about self-regulation (FR) and about the self as a person (FS).  We argue that FS is the least effective, FR and FP are powerful in terms of deep processing and mastery of tasks, and FT is powerful when the task information subsequently is useful for improving strategy processing or enhancing self-regulation (which it too rarely does).

We interpret this to mean that coaches should think of their role as supporting the educational leader’s thinking about how something should be done, how well it was done, and how to make it better.  The coach, in this way of thinking, asks questions such as: “what are you aiming for here?” “how will you know if you have accomplished what you set out to do?” “what evidence did you/might you collect to help you sort out what’s really going on?” “have you thought about what you can do to get you closer to that goal?”

We distinguish this from feedback that makes the coach the arbiter of quality, in which case the coach would say things like “I liked the way you handled those questions at the end” “I think the right thing to do here would be to set a time with her to have a private conversation” “don’t forget to collect data from the teachers about their professional development needs”

We know that sometimes coaches should tell the educational leader what they’re thinking.  We make the distinction between being direct, i.e. sharing observations honestly, and being directive, i.e. telling someone what to do.