The Power of Feedback.

Starting to write again in my blog is exciting after a brief absence. I would like to share a positive experience. One of my written tasks which I contributed in a History Teacher’s Association’s Workshop under the guidance of  Matt Easterman proved  powerful.  This little task seems to fit in well with my  final teaching practice. Is it a coincidence, not sure! As always the importance of feedback can never be underestimated as it helps us on how to improve on our teaching practices. Upon completing my final teaching practicum, I was so amazed to reflect on this particular assignment. The topic of ‘feedback’ that I chose clearly shows how vital it can be for beginning teachers. Reflecting on it now, I applaud my supervising teacher because she never fails to give a feedback. She always gave written feedback on each and every lesson that I taught and I took all her comments on board simply because I want to improve. Above all I love teaching and I aim for the best result,  this clearly reflected in my final practicum report. My supervising teacher had received her proficiency level and she works towards upholding the importance of feedback.

I found one relevant TED talk that might inspire some teachers out there to take ‘feedbacks’ as a holy grail. Bill Gates is not a teacher, but his suggestions can be taken into consideration for better improvements in our teaching commitments.

Teachers need real feedback-Bill Gates (http://www.ted.com/talks/bill_gates_teachers_need_real_feedback).
I am choosing this TED talk by Bill Gates due to the relevance it can provide for all teachers. Bill Gates is suggesting a few useful strategies for some effective outcomes by improving teaching practices for many of us. Bill Gates argues that in the effort to improve quality teaching, giving real feedback to teachers about their teaching strategy is essential not only to improve educational outcomes but also maintaining the teaching standards in this great profession. Two essential elements that Bill Gates focuses are on the importance of feedback and providing useful coaching techniques for ongoing professional teacher development. These two core elements are essential in our current digital era for delivering effective and meaningful teaching outcomes. Furthermore, by following his suggestions, teachers can either maintain or modify their teaching practices which realistically fit in with the requirement of the AITSL for better educational outcomes.

Feedback, no matter how small or large, is essential in order for teachers to do their job effectively. Bill Gates talks about the vital aspect of feedback and he stresses the importance of ‘real feedback’. Having said that, he also suggests that having a trainer or mentor is equally important because they are the experts who can provide all the necessary knowledge and skills for new teachers to excel. For teachers, knowing how to improve on students’ academic progresses and achievements enables them to focus on gaining new teaching techniques for improving further on their professional teaching practices. Bill Gates’ suggestions are timely as teachers need to work collaboratively with many other teaching staffs in the school to produce better results in students’ overall academic achievements. As a beginning teacher, I would like to comment on the merits of getting a feedback from expert teachers in order to increase and improve my professional knowledge and eventually becoming a proficient teacher.

The teaching standard that I am focusing is on AITSL’s Standard 6, subsection 6.3, which requires teachers to contribute to collegial discussions and apply some constructive feedback from colleagues to improve their professional knowledge and practice. In particular, I am keen to talk about the importance of other teacher’s feedback while I am teaching in the classroom. By allowing our teaching staffs observing us teaching and giving feedback will actually improve on individual teaching practices. Teaching practices are deemed to be effective when a professional teacher allows his/her colleague to evaluate their teaching and provide constructive feedback. Constructive feedback, in return, is necessary for improvement in teaching and to make changes whenever necessary. For example, when a comment is made by the observing teacher for improvement in the questioning techniques while teaching, the new teacher who needs to improve in this area, has to take the comment as a positive criticism and work on to improve his/her teaching practices that requires effective questioning techniques. In subjects like History, this becomes quite relevant as directing the right questions as to allow students to connect with the topic in a deeper sense. Also, framing the right questions provides a relevant starting point for a bubble of discussion to continue among students, as well as setting the stage for a lively discussion. In a way it also increases their critical thinking skills.

Evidently, new or beginning teacher hugely benefits if they are given the chance to observe any expert teachers or even being observed by other senior teachers in the school. The flip side of observing new teachers is that some new teachers might feel uncomfortable having someone else observing them while teaching in the classroom and end up not being able to continue with his or her teaching practices. However, for those who feel uncomfortable involving in this type of teacher observation sessions, they can record their own teaching practices and review them at a later stage so that they can improve their teaching by some self diagnostic tools. They can also write their reflection on how to improve and learn to become better teachers. No matter what, the advantage of having a mentoring/expert teacher far outweighs the negativity that is portrayed. Whether it is positive or negative comment, teachers should regard this as part of their learning process and work as a team effectively for the betterment of all, students and teachers alike.

To sum up, collegial discussion among teachers, in the form of observing other teachers and giving feedback creates a culture of acceptance and engagement in a professional manner. To work in collaboration with other teachers will definitely improve and maintain the essential aspects of providing teaching with a focus on the AITSLs standard 6, subsection 6.3. Likewise, greater professional engagement with teaching staffs will heighten teachers’ motivation and determination in varied aspects of their professional teaching practices. Teachers need to have a positive attitude in order to give and receive feedbacks about their teaching practices. Thus, Bill Gates’ suggestion about giving feedbacks and having a trainer/mentor in the teaching profession is laudable.

Though, I’m not in the proficient level yet, the standards that I am focusing will assist me in the future and hopefully all other teachers can seriously use these powerful ‘feedbacks’ widely to create greater engagement amongst colleagues.

Standard 6-AITSL- Engage in professional learning
Focus Area 6.3- Engage with colleagues and improve practice
Career stage- Proficient
Descriptor- Contribute to collegial discussions and apply constructive feedback from colleagues to improve professional knowledge and practice.

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