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Providing Effective Observations and Feedback in Various Learning Environments
The primary goal in Educator Effectiveness is to provide meaningful feedback that enables educators to continually grow as professionals. Throughout the evaluation cycle, principals and evaluators/observers are encouraged to:
- Conduct observations to collect evidence of professional practices.
- Explore other ways to collect evidence beyond classroom observations.
- Seek opportunities to observe educators outside the classroom to gain a full picture of what the educator does in support of students and students’ learning.
- Maximize opportunities to provide feedback to the person being evaluated throughout the year, along with opportunities for reflection, rather than a one-time event.
Key components of effective observations and feedback are consistent regardless of the learning environment and the setting in which instruction may be taking place (in-person, remote/virtual, or a hybrid setting). During these unprecedented times,where educators have to adapt their instructional practices to respond to changing settings and needs of their students and communities, opportunities for thoughtful feedback remains. Moreover, it can honor the professionalism and dedication with which educators are meeting the current challenges.
Jump to a Section:
- Key components in conducting effective observations
- Key components in providing effective feedback
- External Resources
The following offers highlights of effective observations and feedback practices within in-person/traditional instructional settings and within remote/virtual instructional settings. The majority of which are shared regardless of the instruction setting, with a few nuanced adjustments to capitalize on the specific setting.
Key considerations when observing virtual teaching
The following considerations and actions can support a principal/evaluator/observer when joining a remote/virtual instruction for observation and provide avenues for concrete feedback to the educator.
- How is the educator communicating with students?
- What specific language is the educator using with students, i.e., asset-based language which focuses on student strengths and offers support, or deficit-based language which focuses on student weaknesses and draws attention to challenges?
- Is the educator providing a clear structure to the students?
- Is the educator quick to offer support?
- If so, when and under what circumstances?
- If not, what was observed instead?
- Is the educator demonstrating flexibility?
- If so, how?
- If not, what opportunities might exist to practice?
In addition, through follow-up conversation with the educator, a principal/evaluator/observer can determine to what extent the educator is considering the following: parent involvement and support, social-emotional well-being, internet/computer/technology access, and student learning preferences. (Adapted from: Online teaching: 5 keys for effectiveness)
Observation Process Overview
The following is offered as an example of best practices for collecting observational data and giving feedback. Principals/evaluators/observers are encouraged to adapt these practices to align with their setting and existing practices.
The observer looks for and records relevant evidence from a lesson.
The observer organizes the evidence by rubric components.
The observer determines ratings by comparing the evidence to the rubric’s language.
The observer uses evidence in discussion with the teacher.
Sequence adapted from Rhode Island Department of Education training materials
Better Feedback for Better Teaching, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, 2016
Additional considerations for completing observations in remote/virtual settings:
- Explore opportunities to use recorded video lesson that may afford more flexibility for principals/evaluators/observers and decrease pressure for the educator.
- Engage in pre-observation communication with the educator to ensure shared understandings and expectations for the lesson to be observed, e.g., what student engagement looks like.
- Ensure educators understand what the observation will (and will not) include, how the information will be used to support future professional growth opportunities, and what next steps will include.
The following offers considerations and highlights of effective feedback practices within in-person/traditional instructional settings and within remote/virtual instructional settings. The majority of which are shared regardless of the instruction setting, with a few nuances to maximize effectiveness in remote/virtual settings. Effective feedback meets the following criteria:
In-person/Traditional Instructional Setting
- Open communication between observer and educator
Remote/Virtual Instructional Setting
- Open communication between observer and educator
- Agreed upon parameters for observations
- Clear, shared definitions of core elements, e.g., what student engagement looks like
- Emphasis on open communication between observer and educator
The following resources and links are offered as additional support and to further districts/BOCES continued exploration of providing educators with effective observations and feedback in remote/hybrid settings.
Five Strategies Principals Can Use to Give Effective Feedback to Teachers
Resilient Educator offers a collection of content and resources created by educators. These strategies are good reminders for effectively giving feedback – regardless of the learning setting.
Guidelines for Observation of Online Teaching
Gallaudet University provides recommended areas to evaluate when observing online teaching, including best practices. Although created for a higher-ed audience, the guidelines and practices are transferrable to observing online teaching in K-12 settings.
What effective teaching looks and sounds like in a virtual setting
The National Institute for Excellence in Teaching (NIET) offers a tool to describe what key instructional indicators look like and sound like when planning and delivering virtual learning (both asynchronous and synchronous.) The tool also includes performance descriptors and virtual learning strategy definitions with examples.
General Support for Effective Online Instruction
Online Learning Framework for K-12
National Standards for Quality (NSQ) Online Teaching offers explanations and examples of indicators within the NSQ online learning frameworks for K-12. Content is applicable to the CDE Teacher Quality Standards within the state model evaluation system, and additional resources are available through the NSQ website.
Blended Learning Teacher Competency Framework
The International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL) provides a framework, descriptions, and connections to additional resources for K-12 educators in blended learning environments. Content is structured around mindsets, qualities, and skills (adaptive and technical).
Possible Areas for PD and Support to Educators for Online Instruction
Skills Teachers Need for Online Instruction
Resilient Educator offers a collection of content and resources created by educators. This quick-read web page offers a reinforcement of skills that teachers already use on a regular basis, and which can be relied on and leveraged even more in support of online instruction.
6 Tips for Mentoring New [All] Teachers During Distance Learning
Edutopia offers six strategies for continuing mentoring relationships between veteran and novice educators at a distance. All of the strategies are also applicable to cultivating and maintaining professionally engaged relationships during distance learning.
Other CDE Resources and Supports
- Planning for the 2020-2021 School Year Framework and Toolkit
- Educator Effectiveness FAQs for the 2020-2021 School Year
- Hybrid Learning Guidebook (Office of Online and Hybrid Learning) coming soon!
- Principal Resources
Additionally, the team of Educator Effectiveness Regional Specialists is available to provide support and thought partnership through multiple avenues. Feedback, comments, and/or questions are welcome anytime by contacting Educator_Effectiveness@cde.state.co.us.