Friday, October 03, 2014

Delivering feedback for better teaching

by Katarzyna Kubacka
Analyst, Directorate for Education and Skills



October 5 marks the 20th anniversary of UNESCO’s World Teachers' Day, a day devoted to “appreciating, assessing and improving educators of the world”. This gives us a great opportunity to reflect again on how schools can celebrate and develop great teaching. One way to do that is through critical exchanges – building constructive feedback systems within the schools.

The OECD Teaching and Learning Survey (TALIS) asks teachers about the feedback they receive within their schools. The TALIS definition of feedback includes formal and informal communication, resulting from some form of observation of teachers’ work. For example, feedback can be provided by comments from the principal, at the end of the school year, in regards to teacher’s work, or in the form of an exchange between teachers who jointly taught a class or observed each other’s classes.

The different ways in which feedback can affect teachers’ professional experiences are the topic of the latest Teaching in Focus brief, “Unlocking the potential of teacher feedback”. Indeed, teacher feedback has tremendous potential, with teachers reporting that feedback can have a positive impact on the professional, personal and pedagogical aspects of their work. Two in three teachers, on average, report a boost to their motivation and job satisfaction after receiving feedback.

At the same time, TALIS data show that there is still much that can be improved in the way feedback is delivered. Most strikingly, more than half of the teachers across TALIS countries report that feedback in their schools is undertaken largely to perform administrative requirements. Such perceptions of feedback as simply a box-checking exercise not only lower teachers’ job satisfaction but are a wasted opportunity to support the professional improvement of teachers.

To be sure, the success of a feedback system depends on both parties involved. School leaders, along with teachers, can use feedback as a tool to map professional development and training needs, and make sure that these needs are addressed in the school priorities. Teachers can also actively contribute to feedback systems by creating collaborative communities in which colleagues can exchange advice and opinion on teaching practices. If used constructively, teacher feedback can support teachers’ professional development as well as strengthen collaboration within schools.

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