Educators weigh in on how they prefer to receive feedback and where they struggle when offering it to others.
When I started my leadership journey, I was confident that with the right effort and the right systems and structures, the team I was leading would simply be successful. I imagined that I would avoid confrontation through planning, modeling, and being nice. We’d never have any problems!
But we can’t lead a team this way. Each individual needs feedback to increase self-awareness, identify goals, and strategize a path forward. They deserve actionable feedback that supports their work, and it needs to be direct, clear, and kind.
Whether you’re the person receiving feedback or providing it to others, you bring your entire self to the conversation, which means there is no one-size-fits-all approach. We recently spoke with a group of educators who were kind enough to share how they would like to receive feedback, as well as some of their most pressing concerns when it comes to offering feedback to others.
How do you want to receive feedback?
Jeff, Costa Rica
I think the most important thing is that feedback is driven by compassion, and even love and care for me. This is not a time for scolding or trying to make someone feel less than, but a chance to build someone up by helping them be successful.
I like when people are direct and actionable. If they notice something can be improved about my practice, then I like to hear what can be improved and a suggestion of how to approach it, or at least the willingness to brainstorm solutions with me.
I would like to receive feedback that is clear and has strategies I can try, in order to meet the desired target.
Feedback that is easy to understand and not too overwhelming.
When I receive feedback, I want to hear specific suggestions. I want those to be couched in supportive terms; I want to feel like the person giving me feedback is on my team, working with me to try to improve my practice, rather than "grading" my practice.
I want direct and honest feedback myself, but struggle with consistently offering that to others, instead allowing a fear of damaging the relationship or contributing to hurt feelings get in my way.
I like to receive clear, kind feedback. It doesn’t need to be “nice” but I bristle if it’s unkind.
I’d like to receive constructive feedback that focuses on promoting the quality of my work and addresses both strengths and weaknesses, or the sandwich of “glows” and “grows”. Although some people are not in favor of the sandwich feedback, I still prefer to hear some positivity before pinpointing the flaws.
Shannon, New York
I like being invited into the conversation, and being asked what I think went well, what part of the lesson I felt could have been stronger, or where were I was hoping for a different outcome. These types of questions open up to a conversation rather than just finding areas to critique without context.
I would like to receive feedback that is clear, actionable, and includes the full truth. It lets me know where I stand and how I’ve been progressing.
I like honesty and direct feedback that will help me improve.
Addressing the challenges of giving feedback
What do you do when, regardless of how you give feedback, the other person takes it personal? I have a couple of teachers that have had different people try different approaches to offering feedback, and yet they still get defensive and take it as a personal slight. How do you get past these walls?
What is the balance between questioning and providing direct feedback?
As someone who partakes in teacher evaluations, I often wonder about positionality. I tend to position myself as a teammate working to help colleagues improve their practice, but how genuine does that feel if I am also writing up an observation as part of someone’s professional evaluation? My struggle lately, I think, is how to separate feedback from "grades".
When we want people to take action, we need to be strategic about how and when we offer feedback — more is not always more.
Even when we’re not in a position of power, our words carry a lot of weight — and it’s worth examining how we can communicate feedback to others with authenticity and clarity, and in a way that allows them to receive our words.
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