Giving Feedback to Student Teachers
Feedback that can help student teachers improve has the following characteristics:
- It is descriptive rather than evaluative in tone. Avoiding evaluative language reduces the need for the student teacher to take a defensive posture.
- It takes into account both your needs and those of the student teacher. Feedback can be destructive when it serves the cooperating teacher at the expense of the student teacher.
- It is structured around those areas of growth that the student teacher can do something about. Frustration increases when a person is reminded of weaknesses over which they have no control.
- It is specific rather than general. Telling someone that they are “domineering” is not as useful as referring to a specific situation (for example, “Remember your dialogue with Jessie? You did not listen to his alternative response and gave the impression that only your opinion was acceptable.”)
- It appears to be solicited rather than imposed. It is very important that the student teacher shares in determining the things to be observed and that your feedback is often a response to the student teacher’s own questions about certain aspects of their teaching.
- It is given at the earliest opportunity after the observation.
- The student teacher takes notes and rephrases your suggestions to confirm that you successfully made your points. Feedback can also be very effective if it is given after, and in partial response to, the observations the student teacher makes about their own teaching. Possible questions to ask are:
What did you like about what you did?*
As you were teaching the lesson how did you feel?
Did the lesson go as you had planned?
Did you find you had to change anything from your plans?
If you could do it again, what would you do differently? What would you have changed? How?*
What [assistance] do you need from me?*
- In instances when it is necessary to give feedback in areas of improvement, consider these questions:
Is the person ready to receive this constructive criticism [at this time]?*
Are you going to be able to remain (not dump and run)?*
How many times has this person heard this [feedback] before?*
Can this person do anything about it?*
Are you certain that your own agenda, fears, problems or needs aren’t causing you to offer this criticism?*
How can this criticism be made as clear and specific as possible?
What specific suggestions can be made for improvement?
How can expectations be clearly given (for example, timelines for specific improvements)?
Pearce, M, and T J. 1998. EDEL 470 Seminar Resources: a Collection of Possible Ideas and Activities. Cited in Ruban, F, and J Heckbert. 1998. University Facilitator Resource Collection: Field Experiences. Edmonton, Alta: University of Alberta, 32–36.
Note that this material first appeared in seminar materials prepared by Ed Nicholson with the Faculty of Education at the University of Alberta. Edward Nicholson completed his PhD in the Faculty of Education at the University of Alberta in 2000, specializing in elementary education. His dissertation was entitled The Journey Home, Studying the Life Histories of Retired Teachers. He also wrote an article for the ATA in 2000 entitled “The Context of Professional Reflection in the University of Alberta Bachelor of Education Program” that was published in volume 81 of the ATA Magazine in 2000/01. During the course of his teaching career, he led education seminars at the U of A between 1996 and 2000, and, as a seminar leader, he wrote a variety of texts to assist students who were about to commence their field experiences.
*denotes content from Simon, S B. 1978. Negative Criticism and What You Can Do About It. Allen, Tx: Argus Communication, np.