Wednesday, August 6, 2014

What Helps to Drive Improvement

A new school year will be beginning in just a few weeks!  I am really excited about the great things students will achieve at Curtis Elementary.  In thinking about achievement, I have been really focused on what will help students and teachers to improve. I have been reflecting on how I can be a more effective leader to teachers.   What most significantly impacts learning?  Is it setting SMART goals?  Is it tracking data?  Setting goals and tracking data are both important parts of improvement, but the momentum begins with the teacher and the feedback teachers give to students.  I feel that we can continually improve how we offer feedback to students.  Sean Cain's book, The Fundamental Five, offers powerful instructional practices that can positively impact learning in the classroom.  One of those strategies is providing recognition and reinforcement, which is giving students feedback.

If I were to choose one thing that drives improvement in my life, it would be feedback.  I need feedback from others to improve my leadership at school.  I also need to receive feedback to improve my one of my weakest skills, which is cooking.  I receive a lot of feedback from my husband and children.  Just last night, my husband gave me some feedback on the asparagus I prepared.  He thinks I overcooked it a bit.  He actually thinks I overcook many of my dishes.  I guess the point that I am trying to make is that the feedback we receive from our supervisors, collegues, family, and friends is valuable and helps us to focus on improvement.  It helps us to improve everything like exercise, improving our golf game, sticking to a budget, or even cooking. 

In the classroom, feedback should be a constant flow between teachers and students.  Ensuring that students know how they are progressing throughout lessons is important.  If we expect students to make progress and achieve, they not only need to know if they are doing well or not, but they also need to know specifically what is working and what is not working.  Students need to be led through a variety of sources of feedback.  Recognizing and reinforcing students academically and behaviorally increases achievement.  Formatively assessing students throughout the lesson cycle allows teachers to recognize and assess students' abilities and provide feedback so that that they can adjust their learning. Conferencing with students, discussing strengths and weaknesses, helps students to stay focused on learning.  This empowers students to be in charge of their own learning.

Giving feedback is also an important part of parent communication. Frequent communication with parents is important.  Giving feedback to parents before progress reports or report cards are issued is vital in creating partnerships among students, parents, and teachers. 

During this school year, my goal is to remain focused on the importance of offering constant feedback to teachers to help them improve their instruction which will positively impact student achievement.  Reminding teachers to also focus on giving students appropriate feedback will impact student achievment as well.  Isn't that why we (educators) go to work (school) every day?

Here is a link to read about how meaningful feedback helps students deepen learning.

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