How Principals Can Give Better Teacher Feedback (With Examples)

by | Jun 7, 2021


As a principal, one of your key responsibilities is to provide feedback that will help improve your teachers’ performance. But how can you provide high-quality advice without overwhelming your teachers? In this article, we discuss four components of effective feedback for teachers.

  1. Effective feedback for teachers is targeted and specific.

A 2009 study from TNTP suggests that about 75% of teachers do not receive specific feedback about how to improve their practice. Unfortunately, overly generalized or broad feedback fails to help teachers understand exactly what instructional practices or content they need to improve.

When giving feedback to teachers, try to avoid using vague statements like, “Your instruction isn’t engaging enough” or “Good effort!” These statements lack enough information to help teachers improve in any given area.

Instead, work alongside each teacher to set targeted goals for your feedback sessions. For example, if you plan an instructional round to take place next week, meet with the teacher who will be observed ahead of time and define 1-3 specific areas where you would both like to see improvement. After the instructional round is completed, provide comments that directly relate to the goals you set together.

Here are some examples of targeted, specific feedback:

  • I like the way you incorporated social and emotional learning skills into this lesson. Beginning with a grounding exercise helped your students to be more present.
  • Your lesson plan seems to rely on students’ memorization; they didn’t seem to understand how the mathematical process actually works.
  • Some students seem to dawdle during the transition between your activities. Here are a couple of ways you can make transitions more efficient…

These statements help the teacher clearly understand what they are doing well and where they can improve.

  1. Effective feedback for teachers is actionable.

Whenever you point out an area for improvement, immediately follow up with one or two next steps the teacher can take to move in the right direction. This way, teachers know exactly what changes they should implement to meet their goals.

Actionable feedback can also be used to identify strengths and encourage teachers to continue positive practices.

Here are some examples of actionable feedback:

  • Your open-ended questions, like _________________, really allow students to get creative and think outside the box.
  • Some of your students seemed more prepared than others to discuss the text you selected. Next time, you may want to employ a short formative assessment before the discussion to check on students’ individual comprehension levels.
  • During the small group activity, I noticed Student A seemed uncomfortable offering their opinions. Do you think this student needs extra support in this learning unit? Would you like help to identify some appropriate strategies to use in this scenario?

Notice that the third example in this list ends with questions rather than prescribed advice. Teachers often have additional experience and insights about classroom challenges that school leaders lack because teachers spend so much more time working one-on-one with students.

In their MiddleWeb article, Ronald Williamson and Barbara Blackburn recommend offering feedback in such a way that empowers teachers to take ownership of their areas for improvement. Principals should try to open a back-and-forth dialogue that encourages teachers to reflect on their own practice. This approach also gives teachers the space to ask for the types of support they need.

  1. Effective teacher feedback is based on data and evidence.

Your feedback for teachers should not just reflect your own personal opinions but should be rooted in objective evidence. Encourage teachers to collect and evaluate student data on a regular basis to inform their instruction.

Teachers can draw evidence of student learning from sources including:

  • Samples of student work
  • Observations of student behavior in the classroom
  • Formative assessments which track student progress
  • Summative assessments which track overall mastery of a topic at the end of a learning unit
  • Student surveys

Keep in mind that some teachers have more experience with data evaluation than others. School leaders should work collaboratively with teachers to model how to make data-informed instructional decisions. You may also need to help teachers learn how to seek out evidence-based practices that have been effective in other classrooms, schools, or districts to try in their own classrooms.

  1. Effective teacher feedback is provided frequently and consistently.

In a 2015 report, Education First notes that high-performing districts offer opportunities throughout the school year for teachers to receive feedback. Teachers are frequently able to observe one another, give and receive feedback, and collaborate to support one another. Education First remarks, “This ongoing feedback is important for teachers to sustain their growth and development and helps build a supportive culture where feedback is normal and expected.”

Opportunities for teachers to receive feedback can include:

Learn more about how to develop a culture of feedback from Education First’s report.

Remember: Teacher feedback is just one part of a results-driven professional development plan.

Feedback alone is not enough to drive long-term improvements in instruction and student achievement.

Educational research finds that high-quality teacher professional development is:

  • Informed by your teacher and school’s needs
  • Content-focused and aligned with the curriculum
  • Ongoing and job-embedded
  • Responsive to a changing internal and external environment
  • Evidence-based

Check out our recent article about results-driven professional development for teachers to learn more about each of these elements.

We would love to provide personalized recommendations for your school’s professional development strategy! Schedule a free call with one of our experienced consultants to help us understand the challenges you face as a school leader.