Giving teachers feedback – who goes first?

Who should speak first when evaluating a lesson in the post-observation feedback session, the observer or the observed?

This was the subject of an extended and impromptu debate at an external training session I attended last week. The person leading the session stood back in true ‘facilitator’ style while a room of teachers explained to each other why their preferred way is better than the other. I was fascinated and decided to blog some of their points.

Why the observer should speak first
The observer is often (but not always) more experienced and has plenty of good advice for the observed teacher, why not get straight to the point?
If the observed teacher spoke first and evaluated their own lesson inaccurately, they could have their confidence dented when the observer disagreed with what they’d said.
Everyone needs praise, and if the observer goes first they can start by highlighting the good aspects of the observed teacher’s lesson and establish a positive and nurturing atmosphere.

Why the observed teacher should speak first
If they spoke second, they would be influenced by the feedback from the observer, so the observer would not hear a genuine self-evaluation. This means that they will miss an opportunity to develop their ability to judge lesson effectiveness.
If the observed teacher speaks first they are forced into a reflective state of mind in which they’ll be more receptive to advice.
Allowing the observed teacher to speak first makes it clear that the evaluation of the lesson is a shared experience and establishes a more supportive environment.
The observer’s feedback can be targeted more effectively if they hear the observed teacher’s point of view first, for example focusing on an aspect in which they put the most effort.
Teachers are often too hard on themselves, and if the observed teacher starts by criticising aspects of their own lesson it can be a confidence boost when the observer highlights some good aspects.
Lesson observations are subjective, and the observer may have missed something that the teacher didn’t. Speaking second allows them to give better-informed feedback.

If you can’t tell from my completely biased paraphrasing of the points, I prefer letting the observed teacher speak first. Any arguments about the observed teacher getting the evaluation wildly wrong seem flawed to me because without the opportunity to highlight those inaccuracies, they will never learn to adequately evaluate the effectiveness of their own teaching, nor that of others.

Have I missed any arguments either way? Let me know (@teachgr). Thanks to @grevster73, @coope83, @leedonaghy, @bio_joe, @hrogerson and@geekgirl77 who already contributed ideas.

1 comment
  1. Whole thing made me wonder why we should be evaluating each other’s lessons. As with students, constructive feedback is more important than a grade so why “evaluate” at all?

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