The foundational principle behind the appraisal system is to improve instruction in every classroom. Providing feedback to teachers is essential for growth and improvement. A growth-minded school will provide feedback throughout the year and not just evaluate teachers at the end of the year.
As with instruction of students, professionals can learn and enhance their craft through targeted, supportive feedback. Instructional leaders at your campus will need to document and provide feedback to teachers on how much and how well staff are participating in and working on the targeted literacy initiatives.
Documenting the level of engagement in the literacy initiatives is the first step. Are teachers engaging in professional development, professional learning community meetings, and other events laid out in your data-informed plan (or Action Step Implementation Plan, as described in the Implementation module)? Are they including the targeted practices and routines in their lesson plans and lesson delivery? Your documentation should be directly tied to the specific expectations presented to the staff.
Here your leaders are looking at how much each teacher is participating in the literacy initiatives at the compliance level. Feedback about compliance lets teachers know that administrators have documented their efforts. This can serve both to encourage those who may be struggling and to provide positive feedback to those who have been working to meet the expectations. It can mean a lot to say, “I noticed you incorporated that vocabulary routine we discussed in PLCs last week. Keep at it!”
In addition to this first level of feedback on engagement or participation, teachers also need constructive feedback on the quality of their implementation of literacy initiatives. This might be a post-observation conference about how well they are delivering that vocabulary routine, for example. When classroom visits take place on a regular basis and not just at the end of the year, these feedback conferences can be “formative” assessments, providing teachers with the opportunity to enhance their instructional practice. The appraisal, then, can be considered the “summative” assessment of their performance and can include their efforts and improvements over the course of the year as well as their participation in literacy initiative activities and use of supports as needed.
For feedback to be effective, administrators and other instructional leaders who observe teachers must have a high level of knowledge of the literacy initiatives and the targeted instructional practices that teachers are expected to implement. The best way to achieve this is for all instructional leaders and administrators to engage in professional development and participate in PLCs and other literacy initiative activities along with the staff.
Administrators and instructional leaders need to build trust and supportive relationships among staff and leadership. It is important to remember that the administrator has position power and is tasked with teacher appraisals, while literacy coaches and other teacher leaders are not involved in evaluating teachers. The literacy coach and campus-based leadership team must strive to maintain a supportive role with teachers.
Effective coaches are knowledgeable and experienced lifelong learners who foster and maintain a sense of trust and rapport with teachers. They provide supportive guidance that is confidential and based on professional ethics. From the outset, the campus-based leadership team needs to stress confidentiality between the coach and teacher (Center on Instruction, 2008). The focus on instruction—rather than on judging teachers or students—helps create a collaborative culture in which teachers are supported and are encouraged to try new practices and tools as they help students learn to read and write effectively.
TO LEARN MORE: Some lessons in the Leadership module in this course provide additional information that you and your team may find useful as you consider how to document and communicate with staff about the connection between teacher accountability and the literacy initiatives in your data-informed plan.
See Lesson L4—Instructional leadership and Lesson L5—Coaching for improved literacy instruction for information about providing instructional leadership and establishing a coaching model that incorporates observation and feedback.
NEXT STEPS: Depending on your progress toward full implementation of Action Step R2, you might want to consider the following next steps:
- Communicate to staff what is expected of them in relation to implementing the data-informed plan for improving literacy instruction.
- Set up a system for documenting teachers’ efforts at implementation of literacy initiatives.
- Develop a system for providing feedback.
- Discuss ways to provide staff with feedback and to take the stress and anxiety out of receiving feedback.