Part 3 of our conversation with Tepper and Flynn, experts on providing feedback to drive system change

Here is the transcript.

– Welcome to PLtogether Lounge Talks. I’m Adam Geller, founder and CEO of Edthena. We are joined by Amy Tepper and Patrick Flynn. They are practitioners. They are authors. They are experts in the process of how to think about giving feedback, and, in fact, one of their books is called “Feedback to Feed Forward.” We’re gonna talk about that title in this conversation. Thanks so much for joining us and being part of PLtogether.

– We’re excited to be here.

– So, your book is titled, “Feedback to Feed Forward.” And I will acknowledge I am, I’m a sucker for good phrases, so, maybe for those that don’t have it written out, I mean, listen to it, all right. It’s feedback, feed forward. So, I wanna give you the full credit there for the good titling, ’cause good titles are good brands, however, let’s talk about the why, ’cause I suspect this wasn’t just about a clever title. This probably had some root in what you were motivated by out in the field. So, how did you pick this title? Why that title?

– Well, that’s a really interesting story actually. We had a great opportunity one day at a conference to be sitting with our editor for Corwin and along came to our conversation, Michael Fullan, and sat down with us and we were honored, of course, to have a conversation with him and then Andy Hargreaves joined and John Safer joined and we were surrounded by and probably acted like groupies at that moment, but they started to take us under their wing, I would say, and talk to us as new authors and they asked us to describe the book, we described what we were writing and Michael Fullan said, “You know, I think you should call it Feedback to Feed Forward.” We said, “Yeah, we’ll do that Michael”

– Okay, okay. So, you know what I’ll take from that, you know, we’ll translate this back to the coaching and supporting context, really it’s the power of collaboration, right? Like, here you guys were, you were authors, you were writing a book, you’re getting those ideas out in the world, but by being willing to open yourselves up to feedback and talking about your work, it ended up with a better title than you might’ve created on your own potentially.

– We had an original title, you know, and I think kind of getting back to your original question about the title, we felt a sense of urgency. We were out in the field, and we were recognizing absences in leader prep programs, and how many leaders were really struggling to do this work, and then how many teachers really needed to receive good feedback. So, we created a more urgent title that was not well received , we were still very late in the day with a really great title, but there is a lot behind it. So, when he said it we just thought oh how could we not have thought of that.

– Well, let’s talk about that idea of urgency, ’cause I feel like there is a lot of urgency right now, figuring out how to support educators for, hopefully, what is a temporary change, but maybe sustained in some ways, right, as schooling may continue to be modified. So, you know, I think, bring us into the idea of why, you know, we haven’t yet talked about feeding forward, right, but I guess I want to hear from you, like, how does feedback right now help us feed forward, right, because you could take a different approach as a leader right now. You could say everybody’s stressed, like, personal care, like, be healthy, and all those things are important, but it could, like, stop at that, right, and why is, I guess, it important for a leader to, you know, really bring everybody back to the table, for lack of a better word, around the mission of why their school exists.

– Patrick

– Yeah, I think it’s really important to consider the impact of feedback, right, and how feedback is the driving force, we like to talk about it of a culture of learning. It is the mechanism that you can utilize collaboratively in many ways to build a different mindset, to cultivate, we like to say, a different mindset about learning that needs to be occurring inside schools. Feedback becomes the platform upon which professional learning can be designed specifically to address strengths that exist within a building, as well as needs that exist within a building. So, when we think about our virtual environments now, and we see the patterns of feedback that are coming out of any sort of information gathering, or collaboration, we’re able to utilize that feedback and have it have an impact on the learning that’s going on inside the classrooms.

– Amy?

– You know, so many thoughts have been swirling with that one question, because we, having taught online for four years, your most powerful tool is feedback to my learners as a teacher, whether it’s quick voice memos or notes in the margin, there’s so many different little ways to do that, it’s equally as powerful when we have teachers out of our building. I don’t get to pop into your classroom and pass you in the hallway, and you jump into my office, so we have these opportunities and feedback looks a little different. It’s not a big report in one of our platforms, but the thing I think that’s become magical and deadly for some teachers as they try to work through it, is we took away grading and we took away ratings. So, many states dropped the teacher evaluation requirements. So, suddenly these things that had such difficult negative connotations and experiences, it sort of opened up this world to where we can just get in and check out your classroom and give good feedback and it’s about growth and supporting you, and so when you said it might be temporary, you know, things are going to continue to evolve, and so we’re hoping that from this teacher’s suddenly see feedback is a positive, and it can be a really positive experience for growth.

– It’s interesting, you’re kind of almost highlighting the opportunity that we have right now to, you know, we’ve kind of unshackled ourselves from having to qualify feedback of whether it’s in the professional learning bucket or the evaluation bucket, you know, I’m someone who believes you have to, whether we like it or not those two roles are very different, and so it’s kind of like, if all the feedback will be presumed and assumed to be in the professional learning bucket, then it disarms the teachers and opens them up, in some respects, to really making the most of the feedback that they’re offered from others, despite, you know, any personal relationships or anything else that might be driving behind those and how they kind of characterize them. One thing that I was thinking about as you guys were sharing, is that, thinking about that urgency piece, it’s almost like even if everything were to go right back to what it was before, which I don’t personally think it’s going to happen, but the feedback now pushes us to continue to evolve as educators, and that that kind of, the value of feedback is the continuous learning, and so by giving teachers feedback now you create, you continue that momentum of continuous learning both for the current situation of right now, but in some ways to prepare for whatever is next, and to ready ourselves and build more skills around, in this case, you know, adapting what instruction looks like for what we thought about what it was before and things like that. You mentioned the idea of voice memos, and so maybe Patrick and Amy both, you could offer just, you know, kinda like the spitball idea, like, what are some tools for feedback that people might be thinking about right now that are different than, I guess, just let’s hop on a video call and do a synchronist thing? So, what are some creative ways of giving feedback in this kind of time that demands so much creativity from us?

– Well it’s interesting because It’s interesting because there are a lot of creative ways, and I think that we’ve been hesitant to stress anyone out. We want to simplify and streamline the process as much as possible. So, I’ve been in contact with my science department chair, and she sent an email, you know, it doesn’t have, I think that though there are creative ways, those are things that I think we can start as we, we’re gonna support leaders now, and teachers and coaches into the summer we can start to add, I think I’ve been hesitant to add to their already really giant plate, like, if you’re comfortable, send an email. If you wanna get on a quick zoom chat, you know, just something, you know, if you are more comfortable in technology, you can take a step and do something more creative, but I think that it’s just being able to have even a quick, collaborative conversation with a teacher, you know, zoom burnout a little bit.

– Yep, yep. We’re gonna give you full credit for email. I think that is a really great point that you can work on developing better communication via email so that the feedback is still positive and generative. I’m still gonna come back to the idea of the voice memos. I have an idea for that one in a second.

– Okay, okay.

– I will come to the table with that one, but first I want Patrick to share an idea. Like what have you been thinking or offering to folks right now related to tools or systems for the feedback?

– Interestingly enough, the zoom burnout is really an interesting piece for me, is that knowing the people who I’m interacting with and the coaches, and the assistant superintendents and principals who are on meetings just way to much, they’re just, they’re locked in, or they’re providing the professional learning through zoom, or through some other video conferencing. I think that just a phone call, just literally taking away the video aspect and just sitting back and having that one to one conversation with speaker phone it actually changes the dynamic of those conversations, and supports them a little bit differently. It’s almost a relief to not have to, you know, get all dolled up and look differently for the camera while I’m having this conversation, but really just kind of releasing them from that is a big big step.

– It’s very true. I was not wearing buttoned down collared shirts last week. but here I am. Okay, so we’ve heard email, we’ve heard phone calls. Now I’m gonna add my cherry on top, by building from your voice memos idea. Many phones, I think on Android and IOS both right now, offer the ability in your text messages to record the voice memos, and so I was just thinking as you were saying that, it’s kind of like a good in between where it’s like a low lift and it’s something different for people on both ends, a way to connect and, you know, maybe just wanna say hello and have that little bit more of a personal like the voice versus the written so

– And is it not voxer? Voxer, I think is the one where you can engage in a real time, but it’s not an immediate, they can listen to it later

– Right, right, yeah, there are apps like voxer. I think you can leave voice memos in apps like Whatsapp. You can now do little video voicemails and Google Duo and Facetime, but in particular I know, so I use Android, and I have friends that use IOS and I know that you can do the little, like, you know, it’s kinda like built into my text messaging, I just click a record a voice memo, and I talk for ten seconds and send them a little voice, It comes in the text message which is nice so. Anyway, lots of ideas here, and I think if you’re kind of thinking about okay what are some different ways to give feedback, maybe your takeaway from this is it doesn’t have to be that you go and create a big system. Systems can be helpful, I know of one that can be really helpful, but it doesn’t have to be a big system to be able to have that connection and deliver rich feedback. Rich feedback can come in many different forms. Well let’s pause there. We’ll continue the conversation in a minute. I don’t remember if we’ve already said, but if you’re interested in seeing some of the resources that Patrick and Amy have built related to distanced teaching and distanced learning and supporting teachers at a distance, head to Patrick, Amy, I didn’t realize I keep saying Patrick first because you’re on, I just read from left to right here on my screen so. Amy, Patrick, thank you so much for joining us, and thanks for being part of PLtogether.

– Thanks for having us.