Having a senior qualified and experienced teacher observe another teacher in action on a termly basis is a good practice for Madrassahs to apply. Although observations are not the only methods for measuring teachers’ quality of teaching, if they are followed up by formative feedback sessions, they can help teachers improve their practice efficiently. The following are features of an effective feedback:

Fair and Objective:

For feedback to be effective, it must be based on sound and, more importantly, fair information. The observer should give feedback based on their notes, observations of things seen as opposed to subjective remarks about what they would have liked to see. Personal opinions should be left at the door.

Balanced Choice of Words

Contemplate on your choice of words. Words cannot be in direct conflict with any judgment or outcome, yet should not be rude or confrontational. The word ‘interesting’ is always safe to start your feedback with because it doesn’t imply good or bad.

Questions to ask

Facilitate a discussion around the following questions and ask the teacher to summarise their strengths and areas for development.

  • What went well? Which aspects of this performance are you most pleased with?
  • If you were to teach this lesson again/ mark this work again etc, what would you do differently and why?
  • Can you describe students’ starting points and the level of progress they made in this sequence of lessons/with this project?
  • Did all students make the progress you hoped they would? How do you know?

Three Scenarios

  1. The teacher’s opinion of his/her performance matches our own

In this case, we can feel reassured that we are in agreement.

  1. The teacher’s opinion of his/her performance is less favourable than our own

In this case, the response should be to impart positive and motivating news to the teacher.

  1. The teacher’s opinion of his/her performance is more favourable than our own

We will need to find out why by taking an analytical approach, probing into some specifics, for example by asking about individual students and the progress they are making.

Hopefully, keeping the discussion professional and focused on facts, not on our own preferences, will help the teacher to see that, on reflection, they have been too generous in their initial self-assessment and aspects of their performance can be improved.

If not, then firmness may be needed. Being firm and being rude are not synonymous, nor are being assertive and aggressive the same.

Move the Meeting Towards Action

If the teacher’s performance has been excellent, then the action might be to enlist the teacher to share their good practice to help colleagues improve the quality of their teaching. For example, the teacher could lead a continuous professional development session or film part of her/his lesson and share it with colleagues.

If the performance has been less than desired, then the action might be to engage the teacher in CPD, perhaps observing a colleague and trying new approaches in their own classroom.

Whichever path is taken, it is important that we end the feedback session with a clear plan of action, complete with reasonable timescales and an agreed method for the teacher to report back on the progress that they are making against the plan.

Adapted from Matt Bromley ‘Rating staff is not about drawing lines in the sand’, Tes, July 7th 2017