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April 2021 - Year 23 - Issue 2

ISSN 1755-9715

Creating a Culture of Welcoming Feedback and Encouraging Reflections: A Pathway for Professional Development

Al-Mahanad Al-Badi is an EAP Instructor at Al-Musanna College of Technology. He has experience/training in teaching EAP and general English in various educational institutes in Oman, Thailand, United States and the United Kingdom. Al-Badi has a BA in English Language and Literature from Sultan Qaboos University, Oman and an MA in TESOL from SIT Graduate Institute, VT, United States. He has attained the CELTA from IH Chiang Mai, Thailand and  DELTA Module 2 from IH London, United Kingdom.

 

Introduction

As teachers, we usually go for opportunities of professional development offered through courses, conferences and teaching training qualifications while we may, intentionally or unintentionally, overlook valuable effective learning opportunities in our teaching environments. Our own classrooms could provide collaborative feedback and reflections that aid our growth and improve our day-to-day teaching practice. However, in reality, many administrations of our educational institutes adapt traditional hierarchical assessment methods of their faculty, which may create a teaching environment that devalues feedback from colleagues and students. Feedback on our teaching is often merely obtained from supervisors while the one from students and colleagues is missed, mainly because it could be seen as assessment, judgement or criticism instead of an opportunity of growth.

 

Feedback from peers

Our colleagues can give helpful feedback to each other if we work collaboratively. Randall and Thornton (2001) states that mentors and colleagues can provide a valuable source of feedback that could lead to improvement in our teaching practice. The feedback exchange allows colleagues  to be more expressive than when it is provided in a climate based on a teacher-supervisor hierarchical relationship.

 Reflecting on my previous experiences, I think I have learned more from the feedback provided by my colleagues than the feedback provided from official periodic observations. Compared to the formal observation, which can be a source of anxiety, having informal observations have developed my confidence. This practice allowed me to shift my view that observations are not meant to judge me but rather improve my teaching.  Now, I consider my teaching as a never-ending-learning and applying phase that should be constantly modified to cater for my learners’ needs. Thus, receiving feedback on my teaching does not have a negative impact on my self-efficacy. Instead, I consider it as an opportunity to improve my practice. In addition, I feel that my peers and mentors have been able to fulfil my learning needs because I do not feel shy to tell them that I feel incompetent in certain areas or that I need their suggestions to develop a certain activity.

 

Learning gained from unofficial observations.

I believe that exchanging unofficial observations could serve as a collaborative learning opportunity where teachers can share useful practices. From the unofficial observations that I had in the past, I have adapted many activities from my colleagues such as Kahoot, concentration card game, use of jazz chants and Quizlet Live, Padlet and Quizizz. During the CELTA and the DELTA courses, for instance, I have learned a lot about how to better utilize classroom technology from peer observations.

Creating an environment that encourages collaborative work among colleagues and mentors, discussed in (Randall and Thornton, 2001), can lead to having a culture that welcomes feedback, and a change in the view of observation as an opportunity of collaborative development rather a personal judgment.

 

Feedback from students

Another source that can promote the culture of reflection and feedback is the students. Just like having unofficial peer-observations, utilizing students’ feedback could be beneficial for both teachers as it could help them improve their teaching, and to the students as it makes them more responsible for their own learning.

Drawing on my own experience as a teacher, my students’ feedback has significantly impacted my teaching. Although there is a hierocracy in the relationship between teachers and students, students should be encouraged to provide feedback constantly because it is an effective learning tool that teachers can utilize in improving their pedagogy. As a teacher, I try to encourage my students to be expressive in their feedback in order to improve my teaching. In one occasion, for instance, a student suggested that they wanted to have a fun “Act and Guess words game” instead of simply fill-in-the-gap activity, to which I reacted positively. I think the technique of establishing a collaborative environment where students constantly give feedback and reflect on teaching has helped me in developing myself as a teacher.

Creating an environment where students are encouraged to provide an objective feedback and reflect on what is taught could be invaluable for both the teachers and the students. Telling the students that their feedback will help in improving the teaching or improve the learning experience of future students may encourage them to reflect more freely.

 

Official observations

Although official periodic observations are often used as a method of assessment for teachers, it could be more meaningful if it is carried in from an observee-centered approach. Using the Humanist Paradigm which is based on experiential learning cycle discussed in (Randall and Thornton, 2001) could be effective because post-observation feedback begins with a self-reflection from the observee making it more collaborative.

What happens at times, is that once the observation is over, the observers ask questions while the observees try to justify themselves. In such a process, the observee does not open up to discuss areas of weakness and strengths and could end up with a distorted image of their lesson due to all the anxiety they go through.  The process of observation that requires self-reflection before discussion with the observers and later sending an action plan could be far more effective because it is more observee-led, and the input is more collaborative.

Teachers’ self-reflections help them address their areas of weaknesses over time; consequently, it develops teachers’ autonomy and help them form habits of good practice. Randall and Thornton (2001) illustrate ACT model of skill learning where awareness of effective techniques that are in practice overtime become automized. Teaching follows a similar path that goes from learning to trying out activities to automatization. 

 

Reference

Randall, M., & Thornton, B. (2003). Advising and supporting teachers. Cambridge University Press, U.K

 

Please check the The Art and Skills of the Humanistic Teacher Trainer course at Pilgrims website.

  • Creating a Culture of Welcoming Feedback and Encouraging Reflections: A Pathway for Professional Development
    Al-Mahanad Al-Badi, Oman

  • Keeping Our Heads above Water in the New Normal
    Gill Johnson, France