Feedback and Learning for All Involved: Peer Observations – FAAR

As part of our formative Faculty Assessment and Annual Review (FAAR) plan, we engage in a process of peer observations.  There are several ways this can be accomplished.  In its simplest form, we are to observe two of our colleagues – one in our department and one not in our department – and write a strength-based observation.  There are many points to this strand of our formative assessment plan.  Peer observations offer us the opportunity to learn from each other and to learn more about each other and our craft.

I was lucky enough to be observed teaching learners Algebra I by nine of my peers.  Seven of my colleagues completed the strength-based observation form to provide me with written feedback.  The observation process happens in different ways.  I asked GJ, MC, JA, and JG to observe my class of learners hiding in plain sight.  TM, FY, and TK asked if they could come observe me.  BC, DD and I work as a team.  We teach the same course; we are in each other’s classes all of the time.  We plan and learn together to help all of our learners.

There are many opinions and reactions to the peer observation process from my colleagues:

  • If it is only strength-based, will I learn anything from the observation?
  • Is the learning for the observed teacher or the observing teacher?
  • Who should submit the observation to the principal?
  • How will I have time to do the observation and then write it up?
I have asked for and been given permission from my colleagues to publish their feedback and observations.  I value the feedback of my colleagues.  I read and reread these observations to improve and learn.  I share them with you so that you can decide if these observations are valuable learning experiences for the teachers involved.  Did I learn?  Did the observing teacher learn?
MC serves as the 8th grade boys’ grade chair, and he teaches algebra.  I felt that I was struggling with my 7th period class and asked Mark to observe and advise.
GJ teaches 8th grade science, and we have many learners in common.  I asked him to observe for the same reasons.  There was the added benefit that we each learned something that connected our courses.

JA has a global view of Westminster as an alum, a faculty member, and a parent.

TM is new to Westminster this school year.

FY co-facilitates our History PLC.  We work in team at least once a week where we discuss learning, assessment, and curriculum.

TK is a former math teacher now working in our library.

Mark took the time to sit with me and debrief his observations and feedback during one of our planning periods.  Gary and I discuss our common learners and our curriculum regularly during our 4th period PLC.

  • Did will I learn anything from these observations? What about learning for the observed teacher or the observing teacher?
  • Is there any reason to not submit these observations to the principal?

Feedback and Learning for Me: Student Course Feedback – FAAR

As part of our formative Faculty Assessment and Annual Review (FAAR) plan, we survey our learners and provide them with an opportunity to offer us feedback on our course.

The process is pretty simple; we are to follow a 3-6-12 plan. We must select a minimum of 3 prompts from a bank of approximately 40 collaboratively produced prompts.  We must have a minimum of 6 prompts and a maximum of 12.  While 3 prompts must come from our bank, the remaining 3-9 prompts may come from the bank or be designed by the teacher.

To collect feedback from my Algebra I learners, I used a Google doc form to ask for feedback from my learners.  You are welcome to look at and experiment with a copy of my Algebra I Course Feedback – JGough 2011.  Feel free to experience the form from the perspective of my learners.  Play.  It is a copy; you won’t mess up my collected data.

Here are a couple of reoccurring questions:  Are 13-14 year-olds capable of giving quality feedback?  Will we learn anything from collecting feedback from the perspective of these young learners?  I’ll leave it up to you to answer these questions.

Below are the responses from 34/35 of my learners.  The remaining learner has been absent for a couple of days and has not completed the survey.

Algebra I Student Course Feedback, 2010-11

My Reflection and Summary

Well?  I’d love to know what you think.  Are 13-14 year-olds capable of giving quality feedback?  Will we learn anything from collecting feedback from the perspective of these young learners?

Reflecting from aFAAR

In the Junior High, tis the season of conducting Student Course Feedback and, for some, it seems, completing Peer Visits – two of the five components of our Faculty Assessment and Annual Review (FAAR) process. Additionally, a third component of our formative assessment plan – Admin Observation – has been occurring all year. After seeing the note “re-review and process Synergy 8 SCF” on our respective to-do lists for months, Bo Adams and I have finally spent five meetings of second period reviewing and reflecting on our Synergy 8 student course feedback (SCF). Not only did we re-review the feedback to reconsider how things went during the first-semester course, but we also revisited the data in May so that we could pre-plan more effectively for the next iteration of Synergy 8. As we returned to the SCF and discussed the results, we remembered connections in the data that linked to things we read in our peer visit summaries and admin observation notes. We were reminded that student course feedback does not exist by itself. The components of our FAAR process are not intended to be isolated, siloed pieces of professional learning. They can be wonderfully integrated and whole. Also, they are not intended to be summative or evaluative – they are not judgmental pieces of professional evaluation. They are meant to be formative…lenses through which we can view our teaching and learning so as to grow and develop as educators…so that we can adjust our course.

What’s more, by reviewing and reflecting together, we enhanced our field of view and gained richer understanding from the blend of each other’s varied perspectives and reactions. During each of the five periods that we engaged in this collaborative work, we would independently review the data and write to the prompts on the narrative summary tool (“option #2”) for reflecting on one’s SCF – one reflective prompt at a time. Then, we would read and discuss each other’s responses. While this took more time than working through the reflection alone, we both believe we benefitted immensely from the writing, sharing, and dialoguing. We missed things in our individual reflections, but very little fell through any cracks by canvassing the feedback as a team of critical friends.

To share our system of feedback, we decided to use an online, cloud-storage, sharing tool called “Box.” By using Box, we could design some simple webdocs that literally show and archive the connections among the feedback and reflections. Box has a number of great features, including the ability to tag documents and post comments. To view our Box-stored system of feedback, please visit the “Synergy 8 – FAAR” folder.

Soon, our next collective endeavor will be to prepare our 2011-12 Goals and Self-Assessment (a fourth component of FAAR). Because we co-facilitate Synergy 8, we intend to employ the critical friends process again as we continue to prepare for our next team of Synergy learners. The manner in which we reviewed and reflected on our system of feedback has set up and primed our ability and enthusiasm to enhance the Synergy experience for the upcoming school year.

In addition to our course-specific questions, we are also engaged in thinking about some critical learning questions for ourselves and our FAAR process (and they may be good questions for you, too):

  • Can you learn more deeply reviewing feedback with a colleague? How can we assist each other in learning more deeply?
  • How can we build a common understanding of the needs of our learners? How can we find a richer understanding of ourselves as teammates and co-facilitators?
  • Do you have a team of critical friends? What feedback are you collecting and considering so that you can grow?
  • Would you learn more by sharing the results of your feedback with another for reflection and co-interpretation? How will we grow and learn together if we are not sharing our struggles and our successes?
  • What have we learned from this process that we can facilitate for our younger learners next semester? How can we model and implement a richer reflection and critical friends system as part of the course?
Note: This post is cross-posted at Bo Adams’s It’s About Learning.