Trainer Input during Group Feedback

by Zhenya

Context: intensive teacher training/development course, where 1 teacher taught a class and was observed by the trainer and peers; the group feedback/reflection session follows the lesson where the teacher and peers discuss what was successful/helpful for student learning, and what could have been done differently in order to assist student learning more.

During the lesson both trainer and peers were making detailed written notes describing what was happening in class and sharing their own comments, questions, suggestions, etc. These comments help during the feedback session, and are later shared with the teacher who taught the class.

Question: should the trainer share his/her own feedback to the teacher in front of the whole group? What are possible advantages and disadvantages of (not) doing so?

(some possible) advantages of sharing trainer feedback

  • if positive feedback is shared, it might build participants’ confidence
  • all the participants in the group are ‘on the same page’ regarding what is more or less successful for student learning (both planning and teaching aspects)
  • such input helps new teachers in developing their own ‘sense of direction’ in planning and teaching
  • trainer modeling effective feedback giving techniques helps participants develop their reflective skills

(some possible) disadvantages of sharing trainer feedback

  • if critical feedback is shared, it might be demotivating/discouraging (especially for more experienced teachers being criticized in front of their peers)
  • any trainer input, either positive or critical, might be ‘pushing’ the teacher into the ‘right’ answers or beliefs about planning and teaching
  • any trainer input might be taking the participants’ reflection time away from the group session (the written notes are going to be shared anyway)

I think much more can be added to the lists above, especially if we add another ‘variable’: pros and cons of such trainer input for a new trainer.


Personal thoughts and reflections

As a trainee on a course (a long-long time ago) I experienced quite a direct approach to feedback: trainers were giving us their feedback, and adding a ‘grade’ for the lesson taught. I can’t be very sure at this point, but from what I remember, our ‘grade’ grew higher if we were able to pinpoint each other’s ‘mistakes’ during the lesson (or, in other words, it was considered very cool if peers could comment on something that had already been on the trainer notes). I was a very new teacher at that time. In fact, my very first lessons with adult learners of English all were taught on that course. Being new and inexperienced meant I did not really have anything to compare the course with, and I did not believe I could add more to the discussion of the lessons. Now, fifteen years later, I am wondering if less direct trainer feedback (or more reflective approach to thinking about the planning and teaching process) could impact me differently…

As a trainer working with teachers now I prefer to hold my own input until (a) the teacher asks me about it and/or (b) it is something that all the teachers of that day did, and therefore the whole group might learn from reflecting on this idea or belief.

A final note to add: if we look at feedback as a candy, or a gift, then sharing it with a participant is important. Does is need to be in front of the others – that is the question…

What do (would) you do with trainer input, and why?

Thank you for reading 🙂