Trainer Input during Group Feedback

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.

TrainerInputImpact

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 🙂

About Zhenya

teacher educator, evidence-based instruction trainer, PD Coach https://wednesdayseminars.wordpress.com/
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6 Responses to Trainer Input during Group Feedback

  1. Marc says:

    What you could do is ask before the observation cycle how people feel about you sharing positive feedback/constructive criticism, thus treading lightly by those with fragile egos and being able to share examples of practice of those teachers that can handle it.

    Thanks for making me think!

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    • Zhenya says:

      Thank you for the comment Marc – and thinking together. A good reminder – yes, I like asking such a question before the group discussions. I think the idea of having a choice is very powerful.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hana Tichá says:

    Hi Zhenya.

    I agree with Marc, but I’d say that it’s not always just about fragile egos. What I’m going to say is probably only a reformulation of points 2 and 3 in the ‘disadvantage’ section above, but I believe that by sharing their perspective in front of the whole group, the trainers are actually robbing the trainees of the opportunity to come up with their own unique, genuine feedback. I mean, we usually see trainers as experts who know a bit more than the trainees do (and this is obviously true to a certain extent) so the way the trainer sees things will always eventually distort a trainee’s perspective, especially if her/his (the trainer’s) feedback is delivered first. However, even if you wait till every participant expresses their views, your feedback might be taken as a ‘correction’ of or a final ‘nod’ to what the participants said before. This may be a problem, particularly from a psychological point of view; you subconsciously perpetuate the belief that you, the trainer, are the highest authority while the trainees are there to listen to and learn from you. I’m afraid that this is true even when you deliver your feedback after the session. In an ideal world, free of grading and summative assessment, the trainer’s word has an equal value as a trainee’s voice. In such a world, my comment would be absolutely pointless. 🙂

    Now, I’d like to stress that (un)fortunately, I don’t live in an ideal world and I do provide feedback in front of the whole group (of students), preferably after peer feedback. I decided to comment on your post because it had made me become more aware of some of the potential pitfalls of delivering feedback. That’s what your posts always do – they get me thinking. 🙂 And I thank you for that.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Zhenya says:

      Hm, ideal world… In that world, course participants or teachers in training (or any teachers, really) would embrace feedback, ask for it, invite each other to the lessons they create and think about their students together…

      Thank you for the comment so much Hana! Makes me think, and dream 😉 I also struggle with the ‘expert’ idea of a trainer: on the one hand, I don’t like to be seen as one, and on the other hand, it is a role expected from me on a training course. I think context matters a lot: you said that you are giving feedback to new (student?) teachers who are preparing and delivering their very first lessons ever. I think in that case it is ‘natural’ that they see you as expert. The trick I see is helping them develop their own beliefs and confidence and ‘teaching style’ while being an authority to assess their progress, skills, etc.

      Something I am constantly working on is the idea of ‘meeting participants/teachers where they are’ in observing the lessons and providing my feedback. Sometimes what I prepared to say as ‘important’ might be too far from what they would actually prefer to talk about ‘right here and now’. A lot to think about – thank you for joining me in this ‘thinking aloud’ exercise! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. An interesting read as we’re currently halfway through a Cert TESOL course too. I would definitely argue in favour of sharing trainer feedback for the reasons you’ve mentioned above, though obviously we grade our criticisms throughout the course to suit the individual trainees. However, I think as you say it’s important for there to be clarity in terms of successful lesson delivery.
    I like Hana’s point about the trainer becoming the highest authority and I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. I feel it can also be very motivating for trainees when the tutor agrees with their peer feedback and when they comment on something which we perhaps disagree with, we can again grade our comments so that they don’t feel snubbed.

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    • Zhenya says:

      Hi Teresa

      Thank you very much for the comment – great to hear from a fellow trainer, and hope the course is going well!

      I realize now that while writing the post I was thinking about the new trainers who will be delivering a TESOL course for the first time (and for many of them it will be the first time of giving a group feedback to other teachers) I like your point about clarity, and about agreeing with what the others said (it actually shows that the trainer was listening!)

      I also find that on a ‘typical’ 4 week course trainer input becomes ‘less needed’ towards the end, when the group is ready to ‘dig deeper’ in feedback sessions. Is it the same with you?

      Zhenya

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