In Feedback and Professional Development

The feedback waterfall: Start at the top and then cascade to all staff 

Feedback is an essential part of effective professional development in education. Without understanding the viewpoints of peers, leaders, and students, educators will struggle to find a way to meaningfully develop their skills. The feedback waterfall helps schools approach establishing a feedback system in their professional development plan. What is 360-feedback? How does the waterfall method increase its effectiveness?

Defining 360-feedback

In traditional professional assessments, feedback comes from a select group of colleagues and leaders. These panelists compare performance metrics to a list of general standards. The results are generic and give little practical guidance for improvement.

Using 360-feedback is a solution to meaningless evaluations. In this method, participants receive valuable feedback on their work performance, skills, and overall contribution, from students, supervisors, peers and other staff members. A self-evaluation is included to highlight perception gaps. When taken together, this information allows educators to develop a real plan of action based on their strengths and weaknesses.

Participants are able to see how their work affects everyone else’s daily experience. They come away with new ideas on how to apply their unique strengths, as well as an awareness of opportunities for improvement. As the name implies, 360-feedback is a big-picture view of each participant’s effectiveness in their roles.

The Feedback Waterfall

When instituting a plan for professional development in education, one approach is to start at the top and cascade the process through the school. That means starting with the school’s Principal, then moving to the leadership team, then the teaching cohort, then to the support and admin staff.

  • Principals are responsible for modelling excellence in their teams. Having the Principal complete the 360-feedback process first means they are leading the way and showing ALL staff that feedback is critical to improvement. The feedback process can be daunting. Receiving criticism, however constructive, is difficult for many. Principals who “go first” are showing their own vulnerabilities and rising to the challenge. Modelling how criticism is received passes on a valuable lesson to the rest of the staff.
  • After the Principal has received feedback and set a development goal, the leadership team takes up the challenge.
  • The Principal can coach leaders through the process, making the feedback process even more valuable.
  • After leaders have received feedback and set goals around their own leadership development, teachers take up the challenge. During teachers’ feedback, classroom observations are added and become an integral part of the 360-feedback process. During this phase, a knowledgeable colleague watches the educator in action. While classroom observations are not new, having a process to follow will help educators navigate the observation in a smooth and consistent manner. The self-assessment portion of the feedback process gives all staff a chance to clarify their own thoughts on the challenges facing their practice. Perception gaps between how we perceive our performance against how others perceive it can be a source of great insight when it comes to developing skills.

Starting the feedback process with the Principal encourages more meaningful engagement for everyone involved and helps with adoption, especially in cultures that could be resistant to changes like this.

Feedback is Critical to Professional Development in Education

Educator Impact is an evidence-based professional development platform that uses 360-degree feedback and collective goal setting to remove complications that make traditional reviews and evaluations ineffective.  It helps Principals and school leaders, teachers, and support staff improve through collaboration.

Our online portal allows teachers, leaders and support staff to track their professional development activities.  In addition, it allows them to access, rate and share professional development resources. In this way, the portal helps to create a community of professional learning.  And, most of all, it allows educators and school leaders to identify and adopt innovative and best practice approaches and strategies.  

Want to know more?

For more information about EI, or to learn how Educator Impact can help your school, contact us today.


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