Feedback for Teachers

Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Feedback for Teachers is a robust qualitative research study to understand how teachers receive, understand, and make meaning of feedback, in an effort to improve teacher effectiveness and the learning experience for students. In this research, BIF outlines a series of opportunity spaces for designing, prototyping, and piloting transformative ideas in the real world.

Design Challenge

To better understand the feedback that teachers receive, in what ways that feedback is shared, and under what conditions the feedback impacts teacher performance (both negatively and positively).

Across the US, school districts are trying to define and measure effective teaching. Much attention has been paid to the evaluative aspects of this work, while little has been focused on opportunities for the feedback introduced into these school systems to improve performance. In the absence of useful feedback, teachers’ careers stall in their 3rd or 4th year. Many disengage or leave the education system. Those who remain are discouraged by few incentives, insufficient guidance, and lack of professional learning opportunities. In the current system, both teachers and students lose. By understanding how feedback for teachers works now, we can imagine new possibilities for enhancing teacher performance.

Approach

With funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, we used fieldwork, webwork, and a teacher-driven participatory design workshop to ensure significant exposure to the people, activities, and information that make up the feedback experience of teachers. In our fieldwork, we engaged 39 teachers, six administrators, and 15 students in interviews, self-documentation, shadowing, and observation. We conducted this research in 16 states (AK, CA, CO, CT, FL, IL, MA, ME, MO, NC, RI, SC, TX, WA, WI) and the District of Columbia.

Impact Statement

Our study of the teacher feedback experience can be considered a first order of feedback itself — reflecting the actual experiences of classroom teachers. In the process, we developed a robust understanding of teacher feedback that can improve teacher effectiveness and the student learning experience. Embedded within this study are insights into 9 individual elements of the feedback experience. Collectively, these elements point to many opportunities for evolving or designing wholly new teacher feedback experiences — centered in a community of learning that supports all teachers and all students striving to reach their full potential. Our full findings can be found in this project's report and microsite.

The question before us now is how to build adaptable, nimble feedback systems to keep pace with a continuous climate of change. BIF answers this question in part through Teachers Design for Education (TD4Ed), an online platform for teachers to collaborate in learning design thinking in order to address challenges in their classrooms, schools, and districts. This platform addresses several of the key findings from the Feedback for Teachers study, and provides teachers with a higher-order learning model in which they can participate in their own cycles of learning, discovery, application, and feedback.