The Impact of Feedback

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” —Maya Angelou.

Three and a half years ago, I took a leap of faith and left my position as a middle school visual arts teacher. While some people run away from a position, I was running to a position. My new position as magnet coordinator at a new STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) magnet school was an opportunity for me to combine my love of the arts, entrepreneurship, and leadership into one position. It was a unique opportunity to broaden my personal and professional impact from my visual arts studio (my classroom) to a schoolwide system.

As a middle school visual arts teacher, my impact was visible on a daily basis. It was visible in the system I managed which was my visual arts studio (classroom). If you’ve ever spent time with middle school learners, you know they’re quite proficient at speaking their mind and providing feedback, both positive and negative. My impact was visible through observations and the learner feedback I received on a daily basis. When I observed learners in the creative process and read their reflections on their final art projects, I was aware of my role and the impact I made. Sometimes my impact was subtle and hidden, other times it was highly visible. My learners provided me with constant and immediate opportunities to know better and do better.  

The transition to a magnet coordinator was difficult at times. It took a while for me to pinpoint what exactly was missing. I soon realized there a deficiency in my new position: lack of feedback. I was hungry to ‘know thy impact’. The feedback I once received on a daily basis from learners in my art studio was now limited and was not as frequent. Even though my administrator provides me with feedback, the quantity wasn’t nearly what I previously received. Most of my work as a magnet coordinator is systems work, often behind the scenes, sometimes with a small team of adults or individuals. Therefore it’s harder for myself and others to see and know my impact on learning and the system. This in return makes it harder to give and receive feedback. In my experience, I believe the further we get from learners the further we get from receiving regular feedback and knowing our impact. This requires us to creatively think of how we can gather, ask for, and use feedback to drive our work.

One of my favorite feedback experts is John Hattie. Hattie is a lead researcher and author in education. One of his most famous books, Visible Learning, is a synthesis of more than 800 meta-studies of the top influences on student achievement. Over 80 million students participated in over 50,000 studies. An outcome of this research is that feedback as one of the top ten influences on student achievement. Feedback can also be influential on our own achievement.

In Visible Learning, Hattie shares how feedback can be used to impact and enhance teachers effectiveness in the classroom and student achievement. Although Hattie’s research is education based, I believe feedback also has the power to enhance achievement in our roles outside of the classroom. I believe we can apply Hattie’s research on feedback to parenting, marriage, friendship, and our careers and daily lives.

Feedback allows us to learn and grow. When we lack feedback, we become unaware of our impact.  Feedback allows us to reflect and set personal goals. We need opportunities to improve and become the best version of ourselves. Let’s make a collective commitment to providing feedback to those around us and to taking the feedback we receive to create personal and professional goals to ‘know thy impact’.

Consider the role feedback plays in your life.

Are you taking opportunities to help others learn and grow by providing feedback? What goals are you working towards? How can you ask others to provide you with feedback?

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