The Principal's Principles

A Middle School Principal, striving to make the world a better place, one day at a time.

Formative Feedback to Teachers Made Efficient

Last October, I had a rare opportunity to participate in a Twitter chat with Dr. Robert Marzano. Knowing that others were also going to jump in, I wanted my questions to really count. After considerable thought, I opted for one of my questions to be about formative feedback for teachers, more specifically, does smaller, more informal feedback to teachers have a bigger impact on professional practice than large scale, summative evaluations. Dr. Marzano replied that formative feedback was a great idea, since then, I have been working hard to come up with an efficient way to have a quick dialog about what I see in their classrooms.

I am intentional about which classrooms I visit on a given day, scheduling times on my calendar and doing my all to get to each room at least once a week for more than just a “pass through” to say hello. While my goal remains “every classroom, every day,” I do my best to get into classrooms and stay to offer some feedback on a weekly basis.

In a visit where I spend a few minutes, I strive to offer teachers something that I notice, something to reflect upon (generally a question), and something that I liked. Where I have struggled is the trip from the classrooms back to my office to send an e-mail (talking with them would interrupt class, which defeats the purpose of my visits, and handwritten notes, I have found, also become a distraction).

Thanks to my friend and the Director of the Principal Center, Justin Baeder, I was introduced to “Wufoo,” a web based tool that creates forms during his recent webinar series on productivity with an iPad. Harnessing the power of the web and my iPad, I think I have found an efficient way to give meaningful, direct, formative feedback to teachers about what I see in classrooms.

The form I designed is simple, requires me to type a name, e-mail address, check two boxes, and write only a few sentences.  You can see the form here. When I click “submit” at the bottom of the page, the information is transferred to an e-mail that is sent to the teacher. While it is a “form” message, it is specific to their classroom and what I observe.

Yesterday, I found a “willing participant” that allowed me to test out my new form. I spent 5 minutes in her classroom, completed my form, talked with a few students, and then moved on to my next task. It was quick, efficient, and she received an e-mail that said:

“Hi Jody,

Today when I stopped by your classroom during 5th Hour, I noticed how much participation came from students. Hands were up, eyes were focused on you, for no other reason than students were engaged.

You do a great job for our kids every day, when you reflect on today’s time with your students, something to think about might be how this writing exercise can be replicated. If you plan to do it again, would you ask as many questions, or would you turn students a bit more free to write?

I really liked how “open” the questions were about the “Yoga Lesson” follow up. It was clear that the exercise was more about self-reflection than answers, which really personalized what kids were learning.

I always enjoy my visits to your classroom, thanks for all you do,
John”

Wufoo stores the forms I complete, so I can go back and review what I send to teachers at a later date to think about some of the trends I see when I observe and offer some meaningful ideas for them to consider when we meet for an evaluation, or just when I offer them some deeper feedback.

If you find yourself thinking “how did he do that?” or that you would like to do the same, you can check out wufoo on your own (the free version should do whatever you need). In addition, if you are an iPad user, Justin Baeder is going to offer another series of webinars about productivity (wufoo will be covered), you can find that information here, it’s well worth the time.

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6 thoughts on “Formative Feedback to Teachers Made Efficient

  1. John,
    Thanks so much for sharing your “Wufoo” I made one yesterday and am looking forward to giving it a test drive. My one question for you is what settings did you use to make the email come up as in letter format? If you have any tips it would be appreciated.

    Thanks,
    Kevin
    Vice-Principal- California

  2. Mr. Bernia,

    My name is Laura Ellenburg, and I am a student in EDM 310 at the University of South Alabama. I wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed reading your post. It was very interesting to read a principal’s problem and solution with connecting with teachers. I think using “Wufoo” was a great idea, and I really like how you made the “form” e-mail personalized for individualized teachers. As an education student, I will definitely keep “Wufoo” in mind as I begin my teaching career.

    Thank you,
    Laura Ellenburg

    ellenburglauraedm310.blogspot.com

  3. Hello my name is Jonathan Freeman and this is a perfect example of how technology has made work task more efficient and more effective. Now u can receive feed back on your performance at a mass level and it not be overwhelming. Whoever it was that showed you “Wufoo” I hope u told them thank you.

  4. Trent Robertson on said:

    Mr. Bernia:

    My name is Trent Robertson. I am a Diversity through Technology Integrationist for Foley Public Schools, Foley, Minnesota.

    As my school is piloting Google Apps for Education, have you considered using a Google Form?

    Thanks.

    Trent

    • Hi Trent,

      I gave a lot of thought to using Google Forms, particularly because several members of my PLN are doing so. I made the decision to go to Wufoo for a few reasons. First, the immediate feedback. The real purpose of the form is to engage teachers in a dialogue that will lead to self reflection, and Wufoo makes that happen much faster. In addition, Wufoo has an option where I can run reports on the checkboxes that I have used, which is the upside to using Google as I understand it.

      That said, Wufoo is like any technology. What works for one person isn’t necessarily the best option for another.

      Best of luck in your implementation,
      John

  5. Sheila v Forknall on said:

    Very interested to see that an application will actually save time for educators. I hope I can figure out how to use it in Australia. I love giving feedback to teachers but as you have noted time is so short. I like the ability to respond immediately as you walk for the classroom.Teachers here in QLD need positive reinforcement and this sounds great. Thanks Sheila Forknall Lockyer District High Gatton QLD AUST.

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