Find the Symptoms but Change the System
To influence instructional strategies one must first put in the work to build an environment of psychological safety. This can seem daunting. However, there are small adjustments that can be made to create the feeling, and reality, of safety.
The first step is to get input from teachers before any initiative is started. This can be through an official needs assessment, or through conversations with multiple teams and individuals.
Whatever the method, find the causes for why people do and don’t feel psychologically safe at work to speak their mind and take risks.
Not getting teacher input risks your chances of sustainable change management working.
With symptoms found, now you can look at what parts of the system need adjustment to create a workplace where people feel psychologically safe. The changes don’t have to be huge. Many of these are simple things all leaders can do.
1. Be the principal student
Do this by requesting feedback from meetings and workshops that you lead. This shows you are willing to be vulnerable and accept feedback from those on all levels of the organization. It also creates buy-in because it makes the participants an active part of those meetings/workshops over time.
2. Don’t blame the individual
Systems create the environment they were designed to create. For example, if a training is given on social-emotional learning (SEL) that was delivered through a two hour long PowerPoint presentation, little learning likely happened but that was not the intent of the designers. To then expect the incorporation of SEL into lessons would be an unrealistic expectation. Performance evaluation in the context of a one-off training would be unfair, and dare I say, unethical.
3. No unplanned evaluative visits
Build trust by not surprising people. You don’t surprise people by being transparent with them. This also is how you build trust. Unannounced visits to classrooms should be under five minutes long. In that moment, there should not be an evaluative component to your visit. Learn the flow of the teacher, connect with the students, and be on your way.
4. Face-to-face feedback
Any feedback that is performance based needs to happen face-to-face. Emails and the like don’t allow for genuine understanding of tone and non-verbal cues. This is also how you build trust. Be as specific as you can at this moment. Focus feedback on things the teacher can control in one lesson’s time. Make it driven by context, behavior, and impact.
People feel psychologically safe when they know the standards of behavior and performance they are being measured with.
If feedback is around catchy terms like “engagement,” “relationships,” and “student-centered,” performance will not change. These terms are too ambiguous and result in a psychologically unsafe working environment as there won’t be consistency in how these ideas will be measured.
Giving specific instructional feedback is an art and a science. It takes lots of training and practice. At Agile Ideas Leadership, we focus on a few feedback models
Click The Button To Get a Free Focused Conversation Model
If providing instructional feedback is a skill you would like to build, go to our resources page at www.agileideasleadership.com or send us a personal email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Agile Ideas Leadership Team