Reflecting on Bruce Wellman: Feedback for Growth Not Gotcha

By Vicki Bechard and Dayna Richardson
•December 7, 2015•

Playing to a packed house on November 9th at the Southwest Plains Regional Service Center, Kansas educators learned many “whys and hows” from Bruce Wellman in his session, Feedback for Growth Not Gotcha.  

As participant, Deb Hamm, Supt USD 373 noted:

This session, sponsored by Learning Forward Kansas and Southwest Plains Regional Service Center, modeled collaborative and cooperative efforts and the type of effective professional learning that we want all educators to experience!

Read the following reflections from participants and reflect on your own use of feedback in your own practice.

Curtis Stevens, Principal, Salina South High School, Salina, KS USD 305:

Bruce Wellman’s work provides a concise framework that moves the discussion off of the person but rather focuses on the person’s performance. This same framework can be easily applied to individuals that are struggling with skill, will, or both and used in a manner that allows struggling individuals to grow professionally.

Deb Hamm, Superintendent,  Newton USD 373:

  • Bruce Wellman modeled effective professional learning in a room designed to engage attendees in lecture-style learning, easily transforming the space into interactive learning and attendees could easily take the ideas shared and utilize them in the classroom, school, or district.
  • The content surrounded feedback to promote professional growth and create a culture of success in our classrooms/schools. Wellman….
    • engaged participants in facing some assumptions and learning about the good and the bad of feedback.
    • stressed that feedback is about the performance not the person.
    • indicated that certain triggers negate the effectiveness of feedback: truth, relationship, and identity.
    • stated that in a feedback loop how we talk about effective practices in the classroom and what we talk about with teachers is critical to creating the culture of success.
  • Wellman also shared a continuum of interaction for learning-focused supervision, which provided the framework for understanding the differences between supervision-driven and teacher-driven feedback. This framework set the stage for participants to engage in strategies (i.e. read, share, discuss; and reflection) while processing content to assist in providing supervisory feedback (i.e. third point, invitational inquiry, and learning-focused conversations).

Darla Smith, Asst. Director, Smoky Hill Service Center:

  • Feedback is all around us.
  • Coaching is an act of feedback.
  • Two types of feedback: constraining and amplifying.
  • Feedback is informed by “tools of intention”.
  • Importance of the primacy of listening – crosstalk is an indicator of not listening.
  • Blocks to understanding: personal listening (my voice not the speaker), detail listening, and certainty listening.
  • Importance of being present “here not there” – present emotionally, present mentally, and present technologically.
  • You can’t fake attention, you have to be present.
  • Teacher – data – gap: feedback to address the gap. Is the gap because of knowledge, skill, or both?  Keep the data in front of you visually.

Krista Linenberger, Principal, Coronado Elementary, Salina, KS USD 305:

  • If your feedback is not influencing someone’s behavior, then it is not feedback.
  • It’s about the performance, not the person!
  • Focus on the learning, the learning takes us to the teaching.

Other comments from participants:

  • Start and end with more questions.
  • It is a small but significant shift in my thinking and my approach to coaching teachers on effective technology integration. Thanks to this conference, I understand that I am not asking teachers to CHANGE; rather, I am helping teachers GROW. That, for me, is huge. I never felt I had the right to try to CHANGE what teachers do in their classroom; after all, they are the content specialist. However, I am comfortable with the task of helping them grow as a teacher.
  • I really liked his information about pronouns and how not to make it personal.
  • How to think more carefully about my words when I work with teachers and principals.
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