The sergeant major came into the barracks at 3:00 am and announced: “Men, I’ve got some good news for you and I’ve got some bad news. First the bad news: There’s a bad flood coming so we’ve got to fill thousands of sandbags and build a levy. Now the good news: We’ve got plenty of sand!”
When delivering feedback after a classroom observation, peer observers are often reluctant to give bad news. One fear is that negative feedback will embarrass the teacher. This, in turn, could lead to a breakdown in rapport or motivate the teacher to retaliate later on. Even professions have difficulty delivering bad news. They are often apprehensive because too much bad news can be discouraging for the teacher.
My own philosophy is this: teachers cannot change (improve) if they don’t know there is a problem in the first place. To counteract the concerns listed above, we must remember to deliver the good news first. What is the teacher doing that contributes to student learning and engagement? It is important to be as exhaustive as possible because this strengthens teachers’ confidence and willingness to improve.
Next, the consultant must prioritize what bad news gets delivered. I normally gather various sources of data, including survey questionnaires. There are times when student feedback is completely negative. Since no one is a totally “bad” teacher, I have learned that such negativity represents a “halo” (or should I say “horns”) effect.
Normally, one core teaching problem is causing the students to feel negative about their whole learning experience. The question for observers to discover is, what is behind this global negative response?