Giving feedback to ESL teachers can be tricky, particularly when you have something critical to say. But yet it is also important, as without it, how can people learn? Sure, they can rely on their own self-evaluation of how they are doing, but if you have ever watched any TV talent show, you will see that a lot of people just aren't very good at assessing their own performance. The same applies to teaching - whether its giving feedback to ESL teachers in training or to English students.
So if it’s important, then why don’t be give feedback to ESL teachers properly. Well, for one, people are usually polite - we don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings in case it discourages them or in case it makes future social interactions awkward. Positive feedback even goes amiss sometimes - we might see it as less relevant than correcting behaviour.
So what can we do? Well, here’s a few tips that ill help you give feedback to ESL teachers effectively.
1. Ask them how they did first
This allows the recipient to self reflect and state their case. Ask them to consider what they did well and what they did not so well. It may be that you both agree on these points - but in case you don’t agree - read on!
2. Avoid the sh*t sandwich
What is the sh*t sandwich, I hear you ask. This is the process of providing a piece of negative feedback "sandwiched” between two pieces of positive feedback. Fine if you actually have these three items to pass on, but don’t use it if you are simply looking to soften the blow of the negative feedback. The recipient may see through it, or even worse lose the entire message.
3. Don’t give feedback on things that you can’t change
Sounds obvious but this might include someone’s accent, maybe a speech impediment, personality traits. Remember the purpose of feedback to invoke change.
4. Time it carefully
When should you give feedback to ESL teachers? Ideally as close to the fact as possible so that the event is not forgotten. Though be careful with giving negative feedback on a Friday afternoon before leaving the office at the weekend - the recipient might dwell on it all weekend. Also consider waiting to give feedback after a highly emotional event. People aren't very good and rationalising during these times.
5. Be fair and objective
Always give feedback on observed behaviours - so talk about what you see and hear and back up what you say with evidence. People can’t argue with facts. And remember to include what they did well (what they should continue doing) and what they didn’t do so well (what they should stop doing or change)
6. Tailor your responses
This is difficult if you do not know the recipient well, but if you do, consider whether they appreciate feedback that is more direct. Some people are more sensitive to constructive criticism than others.
7. Ask for feedback too!
Feedback shouldn’t be a one way street - ask them how YOU are doing. Sharing feedback creates more camaraderie and they will be more responsive to what you have to say if they feel their voices are heard too.
I hope you find these tips useful when giving feedback to ESL teachers and I leave you with this quote from Robert Allen: “There is no failure. Only feedback.”