Associate Principal Terri Sharpe of Dover High School in the Capital School District knows the value of feedback.
“Being an administrator is not an easy job, but when I see teachers benefit from a slight change or a big adjustment that I've suggested, and it makes a big difference for kids, that keeps me going,” said Sharpe, who has been an associate principal for four years. In that time she’s honed her practice observing teachers, rating performance, and providing feedback using DPAS-II.
“When I first started, it was daunting. But the more I practiced, the more comfortable I became,” she said. Calibration sessions with her supervisor and leadership team as well as coaching sessions with her development coach helped Sharpe grow both her skill and confidence.
When Sharpe enters a classroom for an observation, she leaves her DPAS-II rubric and forms behind.
“I’m looking at what the teacher is saying and doing, what the kids are saying and doing, and what the kids are being asked to do,” Sharpe said, adding she gets some of her best evidence from talking directly to students. “If I go into a classroom and don’t know what the students are doing or why, I ask a student. If kids can tell me what they’re doing and the purpose, that’s evidence I can use.”
When Sharpe is unable to speak with students, she listens to group conversations to understand what students are doing and learning.
As Sharpe observes, she notes evidence and questions she has about the lesson that she wants to ask the teacher in the post-observation conference. For example, if the class runs smoothly, Sharpe asks the teacher about the procedures and practices the kids learned to help the class run smoothly. After an observation, Sharpe reviews her evidence and the questions she’s noted, and aligns it to the DPAS-II rubric.
“Those questions are what I want to follow-up with the teacher on in the post-conference,” she said. “I don’t always see everything, especially in an unannounced observation when I don’t have the lesson plan beforehand, so the questions help me get more evidence.”
Sharpe tries to schedule post-observation conferences two to three days following a lesson. She asks teachers to share their lesson plans and any other materials or information about the lessons before the conference, and she reviews all of it.
“In the observation I’m looking for evidence of Components 2 and 3 because that’s what I can see,” she said, noting collecting the lesson plan after the observation helps her to understand and assess the other components of the rubric.
Sharpe’s post-observation conferences always begin with questions to the teacher: “I ask the teacher what they thought went well, and how the lesson went compared to their plan.”
Sharpe shares with the teacher specific evidence she collected in the observation and from her review of the plan. In her written notes, she cites where she finds the evidence, whether it’s the lesson or the post-observation conference.
“This can be redundant, but it’s important to me that it’s very clear what I’m basing the rating on,” Sharpe said, adding she makes sure to share clear feedback directly tied to evidence with the teacher.
“I tell my teachers that this process is not a gotcha. It’s about how I can help you be at the level you want to be at in your practice."
This year she began an effort called #observeme, where she asked teachers for feedback on her feedback. “I want to know, 'Is what I’m telling you helpful. Is it something useful?' If it’s not helpful, then there’s no point in sharing it,” Sharpe said.
Regular reflection on feedback and practice with her leadership team have supported Sharpe to be a strong observer and developer of teachers.