If there’s one thing that will help newly qualified teachers get through their induction year successfully, it’s constructive feedback. But with criticism coming from all directions - colleagues, parents and pupils - it’s hardly suprising that the hapless new teacher sometimes just wants to take cover.
Constructive feedback can help a new teacher to develop their performance in the classroom. Delivered in the wrong way or with the wrong motive, though, feedback can descend into bullying. Left unchecked, a new teacher’s morale and performance may plummet and in the worst-case scenario, may quit teaching.
Tina Lamb, training partner at the Impact Factory, a training and professional development company, believes that the new teacher’s best bet is to create a conversation out of feedback. “Use questions as a way of keeping it a two-way exchange so you’re not just on the receiving end,” she counsels. For example, you might ask: ‘Is this a situation you’ve seen before?’ and: ‘Is there a lesson I could observe?’ You’ll keep the conversation open and avoid going on the defensive.”
Cary Cooper, at Lancaster University endorses this approach. “Remind yourself - and admit to your mentor - that you are new and have lots to learn. The minute you defend yourself, you are on the wrong tack,” he says.
If feedback is unremitting and negative, there are tactics that can stop it becoming a barrage. “If someone is talking at you, you can interrupt them with an agreement,” says Ms Lamb. “It can be quite banal or small such as: ‘I agree: I hope we don’t have to speak about this next week’”. Of course, if feedback is consistently negative or belittling, you need to take it up with your union.
Another method recommended by the Impact Factory is the “verbal drop- shot”, good, perhaps, for the parent who has dropped in to deliver some unsolicited feedback. Try saying very little, even when it’s your turn to speak: “I have spoken to her. I will see what I can do.”
Most schools encourage feedback from their pupils. Ideally, students will have been trained how to do this objectively and will critique the lesson, not the teacher. New teachers should be protected from ‘free-style’ criticism but when the odd comment does arise, there are methods to hand. The best way to prepare for constructive criticism is accept it as an essential part of your professional development.
Useful advice and resources
Our induction and training expert Gererd Dixie offers advice on working effectively with mentors
Gererd offers adivce on working well with other teachers and TAs
Watch ths Teachers TV video on how to get along with other staff on your school placement
Check out other Teachers TV CPD videos for NQTs
Our induction expert James Williams is on hand to answer your questions about dealing with criticism on the TES NQT forum
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