Instructional Leadership

Step-by-Step Guide: Giving Effective Feedback to Teachers

Ben Gustafson
Ben Gustafson
February 13th, 2023·6 min read

Immediate feedback is one of the most powerful ways to help teachers improve their instructional practice.

Teachers have the highest impact on learning outcomes. They need the support of administrators and coaches to improve their instructional practice.

Classroom observations are one of the most effective ways to provide direct and immediate feedback to teachers.

In this guide, you'll learn:

  • How to create an environment for coaching by settings expectations and goals.
  • The critical parts of effective feedback with helpful examples.
  • How to use three common feedback frameworks to structure coaching conversations.
  • What you do after an observation & coaching session.

Preparing Teachers to Receive Feedback

Communicate Goals and Expectations

Communicating expectations up front is foundational for providing effective feedback.

When teachers understand what is expected of them it establishes teamwork, creates a culture of improvement, and builds trust between teachers and administrators. This allows teachers and administrators to co-create an optimal learning environment for student success.

Follow these three steps to communicate your expectations clearly.

  • Explain overarching school goals and motivations
  • Establish expectations and requirements
  • Share assessment criteria

Framed as questions:

  • Where are we going?
  • How are we going to get there?
  • How will I be held accountable for my part?

For example:

By the end of the school year, 80% of students will score at or above proficiency in reading on the state test. To achieve this goal, we will implement the Data Team process with fidelity to monitor student progress and evaluate our instructional practices. Quality implementation will uncover high-impact strategies, encourage sharing of best practices throughout the building, and provide insights for adjusting instruction to best meet each student’s needs. We will conduct regular and frequent observations of Data Team meetings and subsequent classroom instruction using these observation forms to provide insights into our Data Teams implementation.

Once you have communicated your expectations and goals, give teachers ownership of their professional goals.

Helping Teachers Set Their Professional Goals

You can increase teacher motivation and involvement by giving them ownership of their goals.

Instead of setting professional goals for teachers, give them autonomy. Provide time for them to reflect on the expectations you communicated, select aligned personal goals, and then identify paths to achieve them.

Autonomy and goal alignment produces a common cultural focus and increased speed of achievement.

You can maximize alignment by asking teachers to use district and/or state instructional frameworks or evaluation rubrics as a guide for areas of improvement.

A sample teacher’s goal could be:

By the end of the school year, I will implement our school’s Data Team process with high fidelity by achieving an overall “high implementation” rating as measured by administrator observations of my Data Team and classroom instruction. I will uncover high-impact strategies, share best practices with my colleagues, and adjust my instruction to meet the needs of my students best.

Once the foundation of expectations and goals is firm, start observing and giving feedback based on their goals.

Giving Feedback to Teachers

Effective feedback is timely, clear, and actionable.

For example:

Bad feedback: “Great lesson!”

Good feedback: “Your students were clearly engaged in the lesson when you brought in a current, real-life situation they could identify with. However, during the whole group discussion, there were students disengaged. You might want to try to make your selection approach more random so that students not raising their hand might be called upon.”

Here is a breakdown of the three critical parts to effective feedback.

Timely Feedback

Give feedback immediately after an observation.

Waiting days or sometimes even hours after an observation reduces the impact your feedback will have. Delayed feedback increases teachers’ anxiety and leaves room for negative assumptions to creep in.

The sooner feedback is delivered, the shorter the feedback cycle and the better teachers can contextualize the feedback. Consider automating the delivery of your feedback to reduce your workload and increases your effectiveness.

Deliver your feedback as soon as possible, and make sure it is clear.

Clear Feedback

Use specific instances, concrete examples, and direct quotes to make your feedback clear.

Using clear language is not an excuse to be mean or insulting. Avoid placing blame or being overly critical. Remember, the goal of your feedback is to coach and support.

A supportive and respectful tone, along with the right balance of specific and direct feedback, creates clear and constructive feedback.

You could try using a feedback framework to make your feedback more clear and actionable. We break down several in the next section.

Actionable Feedback

Lastly, your feedback should focus on what they can do to improve based on their goals.

Use the teacher's professional goals to narrow your feedback and get specific. Highlight the next small step they can take toward their goal.

This is a great place to highlight their strengths and remind them of all the things they did well. Do not focus exclusively on what they did wrong.

Actionable feedback is empowering, not demoralizing.

Using a common feedback framework

One of the easiest ways to get started is by using a feedback model or framework.

Imagine this scenario: During an observation, you saw a tense interaction between the teacher and a student. You know you need to have a difficult conversation, but you don’t know where to start, you don’t want to forget a critical part of your feedback, and you're afraid you might make the situation worse.

The last time you were in a similar situation, you spent a lot of time crafting what you were going to say just to have it fall flat during the meeting. What do you do this time?

Use a feedback framework.

The framework provides a helpful structure to those difficult conversations. It makes your feedback clear, actionable, and supportive. All you need to do is fill in the specifics.

Here are three common frameworks to consider:

GROW Model

The GROW Model is one of the most popular frameworks for problem-solving and goal-setting. GROW stands for:




Will or Way Forward

To use this model, start by discussing the teacher’s goals. Review their goals and how they relate to the overarching school goals and expectations.

From there, give a description of the current situation. Use concrete examples, specific instances, and direct quotes where possible. Ask questions like: “What obstacles, internal and external, are in their way?”

Next, talk about options moving forward. Give them ideas, next steps, and resources. Ask questions like: “What has worked in the past? What is the next step(s) they are thinking about?“

Finally, you and the teacher can discuss the best way forward. Show them your support and offer accountability for the next step(s) they choose. Ask questions like: “What will they do? How can you support them? “

The GROW Model is simple, and it can quickly lead to constructive conversations and lasting change.

SBI Model

The SBI Model is designed to close the gap between intent and impact.




First, start by describing the context and the event that occurred. Use specifics to help teachers identify the when and where.

Then, describe the actions you saw. Use objective language and measurable information.

Finally, describe how their actions affected you or their students. Be honest and transparent.

Then, ask the teacher about their intentions and motivations. Highlighting and discussing the gap between impact and intent is where the magic happens.

It builds trust, shows your teachers you are on their side, and coaches them through the thought process of improvement.

CORE Feedback Model

The CORE Feedback Model is an excellent method for offering constructive feedback or praise. CORE stands for:




nExt stEps

Like the SBI Model, this framework begins with highlighting the Context or specifics of a situation, observing the actions taken by the teacher, and discussing the results of those actions.

The CORE Feedback Model then continues into a discussion around any next steps that are appropriate, given what has occurred. It’s a framework for giving praise and guidance while showing your care.

After you give feedback

Turn it into a conversation

Feedback should never be a one-way street.

You can invite them into a conversation by asking questions and actively listening. One of the easiest ways to do this is by asking a reflection question during the observation. This starts the feedback process as a conversation.

During the conversation, give the teacher a chance to ask questions, get clarification, and add share their perspective.

Show them their input is valued and respected.

Make your Feedback Continuous

Consistency is an essential part of effective feedback.

Research shows an observation cycle every week or every other week is optimal.

Giving feedback to teachers a few times a year is actually unhelpful and can damage your relationship with them if approached incorrectly.

The good thing is, you don’t have to do this alone.

You can tap into your admin and coaching team to help share the load. You can also ask your veteran teachers to step in and help.

One easy way to do this is to create an observation schedule and track your team’s progress through the year.

Show your support by consistently showing up in your teacher’s classroom and giving them helpful feedback.

Classroom Mosaic makes giving effective feedback easy.

If you found this guide helpful, you'll love our platform.

It has a whole set of tools and features designed to make giving feedback to teachers simple and effective.

Classroom Mosaic is a useful tool. It allows observers to provide immediate feedback while tracking data that is useful to administrators, teachers, and the school as a whole. It has made our walkthrough observations more focused and easy to manage.
- Erin, SC Principal.

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