"A good coach can change a game, a great coach can change a life." - John Wooden
I've always been a huge believer in feedback. Then after reading the research by John Hattie I found feedback to be even more critical. Check out the research here.
That being said, giving feedback is a skill.
Recently I took in a 7th grade boys basketball game. Last year I co-coached many of the boys that were on the floor. I really wanted to see the growth that they've made as players and young men. I was honestly not expecting a polished game. If you've ever watched a middle school basketball game you realize it is raw, discombobulated and definitely lacks flow. As the game unfolded I watched how the boys played defense off the ball, communicated on the court and what they did when the play broke down on offense. What I witnessed were a few positives and some things that definitely needed work. However, this is to be expected, right?
At the conclusion of the game the home team walked away with a solid fifteen point victory. But I don't think wins and losses are that critical at the 7th grade level. My belief is about learning, improving and developing chemistry.
Several boys came out of the locker room and into the stands. One boy plopped down next to me. I gave him a fist bump and told him I really liked how he played help-side defense and took a great route around a screen to get in-front of his man. I finished by reminding him to use his dribble to open up passing lanes to the post. Then he gave me the strangest look.
He said, "I didn't play well." My response was simple, I told him he did some things well and needs to stay aggressive. He again said, "I didn't play well."
I finally caved and asked why he thinks that? His response left me agitated.
He informed me that after the game the team went into the locker room and sat on the wooden benches. He was untying his shoes and the coach pulled them all together. He then read the players their personal stat line and instructed them to watch the upcoming game that was set to begin shortly.
The boy looked at me and said, I had one rebound and two turnovers. I didn't play well.
All I could say was, "You helped your team get the victory, that is the most important stat."
In my mind I was deeply frustrated, what was the coach thinking? At the peek of my frustration my friend, Kenneth Durham really brought a good perspective. To paraphrase Kenneth, he stated: I understand your frustration, and I would add, isn't this ironically similar to educators focusing on grades?
I thought about it for a second...Kenneth was spot on. As educators we stick a number or letter on a paper, but do we give honest, supportive feedback? If we as educators don't, we are no better than a coach reading a stat line.
The question remains, what is the best way to deliver feedback? Here are four best practices.
First, feedback should be timely.
Second, be specific with feedback. Giving generalities will not help anyone.
Third, it is critical to be positive and sincere. The best leaders deliver feedback with empathy and understanding.
Fourth, focus on the process over the results.
It is safe to say my former players may not receive stellar coaching this year, however, as educators we can be better. Let's not mark up papers and stick a letter or number at the top. Let's help our students learn, grow and continuously improve. Your feedback has the ability to make all the difference.
Challenge to readers...
In the comment section I'd love to hear you share a story connected to feedback you've given or received.