I thought I would write today a little bit about the mentorship module that I am currently undertaking with the University of Cumbria. I have a great PGCE student working in school at the moment, and it has been interesting to see that who I have as a trainee is almost as important as what I do as a mentor.
I began this module with the idea of focusing on the idea of feedback. Without having done much research into this area all I knew was that I was very conscious of how I spoke to people, especially a trainee teacher. This idea came from my own trainee days where I felt, at times, frustrated at how I was perceived, and how I was seen to be coming across in the professional environment. Ultimately I became more self-aware so I learnt from the experience, but it was unpleasant at the time, and had me on the brink of quitting, however I struggled through and, I believe, came out better off at the end of it. I am also aware of the fact that I like to talk about things that concern me, and I find that I often speak an idea before I have consciously thought of it. This is an acknowledged way of processing thought (Hare Brain, Tortoise Mind), although I would prefer it if I could think a little bit more sometimes before I spoke! Considering all of this led me to want to focus on giving feedback.
As I have continued my research and worked alongside my trainee I then decided to look at what I was saying and how I would say it. There seem to be two basic schools of thought on how to say feedback. The first is the Praise-Point to Consider-Praise method, where you ‘sandwich’ the point that you want them to work on and think about in between lots of positive points. The second is the method that leads them to the point that they need to consider, starting with discussing what they did, the effect this had and then what they would do differently next time. My conclusions at this point in time seem to be that both methods have valid points, and I am a big believer in praising colleagues, whilst still ensuring that they know what it is that you think should be looked at further. I found through all of this that it was very difficult to truly stick to one way of giving feedback, and it completely depending on who I was giving feedback to and for what purpose. There are times when you need to play a supporting counselling role, and there are other times when you can get straight to the point and deal with the issue at hand.
As it all depends on so many things, things that are impossible to predict, I moved on to looking for a while at the time-span involved in feedback. Do you give it straight away? Why? Do you wait a few hours? A day? A few days? Why? Does it depend on anything? I found that if I gave feedback immediately I could only be effective if I made notes of what two or three things I wanted to focus on whilst I was filling in the observation pro forma. I tended to prefer to leave it for a short while so that I could gather my thoughts and make sense of what I had seen, and also to focus my mind on how I wanted to say things…leading me back to my first point.
As I found that so much of the feedback was dependent on the person, I then began to look into learning styles and intelligences. When I began my teacher training we were constantly looking at how pupils learn and how we can ensure cater for all types of learning styles in our lessons. I took this idea and decided to consider the learning styles that I needed to adapt to in my mentoring. I have a clear idea of my own preferred learning style. I am predominantly a visual learner, although I have strong elements of linguistic, logical and intra- and inter-personal intelligence as well. I read a very interesting book by Pajak about honoring diverse learning styles and another one about differentiated instructional strategies which made me believe even more strongly that each individual will affect the way that I give feedback. I have lots more reading to do, and still have a firm conclusion to reach, but that it where I am up to so far.