One-on-one Feedback Conversations

One-on-one Feedback Conversations

The most valuable feedback I have received has always come from one-on-one conversations. Plus these build stronger relationships and connections as I model vulnerability. I started these as a routine when I first began working as a Literacy Coach. I talked through my thinking with my principal and highlighted my desire to model and build trusting relationships where we could give and receive critical feedback. She suggested I collate the feedback, connect my goals to that feedback, and share these with the team at the start of the next school year. Her point was that this would demonstrate to the team that I valued and used their honest feedback to revise my coaching practice.

Two months before the end of the school year, I sent calendar invitations to all the teachers I had coached to join me in a reflective feedback conversation. Here is a sample note:





I can’t believe we are approaching the end of the academic year already. I value your perspective and would like to reflect on our work together this year. Specifically, in my role as Literacy Coach, I would love to hear any insights you may have on my strengths, areas for growth, or ways I could revise my coaching with you. I trust your honest feedback as I work to grow. Please let me know if there is a better time for us to meet.


During the conversation, I used those same prompts to guide our conversation: insights on my strengths, areas for growth, and ways I could revise my coaching practice. After the first year, I started simply using the more simple prompts: Stop, Start, Keep. One piece of feedback I received the first year was that this conversation felt late and the teacher asked that we instead reflect at the mid-year point. From then on, we had these conversations mid-year and I was able to apply the feedback during the second part of the year. 


Once I gathered all the feedback, I sent out a team message sharing my takeaways and how I would be revising my coaching practice. Here is a sample:


At the end of the last term, you generously helped me reflect on my work as a coach, and from those conversations I have set some goals for myself Some of those goals are about being deliberate to keep doing the things you’ve found helpful and supportive. These include differentiating our coaching work based on your goals, giving you time to practice new skills and strategies, planning together, asking probing questions, classroom visits and coaching work with students, and a shared openness and vulnerability in our learning together. While the other goals are to change something in my practice such as being more clear and marking deadlines in our work together, regularly sharing coaching work in team meetings, providing condensed reading to support the work we are doing in a coaching cycle, making more use of video recording to support our work together, facilitating more teachers visiting each others’ classrooms, making connections from individual goals to our work together, and looking for new ways to collaborate during planning with other departments.


Thank you so much for helping me to better understand how I can support you. My biggest takeaway is the importance of differentiated coaching. The above goals come from my notes of all our conversations and I will attempt to tailor my applications to your individual needs and feedback. I will keep working hard to build trusting relationships and hope that you will continue to let me know how we can best learn together. 


By sharing my goals from their feedback, I found that teachers appeared more comfortable sharing critical feedback. It certainly helped build trusting relationships. Once I started working with teachers outside of the Middle School English department, I had to be strategic about the number of these one-on-one feedback conversations I was having as I balanced my time. First, I prioritized new coaching relationships. Second, I reached out to teachers who were doing new types of coaching work with me. Finally, I offered an open invitation to anyone else that would like to share their feedback with me. There were always a few teachers who took me up on this. 


When I shifted roles to K-12 Head of Digital Learning and then Middle School Vice Principal, I brought this same feedback structure to my new collaborative relationships. Again, I have seen that over time, with a few conversations under our belts, people share more feedback. My hunch is that my principal from years back was absolutely right. People see that I value their honest feedback and trust me with more specific feedback over time. 


I am preparing for my first move in eleven years and starting to sort through my classroom, office, and home looking for those treasures worth bringing across the Pacific to my new home. As I flip through my stacks of notebooks, it’s been so encouraging to see my scribbles from these one-on-one conversations. Insights on my strengths and critical feedback points have been building blocks to my continued growth as a coach and leader. 

What structures do you use for one-on-one feedback conversations? What prompts help you gather open and honest feedback?




Feedback: Start, Stop, Keep

Feedback: Start, Stop, Keep

This is such a simple and powerful strategy that I first learned from Stuart MacAlpine in one of his professional learning sessions. You can use this at any stage of your work. I’ve used it after the first day of a two-day workshop, after a few months with a new team, and whenever I want to check in on how things are going for my students. I prefer sticky notes, with one idea per note, but you can also use a google form. With sticky notes, it allows everyone to see what others are saying and for me to physically sort them into common themes. 

I introduce it by sharing my desire to be responsive to their needs so we can all do our best learning together. I invite them to consider the structure, pace, talk time, and anything else that we can revise. START: What could be better? STOP: What isn’t working? KEEP: What is working? I ask them to write down as many things as they would like, one idea per sticky note. Then I have three sections on a board labeled Start, Stop, and Keep for them to add their sticky notes. I also invite them to notice what other people have written. 

Once I have sorted and reflected on the feedback, I make plans to revise and communicate trends and my responses in our next session. This is an important part of building trust over time. When the team or class sees that I am taking on their feedback, they are more open to giving honest feedback going forward. 

Here is an excerpt from a K-12 team meeting midway through term one after I sorted their feedback. This was a fairly new team. We talked through each point as a group and made additional comments. 

Thank you for the initial quick feedback – here are key take-ways:

  • We  value our longer meetings and co-working times. We feel supported as a team and enjoy the collaboration in this group. Thank you for making these times work. 
  • We want to learn more from each other – across schools and campuses. Suggestion for feedback: let’s build in meeting time to share more – maybe rotating schools? Also, I can build in time to share key pieces of Dover’s work.
  • Also, for systems we share across parts of the school, we want time to support each other. We have built time for this later this month.
  • We are excited to dig into the curriculum together. Do we want to request a larger chunk of time for that, maybe after December break?
  • Clarity in agenda items – bigger picture and today’s work. I will try to be clearer and connect to consistent topics. Can we use the pre-reflection time in our meeting to ask clarifying questions?

When I use “Start, Stop, Keep” with my class, I take a few minutes in our next class to share the trends and explain any revisions that I’ll be making. Sometimes I explain why I won’t be changing something and invite alternative ideas. For example, when students asked if they could listen to their own music whenever they were working independently, I explained that so much of our work in English is collaborative and supportive. When we have our headphones in, it makes it hard to check in with partners or to hear me when I have a quick tip. We then talked about why they wanted to listen to music and all agreed that they like calm during reading and it helps them not be distracted by other noises. Someone suggested I play calm music for the class. Done. Then they said that on drafting days when they aren’t talking to their partners hardly at all, they like more upbeat music to help them write quickly. But they all like different music. We agreed that on drafting days, they can use their headphones. 

While these kinds of conversations take time, I believe they are so valuable as we build shared understanding and trust. In addition, I am constantly learning and growing in my practice by listening to feedback. Do you have other simple strategies for collecting feedback?

Growing Up with Feedback

Growing Up with Feedback


There is a lot out there about why feedback matters and how to best seek it out and give it. I won’t go over all of that. Instead, I’d like to share with you a more personal perspective on why I value feedback as I grow in my practice as a teacher, coach, and leader.

When I was in middle school I desperately wanted to fit in with my older brother and his friends. They would play basketball in our driveway for hours and hours but I was too small, too slow, and missed the basket most of the time. No one ever wanted me on their team. But when all his friends were gone, my brother would stay out in the driveway with me, patiently teaching me how to shoot. Each time, he would explain and demonstrate exactly what he had seen me do to help me with my next shot. He did this when I missed and when I made the shoot. That specific feedback allowed me to refine my shot until I could shoot a swish from anywhere in the driveway.

My second story also involves my brother giving me feedback. This time, I was in high school and he was in college. He came home for a visit and met my boyfriend. Later, I asked my brother what he thought. I was hoping for rave reviews but instead, he said, “He’s okay. But I don’t like who you are when you are around him.” Yikes! At the time, my seventeen-year-old self was more indignant than reflective. I tried to ignore my brother’s words. But after that high school romance died, my brother’s words came back to me. I reflected on my behavior when I was with that boy and how it didn’t match who I was with my friends and family. Those words stuck with me as I explored other relationships, both romantic and platonic. They helped me build a mental meter stick for myself as I considered if these relationships were helping me be the kind of person I wanted to be or not. 

When I began teaching, I knew that feedback from my students and my colleagues would help me refine my skills and reflect on the standards I wanted for my practice. I’ve tried a few things over the years, and now I have several routines to seek feedback (see upcoming posts). This year, as I stepped into a new leadership role, I applied those same routines. Each time, I learn something that helps me refine my practice. I am thankful my brother helped me build this reflective, growth mindset.