Panel Paper: Does Feedback Matter? Understanding the Relationship between Evaluation Feedback and Teacher Productivity

Friday, November 9, 2018
8219 - Lobby Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Matthew Springer, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, Karin Gegenheimer, Vanderbilt University, Seth Hunter, George Mason University and Cory Koedel, University of Missouri

Feedback is theoretically important for employee performance and growth (Ilgen, Fisher, & Taylor, 1979; Murphy & Cleveland, 1995). By highlighting areas of effectiveness and identifying areas for improvement, feedback should give employees targeted information for skill development. In education, instructional feedback is a core component of teacher professional learning and development. Indeed, teachers and school leaders often cite instructional feedback as a primary tool for improving teacher productivity and thus, student achievement. Yet despite the seemingly widespread belief among educators that feedback improves performance, decades of organizational psychology research suggests the relationship between the provision of feedback and employee productivity is mixed (e.g. Cawley, Keeping, & Levy, 1998; Kluger & DeNisi, 1996).

In this paper, we explore the relationship between instructional feedback quality, teacher productivity, and student performance using unique observation-specific feedback data from Tennessee. Over the past decade, Tennessee has experienced tremendous growth in student performance, which may be in part explained by instructional feedback from Tennessee’s comprehensive educator evaluation system. Although Tennessee does not boast high levels of absolute achievement, the state ranks among the top in the country in terms of growth in student achievement (Reardon, 2018). One potential mechanism of this observed growth is the robust classroom observation and feedback component of the state’s educator evaluation system. The system mandates that teachers receive up to four classroom observations per year conducted by trained observers, the purpose of which is to encourage teacher development. With each observation, teachers should receive detailed instructional feedback in two domains: 1) an area of effectiveness which is called, Reinforcement, and 2) an area for improvement which is called, Refinement. Feedback is communicated to teachers both in writing and in post-observation conferences between the teacher and trained observer. This feedback is designed to sharpen instructional effectiveness and ultimately boost teacher productivity and student performance.

The purpose of this study is twofold: 1) to understand the extent to which feedback quality is associated with teacher professional growth and productivity, and 2) to identify the elements of effective feedback. We focus only on Refinement feedback, which allows us to directly examine feedback effectiveness; we are able to explore how feedback that proposes a change in teacher practice – what is intended to improve instruction – is related to measures of teacher growth and productivity. To create a robust measure of feedback quality, we conduct an exhaustive survey of the general personnel economics and human resource management literature to develop a taxonomy of characteristics of effective employee feedback. We then use this taxonomy to code observation feedback text, which we correlate with teacher professional growth. This coding scheme allows us to examine the individual characteristics of feedback, as well as a latent measure of overall feedback quality that we create from the observed characteristics.