Effective teachers vastly improve student learning outcomes. According to a report by the Grattan Institute, “Conservative estimates suggest that students with a highly effective teacher learn twice as much as students with a less effective teacher.”1
The 360 degree feedback program provides participants with confidential, anonymous feedback from those working around them. Respondents answer a broad range of questions about the individual’s workplace capabilities, while the individual completes their own self-rating survey based on the same set of questions. The information collected from these sources gives an insight into the individual’s behaviour from a range of viewpoints.
So how can schools use this program on a wider scale? How can they embed it so that it becomes automatic and routine, rather than random and out of context? There is potential for the 360 degree feedback program to revitalise teams, including administrative or academic departments and individual programs. Instead of waiting for a department to be evaluated under crisis due to a deluge of parent complaints, faculty leaders can use 360 degree feedback to proactively assess how to improve student learning outcomes throughout the school year.
The information received from 360 degree feedback can serve as the basis for a discussion of the key behaviours that impact staff. Participants should include all stakeholders in a subject area, including laboratory/IT technicians, a Head of School, and a few students, with the students using a modified questionnaire. In primary schools, which use open-plan classrooms and teacher teams, the 360 degree feedback program can be an ideal evaluative tool. It can be used to collect feedback from parents, students, and colleagues in neighbouring classrooms, as well as the librarian and relevant managerial staff.
Many schools undertake projects concentrating on issues such as social justice, civics and civilisation, and the responsible use of alcohol, all of which require regular review to remain effective. Using the 360 degree feedback program, feedback can be collected from all stakeholder groups: students, parents, teachers, and administrators. At some schools, students set their own individual learning goals. At regular times throughout the year, each student sits with their teacher to discuss their progress, modify goals, or set new ones. The 360 degree process can enhance this environment by involving close peers of the student and parents.
To run a successful 360 degree feedback program, it is important to take some steps to ensure you receive data that is actionable. According to the National College for Teaching and Leadership there are eight key stages in 360 degree activities: considering the issues, defining the focus, designing the questionnaire, deciding on the rating scale, managing the feedback, analysing the data, and understanding and applying the outcomes.2
In her blog, Mary Jo Asmus noted that it can be difficult for individuals to receive an evaluation based on 360 degree feedback, as negative responses affect self-esteem, while glowing praise can inhibit effective self- reflection. Therefore, she suggested that individuals should look at feedback with these questions in mind:
- What was the most surprising aspect of the feedback?
- Did the feedback identify known issues?
- What was of most concern?
- What was most pleasing?
- If strengths were noticed, do they warrant further exploration?
- If there are areas that require future development, in what order should this be done and what assistance might be required?
Embedding a culture of 360 degree feedback takes time and requires trust. Guidelines for the process should focus on the length and frequency of evaluations, as well as protocols for discussion after each observation. Students need to consider reflection on a behaviour or a lesson as normal practice. The use of reflection tools develops critical thinking which, in turn, promotes deeper learning. Students are the winners in an established 360 degree feedback culture. Not only do they gain skills that assist their future learning, but their feedback can make teachers more effective and improve the quality of projects and units of work.
- Encourage teaching staff to invite a colleague into their classroom to observe with particular focus.
- Organise a professional learning event based on the use of student reflection tools.
- Establish a small action research team to trial the 360 degree feedback program to evaluate a short-term program that is currently underway.
- Jensen, Ben. “Better Teacher Appraisal and Feedback: Improving Performance.” Grattan Institute Report No. 2011-3, April 2011.
- National College for Teaching and Leadership. “Professional self-assessment and 360-degree feedback.”