Over the years I’ve not only written tonnes of parent feedback reports myself, but also overseen hundreds more by our tutors. And over those years, we’ve noticed some pretty obvious recurring patterns in what really sends the message effectively compared to those which leave parents feeling uncertain.
When I first came on board at TOTC as a tutor myself, I remember the ‘Timeline Staircase Effect’ where you report what improvement was made, what strategy you used to facilitate it and what your plan is for future progress. But there’s one other trick we’ve noticed which makes even more impact than any other.
So for starters, here’s what NOT to do.
Don’t just report what the student understood or what they could do well. If you just say “I did such and such and they did fine understanding it” then this sounds like maybe they did fine because it was too easy. Likewise, if they struggle, don’t just say “I did such and such but they really struggled to understand” because this sounds like they didn’t learn anything.
Instead, start by reporting your observation of what they struggled with. (“I did such and such and at first they seemed to struggle with this particular concept….”)
Then, report how you adapted your approach based on your observation of that struggle. (“…so instead, I did this other thing ….“)
Then finally, report your observation of how their initial struggle was resolved and how they understand as a result. (“…and then they seemed to be able to be able to do such and such as a result.”)
It follows a similar formula used by just about any movie you’ve ever seen or any novel you’ve ever read. You have a character, and you have their struggle. Then they have to go through some kind of journey or adventure which builds a sense of tension. Then, eventually, they resolve their struggle because of that adventure, and they live happily ever after.
It seems to play on an innate human need to want to identify problems and resolve the tension which builds as a result of those problems. It draws you in with uncertainty and then delivers you a nice big exhalation when the uncertainty works out solved. If you report this way in your end of lesson notes (put them in the shared notes in your Teachworks lesson and then tick the button to email them to the parent) then I promise you – there is nothing else as simple as to use this communication technique to keep parents happy and appreciative of the work you are doing.
Actually, there is one other thing you can include in your notes. And that is to give them some kind of suggestion as to how they can reinforce the learning during the week. The simplest way to do this is to just provide them with some homework, and note what the homework is in your notes. Just remember to work it in a way which links the homework as a way to build on and reinforce what they covered in the lesson, or at least linking onto next weeks lesson. If it’s not obvious to the parent how the homework links directly to the lesson, or how each lesson links from the previous one and the next one for that matter – then it comes across as random, disjointed, disorganised and ultimately – not worth the effort.
So remember to create the feeling of a consistent flow not only in your lessons but the homework you set between lessons as reinforcement.
THE 5 STEP FEEDBACK FORMULA
We now use the following 5 sentence formula when writing feedback reports:
- This lesson I (describe strategy used) to (explain purpose / outcome / objective).
- At first (describe your observation of students struggle / difficulty / weakness) so I (describe how you adapted your approach) which, as a result saw (describe your observation of the resolution / improvement).
- This is a noticeable improvement from (describe their progress from past lessons).
- To reinforce this learning during the week (describe the homework / activities / assignments etc).
- Moving forward (describe your plan for future progress)
It doesn’t always need to be this precise format, but it’s a good place to start as it covers everything that needs to be said in a simple 5 sentence structured formula.
VERBAL FEEDBACK GETS FORGOTTEN
And remember, even if you report this verbally to the parent after the lesson, they’re often tired and won’t remember everything you say – they’re just not going to tell you that to your face because they don’t want you to feel unappreciated. So if you put it in writing, it gives them something to refer back to and shows that you’re willing to go the extra mile.
Writing these 5 simple sentences in the shared notes of Teachworks each week is a quick and simple process that makes a massive difference, and gives you a solid foundation in professional communication skills that you won’t get working many other jobs.
So go out there and put a dent in the universe guys! If you have any other questions or suggestions, just give us a call here at TOTC Head Office where Melody or I (and our assistants Anne and Navtej) can help you out any time. In the mean time, check out my list of free teaching resources as well as the other great stuff we have on the Home Tutoring Sydney website.