Remember that feedback is not the same thing as ‘data’. Data is just raw information about how we are performing, like ‘92’ or ‘C-‘. Feedback is the insight we derive from the analysis of the data, which answers three questions: what part(s) of this do I already know; what part(s) am I still missing; and, most important, what must I work on to improve? Data is something we are given; feedback is something we make, and it is the absolutely essential requirement for learning.
This week, my colleague Dr. Julie Kunselman worked diligently to collate and analyze a flurry of data from our partners’ stakeholder feedback surveys. Our Studer Education partner districts assess parent satisfaction, employee engagement, and district support to schools through online survey tools that we’ve designed. These tools are one method of gathering data about an organization, particularly our employees’ and families’ perceptions.
I provide an extra set of eyes, reviewing each survey report for clarity and effective communication of results. As I considered the data and comments these reports provide to our partner districts, I thought of Dr. Jeff Howard, founder of the Efficacy Institute and writer of the quote above. In a post titled Feedback is Fundamental, Dr. Howard differentiated between data and feedback. To make their data into feedback, our partners must read their survey reports and ask themselves Dr. Howard’s third question, “What must I work on to improve?”
In doing so, our partner leaders become lead learners for their communities. These superintendents and their teams demonstrate openness to criticism, a willingness to listen, and a commitment to self and organizational improvement. They strive to learn what needs to improve, they strategize for how to make things better, and they implement new actions. Once the leader of an organization shows him or herself as a learner, every district employee has a model to follow, and an opportunity to learn, too. Making your data into feedback is “absolutely essential” for the continuous improvement of our selves, our systems, and our results.
The Efficacy Institute, Inc. is a national, not-for-profit agency of education reform, committed to developing all children to high standards. The Institute believes that: “Smart is not something you just are; smart is something you can get!”