You’ve set up a holistic feedback process, how do you respond to the comments you receive? Whether receiving negative feedback such as criticisms and complaints, general feedback such as suggestions, or positive comments such as compliments, an efficient response team should know the most appropriate ways to reply.
In this blog, we outline the best ways to respond to these different types of feedback, so that your community can get the most out of their school district communication. To underline how our advice can be used practically, we’ve given feedback examples for each type.
But first - why is a culture survey necessary for school community relationships? What about a climate survey? Culture and climate surveys are necessary for school community relationships because they show community members that their voices matter. They give district stakeholders the opportunity to speak up about issues they face in the community and let district staff get the information they need to make the necessary changes in the right area. Learn more about the importance of feedback from your school community and the role it plays in creating an engaged learning environment for young learners.
Response tips for criticism/complaints
Negative feedback can be disheartening, but it’s the way we respond to it that makes it worthwhile. Here’s how to get the most out of negative feedback by turning it into a positive learning experience.
“My child came home from school the other day very upset. They said another child was mean to them during class and the teacher did not take action.”
As adults, we often tell children that it is incredibly important to practice good listening skills, but the same applies to us, too! Non-verbal communication is often more important than what is being said, especially when receiving feedback. Use active listening skills and cues when listening to feedback - of all types - to let the other person know you are listening and that you care.
When receiving feedback on a digital platform, such as via Your Voice or Survey Builder, naturally the listening process will differ from that of a face-to-face conversation. But this doesn’t mean you should just jump in with a response straight away…
2. Wait to react
Instead, wait to react before responding. It is primordial that you respond appropriately and do not rush into giving responses to community members before they’ve been properly assessed and thought through. You may feel it best to quickly jump to your teaching staff’s defense, but staying quiet and waiting to react will help you nurture a trusting, positive relationship with the community in the long run.
3. Assess with the appropriate team(s)
While you wait, assess the negative feedback with the appropriate teams. The feedback given above will, of course, be more relevant to the teaching staff than the lunch staff, for example. As leaders, it’s at your discretion to choose which feedback to share with whom, but if an open, transparent school community is what you’re looking to achieve then you should take advantage of response team allocations. These allow feedback to be tagged, for example, as ‘teaching’, and then sent to the district staff who are assigned to that tag. You may feel that another member of staff from a different team may be able to give objective guidance before responding, so don’t hesitate to share the feedback with them, too.
Once you’ve decided who to consult before responding, make sure you are able to fully understand the situation the feedback discusses. If the parent in the example above chose not to anonymize their feedback (a feature we allow for in our Your Voice product), then discerning which student, class, and teacher they’re referring to would be the first step to take. Then, discuss the comment with the appropriate teacher to get to the bottom of what happened.
4. Create an action plan
With that teacher, create an action plan going forward. This could mean talking with the teacher about how to respond to a general bullying situation in their classroom, and discussing with them how to react if this situation arises again.
Then, share the action plan with the parent. Firstly, remember to thank the parent for getting in touch and remind them that you truly value their feedback. Apologize about the situation and assure them that measures are being put in place to ensure that it will be dealt with differently next time, and explain in as much detail as you can what those measures are. Offer to keep the parent in the loop going forward by agreeing to give them further updates, for example, if the relationship between the two children improves.
5. Learn from it
Learning from negative feedback is important for community relationship building, second only to proactively listening. The best way to get the most out of a negative experience is to learn from it and work harder in the right areas to ensure it won’t happen again. Sometimes that may not be possible, such as in this instance of bad behavior in the classroom, but you may be able to mitigate the impact in the future thanks to the feedback you received in the past. If you feel you haven’t gotten enough information about the situation in order to be able to improve on it, don’t hesitate to ask the community member for more details.
Negative feedback can be disheartening, but it’s the way we respond to it that makes it worthwhile.
Response tips for concerns/suggestions
Sometimes, the feedback you receive from community members may not be criticism or complaints, but more suggestions and general concerns about the running of the school community. Here’s how to respond to the following example.
“I’d like for students to have more toys and games to play with at playtimes.”
1. Listen and discuss with the appropriate team(s)
In the same vein as the tips for responding to negative feedback, you should first listen and consider what the comment says, before discussing it with the appropriate team members. For example, the suggestion of more toys and games for children to play with could be discussed with the school district administrator and anyone responsible for budgets and financial plans.
2. Respond back with an action plan
Responding to these types of feedback is important in establishing trust and rapport among school community members. Even if something is not feasible or possible, such as if there is no spare budget for more playtime toys, always respond back to the community member and be as honest as you can. As always, thank them for taking the time to contact you and for caring about their school’s environment.
Response tips for compliments
1. Enjoy the compliment and give thanks!
Responding to compliments is simple - say thank you! Thank the community member for taking the time to get in touch with you, especially for giving positive feedback. Don’t forget to share the feedback with the wider team, particularly share with a specific staff member if they were mentioned.