A Developmental Approach to Effective Feedback

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Leadership Institute for School Change

Teachers College, Columbia University

Leadership Institute for School Change:
A Developmental Approach to Effective Feedback


Ellie Drago-Severson, Professor of Education Leadership and Adult Learning & Leadership, Faculty Lead and Co-Facilitator of Institute, Teachers College, Columbia University

Jessica Blum-DeStefano, Co-instructor at Columbia University’s Principals Academy, Adjunct Instructor at Bank Street College of Education, Co-Facilitator of Institute


September 27-28, 2018 – The September Institute was a sellout!

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In this 2-day, interactive Institute, you—principals, AP’s, teachers, professional developers, curriculum specialists, coaches, district leaders, policymakers, and anyone interested in enhancing professional feedback across non-profit and for-profit sectors—will have the opportunity to deeply understand how to support adults’ internal capacity building by learning about adult developmental theory, a developmental model of leadership-for-supporting-growth, and a new, developmental approach to feedback that can be implemented in your organization.

During this Institute, you will have multiple opportunities during and after each seminar day to apply learning, develop action plans to advance practice, and enhance your noble practice of feedback for growth, coaching, and practices that support adult development.

After our opening night welcome and cocktail reception, together, we will engage in two full learning days to:

  • Learn about adult-developmental theory (Kegan, 1982, 1994, 2000) and its practical implications for leadership, coaching, professional development, and effective collaboration (Drago-Severson, 2004a, 2004b, 2009, 2012; Drago-Severson, Blum-DeStefano, & Asghar, 2013; Drago-Severson & Blum-DeStefano, 2016);
  • Explore practical strategies for enacting a developmental approach to feedback (Drago-Severson & Blum-DeStefano, 2016) so that others can best hear, take in, learn from, and act upon your feedback;
  • Explore a developmentally-based model for leadership and professional learning (Drago-Severson, 2004a, 2004b, 2009, 2012; Drago-Severson, Blum-DeStefano & Asghar, 2013; Drago-Severson, Roy, & von Frank, 2015) that focuses on supporting adult growth, and offers promising practices that can be implemented in your school and system; and
  • Engage in collaborative, developmental action planning to apply key ideas to advance your leadership and practice.


Feedback is more important today than ever before. In fact, offering feedback—so that others can hear us—is one of the most important ways we can support each other and grow ourselves. In fact, feedback is part of living, leading, and being in our “new normal” world—and is vital to our collaborative work. There are so many challenges that leaders—and all of us—face every single day in our work and in our personal lives. In the education sector in particular, new teacher and principal evaluation systems, the Common Core State Standards, Race to the Top, and other initiatives underscore the critical importance of giving and receiving meaningful, actionable, and effective feedback—regardless of our roles in systems. The same challenge LIVES in for-profit and non-profit systems. Yet, when and where do leaders learn how to give feedback, especially to adults who make sense of our words, feedback, and relationships in different ways? And how might leaders’ own inclinations and orientations influence their experiences with feedback, both the giving and receiving of it? This two-day, interactive Institute addresses these questions and offers participants an immersive experience with our new, developmental approach to feedback, which we call feedback for growth (Drago-Severson & Blum-DeStefano, 2016). We can’t wait to learn with, from, and alongside of you!

Drawing from and extending (a) our newly released book, Tell Me So I Can Hear You: A Developmental Approach to Feedback for Educators (Harvard Education Press, 2016), (b) Harvard psychologist and renowned scholar Robert Kegan’s (1982, 1994, 2000) constructive-developmental theory, which outlines the process and trajectory of development in adulthood, (c) a thorough review of the feedback literature in both education and business, and (d) more than 25 years of research and work with school leaders of all kinds around the globe (Drago-Severson, 1996, 2004, 2009, 2012; Drago-Severson & Blum-DeStefano, 2016; Drago-Severson, Blum-DeStefano, & Asghar, 2013; Drago-Severson, Roy, & von Frank, 2015), this Institute underscores and will help you apply the importance of intentionally differentiating feedback so that adults—who make sense of their experiences in qualitatively different ways—can best hear it, learn from it, and improve their instructional and leadership practice.

From our research we have learned that adult development is leadership development, and vice-versa. While we often intuitively understand that we need to provide children and youth with diverse supports and challenges to help them grow—in other words, we need to scaffold them—the importance of differentiating professional development, supervision, feedback, teaching, and leading for adults is often overlooked. Now, more than ever, we must recognize the very real and essential role that developmental diversity plays in the professional learning and feedback processes, and in supporting capacity building.


  • Drago-Severson, E. (2004a). Becoming adult learners: Principles and practices for effective development. New York: Teachers College Press.
  • Drago-Severson, E. (2004b). Helping teachers learn: Principal leadership for adult growth and development. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press/Sage.
  • Drago-Severson, E. (2009). Leading adult learning: Supporting adult development in our schools. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press/Sage and Learning Forward.
  • Drago-Severson, E. (2012). Helping educators grow: Strategies and practices for leadership development. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.
  • Drago-Severson, E., & Blum-DeStefano, J. (2016). Tell me so I can hear you: A developmental approach to feedback for educators. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.
  • Drago-Severson, E., Blum-DeStefano, J., & Asghar, A. (2013). Learning for leadership: Developmental strategies for building capacity in our schools. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
  • Drago-Severson, E., Roy, P., & von Frank, V. (2015). Reach the highest standard in professional learning: Learning designs. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press/Sage and Learning Forward.
  • Kegan, R. (1982). The evolving self: Problems and process in human development. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
  • Kegan, R. (1994). In over our heads: The mental demands of modern life. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
  • Kegan, R. (2000). What “form” transforms? A constructive-developmental approach to transformative learning. In J. Mezirow and Associates (Eds.), Learning as transformation (pp. 35-70). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.