Final report of SICI collaborative project. Which aspects of the feedback meeting after an inspection stimulate schools to improve? Project of Estonia, Lithuania, Scotland and The Netherlands.

What makes our feedback after inspections encouraging for schools?
In 2018 – 2019 the four inspectorates of education of Estonia, Lithuania, The Netherlands and Scotland collaborated on the SICI (Standing International Conference of Inspectorates) research project ‘Professional Communication’. The project commenced to answer the following question: ‘What elements of professional communication in feedback sessions have a positive impact on the willingness of schools to improve their quality?’
The aim of the project was to identify and describe structures, elements and competences of communication during inspection meetings in which results are fed back to the school.
Based on research literature on characteristics of effective communication the project group has designed questionnaires for both inspectors and school directors. The questionnaires focus on elements that are important during a feedback meeting like, ‘being clear’, 'professional dialogue', 'encouraging effect' and 'structure and organization’.
Inspectors and school leaders (or schoolboard members) responded to statements about how important they think certain aspects are, and also whether they think that during the feedback meeting inspectors pay enough attention to these aspects.
Despite differences in culture and inspection systems, the results of the four countries are largely similar. School leaders and managers indicate that they find it important to have a dialogue in which there is room to share their own vision with the inspector. They want to be listened to seriously so that they feel that their input is appreciated. Moreover, they believe that the inspector should also pay attention to what is going well in their school. They want to receive recognition and appreciation for their hard work.

Besides stimulating factors, we also asked them about aspects of the feedback meeting that have the opposite effect (not stimulate) School leaders and managers think that it is very demotivating when the final judgment of the inspector during the feedback meeting comes as a surprise. If this happens the willingness of teachers to make improvements declines. Other elements which meet resistance are situations in which the meeting is a monologue of the inspector, and when the inspector has a ‘know-it-all’ attitude or when the message is unclear.