Educators are familiar with the well-worn choreography of the typical supervisory conference: "Three to glow on, three to grow on." Three compliments regarding things the supervisor likes, followed by three suggestions for improvement. Three steps forward, three steps back.
But those three steps back cover a lot more territory than the three steps forward. Criticism stings, even when it's offered with the best of intentions. It can provoke frustration, fear, and a sense of failure. It can stimulate resentment and resistance, undermine self-efficacy, and increase unwillingness to change. In short, it can make performance improvement less, rather than more, likely.
Such conferences reflect the unfortunate blurring of the line between evaluation and professional development in schools. On the one hand, evaluation is a grading of an individual's performance. On the other hand, most supervisors hope this assessment will improve that performance. They may set performance-improvement goals in light of the assessment, with or without the threat of negative consequences if the employee doesn't meet those goals. They may also offer resources, such as mentoring, coaching, and training, to assist the professional in his or her efforts.