A simple yet BIG point – “Teachers need real feedback” – @TedTalk by @BillGates

@ShridharShukla points us to this TED Talk by Bill Gates, which focuses on the fact that everybody needs a teacher/coach to improve, but the one group of people who don’t get a coach or any useful feedback is teachers.

Some excerpts from the transcript:

Until recently, over 98 percent of teachers just got one word of feedback: Satisfactory. If all my bridge coach ever told me was that I was “satisfactory,” I would have no hope of ever getting better

He is talking about the US. Are there countries who do better?

out of all the places that do better than the U.S. in reading, how many of them have a formal system for helping teachers improve? Eleven out of 14.

Here’s what Shanghai does:

Let’s look at the best academic performer: the province of Shanghai, China. Now, they rank number one across the board, in reading, math and science, and one of the keys to Shanghai’s incredible success is the way they help teachers keep improving. They made sure that younger teachers get a chance to watch master teachers at work. They have weekly study groups, where teachers get together and talk about what’s working. They even require each teacher to observe and give feedback to their colleagues

The Gates Foundation has been experimenting with a teacher feedback system:

What would that system look like? Well, to find out, our foundation has been working with 3,000 teachers in districts across the country on a project called Measures of Effective Teaching. We had observers watch videos of teachers in the classroom and rate how they did on a range of practices. For example, did they ask their students challenging questions? Did they find multiple ways to explain an idea? We also had students fill out surveys with questions like, “Does your teacher know when the class understands a lesson?” “Do you learn to correct your mistakes?”

Does this work?

And what we found is very exciting. First, the teachers who did well on these observations had far better student outcomes. So it tells us we’re asking the right questions. And second, teachers in the program told us that these videos and these surveys from the students were very helpful diagnostic tools, because they pointed to specific places where they can improve

Feedback isn’t the only thing. Suggestions for improvement must also be made:

Diagnosing areas where a teacher needs to improve is only half the battle. We also have to give them the tools they need to act on the diagnosis. If you learn that you need to improve the way you teach fractions, you should be able to watch a video of the best person in the world teaching fractions.

What about resistance from teachers?

So building this complete teacher feedback and improvement system won’t be easy. For example, I know some teachers aren’t immediately comfortable with the idea of a camera in the classroom. That’s understandable, but our experience with MET suggests that if teachers manage the process, if they collect video in their own classrooms, and they pick the lessons they want to submit, a lot of them will be eager to participate.

See the full video or read the transcript

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