Teacher Feedback “Systems”

, and rankings … these are dangerous words to use in a environment. In this TED talk, Bill Gates provides his view on what we can do to improve teaching and education by developing systems of teacher feedback. “We need a system” he professes. “We can use technology” he proposes. In this, however he takes a very reductionist approach to how teachers learn missing the importance of how learning culture is constructed in the classroom and more importantly around it.

His opinion, after we’ve ranked and surveyed to find out what is “good” and “not good” teaching practice, he recommends for teachers to video their classrooms and watch the video back, reflecting on their practice. My concern with this approach by the Gates Foundation is that feedback with the intent for learning is much much much more than approaching it from “best to worst” mindset on a ranking or derived from measures on a survey. Self-reflection from a video is also only part of the story.

What is missing is the conversations and the activities — the practices we learn through. This is sociality of learning.

Learning experiences are deeply and richly embedded in conversations and it is through conversations we both learn and construct our worlds. If we are to develop a “system” to improve how teachers can learn about their practices, let’s then consider how culture is developed both in and around our classrooms. They are developed through conversations and actions. In this approach he fails to consider this.

Where are the conversations between teachers and students about practice in the classroom, and importantly around and outside it?

Where are the conversations between teachers, administrators, parents and policy makers?

If we hang teacher feedback on “rankings” and “measures” and “video” we are missing the point about the “experience of learning” that is important to all involved.

We have a system of learning, it is called conversations. But conversations take time … in the classroom and in our everyday.

Let’s instead design a “system” that will give teachers, students, parents, administrators and learning designers the TIME to converse, share and design their own ways of learning? 

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