Monday, March 24, 2014

Teachers need high-quality feedback

During university I changed my major to education after becoming enamored with the process of learning and acquisition I saw in children. I've been a teacher ever since. All told, including teacher training, I've probably spent over 9000 hours in the classroom, and hundreds of others in one-on-one tutoring and the like.

I don't consider myself an expert teacher. I'm always learning more about my craft (an impetus for taking this course as well). Neither, however, do I consider myself a novice teacher.

I can't speak for people of all countries, but here in the US it seems like open season on teachers. It seems increasingly common to blame teachers for the problems in US education. It seems increasingly common for people to say teachers are just people who can't do other things well, so they teach. It seems many people think they could teach just as well as any teacher in today's schools.

Some of this criticism is surely justified. There surely are many poor teachers.

Yet as Kahneman describes, people with lots of experience teaching are really the only ones who really could have adequate expertise. Teachers who've spent 20,000 hours in the classroom, for example, would in theory be much better judges of what makes for good education. Better than students, parents, legislators, etc.

Perhaps the weakness, however, is that teachers do not often get rapid, high-quality feedback. They may know a lesson "worked" or not, but may not have time to inquire of students why it worked or didn't work. If teachers are too busy, they may not have time to reflect on those lessons that went well or went poorly. Teachers rarely have other teachers observe their classes to provide feedback: perhaps once or twice a semester, and that's being generous. Standardized tests give the illusion of teacher feedback, but that's really an availability heuristic, not a true measure of teaching effectiveness.

I wonder if more feedback (welcome or not) would be effective for bettering teaching quality. I wonder if it would be valuable for teachers to be observed by colleagues on a daily basis. What other ways could teachers get rapid, high-quality feedback so as to increase expertise?
Any thoughts?

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