Bill Gates learned a lot from his bridge coach Sharon Osberg. Gates: “Sharon says there are more pictures of the back of her head than anyone else in the world. Sorry, Sharon.”

To improve upon something, we must learn, and to learn, we often seek guidance from others.

For example, Michael Jordan received hoops help from his incredible coaches Dean Smith and Phil Jackson. To sharpen his bridge skills, Bill Gates sought out the advice of professional Sharon Osberg.

But, as Gates details in his latest TED talk, teachers don’t enjoy the same luxury.

“We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve,” Gates said. “Unfortunately, there’s one group of people who get almost no systematic feedback to help them do their jobs better, and these people have one of the most important jobs in the world.”

He’s talking about the people who are so imperative to helping our students prepare for the competitive working world. In the 10-minute talk, Gates discusses how the U.S. has a very weak feedback system in place for teachers to improve upon their skills. He points to places like China, where they allow cub teachers to observe master teachers in action and have weekly study groups specifically for teachers to talk about what they’re doing right and wrong.

Here’s what Gates wrote in a blog post about the talk:

It’s amazing to think about how much coaching is given to, say, professional athletes. I have a coach who gives me feedback too. (You’ll have to watch the show if you want to know why.) But most teachers get almost no feedback at all. And the vast majority of countries that outperform us in education have some formal way to give their teachers feedback. So this is an area where innovation and investment can make a big difference for teachers and students in this country.

Gates wants America to build a teacher feedback system, and it’s why his foundation is funding the Measures of Effective Teaching project, which aims to help instructors be more effective in the classroom.

Gates was recently featured in an excellent, wide-ranging 60 Minutes piece that brought the world up to speed on Gates’ life, including efforts to eradicate disease and transform global health.

You can watch the TED talk here.

Previously on GeekWire: Gates: ‘Frustrated iPad users create opening for Microsoft

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  • Penny Pritzker

    GW – this article makes no mention of the Gates Foundation activities w/r to public education, teachers, and students. Also, it implies Gates has a benign and relevant role, where there is serious disagreement about this outside the tech community.

    Unless you plan to conduct investigative journalism that seriously addresses the GF education agenda from multiple viewpoints, and potentially criticizes GW sponsors, can you please avoid this topic?

    I respect GW and enjoy your tech coverage, but one-sided reporting on such an important, non-tech subject diminishes your credibility.

    • johnhcook

      Thanks for the feedback, and the comment.

      This was a summary of Gates’ TED talk. It was not meant to be an exhaustive look into the foundation’s work in education.

      That said, if you have more to share on this topic, we’d welcome your perspective on it. Thanks again for reading.

    • FrankCatalano

      The article actually does mention Gates Foundation-funded Measures of Effective Teaching initiative. But you’re right: the Foundation’s work is seen as controversial in many quarters, especially as it’s been co-mingled (and sometimes co-opted) by those with a political education reform agenda on both sides. I’ve noted that controversy before in my own columns for GeekWire, most recently in my piece about SXSWedu. But not every brief news item has to necessarily be an investigative piece.

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