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Bill Gates: Good Feedback Is the Key to Improvement

The world's richest man says everyone needs feedback beyond one-word descriptors.
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Bill Gates, who recently reclaimed the title of the richest man in the world, took to the stage earlier this month for a TED talk on one of his pet causes: improving the quality of education. Specifically, the Microsoft creator focused on the need of quality feedback for teachers. 

"We all need people who will give us feedback. That's how we improve," Gates told the audience. He continued:  

"When Melinda and I learned how little useful feedback most teachers get, we were blown away. 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. How would I know who was the best? How would I know what I was doing differently?"

Gates feels thorough peer evaluations, as well as evaluations of teachers by students, might help teachers improve in their career. As an example, Gates used the high-achieving province of Shanghai, China, noting their key to success has been "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."

In other words, real dialogue engendered real feedback.

Like teachers, employees need feedback from their boss. Rather than rely on impersonal one-word evalutations, identify specific aspects of the job workers need to improve on.

How have you helped your employees improve?  

Last updated: May 17, 2013

JANA KASPERKEVIC | Staff Writer

Jana Kasperkevic is a graduate of Baruch College, City University of New York, where she earned a bachelors degree in Journalism and Political Science. She covers start-ups, small businesses, and entrepreneurship for Inc. Her work has appeared in The Village Voice, InvestmentNews, Business Insider, and Houston Chronicle, among others. She lives in Brooklyn.




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