Tips for Supervisors: Give Useful Feedback.

As you might remember, I was group observed a few weeks back, as part of our district’s “professional studio” observation structure.  It was a great process, and I thought that the feedback that I recieved from all of the folks who were kind enough to offer was cogent and actionable (outside of the typical platitudes).

A friend of mine, working in a different district, well away from the one that employs me, was not quite as fortunate.  This individual was observed teaching an advanced-level genetics course to advanced-level science students.  The observation was conducted by one person, the immediate boss.  The feedback was not quite as robust as one might hope.  

Here is the relevant bit that really got my goat to the point where I asked if I could write this post.  It’s a direct quote (emphasis mine):

<Teacher> presented highly technical information to the students, and did so in a highly competent manner.  Through providing the students with additional opportunities for exposure to the materials, such as through the Khan Academy, there may be enhancement of the classroom discussions.

Wait…what?  Khan Academy for college-level genetics?  Seriously?  Not awesome.  it’s not awesome for two reasons.  First, Khan academy videos are BO-O-O-O-RING!  At least to my way of thinking about things, they are.  Black screen, colored lines, and the calming voice of Sal Khan.  You couldn’t script a worse lesson.  Who wants to sit through that nonsense for a minute, much less ten?  

But as bad as that might be, here’s the worse bit:  There are no Khan Academy videos on College-level genetics.  None at all.  The closest he gets is maybe his DNA presentation.  There doesn’t (at current), even seem to be a decent video on Gene Expression.  So, how exactly, is a teacher supposed to incorporate materials that don’t exist?  

This is bad feedback, representative of the old adage that supervisors have to put something down when they observe a lesson, just for the sake of making it seem like they are doing a good job supervising, never mind if the feedback is actually useful or representative of the shared reality that we all inhabit.  

Why, if one didn’t know better, one might think that this particular supervisor was maybe just trying to work in a couple of buzz-words just to show that they are hip to the currents of the educational scene.  Not that such things ever happen in education…

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