Friday, 13 June 2014

From 'Good Teacher' to 'Effective Teacher'

My last post reflected on my thoughts at the start of the Coursera MOOC on Coaching Teachers, and as it draws to a close, I have to say it has been some of the best PL I've had in a long time.

One of the big things it's prompted me to think about is how a teacher moves from being a good teacher to being an effective teacher. Good teachers are often judged on their classroom performance, implementation of school policies and respected pedagogical approaches, but effective teachers are judged on the outcomes achieved for their learners, plain and simple. So the guy that regularly gets his guitar out in a lesson for a singalong and the teacher who requires absolute silence for most of a lesson might have different approaches and classroom environments, but to judge their efficacy, it's the learners we should be focusing on. Do they learn and retain that learning over time? Can they apply the learning in appropriate contexts? Does learner feedback indicate high levels of engagement with intellectually stimulating learning experiences? Only the answers to these questions (among others) will indicate if the teacher is effective or not, regardless of what we can observe in a one-hour session plucked at random from the school year.

This post from Class Teaching (a blog I recommend to anyone who'll listen) reinforces the idea and adds to it. Consider this graphic (taken from the same blog) for a moment:

A common complaint among teachers is, 'I taught this last year and they've forgotten it. They don't remember anything!' but if we are regularly teaching 'in a spiral' with revision and revisiting being prominent features, that would surely be less of a feature. Unfortunately, the sad reality is that many curricula from around the world are so dense with content that many feel it's nigh on impossible to touch upon many standards more than once a year, but I'm thinking that the key is to prioritise according to individual learning goals and go from there. I'm not talking about unmanageable IEPs for the thirty or so kids you have in every class, but as you get to know your class through formative assessments, the areas that need more attention should become clearer and allow for a sharper focus on what's most needed. 

What is referred to as "spaced retrieval practice" is supported by research as an extremely effective method so click through to the original post for guidance on starting points on implementing this in your own classroom.

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