Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Improving our Practice "on purpose"

"Schooling by Design" Wiggins and McTighe, Chapter 4: How Should Teaching Be Appropriately Depersonalized? (p. 111)

"Indeed, schooling and reform have been hindered by the view that it is most "professional" if individual teachers decide for themselves how to teach. The result is not merely an inconsistent array of unexamined approaches to instruction (as if medicine were still what any country doctor 200 years ago thought it should be); a more harmful effect is that any critique of teaching inevitably is seen as an attack on teachers."

From "Craft Knowledge: The Road to Transforming Schools" by Deanna Burney (From page 2 of the journal article:)

"Usually, though, craft knowledge is confined to isolated classrooms, where individual teachers keep a tight grip on instruction and student learning. Our education system, quite simply, does not invest in the cultivation and dissemination of craft knowledge. Schools and school systems are not learning communities. But teachers have a right to investments in their professional development as well as a responsibility to reflect on their work, build their knowledge, share it with others, and pay attention to what others are learning. School systems have an obligation to provide the conditions that will foster this learning, because it is the only way we will continuously improve instruction instead of spinning our wheels."




4 comments:

Anonymous said...

We hold up the 'autonomy' card whenever we have something being imposed upon us from outside sources. Unfortunately, this has created a climate where we isolate ourselves from discussing classroom practice in light of current research into learning and education. I like the comment on 'responsibility to reflect on their work, build their knowledge, share it with others, and pay attention to what others are learning.' It is from the exchange of ideas that I've grown the most, not just in my interacting with my students, personal research and reflection within my classroom.

Fred

This blog could be an avenue of stimulating the exchange if we can get some more traffic in the post-post discussions.

Ms. Panas said...

I agree with the premise of the article--there are ways to "do" teaching that are in line with research, and ways that are not (or are in line with outdated research). Those of us who already feel that our practice is research-based are generally able to suss each other out and reinforce what we do as well as learn from one another. But is there anything in the article that talks about HOW to help teachers improve their practice while preserving their individuality, dignity, and boundaries?

As someone who has struggled mightily with some concepts and practices (and who still struggles, sometimes to the point of tears), I can understand that some teachers feel attacked when they are challenged, however gently and supportively, to make changes to their practice. Simply giving teachers an article, a template, or a book to read is not going to result in fundamental shifts in practice.

What has worked for me are several factors: a long-term connection with a respected mentor; long-term membership in a study group (SSLN); access/exposure to good resources; planning, presenting, and writing with a consistent group of colleagues; and repetition and reinforcement of big ideas through all those venues. It is the combination of study, support, and challenging (but doable!) tasks that has made the shifts in my practice possible.

What has worked for others who have made shifts in their practice? What do we have in place in the school, district, and beyond to support people who want to make changes in practice? How can we respectfully introduce reluctant teachers to these concepts? How do we move beyond our "little kingdoms" (or queendoms) to become communities of learners, without judgment?

Joanne

ordinary vices said...

School systems have an obligation to provide the conditions that will foster this learning, because it is the only way we will continuously improve instruction instead of spinning our wheels."

I found this to an interesting part of the quote. With the inclusion report in the elephant in the room is what to do with it both in the short term and long term.

a couple items stand out in documents that I have seen

1) learning as a system rather than individuals and that collective learning is necessary for the enhancement of our ability to provide appropriate learning opportunities.

2) the most fundamental form of support for all students is the curriculum in the classroom and the instructional approach taken by the teacher. Adapted and modified...is the most important form of support.

These to me are comments that are supporting a clear organizational stance that means that educators cross the bridge to students rather than the current organizational stance which has students cross the bridge and meet the teacher's needs...This organizational stance implies that we have a solution in advance to any possibility that might come up is a classroom.

I don't know if the people in the RSB are serious about these comments..if they are I could get excited.

Tim

Anonymous said...

Administration is fighting a continual balancing act of politics, finances and educational needs. There responses are often biased to one of these three platforms at any one time despite what they have to say publicly. It is my experience though that, when a good educational innovation / program / process / partnership is in progress, they will do everything in their power to keep it viable.

We have an opportunity to keep our discussions going electronically and through study groups or department and especially between teachers to maintain our growth in understanding learning, engaging learners and assessing wisely.

Intentionality happens when we have others helping to see with different lenses and to remind us of what's important.

Like Brenda in Resource reminding me of a fifth category I had missed in communicating to and meeting diverse student needs better . . . to talk less. So I'll end now and let others comment.

Fred