Thursday, July 5, 2012

The need for practice, feedback, and reflection . . .
I like this short post from Alexander Russo's blog This Week In Education.  It has me reflecting on the need for support for emerging as well as practicing teachers.

It is time, finally, to start training teachers the way we train doctors and pilots, with intense, realistic practice... to stop saying teaching is hard work and start acting like it. -- The Atlantic's Amanda Ripley

He links to this short article in the Atlantic titled Boot Camp for Teachers that starts with a former Air Force commander suggesting it is harder being a teacher than it was being a commander.

Before the Air Force technician George Deneault flew combat missions, he had to practice—a lot. “You can’t fool around on combat aircraft.” But when Deneault retired and became a special-ed math teacher, he walked into a Virginia classroom cold. When asked which was easier—being a military commander or being a teacher—he didn’t hesitate. “Commander.”

I don't know if the answer is to implement military training practices in preparing teachers, but I agree with the need for much more practice before teachers have the primary responsibility for the learning of young people at any grade level.  The traditional student teaching model does not provide the quantity of practice necessary for prospective teachers to experience the multitude of decision making opportunities a teacher faces in any given day.  This takes practice opportunities and the support of an expert coach.  Feedback is necessary and the coach must also have the capacity to ask reflective questions so that the learner can reflect and evaluate her/his practice.

Practicing teachers also need feedback and reflection to grow their practice.  In the absence of feedback, most of us will not learn, apply, and evaluate new strategies.  We instead continue to do what we believe is right and familiar to us.  Unfortunately, the norm in our profession for emerging and practicing teachers is little feedback and little focus on reflection, something we are trying to change with our Classroom 10 goal focused on key content.

When was the last time you were asked a reflective question that made you reflect and consider the actions you took or are planning to take in a future lesson?  What was that question?  If you have recently experienced this opportunity I believe that you do remember it as well as who asked it, when it was asked, and how you responded.  These are learning opportunities that we cherish and wish for more.  Consider sharing your question in a comment to this post.

1 comment:

Scott Mitchell said...

The last time I truly reflected on my teaching was when I asked you for feedback after an observation you did in my room this last school year. I wanted to hear some feedback for someone other than my direct supervisor and we had a very good 20 minute discussion about my lesson. I wish I could remember the exact questions asked but I remember key parts of our discussion related to checking for understanding and especially wait time (SPACE), in making sure that I was not moving on too quickly. I was asking one student for answer and when the answer was wrong I just moved forward. A lot of this is because of lesson pacing with new curriculum that I was not sure how much time a lesson would take but the ret of the year I wa very cognizant of my SPACE and slowed down a little bit during my questioning time. The other discussion was around how I used checking for understanding to modify, reteach, or decide to move on. Again not knowing pacing exactly and trying to get in things before MSP made it hard this year to decide how to use this information that I gathered most days.

Mike, your authentic feedback was very welocmed, a learning/ reflective experience, and as an educator I will always have room to grow in my ability to teach students. I hope that our new evaluation system will foster a culture where everyone can embrace constructive feedback that betters us. I think many hav not had authentic feedback for many years and it will be a big culture change.