Learning the art of teaching

Good news: Teaching and learning are back in vogue. This brilliant article by GothamSchools’ Elizabeth Green is the latest in a series of prominent pieces that begin to pry open the “black box” of the classroom, a topic that has been largely ignored in the policy sphere in favor of structural reforms. Green asks: Can we teach good teaching? Doug Lemov, a founder of the highly-regarded Uncommon Schools chain of charters, was plagued by the problem of “good people failing.” So he hit the data, looking for teachers whose students were excelling, and then interviewed, observed, and studied these successful instructors to find specific behaviors that might be taught to other teachers. (This is very similar to Teach For America’s effort that we reported on last week.) The result is Teach Like a Champion: The 49 Techniques That Put Students on the Path to College, which will be published in April. There’s No. 22: The Cold Call, which might also be known as the Socratic Method, or No. 43: Positive Framing, which encourages commands using “do” rather than “don’t.” Lemov is seeing promising results so far. Perhaps more importantly, he’s pushing against the reform movement’s conventional wisdom that great teachers are born, not made. With three million classrooms to fill, and not enough “superstar teachers” to go around, that’s good news indeed.

Building a Better Teacher,” by Elizabeth Green, New York Times Magazine, March 7, 2010

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