“If you don’t have great teachers, you don’t have a great school and nothing else is going to change that.” – Todd Whitaker, What Great Teachers Do Differently.”
At an orientation earlier this week we welcomed 45 new teachers into our District. What a great day it was after spending 8 months recruiting and hiring the best teacher candidates we could find from Universities and Colleges across our country. This year we decided to keep the day short so we wouldn’t overwhelm our new recruits, so the day (which only went from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.) included welcomes and introductions, a meal, a payroll/benefits presentation, and an explanation of our new teacher website, which replaced the 2 inch thick binder we’ve handed out in the past. Our gift to them as they left was Todd Whitaker‘s book, What Great Teachers Do Differently, which we strongly encouraged each of them read before the first day of school. During our two hours together I was continually reminded of the importance of identifying and hiring the best possible teachers and then powerfully supporting them throughout their career.
A week earlier I attended a presentation by Professor John Hattie and his team who have completed extensive research on the influences on student learning. His Visible Learning research suggests that most everything we do influences student learning. The average effect size is .40 so suffice to say, if strategies from the following list are present in our schools, we will be on the right path.
This has me reflecting a lot about the 45 teachers who have joined our #GPCSD team. I believe we’ve hired some great young teachers and I would argue that most every strategy identified on this list could be replaced with the words “great teaching.” Lets take a closer look at the top 10:
Self-Report Grades – This strategy involves the teacher finding out what are the student’s expectations and pushing the learner to exceed these expectations. Once a student has performed at a level that is beyond their own expectations, he or she gains confidence in his or her learning ability.
Piagetian Programs – These programs focus on the thinking processes rather than the outcomes and do not impose the adult thinking process on children. This is done when the teacher creates and provides engaging and relevant learning experiences.
Providing Formative Evaluation - The goal of formative assessment is to monitor student learning to provide ongoing feedback that can be used by teachers to improve their teaching and by students to improve their learning.
Micro Teaching – This involves the teacher video recording a lesson with a debriefing. The lesson is reviewed in order to improve the teaching and learning experience.
Acceleration – Great teachers know how to accelerate learning for their students (not just enrich). They understand that if students are able to move on to higher levels of curriculum we should not be holding them back. Perhaps another case for moving away from grouping our students by age.
Classroom Behavioural – The best teachers build trusting relationships with their students. If they don’t know that you care, they won’t care what you know.
Comprehensive Intervention for Learning Disabled - To improve achievement teachers must provide students with tools and strategies to organize themselves as well as new material; techniques to use while reading, writing, and doing math; and systematic steps to follow when working through a learning task or reflecting upon their own learning.
Teacher Clarity - Excellent teachers clearly communicate the intentions of the lessons and the success criteria to their students. Teachers need to know the goals and success criteria of their lessons, know how well all students in their class are progressing, and know where to go next.
Reciprocal Teaching – This refers to an instructional activity in which students become the teacher in small group sessions. Teachers model, then help students learn to guide group discussions. Once students have learned the strategies, they take turns assuming the role of teacher in leading a dialogue.
Feedback - Hattie emphasizes that the most powerful feedback is that given from the student to the teacher. This feedback allows teachers to see learning through the eyes of their students. It makes learning visible and facilitates the planning of next steps. The feedback that students receive from their teachers is also vital. It enables students to progress towards challenging learning intentions and goals.
So in my opinion education researchers and authors like John Hattie and Todd Whitaker have it right. Our most important work is in supporting the right people doing the right work. If we place our energy and resources behind this simple concept, visible learning and teaching will become the norm.
Who are we looking for when we recruit?
What are our expectations of them?
How are we welcoming them into our District?
How are we supporting them throughout their career?