Teaching Teachers Teaching Excellence

This week’s Science has a fascinating article about a White House education-policy advisor, Steve Robinson, who is leaving the heady world of the West Wing and returning to the classroom to teach high-school biology. (If my link doesn’t work, you can access the article via CUL’s electronic journal collection (http://smu.edu/cul/apps/researchcentral/a-z.html).) His quest, one he has pursued his entire professional life, is to figure out what makes a great teacher.  Although some great teachers are born, he has concluded that most are made. His focus now is on a handful of factors:

  • know the subject matter;
  • seek and receive feedback from colleagues (and not just on selected days when you know you will be at your best;
  • seek and receive rigorous feedback; and
  • create a culture in which colleagues feel comfortable giving (and receiving) constructive criticism.

Robinson is headed for a charter school in Harlem, where there is a five-point plan for educational success:

  1. more time in the classroom,
  2. targeted interventions for students who need them,
  3. an extensive use of student performance data to improve practices,
  4. a culture of high expectations, and
  5. high-quality teaching.

My only quarrel with this list is the implication that #5 is somehow independent of #1-#4.  What is I find most intriguing is how relatively easy it would be to incorporate each of these elements into teaching at the university level.

About Thomas Mayo

AA-Law(Faculty)
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