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:
- more time in the classroom,
- targeted interventions for students who need them,
- an extensive use of student performance data to improve practices,
- a culture of high expectations, and
- 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.