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Monday, July 17, 2017

What Does Your School's Teaching/Learning System Look/Behave Like?

As I read Darling-Hammond's book, Empowered Educators, I am focused on the question of how we might improve the professional learning system both in the school where I teach and schools throughout the state of Massachusetts.

I am struck by many points made in the book. Successful education system throughout the world have a high social regard for educators and compensate educators with competitive salaries. Further, these systems promote a research-informed and research-engaged profession. Teachers in these systems both use research and also engage in research themselves to promote optimal learning conditions and efforts to help students achieve.

In these systems, teaching is a collaborative activity or team sport. These systems foster dynamic teaching/learning networks within and outside of schools to develop effective practice. Teacher evaluation processes are used to develop educators, not punish, and teaching effectiveness is seen as an ever deepening and increasing continuum of skill, knowledge and practice efficacy. Teaching is seen as a learning profession where all teachers are continually learning to better their craft and reach. In countries where education is successful, there are typically career ladders that acknowledge teachers leadership and continued learning.

In successful systems curriculum serves as a road map not a "straitjacket" and there are systematic supports for quality teaching. Attention to the underserved, professional learning, and teaching standards are priorities with regard to funding.

Teacher quality standards that are evident in countries with successful schools include the following:
  • Strong content knowledge
  • Strong pedagogical knowledge--knowing how to teach the content to students
  • Understanding of learners and their development including language acquisition and learning differences or difficulties
  • General abilities to organize/explain ideas, observe/think diagnostically, use adaptive expertise to make judgements to meet students' needs
  • Support teaching/learning for all students
  • Fair, unbiased teaching
  • Lifelong learning
  • Collaboration with parents and other professionals with the goal of serving students
Environmental conditions that foster optimal teaching and learning are also discussed in the book. Those conditions include:
  • high quality, plentiful books, materials and computers
  • a coherent, well-designed curriculum that teachers have built together
  • a team of teachers working in tandem on similar norms and practices
  • paying attention to students' needs
  • adequate facilities and resources
To develop strong schools both teachers and policies have to be supported and developed--one cannot be successful without the other.