Ronald GallimoreEveryone's a teacher to someone (John Wooden)

Implementation Woes for Common Core State Standards

Gallimore, R. & Hiebert, J. (2014). Red Flags on the road to Common Core State Standards Reform. Teachers College Record, Date Published: February 28, 2014 ID Number: 17451.

Implementation is a challenging phase of education reform. In many locales, the rush is on to quickly implement the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). In some districts, textbooks and curriculum materials were delivered only days before school began. Many offered only minimal professional development to help teachers understand what kind of student learning the new standards aim for, and to develop new forms of instruction to support that learning. Despite these circumstances, teachers were still expected to teach the CCSS, and get students ready for new, more demanding assessments coming soon. In too many cases, there is little appreciation that the final, decisive implementation step is teachers planning, trying out, and revising new lessons. Week by week, in small incremental steps, change comes. Often progress is uneven, slower than anticipated, and runs afoul of “hurry-up” pressures that kill reforms before they are ever fully implemented. Evidence is mounting that incremental improvement is the best way to get lasting results –– in medicine, teaching, and industry. Even with robust support for incremental progress, it will take years of collaboration by teachers and administrators for the full benefits of CCSS to be realized. Red flags are up.


A High School Coach Mentored by John Wooden

Reflective practice and ongoing learning: a coach’s 10-year journey
Gallimore, R., Gilbert, W., & Nater, N. (2013). Reflective Practice and Ongoing Learning: A Coach’s Ten Year Journey. Reflective Practice: International and Multidisciplinary Perspectives, DOI: 10.1080/14623943.2013.868790

Commitment to ongoing learning is a hallmark of effective sport coaches. Available literature indicates: (a) coach learning inquiries have become more common but mostly conceptual not empirical; (b) the few available empirical studies provide only brief snapshots of ongoing learning efforts and seldom track learning impact; and (c) ongoing learning for sport coaches should be coach-driven and contextually-situated. To help close the gap between conceptual advice and empirical evidence, this paper shares our collective reflections on a unique, 10-year ongoing learning effort initiated and sustained by an American high school basketball coach in a suburban Midwestern community. This story is compelling, not only because of its sustained longitudinal nature, but because of the peer teaching role played by the iconic American basketball coach John Wooden. The story we tell is based on our conversations and interviews with the high school coach, media documents, systematic observation of the coach’s practice videos seven years apart, and perspectives from his school administrators and one of his former players. Ermeling’s four-feature reflective practice typology is used to frame the coach’s ongoing learning effort, and connect the story back to the coach development literature.


Ermeling tells how PLCs can connect the dots

Connect the Dots is the title of a new article by Brad Emeling, published by Learning Forward (formerly the National Staff Development Council), in the Journal of Staff Development (April, 2012, volume 33, No.2). Connect the Dots summarizes what it takes to turn schools or districts into communities of educators learning together how to sustain improvements in student achievement. Connect the Dots provides concrete guidelines to educators who want to convert PLC aspirations into functioning reality. The key, as Brad explains, is not only establishing settings for teacher teams and leaders, but strengthening the connections between settings so that each role group is focused on assisting learning of the next immediate group they directly lead or support. He means district personnel assist principals who assist school leadership teams that assist teacher teams. Each role–group takes ownership for planning for and providing assistance to the learning and productive work of the next immediate group–one month at a time. The result is a coherent system of settings functioning to improve teaching and learning.

Not only has Brad spent a decade+ building learning teams and PLCs in America, he participated in lesson study for 7 years as a teacher and administrator in Japan. As a fluent Japanese speaker he is one of the few America educators with such extensive experience with lesson study. In 2003, Brad joined a research team at UCLA and Stanford that had been researching teacher collaboration and learning teams for more than three decades.
Connect the Dots is based on Brad’s years of experience helping highly challenged schools set up learning teams that get results. The learning teams program he helps direct is based on ideas and concrete guidelines that are direct applications of 40+ years of research by Claude Goldenberg, Bill Saunders, and myself.
Personal point of privilege: The privilege was serving as Brad’s doctoral committee advisor, and as a member of the UCLA/Stanford research team on which
Connect the Dots is based. Brad’s dissertation extended the team’s work for the first time to secondary settings. After finishing his UCLA doctoral program, Dr. Ermeling helped scale the research to districts and schools across the nation.

For a PDF of Brad’s
Connect the Dots, click here.


John Wooden Taught Concepts Too

Many stories about Coach John Wooden emphasize his use of repetition as a key teaching approach. It’s true that practicing until certain actions were automatic was part of his approach. But it is not true that this was the foundation of his approach. He focused on development of players’ conceptual understanding that in combination with lots of practice led to a level of performance seldom equal in athletics.

A key goal of Wooden was the development of players who were creative, confident problem-solvers. As games progress, teams change tactics, presenting new problems by to force the opponent to play in a way it might not want to. In response to changing tactics by opponents, Wooden wanted …to be as surprised as our opponent at what my team came up with when confronted with an unexpected challenge (Nater & Gallimore, 2010, pps. 89-90).

Wooden’s goal was to teach the underlying concepts of basketball, so that when opponents surprised his players with new and different challenges they in turn surprised their coach and the other team with creative and effective solution methods.

To develop his players' capacities to “surprise” him with their solution methods during games, Wooden used a systematic pedagogical approach that he describes as the “whole-part” method.

I tried to teach according to the whole-part method. I would show them the whole thing to begin with. Then I’m going to break it down into the parts and work on the individual parts and then eventually bring them together.

(Wooden, personal communication, February 12, 2002).

There’s an interesting parallel between Coach Wooden’s pedagogy and contemporary views on teaching mathematics. It is not a perfect analogy because the subject matters are different in fundamental ways. Consider Coach Wooden’s hope “ …to be as surprised as our opponent at what my team came up with when confronted with an unexpected challenge.” The desire to be “surprised” by his players is surprisingly analogous to contemporary ideas on teaching mathematics. If students are only taught to memorize solution methods, any deviation in problem structure or form may stymie them. If they were taught to understand conceptually the underlying mathematics, they are typically better prepared to devise solution methods as the need arises.

Learning the “basics” is important; however, students who memorize facts or procedures without understanding often are not sure when or how to use what they know. In contrast, conceptual understanding enables students to deal with novel problems and settings. They can solve problems that they have not encountered before.

(National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, 2005) ).

Coach Wooden emphasized repetition of fundamentals so that his players would be resourceful, imaginative, and creative, not because he wanted them to be robots mindlessly relying on rote memory. For him, repetition is a means to an end; he firmly believed that when students understand what they are doing and can connect the ideas they are taught, they are better prepared to solve new problems as they arise in the future. He teaches that understanding and conceptual knowledge, supported by automatic mastery of fundamentals, prepares students to tackle problems of all kinds, like those they had encountered before, and novel ones, too.

For more how Coach Wooden taught concepts and used repetition to build automaticity, see Nater and Gallimore (2010), Chapter 6.