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

Close-to-practice teacher development key to improving instruction

Ermeling, B.A. & Gallimore, R. (2014/2015). Close-to-practice learning. Educational Leadership. 72(4), 55-60. Open access at http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational_leadership/dec14/vol72/num04/Close-to-Practice_Learning.aspx

The Common Core State Standards and Next Generation Science Standards face many challenges, but none greater than this: Teachers must make the biggest instructional changes ever asked of them.

For the standards to succeed, teaching must be more than telling, and learning more than listening. Teaching must elicit, prod, and develop students' thinking and improve students' abilities to understand challenging texts, talk and write about complex ideas, and apply what they learn to solve novel problems (Ball & Forzani, 2013; Shanahan, 2013).

Changes of this magnitude require much teacher time and effort—and this work is largely invisible to everyone except teachers. For example, when working with a new math curriculum, a high school algebra teacher must plan, try out, and refine new lessons, learning through repeated trial and error what's effective for students who vary in ability and achievement levels. This is how teachers master new resources, modify instruction, and accumulate usable, classroom-ready knowledge and skills.

It will take even more time and practice for teachers to master the high-leverage teaching practices that the new standards call for. Traditional modes of professional development are too short-lived and too distant from practice to achieve significant improvements.

To produce changes in classroom instruction, the key is closer-to-practice opportunities for teachers to focus on incremental improvements in classroom instruction. Close-to-practice improvement depends on four crucial conditions:

1. Teachers are familiar with the curriculum, so they knows the concepts and skills it required them to teach.

2. Learn inquiry teaching by planning lessons for immediate use in their own classrooms. Focusing improvement activity on highly relevant, day-to-day work and pressing instructional issues bridges the gap between talk and practice and produce classroom-ready, usable knowledge.

3. Engage in deliberate study of the relationship between teaching and learning.

4. Engage in improvement work over time.

Providing teacher learning opportunities that meet these four criteria is challenging for many schools. Schools often discover that there's little guidance for how to organize and institute an effective teaching improvement process

Key to the success of new standards and assessments is the indispensable work of teachers who engage in sustained professional learning opportunities that focus on teaching and learning. The new standards have a better chance of success if we commit to steady, incremental change, what surgeon and author Atul Gawande (2007) called the "infant science of improving performance" (p. 242).


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Rich Classroom Discussion: One Way, Not The Way to Get Rich Learning.

Gallimore, R., Hiebert, J., & Ermeling, B. (2014). Rich Classroom Discussion: One Way, Not The Way to Get Rich Learning. Teachers College Record, Date Published: October 17, 2014

“Rich classroom discourse” has long been valorized by education reformers who object to teacher domination of classroom discussions. Is it greater use of RCD that is key to intellectually inspiring and challenging classrooms? Perhaps instead of focusing on increased use it’s time to ask what specific role for RCD might be realistic and yield learning outcomes educators value? The best chance for progress is to link this question to another one: how to create rich learning opportunities for achieving more advanced competencies. Strategic deployment of RCD for well-defined instructional purposes seems a more realistic vision than advocating greater use without respect for why, when, and for whom. Finding RCD’s proper role requires at least three conditions. Sustained collaboration between teachers and researchers. An ongoing study of curriculum and practice to identify pivotal rich learning opportunities (RLOs) in each unit or project and which might benefit from RCD. Supporting teacher development of the professional judgment to skillfully manage complex decisions with each population and generation of students they teach, so they deploy the best instructional choices.



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Studying Coach Wooden's Teaching

During the 1974-1975 basketball season, Roland Tharp and I spent many afternoons observing Coach John Wooden as he conducted practice on the UCLA campus. Using an observational coding scheme tailored to Coach’s teaching practices, we analyzed and published the results of our observations in Psychology Today (Tharp & Gallimore, 1976).
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In 2004, The Sports Psychologist published a followup to the original study including new materials and interpretation of 1970s investigation (Gallimore & Tharp, 2004). PDF

Swen Nater and I summarized the results of 30 years of investigating Coach Wooden’s teaching principles and practices in You Haven’t Taught Until They Have Learned (Nater & Gallimore, 2005). Some of his key approaches are summarized on this page. Read More.
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John Wooden's Timeless Lessons

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In 2003, Hank Bias called me asking about films of Coach Wooden teaching on the practice court. Hank was and still is head basketball coach. He coaches the Fairmont High’s Fairmont Firebirds of Kettering, Ohio. When he called, the team had lost 17 games, winning only 3, and Hank was thinking of leaving coaching. He called because he’d read an article Roland Tharp and I wrote about John Wooden’s teaching practices. Hank wanted films so he could learn to be a better teacher of basketball. I had made digital copies of old films Coach Wooden gave me, but I told Hank he’d have to call Coach Wooden to get permission to get copies. After some hesitation, Hank phoned Wooden who invited him out to California to talk about teaching. That began a story that some describe as “too Hollywood” to be true. But it is true, and what happened in the following years is quite a story. For ten years, beginning in 2003, I tracked Hank’s progress, visiting him twice, interviewing him in person and on the phone, and keeping up an email correspondence. Our research team recently published the first of several articles on Hank’s story. This first article describes how Hank learned to apply Wooden’s approach to steadily, continually improving his teaching, and the effects it had on him and his team. Read more about Hank and Coach Wooden: click here.
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Coach John Wooden talks about teaching

John Robert Wooden (1910 – 2010) was Head Basketball Coach at UCLA from 1948 until his retirement in 1975. Wooden’s UCLA teams earned 10 NCAA titles in 12 years, reeled off an 88-game win streak, and won 38 consecutive tournament games.
NCAA coach of the year 6 times, in 2000 he was named Men’s College Coach of the 20th Century by the Naismith Hall of Fame and ESPN. In 2003 Coach was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

When he spoke to groups, Coach Wooden often began remarks this way: “When I was teaching at UCLA…..” He believed that coaching is teaching, and that the foundation of his success as a coach was the years he spent as a high school English teacher. The Academy of Achievement site includes a video of Coach Wooden in which he describes himself as a teacher.
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