Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Doug Lemov on Training Teachers

Doug Lemov with an article in the WSJ recently rooted in his new book, Practice Perfect: 42 Rules for Getting Better at Getting Better (www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/111821658X/tilsoncapitalpar), and the implications for training teachers:

No one disputes that practice is the way to prepare for a cello concerto or a tennis match—complex, physically challenging activities that have to be executed without a coach's immediate direction or the chance for a do-over. But these activities are not unique. Thousands of other tasks that are done "live"—from delivering employee performance reviews to examining a patient, from hearing a customer complaint to reacting to a student's question—would benefit from practice beforehand. The problem is that we seldom think of these other kinds of work as the sort of things that can be improved by routine and repetition.

…Some of these strategies about practice are making their way into higher education. My colleague Norman Atkins, founder of the Relay Graduate School of Education in New York, likes to invoke the example of Michael Jordan, whose demanding methods of practice "reset" the habits of the Chicago Bulls and improved the team. Mr. Atkins adds, "Once you have good teachers who as a matter of course like to practice and rehearse and think, it's the most professional thing you can do. It will raise the expectations of teams in their field as well."

So his graduate school, in contrast to more theory-heavy programs, preps teachers for what they will do all day on the job. And he finds that they love it. "What they appreciate about practice is that they get immediate feedback focused on small bite-sized moves in a way they can't when they are teaching for real. And everybody gets a turn. If you swing and miss, you swing again."

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