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“Future of Teaching”

January 23, 2011

  Wordle: Future of Teaching

There is a very good series of articles in Education Week on rethinking evaluation and the future of teaching.  I highly recommend reading these series for public and independent school teachers and administrators.  Many interesting ideas and provocative questions come out of this series that hopefully inform the dialogue that leads towards excellent schooling for the 21st Century.  Here are the links to the articles in the series called, Commentary Collection: The Future of Teaching.

Here is a brief summary of each and some thoughts to go alongside the author’s commentary. 

In the article, Moving Beyond Test Scores, Karen Hawley Miles & Karen Baroody, write that:

“The redesign of teacher-evaluation systems can build the foundation to transform the profession for the 21st century. But doing so requires that we design systems and surrounding structures that include but go beyond test scores, help teachers and principals identify strategies for professional improvement, and encourage teacher collaboration and teaming.”

I think they provide a strong argument for rethinking how facult evaluation is carried out.  We know students’ test scores alone are not an adequate way to measure effective teaching.  Therefore, let’s go beyond the convenient, easy indicators and design a feedback system whose foundation is built on diverse and reliable components.  Teaching and learning are complex practices that cannot be measured solely on student achievement scores.   (see my other blog entries, Measuring Good Teaching by Student Test Scores and Meaningful Faculty Evaluation).

For me this diagram summarizes much of what Miles and Baroody are saying in their commentary.

They argue that this data, along with other data that effects student learning, should be used to influence faculty compensation, but more importantly, it should be used to:

“provide critical data to the teacher, his or her principal, and the district. Such data would inform a wide range of other human-capital decisions, including job and team assignment, support, professional development, coaching needs, and opportunities for additional responsibilities and promotion.”

This type of process is more comprehensive and fair to teachers. 

In the commentary by Will Richardson entitled, Teachers as Learners, he comes right out and says teaching as we know it needs to change:

“So what does this mean for “teaching” as we know it? Well, it means the days of the adult in the room being the all-knowing expert and arbiter of knowledge are pretty much over—as they should be.”

He goes on to say that content taught by teachers in classrooms is an important ingredient of a 21st Century classroom; however, access ready access to huge stores of information should cause us to rethink the traditional model.  Richardson captures the change we are looking for with this statement:

“In the future, although it’s already happening in some classrooms today, the best teachers will be connected to educators and learners from around the globe, and, in turn, they will connect their students to educators and learners. They’ll share their own knowledge and thinking widely—embracing the power of transparency in thought and practice while skillfully mitigating the dangers of their and others’ visibility.  (see his blog entry, A New Culture of Learning)”

See my blog post, Promoting a Culture of Learning with Faculty, for another perspective on this idea.  Richardson makes a clear statement that in order to promote learning with students, faculty need to be learners as well and schools need to give faculty time to learn together.  A professional learning community is a powerful way to make this happen.

In Westminster’s JHS, I was able to sit in on a Math PLC the other day.  Teachers were discussing and formulating their essential learnings and learning targets in preparation for building a comprehensive scope and sequence from 6th grade through 8th grade math.  This PLC of about 8 JHS math teachers meets four days a week for a total of about four hours.  Deep, sustained learning can take place in this setting and greatly impact student learning.  Teacher as learner is a powerful model for improving schools.  (see the JHS Principal’s blog on PLCs, It’s About Learning).

The next article, We Can Create the Profession Students Need, by Barnett Berry, President of the Center for Teacher Quality, addresses the historical context that has shaped how we look at the teaching profession.  This statement illustrates the challenge we face in elevating our profession. 

“As we enter the 21st century’s second decade, education decisionmakers still opt for a patchwork teaching policy that often lowers entry standards to keep salaries and preparation costs down—and judges teacher performance using a narrow band of data from standardized tests built upon 100-year-old principles of teaching and learning.”

Certainly, Miles and Baroody’s article addresses the concern that our narrow view of how to measure or define good teaching is still wrapped around student performance on standardized tests scores.  What if an oncologist’s effectiveness was only measured by a patient’s survival on a scale of survivability?  Our politicians would never dream of regulating medical professionals in this way.

Berry and his team, 2030 TeachersSolutions Team sponsored by MetLife Foundation, came up with five things teachers of 21st Century learners must be able to do to meet their needs fully.

  1. Teach the Googled learner, who has grown up on virtual-reality games and can find out almost everything with a few taps of the finger;
  2. Work with a student body that’s increasingly diverse (by 2030, 40 percent of students or more will be second-language learners);
  3. Prepare kids to compete for jobs in a global marketplace where communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creative problem-solving are the “new basics”;
  4. Help students monitor their own learning using sophisticated tools to assess whether they meet high academic standards, and fine-tuning instruction when they don’t; and
  5. Connect teaching to the needs of communities as economic churn creates family and societal instability, pushing schools to integrate health and social services with academic learning.

What do you think of these five responsibilities for 21st Century teachers?

Click to Take the Survey

At the conclusion of the article, Berry writes about the four emergent realities and the levers that will help transform our thinking in education.  The six levers are:

  • investing in public engagement
  • rethinking school finance systems
  • transforming teacher education
  • cultivating improved working conditions to teach effectively
  • reframing accountability to promote 21st-century student learning
  • morphing teachers’ unions into professional guilds

In their article, New Teachers Are the New Majority, Coggins and Peske argue that the landscape of the teaching profession is changing dramatically.  While schools are senority-driven cultures:

“Teachers with 10 or fewer years’ experience now constitute over 52 percent of our teaching force. This incoming group has the potential to shape how we educate children for the next several decades.”

Will these younger educators be able to lead forward, helping to create the innovation that is required for the 21st Century learner?   This is complicated by the fact that new teacher programs like Teach for America prepare some of the brightest to teach in challenging urban schools; however, the statistics on their retention in the profession are abysmal.   Valerie Strauss, in her Washington Post article, A New Look at Teach for America, writes: 

“More than 50 percent of Teach for America teachers leave after two years and more than 80 percent leave after three years. [About half of all teachers nationwide quit after five years, according to the National Education Association.”

Coggins and Peske are involved with Teach Plus, an organization that is trying to “amplify the voice of a new generation of teachers.”   Their Teaching Policy Fellowship and the T+ Network connects thousands of young teachers directly with policymakers.  They are working with teacher leaders across the country to try and implement change in the way educational systems operate or the assumptions upon which they operate.  The authors point out that this new generation of teachers has grown up in an educational system with standards and accountability.  That is all they know, but they can be a strong voice in the change that is necessary.

“Young teachers across the nation have a responsibility to be the change they seek.”

 Echoing on themes from the other articles, in Toward Greater, More Equitable Access to an Excellent Education, Miller-Lane and Affolter write

“We have reached a moment in our educational history in which the relentless pressure to embrace standardized testing is closing the spaces where real teaching and learning can occur—and so there is an urgent need to respond.”

In our response to reimagine our educational system to prepare students for the 21st Century with a challenging and global focused curriculum, they believe the time has come to

“renew our commitment to ensuring that all students have access to a world-class, intellectually challenging curriculum.”

The authors quote the words of U.S. Secretary of Education, Arnie Duncan, who compared education in 2009 to “the civil rights issue of our generation.”  We will need to exercise courage to change those aspects of our traditional school model that are not meeting students’ needs in the 21st Century.  We should look at the curriculum, the pedagogy, the space, the use of time during the day, and the use of time during the year.  With virtual classrooms, online learning, and access to knowledge 24/7 it is possible that schools as we now know them, factory-style institutions, may become obsolete within the next generation. 

If these ideas have peeked your interest, I would strongly urge you to read these five articles and see what you think about the need for change in the way we teach and the way students learn.

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