Lesson 1: Teaching is one of the most challenging professions
Having just finished Robin Hunter’s book, Madeline Hunter’s Mastery Teaching: Increasing Instructional Effectiveness in Elementary and Secondary Schools, I thought I would run a series of blog posts on lessons learned from reading this seminal piece on being a good teacher. Robin Hunter revised and updated Madeline Hunter’s work on the mastery teaching model in this edition. When I reference “Hunter” it will generally refer to Madeline Hunter.
Each lesson will be aligned to a chapter in the book. It will include some quotes, general takeaways and applications from my perspective. Enjoy the series!
Educators make lots of decisions every day. Hunter breaks teaching decisions into three areas:
What content to teach
So much of teaching is tied to the content we want students to know and understand. Discerning the “nice to know” versus the “need to know” content. Not all content has to be taught or learned so we have to answer the question: What content must I teach? We also end up having to decide on the order and pacing of the content. Hunter also reflects on the importance of teachers not digressing from the important content. Stay focused on the things that matter.
What students do to demonstrate they have learned
Within this decision-making sphere, the teacher is focused on student behaviors. We need to make decisions regarding the inputs and outputs tied to learning. What methods will help a student learn this content: (1) reading it; (2) listening to it; (3) discussing it with peers or the teacher; (4) observing it being modeled? Finally, what products of learning will inform the teacher that the student has mastered the learning objectives: (1) reading aloud; (2) writing about their learning; (3) creating a visual representation of what they learned; (4) analyzing information about what they learned applied to new situations; or (5) evaluating some model or case study the teacher has created. The job of the teacher is create tasks that inform the teacher that mastery has occurred. Finally, what will the teacher do if mastery has not occurred?
Implied in this first lesson is that the teacher needs to be very tight on defining the learning objectives, the targets he or she wants students to hit. This requires answering the question: the learner will….
What will the teacher do to facilitate the student learning
The last question is what will the teacher do to increase learning? This question requires that the teacher is open to investigating what types of strategies should or could be used to accelerate student learning. How do we increase student motivation to want to learn? What strategies do we use to design an environment that requires students to apply or transfer their learning to novel situations?
Robin Hunter writes:
Principles of learning constitute a powerful pharmacy of alternatives from which you can create an effective learning prescription.
Of course, this requires that the teacher is as much a learner as his or her students.
Having to make a multitude of decisions, sometimes on the spot, is what makes teaching one of the most difficult professions.