Our early childhood team has seen tremendous improvement-- in how teachers choose to interact with students, the quality of those interactions, students' academic and socioemotional growth, how teachers understand their roles, etc.-- by starting pre-service training with what they call an "execution-first" approach. Rather than learning to plan lessons, then learning some principles and doing some rehearsal around general execution strategies like "clearly explain academic content" or "give clear directions," early childhood teachers practice common structures like morning meeting (they sit in a circle, learn songs to sing, and practice singing them), read-aloud, writer's workshop, etc. This makes sense in the early childhood context-- way more sense than asking them to plan full lessons-- for a whole host of reasons, not the least of which relate to how it is developmentally appropriate to spend time with three- and four-year olds and what novice teachers do and do not remember about what it's like to be three or four.
Would this work in secondary math?
I think there's much to be learned from this approach, although I don't think high school math teachers will be singing circle time songs anytime soon. What I've been wrestling with is determining the secondary math analogues to read-aloud, writer's workshop, morning meeting, and other academic routines (note: I'm not talking about procedures, like a homework check or exit ticket or turning in papers); our elementary counterparts have their number talks, choral counting, mental math drills, etc., and our secondary literacy friends have their read-alouds, writer's workshops, Socratic seminars, etc. This Lampert et al. article helped me start to think about secondary math routines maybe as being things more like:
- setting up a problem
- discussing multiple approaches/solution strategies
- facilitating a discussion (thinking about Leinhardt & Steele's exchange routines... can't find a link)
For a while, I've been championing a learning cycle where new teachers observe veterans teaching, debrief with the veteran and with a trained facilitator/coach to analyze what they saw in the lesson, rehearse the same lesson the veteran taught, teach it to their own students, and then reflect, debrief, and receive feedback from that facilitator/coach. I was thrilled to see that it looks a lot like Michigan's proposed learning cycle, with one key difference: their learning cycle has teachers plan their own lessons (or use of a routine, not necessarily a whole lesson) between debrief/analysis and rehearsal. It makes me think about van Es and Sherin's work on noticing, which first came to my attention during a session at last year's NCTM conference on using video with pre-service teachers, and helping new teachers focus their observation on what matters-- not on how cluttered the classroom is or the posters on the wall.
I don't think I've progressed far enough in my thinking to have good questions to ask you yet... but I wanted to write this post at least for myself, to chronicle some of the sources of my thinking and the arc of how I've gotten to where I am. If you have thoughts, reactions, ideas, questions or comments though, they would be incredibly welcome as I continue to consider!