Wednesday, September 26, 2012
Cycles within cycles
How often does a teacher repeat what she does? A course of lesson plans is repeated once a year. The process of preparing to teach a day's lesson occurs daily. The behaviors involved in managing the activities in the classroom occur on a minute by minute basis. What is the relative importance of each of these? If a teacher's teaching is to improve, which timescale is most important to focus on?
All of the timescales are necessary for effective teaching. The shortest timescales probably have the greatest effect because they are repeated most often. They also have the benefit of becoming habits, executed without conscious attention, because they are repeated so often.
Ultimately, the longest timescales are the most meaningful. If a course is taught expertly on a minute by minute and day by day basis, but the course covers practical applications of astrology or phlogiston theory, the entire course is still a total waste of time.
What separates the best teachers from the worst? Typically, it is the short cycles. The long cycles tend to be handled at higher levels. States mandate learning objectives. Textbooks organize bodies of knowledge.
A teacher who has little control in the classroom will be ineffective. A teacher who fails to plan and prepare each day will waste students' time. A teacher who fails to provide timely feedback to students will miss critical opportunities for helping those students build their understanding.
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