Halving Teacher Talk

Our college counselor, Joanna Sanborn, is married to Caleb Dolan. Back in the day, he went to one of those Maine granola colleges, Bates or Bowdoin or Colby or whatever. Now he's the director of KIPP Massachusetts...and the sometimes befuddled father of a toddler -- something Randall, Orin and I identify with. When Caleb is not searching for facilities, raising money, or competing against us to hire school leaders -- by the way, we're looking for one -- he loves coaching teachers.

And he's good at it. Our small teacher coaching experiment in New Orleans is plugging along, with some successes and some setbacks, so our team is always on the lookout for tactics. One of Caleb's tools is simple. Stop watch. Except more fancy: he uses this product. Caleb writes:

I am coaching a super talented and hard working second year teacher. It’s been thrilling to watch her improve.

This teacher’s natural exuberance, which if bottled could solve our energy crisis, combined with solid routines made her the rare first year teacher who didn’t have oodles of management struggles. However the kids didn’t knock out the end of year test in the way we anticipated.

Using my handy E-cove app to time "Teacher Talk, Student Talk, Partner Talk, and Work Time," I was able to provide baseline data on the teacher’s ration. It frequently looked like this:

Teacher Talk 60%

Student Talk 15%

Group Talk 15%

Work Time 5%

Housekeeping 5%

Caleb's coaching?

First, he steered the teacher to stop repeating student answers, so kids were talking more and listening to each other better.

Second, she began to promote more kid-to-kid dialogue by "having kids use hand signals to evaluate each others responses and then quickly calling on kids to facilitate back and forth discussion and debate."

The result?

These two behaviors and a deliberate observation and feedback cycle resulted in a ratio that looked like this

Teacher Talk 30%

Student Talk 20%

Group Talk 20%

Work Time 25%

Housekeeping 5%

I know I would benefit from this type of coaching. Mike G talk versus Other People talk is always skewed towards: too much me.

So far as Caleb can tell, it seems like the better ratio is leading to kids learning more. Read the whole thing here.