"Unconsciously Competent"

Jonathan Bassett teaches history at Newton North High School. Newton is a suburb of Boston. Their school district is regarded as among Massachusetts's best. It's not a world I know well. One of his students described him as "Quirky, sarcastic, and HILARIOUS! He'll make you burst out laughing with his analogies. He's a pretty tough/picky grader though."

Heck, I would like to be described that way. My own evaluations are closer to "Quirky, sarcastic, and lurches between micro-managing and emotionally distant." And that's just Pru!

Jon is also the history department chair, and he runs Newton Teacher Residency.* NTR is a small program where a few veteran teachers train a few novices each year.

Jon writes:

One of our main insights into this challenge is that excellent (high school) teachers are often “unconsciously competent” about much of what they do in the classroom, and especially about planning and preparation.

It can be difficult for them to make all the components of their competence explicit and visible for the licensure candidates. It can also be difficult for supervising practitioners to effectively calibrate their coaching to match the needs of the candidate at any given point.

...In essence, we have found that teaching teachers is a discrete skill, related to but not the same as teaching students or reflecting on teaching.

It reminds me of something from this paper. It's called Journey to High Level Performance: Using Knowledge on the Novice-Expert Trajectory To Enhance Higher Education Training

The Development of Automaticity

The well-documented development of automatic routines among experts (for example, Posner and Snyder, 1979; Procter and Vu, 2006) may be a key reason for the difficulty experts have in articulating their knowledge to novice audiences (Matthews et al, 2000). The development of automaticity seems to be a phenomenon that prevails across all domains.

The gradual transformation of knowledge from explicit and conscious to tacit and unconscious means that experts do not always know just how much expertise they possess. They may underestimate the amount of basic information that novices require to begin developing proficiency in the field.

In addition, even where experts do realise the importance of basic, introductory information, they often encounter significant difficulties in articulating this information in ways that can be understood and used by novices.

NTR is small. But the model makes sense to me for suburban and rural schools. There are about 10,000 small suburban and rural school districts. There are perhaps 200,000 new teachers trained each year.

What if the each of those districts trained** 5 to 10 teachers per year?

*JB is on our Ed School board; I'm on the NTR board.

**Somehow freed of the vexing regulations that govern teacher prep today; the cost of compliance is otherwise way too high.