Teaching the Teachers

The Economist, as only that magazine can, covered the vast world of teacher training and good classroom practice a couple of weeks ago with a cover story titled “How to Make a teacher.” Succinctly put — and anything else would be a mis-step considering the publication in question — the article is topnotch. A few pages of perfect summation.

I would add — with some pride and enthusiasm — that the story features our very own Sposato GSE (Scott and Orin pontificate and profess at various points in the article, and one of our Match Teacher Residents is quoted), our good friends at Relay GSE (Doug Lemov, notably) from whom we continue to learn and with whom we collaborate all the time, and several of the leading researchers and writers in our space who have pushed us over the years (Tom Kane, Roland Fryer, Elizabeth Green, Erik Hanushek).  

In short, the little corner of the teacher training and instructional design world to which we belong just flew out to the masses on the cover of The Economist. Feels pretty good.

You can see the whole article here or here (on our website).  It’s a great read, truly. Below are some of the best bits:

  • In a study updated last year, John Hattie of the University of Melbourne crunched the results of more than 65,000 research papers on the effects of hundreds of interventions on the learning of 250m pupils. He found that aspects of schools that parents care about a lot, such as class sizes, uniforms and streaming by ability, make little or no difference to whether children learn (see chart). What matters is “teacher expertise”.
  • Thomas Kane of Harvard University estimates that if African-American children were all taught by the top 25% of teachers, the gap between blacks and whites would close within eight years.
  • The new teaching schools [Sposato GSE, Relay GSE] believe that those skills which teachers now pick up haphazardly can be systematically imparted in advance. 
  • After finishing an undergraduate degree in education “I didn’t feel I was anywhere near ready,” says Jazmine Wheeler, now a first-year student at the Sposato Graduate School of Education, which grew out of the Match charter schools in Boston.
  • Trainees at Sposato undertake residencies at Match schools. They spend 20 hours per week studying and practising, and 40-50 tutoring or assisting teachers. Mr Gutlerner says that the most powerful predictor of residents’ success is how well they respond to the feedback they get after classes.  “We have thought a lot about how to teach 22-year-olds,” says Scott McCue, who runs Sposato. He and his colleagues have crunched good teaching into a “taxonomy” of things to do and say.