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Into the Classroom
Teachers are the "lone rangers" of education. They aresequestered in their classrooms, unable to see what theircolleagues are doing. All too often, good teachers have few, ifany, opportunities to share their teaching techniques with othersin their profession.
Based on the development of the Carnegie Academy for theScholarship of Teaching and Learning, Into the Classroom clearlyshows the advantages of bringing teaching into the public arena andmaking it possible for many people to see the nature and quality ofthe teaching that goes on inside schools. Once teaching is morepublic we can create unprecedented opportunities for teachers tolearn from one another and for others to participate constructivelyin supporting and improving schools.Into the Classroomoutlines the myriad issues that must be addressed in order for theteaching profession to become a true learning profession.
Into the Classroom contains well-researched recommendations forways to facilitate communication, collegiality, and informationsharing and includes suggestions for
In addition, Into the Classroom offers useful case examples ofprofessional development, and describes the policies and practicesthat help teachers to develop and share their own expertise.
Bringing Teaching Out of the Shadows
It is a fantasy, in some respects, to imagine that many people could see the work that students and teachers do in school and college classrooms or that faculty members could freely and happily exchange and discuss their work in person, in publications, or through the Internet. These remain fantasies today for a host of reasons: insufficient time, lack of resources, and limited access to technology; stubborn bureaucracies; and school cultures that reward conformity rather than creativity. Nonetheless, we can imagine what such a public system would look like and what the implications would be for students, teachers, administrators, and parents.
Putting the "Public" Back into Public Education
In a system that makes teaching public, what happens in classrooms is no longer a mystery. Teachers work together, sharing their expertise with colleagues in their own communities and across the country, and contributing to the development of a rigorously examined and constructively debated body of knowledge. Teachers from all levels, kindergarten through the Ph.D. seminar, learn from both the commonalities and the significant differences in the work of teaching that they do. Administrators and policymakers look at samples of student work from their own campuses and others, identify promising instructional innovations, and provide support targeted to the strengths and needs they see in their students and their faculty. Parents and members of the wider public can see what their children are doing in school, and they have opportunities to develop their understanding of both how well the children are doing and why they are or are not doing well. By making teaching public, the emphasis can be shifted from political accountability to public responsibility. Making such a shift, however, depends on confronting both long-standing efforts to monitor teachers and their work and pervasive assumptions about the simplicity of teaching that undermine investments in the time and resources teachers need to develop and share their expertise.
Overseen and Overlooked
Although numerous initiatives over the last century have focused on making public education accessible to everyone, the ability to see what goes on in the name of public education remains limited. Ever since Americans created the one-room schoolhouse and sent their children to it, formal education has taken place behind closed doors. In the early days of public schooling in the United States, local communities could keep a close watch and a tight rein on education by hiring, monitoring, and firing the schoolmaster (Tyack, 1974). The task may have been made easier by the fact that communities were smaller and schoolmasters could be judged on the basis of their public deportment. In a sense, community members did not have to see into the classroom to feel they knew what the teacher was doing.
As communities grew and the task of compulsory education in cities and other communities became more and more complex, communities turned to principals and superintendents to oversee and manage the work of teachers, and the development and approval of textbooks for use in many schools and communities and the explosion in the use of tests and testing early in the twentieth century provided further means to control what went on in classrooms without having to go into them.
Occasionally, often-horrified critics peered into schools to "discover" what really goes on and report it to the public (see Kozol, 1967, for example), but for the most part, over the last thirty years we have relied on test score data or other secondary sources to judge the state of education and, by implication, the work and effectiveness of teachers. We have tried to refine accountability systems by specifying more carefully what should be taught and testing more vigorously. We have invented new tests, administered them to more students more often, and attached greater consequences to the results.
Even today, as educators, policymakers, and the business community continue to launch efforts to raise standards, invent better curricula, implement "research-based" practices, and improve teacher preparation and professional development, few reform efforts reach directly into the classroom to look carefully at what teachers do. This situation is as true in colleges and universities as it is in elementary and high schools. Across the country, from kindergarten classrooms to Ph.D. seminars, we rely on relatively superficial measures to determine whether or not teachers and students are doing well. If the students are engaged (or at least quiet), test scores are high, grades good, and student evaluations strong, we assume that the class is going well, the teachers are good, and learning is taking place. But if students are active and noisy, if the scores are low, grades bad, and student evaluations weak, we assume that something's wrong, the teachers are not qualified, and learning is not taking place. However, few people-inside or outside education-have a particularly well-developed sense of the many different kinds of classroom arrangements and activities that can support student learning, and few can merely observe a class, look at a syllabus, or even review a piece of student work and determine whether or not sufficient learning is taking place.
Of course, surface indicators such as grades and test scores serve a useful and necessary purpose. They allow quick, general comparisons across students and schools. At the same time, they can be misleading. In particular, they represent teaching and learning as if the playing field is level. They provide little of the contextual information that is needed to adequately interpret those results, and in the process they suggest that context does not matter. In the world of surface indicators, teaching in a well-supported school in a wealthy area is considered to be the same as teaching in a school with limited resources in an impoverished neighborhood.
Furthermore, surface indicators really only tell us what it looks like is going on. In many cases those surface indicators may not tell the whole story. Stories about schools where students were getting good grades and seemed to be learning-but the truth turned out to be otherwise-are well known. Zavala Elementary School in Austin Texas, for example, launched a major reform effort after the principal called parents and teachers together and showed them that even though most of the students were getting good grades, many were failing on standardized tests (Murnane & Levy, 1996; Shirley, 1997). Even studies conducted with students and graduates at Harvard and MIT have shown that some students who have performed well in classes and tests in math and science leave class unable to apply their learning in common tasks such as explaining the phases of the moon (Gardner, 1991). It is as if, when trying to figure out how well a car is running, we do not bother to look under the hood.
Why Make Teaching Public?
The invisibility of teaching and the focus on overseeing teachers' work grow out of the persistent and prevailing assumptions that teaching is a relatively simple process, one that requires little more than basic skills and can be studied largely without reference to the expertise of teachers themselves. Such views fail to take into account the extent to which high-quality teaching has to be adapted to the demands of constantly evolving curricula, changing contexts, shifting demographics, and the varying strengths and needs of students (Ball, 1996; Lampert, 2001).
It is possible to imagine teachers who feel their lesson plans and curricula are so well developed, their strategies for classroom practice so refined, and their skills in interacting with students so effective that they can carry out their work almost without thinking about it. Like chess masters who have seen all the moves and know how all the games turn out, their practice has reached such a level of mastery that they can act intuitively, recognize problems automatically, and make appropriate responses with ease (Berliner, 1988). However, substantial differences exist between logical, concrete games like chess and an inherently ambiguous and unpredictable craft like teaching (Shulman, 1987; Lampert, 1985; Ball, 1996; McDonald, 1992). Teachers also must deal with the fact that conceptions of what and how students learn keep changing. These changes come about through the development of knowledge in the subject matter disciplines such as mathematics, English, and history; the development of new pedagogical approaches and techniques; and changes in policies, programs, and textbooks that are intended to help to guide teachers' instruction in the classroom. Correspondingly, over the years teachers have to make adjustments in their strategies and approaches to meet the needs and interests of changing student populations. Furthermore, at any given time classroom activity and student learning are open to interpretation (Eisner, 1998). What one teacher sees in a situation or in one student may be quite different from what others see, and, accordingly, they may respond in very different ways. Finally, the outcomes of teaching are unclear. Even with higher standards and better tests, teachers cannot be sure exactly what students will be doing in the future or that what students do in the classroom in one day or in one year will necessarily lead them to behave appropriately or act successfully in related situations in the future.
In a way, what teachers have to do is akin to playing twenty (or thirty or forty) games of chess all at once. To complicate matters, teachers cannot see all the pieces on each of the boards, and they often have to make the same move in every game (regardless of the progress of the individual matches). And teachers always pick up the game in the middle: they have to build on the "moves" of their colleagues and then pass the game on to others. Under these circumstances, mastering a finite set of moves or strategies or implementing a preordained script is not sufficient; teachers need to develop the ability to make professional judgments with limited information in uncertain environments. In doing so, teachers gain knowledge and understanding of the process of learning that others are unlikely to have and that are not easily captured in research or experiments that attempt to generalize across groups and settings. This expertise-grounded in specific situations and adapted to the needs of particular students and communities-needs to be articulated, examined, and shared.
Why Is Making Teaching Public So Hard?
Assumptions About the Nature and Work of Teaching
Limited time and rewards for reflecting on their practice and sharing it with others often leaves teachers with few regular opportunities to reflect on their work or share what they are doing in their own schools, much less with colleagues in other communities (Little, 1999, 1990; Lortie, 1975; Rosenholtz, 1989). As a consequence, many teachers lack the means and the support they need to adapt their practice to the changing conditions they constantly face or to consciously and purposely deepen their expertise and produce more sophisticated performances.
The lack of support for teachers' learning stands in marked contrast to the elaborate and sophisticated support systems that can help professionals in other fields to develop their ideas and share them with a wide range of audiences. Nowhere are these differences in support more evident than in comparing the treatment of artists and scholars with the treatment of teachers. "Uninterrupted time to work, good working conditions, and a supportive community"-that is the promise of many institutions dedicated to advancing the work of scholars and artists. In institutions for advanced study, scholars and artists learn when they work alone and without interruption, with little or no guidance from others, in a beautiful environment and a relaxed social setting; but teachers usually learn in intense courses, seminars, and workshops, in close collaboration with peers, and under the supervision of someone else (Hatch, 1998).
These drastically different approaches to the support of scholars, artists, and teachers are rooted in strikingly different perceptions of the outcomes and nature of the work that teachers and artists and scholars do and in substantial differences in the conditions and contexts in which their work is carried out. Both these differences in perceptions and contexts help to explain why there has been so little support to help make teaching public.
Advancing the Field Versus Developing Personal Skills
Advanced study programs for artists and scholars reflect the basic premise that the work of artists and scholars has a life beyond the individual that will make a difference in their fields and disciplines. In contrast, programs for teachers are based on the premise that the individual will make a difference in the lives of others. Thus many programs for artists and scholars assume that those who have been selected have the skills, expertise, and potential to make those contributions. And if those individuals need anything to advance the field (aside from time to do their own work), these programs suggest that what they need primarily is supportive and stimulating interaction with peers with whom they might not ordinarily come into contact. Consistent with these beliefs, it would be presumptuous for directors or staff to assume that they knew what the participants needed to make their breakthroughs and that programming particular activities would be counterproductive. However, programs for teachers make the assumption that, no matter how skilled and accomplished the participants are, they could be more effective if they could learn the latest ideas, techniques, or strategies developed by other experts. As a result, it makes sense to engage them explicitly in activities in which they can learn with and from others.
Doing Creative Work Versus Learning to Improve
Hand in hand with such different premises are basic differences in the way the work that artists and scholars do and the work that teachers do is perceived. "Real work" for scholars and artists includes the examination, development, and refinement of the ideas and products that reflect their art and scholarship. Although many of these individuals may also teach, teaching is usually part of the daily burden of activities from which they are relieved. In contrast, many people view the "real work" of teachers as taking place solely in the classroom in interactions with students. Work that takes place outside the classroom-whether for planning, professional development, or building relationships with colleagues and parents-is often seen as secondary (if it is considered to be work at all).
As a consequence of these different perceptions, when scholars and artists go to centers for advanced study, they are perceived as going to do their real work and getting away from the distractions and other burdens that can interfere with it; but when teachers take time out from their own classrooms, they often have to face the perception that they are getting a break from their work and from their primary responsibilities.
Working in a Public, Historical Context Versus Working in Isolated Places
The differences in advanced study programs also grow from the different conditions in which the work of artists and scholars and that of teachers is carried out. For example, although it is not always easy for young and unknown artists and scholars to get their works displayed, produced, or published, it is expected that they will do so. In areas such as the visual arts, music, and drama, professionals have the means to make their work and ideas public in galleries, museums, theaters, journals, and books. Scholars can choose from a wide array of informal lunches, job talks, meetings, presentations, conference proceedings, and publication opportunities to share their latest research with their peers. Publishing industries and institutions exist that can make their work public.
Excerpted from Into the Classroom by Thomas Hatch Excerpted by permission.
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Preface: Making Teaching Public.
Overview: Scholarship of Teaching and Learning.
Bringing Teaching Out of the Shadows.
2. In the Classroom.
Challenges and Opportunities for Learning from Teaching.
3. Beyond the Classroom.
How One Teacher’s Inquiry Can Influence Her Peers.
4. Beyond the School.
How Teachers’ Learning Can Advance the Field.
5. Knowledge Out of Practice.
Using Technology to Build on Teachers’ Expertise.