The Practice of Great Teaching

In her book “Teaching Problems and the Problems of Teaching”, master educator Magadalene Lampert gives us a glimpse of what great teaching looks like. She has practiced this herself in her math classroom and she has also developed programs at the University of Michigan and other institutions to help others become better teachers.
At its core the practice of teaching involves a teacher doing something with a student around some content to be learned. In her book, Lampert thoroughly describes exactly what the practice of teaching involves. These practices can be categorized as those between:
teacher and student – the teacher develops and deepens her relationship with the student
teacher and content – the teacher knows the content and how to teach the content
student and content – the student learns, understands and can use the content
teacher and student’s learning – the teacher helps the student understand the content

At the University of Michigan, the following high leverage teaching practices have been identified:

1.Making content explicit through explanation, modeling, representations, and examples

2.Leading a whole-class discussion

3.Eliciting and interpreting individual students’ thinking

4.Establishing norms and routines for classroom discourse central to the subject-matter domain

5.Recognizing particular common patterns of student thinking in a subject-matter domain

6.Identifying and implementing an instructional response to common patterns of student thinking

7.Teaching a lesson or segment of instruction

8.Implementing organizational routines, procedures, and strategies to support a learning environment

9.Setting up and managing small group work

10.Engaging in strategic relationship-building conversations with students

11.Setting long- and short-term learning goals for students referenced to external benchmarks

12.Appraising, choosing, and modifying tasks and texts for a specific learning goal

13.Designing a sequence of lessons toward a specific learning goal

14.Selecting and using particular methods to check understanding and monitor student learning

15.Composing, selecting, interpreting, and using information from methods of summative assessment

16.Providing oral and written feedback to students on their work

17.Communicating about a student with a parent or guardian

18.Analyzing instruction for the purpose of improving it

19.Communicating with other professionals

Using and improving these 19 practices are at the heart of great teaching, but at the same time they illustrate that it’s not a walk in the park. Please visit the University of Michigan site and pick up a copy of Lampert’s book to understand how to move towards great teaching.