Friday, October 5, 2018

Modeling on the Classroom Canvas

Teaching and learning are social activities, supported through interaction with others. In earlier times, most of the world’s work was learned through apprenticeship. The wheelwright, the farrier, the carpenter, all learned the art and science of their professions by watching and listening to skillful practitioners.  A decade ago, Marzana published the book The Art and Science of Teaching, stating that although instructional strategies should clearly be based on sound science and research, knowing when to use them and with whom is more of an art. The chemistry of a successful classroom can’t be reduced to a formula, and instructional decisions must be based on continuous feedback loops that demonstrate our students’ strengths and needs.

I was chatting with a coach this week who is also an art enthusiast; she particularly loves Van Gough, and learned that Van Gough’s study of color theory inspired his adventurous use of color.  Understanding the laws of color allowed for their unique application. This is true of teaching, too. 

When coaches model, they convey this blend of science and art. They use best practices flexibly and uniquely with real students in the complex chemistry of a classroom.  Teachers participate in an apprenticeship as they see this blend in action and as we dissect it together through conversations before and after.

The educational theorist Albert Bandura described four principles of social learning that apply to modeling: attention, retention, reproduction, and motivation.  Learning from a model requires focused attention; it’s helpful to determine a focus with the teacher before modeling a lesson. Retention is demonstrated through the ability to recall the modeling later, when a similar situation arises. Rather than using Bandura’s term “reproduction,” which implies imitation, I prefer “adaptation,” or “appropriation.”  Teachers make it their own, recognizing that no two learning situations are exactly alike. This is where the art comes in.  The final aspect, motivation, is spontaneous when teachers see the effectiveness of the practices modelled.

The brush strokes of an effective lesson blend the know-how of the profession with the originality of the teacher.  Modeling on the “canvas” of the teachers’ classroom is apprenticeship that demonstrates the instructional blend of science and art.

This week, you might want to take a look at:

This podcast about project-based learning:

How coaches can support a “future ready” school environment:

Nourishing self and others:

Tips for including instructional assistants in PLC’s:

Helpful phrases for redirecting students (meant for parents, but they work for teachers, too!):

That’s it for this week.  Happy Coaching!

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