Saturday, November 27, 2004

The teacher as a creative coach,

In the last year or so the Minister of Education (NZ) has been expressing the idea that it is the quality of the individual teacher that is the most important factor in a child’s learning.

You would have thought this was painfully obvious but it is none the less welcome.

There seems to be two ways to improve teaching quality. One is to research what ‘best practice’ is and then to ensure that all teachers put this into action. I guess this would be the ‘top down’ technocratic approach. The second way is for those in power to create the conditions, and to provide resources, for teacher creativity to ‘emerge’. This second way, although messier, is a more ‘organic’ approach and one that encourages teachers and schools to take ownership and responsibity for their own development. A good idea would be to identify creative teachers / schools and to have them to work together to share their ideas. To achieve this would require a ‘high trust’ environment.

I guess it requires both but whatever the sense of agency must always be with the teacher and the learner.

There is nothing new in the realization of the power of the teacher coach. And as well we already know how to do it. The good coaches of athletes do it as do the good mentors in the business world and the teachers of artists. And so have creative teachers.

All these people do their best to uncover or extend the talents of those they work with.

They lead their students to achieve things that often surprise the learners themselves and in the process create ongoing motivation and excitement. In the process they teach the importance of rigor, discipline and the need for practice and persistence. Personal effort and practice, to achieve a student selected goal, is a neglected area in many schools.

They do this by building on their student’s strengths, diagnosing problems to overcome, giving focused feedback and support, and ideas for learners to consider. This is a ‘novice / master’ relationship and one where, with time, the talented novice may outdo the master in performance. Achievement is addictive. Learning is its own reward.

Too often in school teachers focus on what students cannot do, or what the system expects them to be able to do, on their perceived weaknesses producing in the process mediocrity and compliant students who have no love of learning.

Rather than obsessing about the ‘achievement gap’ in literacy and numeracy it might be better to focus on the exploring the talents and lived experiences of these students, build on their strengths, and in the process create a need for literary and numeracy to be used. More importantly the students would learn the process of how to learn – to become the life long learners that has to be the goal for the 21stC. We need to invent a new word for this ‘learnacy!’

To achieve this schools need to focus on one student at a time and this would mean, not only recognizing the importance of the teacher, but also to transform schools so that this power can be fully realized.


Anonymous said...

A great move to futher promalgate your vision for schools to break the shackles

Bruce said...

Great to hear from you Paul - see you in 05

Anonymous said...

The trouble has been that the Ministry and the Minister haven't been able to see the wood for the trees - blinded by their own nonsense!

Creative teachers are the system's greatest under utilized resource

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