So, I got a “what-if”…
What if teachers only taught half their day?
Follow me down this rabbit trail for a minute. It started with a video. This one. Watch it if you haven’t already.
It’s kind of long, sorry about that.
So, technology isn’t a game-changer. That’s because it doesn’t change the game. It’s a different strategy to bring to the same game. Instructional technology is just that: INSTRUCTIONAL. You don’t change the game by changing INSTRUCTION.
You change the game by changing LEARNING. That’s where the revolution comes from. It’s fair to say that one definitely leads to the other and it certainly isn’t valuable to separate those two practically Siamese educational activities. Teaching and Learning.
So I began to ask myself, what produces high amounts of learning? Well, at the risk of oversimplifying: good teaching. And good teaching rests on foundation of good lesson-planning and good lesson design.
In fact, according to L. Dee Fink of the University of Oklahoma, “designing and managing an instructional event” is the “most crucial” quality in “ensuring whether or not students have a significant (rather than a boring or trite) learning experience”.
That having been said, take a look at The University of Michigan Center for Research on Teaching and Learning’s Guide for Effective Lesson Planning. Many seasoned teachers look at that list of super important items and chuckle to themselves at how no one in the teaching profession has time to put that kind of detail into their lessons.
We have created a situation where the people who have the most impact on the learning don’t have the ability to do the thing that research suggests will have the largest impact on the learning.
Well, what are they doing instead?
Well, here’s an infographic. (I’m not sure if infographics count as “citing research” or not, I’ll let that come out as critiques as my peers review my blog posts, but I think the point is well made.) In a typical work day, teachers spend the majority of their time instructing students, which might seem like a no-brainer except they have to teach them something. The typical processes include using instructional materials (which have to be chosen or designed) and giving assessments (which need to be chosen or designed, and then graded and returned with feedback.) Without those things, we don’t see learning. And learning is the goal.
Which means this super-important lesson design work, which has to be done for high amounts of learning to occur, is not given sufficient time within the typical teacher’s day. Most days it isn’t given ANY time in the teacher’s day. Or it is given time that is supplanting family time, relax time, or hobby time. That isn’t just me being sympathetic. Those things keep teachers from getting burned out.
So, you can’t really change the job of teaching. It is all of those things and not because we chose them to be.
But our culture doesn’t need teachers who lesson plan. It needs teachers who lesson plan WELL. It doesn’t need teachers who assess learning and give feedback. It needs teachers who assess learning WELL and give GOOD feedback. It doesn’t need teachers who reach out to reluctant learners. It needs teachers who reach out to reluctant learners PERSISTENTLY and EFFECTIVELY.
Those things take time. Time our teachers don’t have because of the way our education system requires its teachers to work.
So, enter my original “what-if”. What if teachers only taught half the day?
Secondary teachers would teach three classes. or elementary teachers would teach either the morning or the afternoon. Secondary folks might have 75-80 students instead of double that, in some cases.
Then, the other half of the day, they are collaborating, researching best practices, lesson planning, giving feedback, observing each other teach, making contact with parents. Young teachers could experience real mentorship. Teachers could really reflect and really collect, look at, and examine student data.
I know, I know, I know. Money, money, money. I understand that this plan isn’t a cheap one. I get that. I don’t think this plan is going to be the next one tried. But it is simple. It is elegant. And it probably would work. And if education needs a “game-changer”, then we need to think about ACTUALLY changing the game. This plan does that.
There are teachers out there doing amazing things right now. Imagine what those folks would do if you gave them that kind of time. They wouldn’t be amazing anymore. They might just be revolutionary.