Saturday, February 21, 2009

Is it Doing it Better or Thinking It Differently?

In recent discussions with teachers and school leaders about the kind of student learning they would like to see in their school and in turn the kind of teacher pedagogy needed to enable this learning, I have been asking that they not focus on what they want to do better, but rather how they might 'think differently' about what they are doing. What kinds of questions do they need to ask to promote different ways of thinking?

This has a subtle yet powerful effect on the kind of discussions about teaching and learning. I brings a greater mindfulness to what is already happening and how teachers are currently thinking about their practice. This then becomes the basis for critical reflections, grounded in their own context and experience, mediated by a rigorous dialogue.

When the emphasis is on 'doing things better' or 'being like the best teacher' the catalyst for change remains outside the lived experience of the teacher. However when opportunities are created for self awareness and thoughtfulness about practice that validates the teacher as researcher of his/her practice, an environment is created that is ripe for change and innovation.

UK education academic Peter Mortimore in his visit to Australia last year and more recently quoted in the Age Newspaper comments that 'You can't bully teachers into improving and wanting the very best....... it happens by getting them to challenge themselves to be critical of what they're doing and getting them to want to improve.... he warns of the less than effective 'top down' approaches to effect change in teacher practice but rather supporting and valuing critical and reflective teachers who are the creators and innovators of what is best practice.'

1 comment:

Paul Stewart said...

Wonderful post JL. Perhaps the culture you allude to can be partly attributed to the language we use. For some time corporations and institutions have used the phrase 'best practice' to describe something that tends to be conventional and bedded down in established criteria whereas the word 'different' has connotations which are rarely positive. Sadly, to think in a different way means to make yourself somewhat vulnerable. There are times when the alternate point of view is frowned upon especially when the business of the work day does not encourage or even allow for alternate points of view.

I agree with your sentiments absolutely but unless one is willing to accept the frustrations associated with taking a unique approach and have the patience to deal with those among among who take refuge in convention and procedure, thinking different will just equate to feeling different.