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In the first chapter, we argue that skillful teaching is the missing element in school reform efforts, and we outline the seven complex knowledge areas we believe are required for skill- ful teaching. The Skillful Teacher addresses one of those complex knowledge areas: generic pedagogy. The second chapter describes The Skillful Teacher Framework, an intuitive structure for organizing this knowledge and capturing future new knowledge. It is a framework that provides educators with a common language and concept system for enabling this complex and critical work in classrooms across the country. The remaining chapters step through each component of The Skillful Teacher Framework. You can read this book sequentially, chapter by chapter, or go straight to a chapter on a particular component of skillful teaching you want to focus on.


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T H E S K I L L F U L T E A C H E Rvi


We hope, through this book, to build a common language and concept system for talking about teaching—not a dictionary of jargon, but a set of important and meaningful concepts about teaching that all educators can begin to use in common. Having language and shared vocabulary to describe what one does creates more conscious awareness of the most subtle aspects of practice, expands one’s lenses for noticing causal relationships, and illuminates opportunities to constructively and creatively adjust and modify practice to achieve our goals. Furthermore, if we can better understand each other—speaking and writing in clear, meaningful terms—then we can expect observation write- ups and evaluations of teaching to be more useful, supervision conferences to be more specific and productive, and staff development programs to be more focused.

We might also expect some of the barriers of isolation and loneliness between teachers to come down. We might expect conversation in teachers’ rooms and other meeting places to be more open, more mutually helpful, and more about instruction. With a common professional knowledge base, discuss- ing problems with each other might seem less an admission of personal inadequacy and more a mat- ter of a professional challenge to tackle with knowledge and skills.

In undergraduate teacher education courses, student teaching, and graduate seminars, this same fo- cus on skills and the development of common technical understandings should find a place. Technical understanding of teaching casts no aspersions on the importance of humanism, child development, or detailed knowledge of age- and grade-specific content, methods, and materials. Student teachers in the primary grades, for example, would do well to know about unifix cubes and how to use them to teach place value. Similarly, student teachers in high school social studies would do well to know about TCI’s “History Alive” units (www.teachtci.com) and the excellent units of the DBQ Project (www.dbqproject.com). But teacher training (and in-service training) already deals with these things. In our development as a profession, it is time to deal with teaching itself.

This 7th edition of The Skillful Teacher has been updated and revised to reflect our knowledge of successful new practices and recent research. Enhanced content for each chapter, such as videos, ad- ditional reference materials, and practice exercises, is available for registered readers on The Skillful Teacher website at www.RBTeach.com/TST7. These resources are indicated throughout the book by icons in the margins. A lightbulb highlights a “truth” about skillful teaching and a check mark sug- gests a skillful practice. Please visit the website regularly, as we will be updating the content with new material of interest to our readers.

We hope you will find this new edition of The Skillful Teacher both instructive and inspiring.





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A book that attempts to synthesize as much information as this one is obviously indebted to a host of practitioners, researchers, and thought leaders. The reference list at the end of the book reflects the range of authors who have influenced our thinking. First and foremost, we extend our gratitude to the team of Research for Better Teaching, Inc. (RBT) colleagues and consultants, some of whom have dedicated more than half of their ca- reers to studying, teaching, contributing to, and disseminating this body of work and continue with us today (Deb Reed, Alexander Platt, Marcia Booth, Ken Chapman, Ann Stern, Caroline Tripp, Jim Warnock), others who have joined RBT more recently as valued consultants (Jan Burres, Laura Cooper, Renee DeWald, Reena Freedman, Elizabeth Imende, Nancy Love, Sue McGregor, Harriet Scarborough, Ruth Sernak, Kathy Spencer, Aminata Umoja, DeNelle West), and still others who have either retired from RBT or continued to work in the field in other ca- pacities (Greg Ciardi, Maxine Minkoff, Ned Paulsen, Laura Porter, Fran Prolman, Paula Ruth- erford, Mary Sterling, Louise Thompson, and Bruce Wellman).

Over the course of more than 40 years, we and these RBT consultants have had the privilege of working with hundreds of thousands of practitioners who have opened their classrooms to us, shared their practice and their insights, bravely explored and experimented with concepts within The Skillful Teacher Framework, and openly shared their successes and their struggles. We are indebted to each of them for the ways in which they contributed to the growth of this professional knowledge base. And in this edition, in particular, we appreciate the contributions by classroom teachers Danielle Berwick, Meghan Conley, Danielle Conway, and Michael Scal- ise, who were kind enough to share with us some of their classroom routines.

In addition, Dr. Tiffany Pogue of Albany State University provided subtle and valuable sugges- tions for the new chapter on cultural proficiency. We’re very grateful to her.

We thank the many educators in Brookline, Cambridge, Carlisle, Concord, and Newton, Mas- sachusetts, whose participation in our early observational studies contributed to the original conceptual framework for this book. Specifically, Ginny Chalmers, Susan-Jo Russell, Suzanne Stuart, and Risa Whitehead opened their classrooms to us and held many important discus- sions with us about teaching. Peggy McNeill MacMullen was an invaluable part of the early brain trust that developed The Skillful Teacher Framework.






Ann Ballantine brought to the project a rare combination of editing, book production skills, and project management. Her commitment to our mission was responsible for great work above and beyond the call of duty.

Leah Conn’s editing and additions to the exercises and videos associated with each chapter will be prized by those who use these online resources on The Skillful Teacher website.

Suzanne Peterman of Top Dog Design brought new graphics and refined formatting skills to the book design.

Ivy Schutt managed permissions and editing work with diligence and excellence.

Carole Fiorentino was a skilled detective in tracking down hard-to-find references to be sure we were accurate and up to date.

Finally, we especially want to thank our spouses and families for their continuing support and un- derstanding of the often demanding schedules of our work to advance the professionalization of teaching.



About the Authors

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About the Authors

Jon Saphier founded Research for Better Teaching, Inc. (RBT) in 1979, after 10 years as a teacher, instructional coach, and administrator. RBT is an educational consulting organiza- tion dedicated to improving classroom teaching and school leadership throughout the United States and internationally. He has led large-scale district improvement projects and has forged working alliances among superintendents, teacher union leaders, and school boards in school districts such as Montgomery County, Maryland; Eugene, Oregon; and Brockton, Revere, and Attleboro in Massachusetts. He is an annual guest instructor for The Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Achievement Gap Institute and is a well-known keynote speaker on high- expertise teaching, school leadership, and related education topics. Dr. Saphier is an author of eight books on education, including The Skillful Teacher, now its 7th edition. Other publica- tions include High Expectations Teaching, How to Bring Vision to School Improvement, and John Adams’ Promise. Dr. Saphier holds an Ed.D. from Boston University, M.Ed. from University of Massachusetts, M.S. from London School of Economics, and a B.A. from Amherst College.

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