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There are certain beliefs about children, about professional learning, and about schools that bear heavily on a teacher’s willingness to learn, and what it is he or she feels impelled to seek to learn. BELIEFS ABOUT TEACHING KNOWLEDGE AND SKILL

1. Belief: Teaching is intellectually complex, difficult, and demanding work. The knowledge and skills required to teach successfully are on a par with that required for proficient practice in architecture, engineering, or law.

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For those who believe that teaching is intellectually complex, difficult, and de- manding and that, like any other true profession, its knowledge is based on repertoires and matching, then the doors of professional dialogue are opened wide. The need to learn with colleagues by examining situation specific ques- tions comes to the fore, as does the need to reach out for new strategies and ways of thinking in the public knowledge base (Saphier, 2005).

Think about why it is so difficult to get teachers to share their good ideas and successful practices openly at faculty meetings and other forums. Teachers who believe in the effectiveness paradigm assume there are right ways and wrong ways of doing things—effective and ineffective (or at least less effective). Sup- pose you share a successful practice that is different from what I do. The tacit inference, based on my effectiveness belief system, is that either you are right or I am. You are either showing me up or trying to tell me how to do it right, which I’m not doing now. But if a school culture has internalized the belief in the complexity of teaching and the view of professional knowledge posed in this book, then I can hear your successful practice as an interesting alternative for my consideration, not a prescription for how to do it instead of the way I employ. Thus one belief essential to fruitful teacher learning and a strong pro- fessional community is about the nature of professional knowledge itself; it is based on repertoires and matching, not effective behaviors.

Teaching is intellectually complex, difficult, and demanding work.

Essential Beliefs Schooling

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2. Belief: The nature of professional knowledge is defined by areas of performance, repertoires, and matching, not effective behaviors.

Skillful teaching requires informed and continuous decision-making based on an understanding of multiple and interconnected areas of performance, reper- toires, and matching versus learning a prescribed set of behaviors. Consequently, teachers are never finished learning. They must constantly enlarge their reper- toires, stretch their comfort zones, and develop their ability to match particular situations to reach more students with appropriate instruction.

Skillfulness in teaching derives from having large repertoires so that you are equipped to make choices in the major areas of performance that affect stu- dent learning. Once you have the repertoires, skillfulness means making choices thoughtfully based on reason, experience, and knowledge that are appropriate for a given student, situation, or curriculum.

This is the nature of professional knowledge and its use in any profession. In a profession, you have to have knowledge of your clients, your content, and the array of tools particular to your craft in order to act with expertise and get good results. So it is with teaching.

3. Belief: The knowledge bases of a professional teacher are many, diverse, and complex; skillful teaching requires systematic and continual study of these knowledge bases.

The seven knowledge bases, described in Chapter 1, include continuing devel- opment in knowledge about content, generic pedagogy, content-specific peda- gogy, children and their differences, behaviors of individuals in effective organi- zations, and communications with family and community. For purposes of the category system here, pedagogy includes the study of curriculum design and planning. All of these are important areas of teacher knowledge in addition to interactive teaching skill. Teachers must broaden their concept of professional development to include these domains and find ways to build repertoires in them.

4. Belief: The development of skillful teaching requires deep collabora- tion and non-defensive self-examination of practice in relation to student results.

We need each other in this profession. The complexity of the work requires high-functioning teams that design lessons and common formative assessments together, who do error analysis of student work, and who help each other with the design and implementation of reteaching. This kind of deep collaboration

Professional knowledge is based on repertoires and matching, not effective behaviors.

 

 

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requires more than structures and protocols. It requires skillful leadership and the interpersonal skills to build trust, safety, risk-taking, and determination to reach all the children. “All the children belong to us” is the mantra of such teams.

BELIEFS ABOUT THE LEARNING ENVIRONMENT WE CREATE

5. Belief: The total environment of a school has a powerful effect on students’ learning.

Teachers must participate actively with their colleagues to shape the school as a learning environment. They must learn how to play a role in strengthening the institution and see themselves as players beyond the classroom, responsible for the system of the school. For this to happen, interdependence and collegiality need to be built into the fabric of their working relationships. Interdependence requires that they function as both leaders and team players and that they sup- port a balance of autonomy and cohesion in curriculum and teaching practices.

Skillful teachers are leaders who take the initiative to influence colleagues to- ward ideas they value and move the school toward practices they believe will strengthen everyone. They are team players, collaborating with colleagues to improve the school and help individual students, and willing to give up some autonomy for actions implied by common visions and agreements.

The connection between teacher learning and this belief in interdependence and collegiality is that only teachers who have regular interaction with their colleagues through joint work can experience the benefit of their knowledge and the synergy of creating new knowledge with others.

6. Belief: Learning is constructed as learners assimilate new experience with prior knowledge.

Teachers who accept this belief must construct learning experiences where learners are active, applying knowledge, and reflecting on its meaning out loud or in writ- ing. It is their responsibility to create a balance between students’ time receiving new information and practicing skills and their time actively constructing, assimi- lating, and applying that information in real contexts. This implies that teachers learn a variety of models of teaching and take it on themselves to learn how to develop the influence strand of classroom climate described in Chapter 16. It par- ticularly moves them to learn skills for making students’ thinking visible and find ways to activate students’ knowledge in relation to new concepts (see Chapter 11, “Clarity”).

 

 

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It is a teacher’s professional responsibility to design an environment in which each child can succeed.

7. Belief: Learning varies with the degree to which a learner’s needs for inclusion, influence, competence, and confidence are met.

The psychological and cognitive milieu that teachers create has an enormous impact on what and how children learn. It is a teacher’s professional respon- sibility to design an environment in which each child can succeed. Such an environment is characterized by community, mutual support, risk-taking, and higher-level thinking for all. It is also characterized by explicit attention to stu- dents’ social and emotional learning.

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