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Pursuing Greatness

Empowering Teachers to Take Charge of Their Professional Growth

You’ve probably heard the saying that teaching is a journey.
So . . . where are you on your journey?

That question likely has more than one answer, depending on what you’re trying to get better at right now. Most teachers, if not all, have a “problem of practice” or two about their instructional planning or delivery that they’re trying to solve. That reflective journey toward improvement can be a tough road even for the best educators, often presenting navigational challenges that can leave you feeling directionless, running in circles, or even in uncharted territory.


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Pursuing Greatness Readers: Get additional resources, download a template to solve your own Problem of Practice #25, and join a conversation with the authors.

Solving problems of practice

We’re giving you the reins!

In Pursuing Greatness, five leading thinkers, consultants, and writers on teaching and learning have organized two dozen of the most common teacher problems of practice into six pathways and provided self-reflection guidance and tools to solve them. You’ll gain research-based insights into why each strategy works, tips for how to apply it, and an opportunity to reflect on how it affects your own teaching and learning.

Pete Hall, Alisa Simeral, Bryan Goodwin, Bj Stone, and Bess Scott demonstrate the power of self-reflection to help you take charge of your own professional growth, achieve deeper insights into your own strengths of practice, and get better engagement from your students.

The teacher talent development journey consists of four refinement phases along each pathway:









Your starting point on the pathways is less important than your destination:
a student-owned, teacher-guided, empowered classroom.

Book Reviews

After reading this book, I’m ready to activate my inner greatness so I can light the fire of my students’ greatness as well with practical, engaging strategies.

Wendy M. Turner2017 Delaware Teacher of the Year

If you're a school leader looking to create the conditions for curiosity in your teachers—a curiosity that starts with a problem of practice and leads to increased agency for improving their practice—look no further than Pursuing Greatness to launch the journey.

Randy Ziegenfusssuperintendent, Salisbury Township School District (PA)

Pursuing Greatness is a well-curated resource for guiding educators through intentional decision making as they navigate through their professional development. Every educator will benefit from using this book.

Caitlain B.teacher, Littleton (CO)

Pursuing Greatness will challenge the complacent, nurture the willing, and empower the committed to create learning spaces with curious learners at their core. I am buying a copy for my entire leadership team.

Marc C.principal, Germantown (MD)

A very user-friendly book designed in a way that allows every reader to take their own personal journey through the learning. Left me feeling empowered and in charge of my own professional learning.

Aaron P.principal, El Dorado Hills (CA)

Six classroom improvement pathways

Use Pursuing Greatness to begin your improvement journey on any one of these six pathways.

Start anywhere in the book with the problem of classroom practice that seems most urgent to you right now.

Nurturing a positive learning environment

Challenging students to commit to mastery-level learning

Designing engaging learning

Motivating students with feedback

Assessing for learning

Creating dynamic group learning

Information & Resources


Pursuing Greatness: Helping Teachers Solve Their Instructional Challenges

In this video, Bryan Goodwin, co-author of Pursuing Greatness: Empowering Teachers to Take Charge of Their Professional Growth, gives an overview of the 24 problems of practice the book addresses and the self-reflection guidance and tools the co-authors provide to help teachers solve them.

Pursuing Greatness: How to Self-Reflect for Professional Growth

One of the most effective, efficient ways teachers can grow their instructional skill and savvy is to learn how to self-reflect frequently, accurately, and deeply on their classroom practices. In this video, co-author Pete Hall describes the four-stage reflective cycle used in the book to help teachers better understand a problem of practice, set a growth goal, intentionally select a few new things they can try in their classrooms to get better, and then reflect on outcomes and next steps.

Contact Us

Schedule a free 30-minute consultation with one of our instructional experts to discuss your needs.

About the Authors


View or download our book synopsis to share with your school or district administration staff.

Unleashing Curiosity Quick Guide Series

Our Unleashing Curiosity guides are part of McREL’s Curiosity Works® resources. Based in part on a successful system-wide effort in Melbourne, Australia, that improved student achievement by unleashing student curiosity, these resources give teachers and school leaders tips, suggestions, and ideas to encourage professional dialogue with other teachers and increase student curiosity. Combining these insights with McREL’s analysis of best education practices from around the world, our Curiosity Works resources support a better way of transforming schools—not through top-down pressure, but through helping teachers and school leaders work together to develop shared professional expertise and leverage the power of motivation and curiosity.

The six key practices in the series are:​

  • Creating challenging learning tasks
  • Providing feedback that motivates
  • Helping students commit to mastery
  • Encouraging dynamic cooperation
  • Framing quality questions
  • Committing to assessment for learning


Classroom Instruction That Works®

Improving instruction for better student learning is about science, not guesswork. McREL’s research and analysis of hundreds of instructional strategies used in thousands of classrooms and, most importantly, their impact on student achievement, reveals which ones work best. Together, these nine best categories of instructional strategies form the heart of McREL’s Classroom Instruction That Works (CITW) books, resources, and professional learning services for teachers, instructional coaches, and school leaders worldwide. CITW gives educators a clear, consistent approach to instruction, providing recommendations and tools for developing stronger lesson plans, effective classroom delivery, and a common vocabulary for teaching and sharing of best practices across schools and districts. In addition, we help teachers use the nine strategies most effectively within a three-part instructional planning guide designed to: create the environment for learning; help students develop understanding; and help students extend and apply knowledge.


elementary classroom

Instructional Coaching

Use effective instructional coaching practices to create a unified, collegial, and supportive environment for teachers to collaboratively learn with, and from, each other. McREL can help your school or district create effective teacher teams that use peer observations and feedback to address specific instructional goals and spark innovative practices to improve overall instructional practice and support better classroom learning and management.