Last week, Mikkel Storaasli, over at “Surely, You Can’t Be Serious,” blogged about his crosswalk between The 12 Touchstones of Good Teaching: A Checklist for Staying Focused Every Day (which I co-wrote with Elizabeth Hubbell) and Charlotte Danielson’s Framework for Teaching.
First, I admire anyone who riffs on one of the funnier lines from the old Airplane movie in the masthead of his blog. More important, though, I appreciate his in-depth analysis of the links between the 12 touchstones and the Danielson framework.
I was struck by Storaasli’s keen observation that the similarities between the two frameworks are reassuring, given that they are both based on research.
This is as it should be. In fact, it’s the point of research—to offer clarity about what’s most important, based on evidence. Over the past few decades, we’ve accumulated an impressive body of knowledge about what good teaching looks like in the classroom. In so doing, we have begun moving away from the old days of hunches, intuition, and ideology driving what we do in schools.
Years ago, Chris Whittle observed in the book, Crash Course, that, in other arenas, we’ve learned to build one improvement on the next. In technology, for example, software and cell phones follow a predictable pattern of Version 1.0, 2.0, and so on.
For too long, though, education has been marked not so much by a pattern of incremental improvement, but rather by a swinging pendulum. We’ve lurched from one untested idea to the next—explicit instruction, inquiry-based instruction, whole language, phonics only—the list goes on and on. The point of research is to sift through various approaches to identify what has worked and what hasn’t, so we can lock in what we know works most of the time. Only then should we explore those edges where further improvements in professional practice are necessary.
Storaasli is right. There is a lot of agreement among researchers about what good teaching looks like, but what this growing science of teaching and learning also suggests is that teaching is not easy. Contrary to the tired canards floating around out there, not just anyone can teach. As we observe in the 12 Touchstones, becoming a truly great teacher, as with any true profession, can be a lifelong endeavor, one that takes commitment and a willingness to fight through periods of “conscious incompetence” to foster continuous improvement.
In the end, the point of any teaching framework should not be to label teachers simply as good, mediocre, or bad. A better goal is to provide teachers with insights and pathways for working cooperatively to improve daily, fostering a long-term teaching practice that is both sustainable and improves upon itself every year—in other words, You 2.0.
What new improvements will you bring to You 2.0 (or 3.0 or beyond) this year?
Bryan Goodwin is McREL’s chief operating officer. A former teacher and journalist, he is the co-author of The 12 Touchstones of Good Teaching: A Checklist for Staying Focused Every Day and the author of Simply Better: Doing What Matters Most to Change the Odds for Student Success.