According to Robyn R Jackson in “Never Underestimate Your Teachers: Instructional Leadership”, teaching mastery requires a combination of SKILL and WILL.
Skill is the science of teaching; it involves a teacher’s pedagogical and content knowledge. This determines how well teachers know the subject and how well they can help students learn it.
Will has to do with the teacher’s passion: it is the art of teaching. It involves the teacher’s drive to help all students be successful.
Teaching is complex. Master teachers have a high level of skill as well as a high level of will. They don’t just know their craft; they also have the drive and determination to be the best.
The skill component of masterful learning comprises both content knowledge and pedagogy. Teachers who understand content but cannot figure out how to help students understand it cannot be effective in the classroom. Neither can teachers who know several strategies for helping students learn but can’t apply these strategies in different situations or tailor them to all learners.
I agree with Jackson’s viewpoint that pedagogy and content knowledge are intricately intertwined. Teachers MUST have both to be considered skillful.
Jackson provides 7 principles of effective instruction
Highly skilled teachers:-
- Start where their students are
- Know where students are going
- Expect them to get there
- Support them along the way
- Use feedback to help themselves and their students get better
- Focus on quality not quantity and
- Never work harder than their students
As a result highly skilled teachers are good planners. They know how to structure a lesson and a unit to ensure students learn and understand the content. They anticipate student confusion, can explain a difficult concept in a number of different ways and also have the ability to match their repertoire of approaches to the needs of their various students.
The desire to help ALL students learn and the determination to ensure that all students DO learn is fundamental to the WILL component of masterful teaching. According to Jackson it is more than just motivation. It’s what powers a teacher to find ways to reach students even in the face of huge obstacles. It is characterised by persistence in trying a range of strategies to reach EVERY student until they succeed. Will is what drives the teachers who continually refine and hone their craft, reflect on practice and embrace data and feedback.
Some teachers start their career with HIGH levels of will but for various reasons become discouraged or frustrated and lose their will over time.
Jackson has created a Will / Skill matrix that provides an interesting perspective on four different teacher ‘types’ that school leaders should plan for supporting.
Low will / Low skill – in many ways they have simply given up – they see teaching as a job rather than as a profession or a calling
High will / Low skill – enthusiastic and usually know they have a lot to work on
Low will / High skill – whilst they have the skills to be effective they simply do not do what is best for their students
High will / High skill – master teachers, constantly refining their practice and always keen to do better
If teachers are not provided with the right leadership and support, high will / high skill teachers can become bored and seek new opportunities elsewhere or become frustrated and grow cynical over time.
I love Jackson’s approach and find it really helpful to think about the needs of each group and how I need to adjust my leadership approach to cater for their professional development needs. A strategy to help increase a teacher’s skill is not likely to have an impact if the issue is related to their will.
However it is dangerous to ‘pigeon hole’ people and make assumptions about their “type”. It is fluid and may change over time and be dependent on a number of factors. To effectively help every teacher reach their potential, leaders need to be aware of what quadrant they occupy at that time.
Teaching Thinking Skills?
Lane Clark – absolute guru on integrating the teaching of thinking skills is offering public workshops in a number of locations across Australia next year. The two day program “Deep Thinking for Deep Learning” focuses on the infusion of thinking into classroom pedagogical practice as critical for learner success as all substantive learning is driven by substantive thinking.
Brisbane – February 24 and 25
Melbourne – March 12 and 13
Sydney – March 26 and 27
Don’t miss this opportunity to work alongside one of the world’s acknowledged experts in thinking and learning – Lane Clark. Places at each workshop are limited to allow for maximum interaction. CLICK HERE for further details or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Conferences and Work With Schools
This month I’m looking forward to working with:-
- Spinifex College students
- St Mary’s College Ipswich staff
- St Rita’s leaders
- Guardian Angels Primary staff
- Crestmead cluster staff
- Mudgeeraba Creek SS staff
- Coomera Springs staff
I’d be happy to talk with you about the professional development needs of your leadership team or whole staff.