The secret to effective teaching

Once during a job interview I was asked “What does the effective teacher look like”. I paused, stumped – not because I didn’t know what an effective teacher was – that was easy – an effective teacher was a teacher who got results. No I paused because I knew that the effective teacher had many different faces. I knew effective teachers who were back-to-basics traditionalists, I knew effective teachers who were innovators, I knew effective teachers who integrated technology into every facet of their teaching, and I knew effective teachers whose most advanced technology was a transparency overhead projector.

I realized that I didn’t now much about effective teachers after all. Well that’s not entirely true – I could walk into a class and tell almost straight away if what was going on was an effective lesson, if what was going on was effective instruction. Problem was, I could not really articulate what I saw in those effective teachers.

So after a dramatic pause, I said something brilliant like “effective teaching is difficult to pin down to one or a few characteristics – but I know it when I see it”. I’m surprised I got the job!

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Why I believe in homework

The title of this post makes clear where I stand on the homework issue. I’m going to start by trying to answer each of Mark Barnes Five Reasons He Doesn’t Assign Homework.

5.  Virtually all homework involves rote memory practice, which is always a waste of time. This argues against the form of homework rather than homework itself (and makes a big assumption). If you don’t like rote memory homework don’t give it, use something better. More importantly, though, I’ll challenge that “rote memory practice” is “always a waste of time”. Read More