Building Instructional Team Capacity is about Skill and Knowledge
Two key stocks build up an Instructional Team’s capacity to instruct young people: acquired pedagogical skills and a knowledge of teenagers. These are two quite different things. One can love and understand teenagers but be an ineffective teacher; conversely, one can have the all pedagogical strategies, but with little understanding or empathy for children, not much learning will occur.
As I think about my School Change Model and build its components, more elements open up to detail. Admittedly, what is here is but an 80,000 foot view of only one component of school change: how teachers respond to gaps in student learning and improve their craft. My thinking in these areas flows out of 25 years in classroom instruction and 12 years as an administrator (there’s a six-year overlap in there!) . . . and I am still learning!
The focus on the School Change Model this week has been on the critical stocks that constitute Team Capacity: Pedagogical Skill and Knowledge of Teens.
Considerable research in the last 15-20 years (Joyce, Marzano, Lemov, Danielson) and even more so in the last five years (ASCD, Gates Foundation MET) have resulted in clearly effective High-Impact Instructional Strategies that sustain ordered and respectful classrooms where teachers engage students in learning. Researchers throughout the world have verified the efficacy of various strategies and tools. And teachers can (and should) learn these strategies to improve their capacity.
Likewise, what we know about teenagers has grown in the last decade in a few key areas: cognitive science provides insight in not only brain development but also brain function – how people learn, how and why people forget things, what happens neurally when children learn (Bjork, Coyle, Dweck). In addition, cultural competence (West, Singleton, Gay, Payne) is a critical set of conscious awareness and strategies that help teachers (everyone, really) build empathy for the students entrusted to their care.
A few of the resilient, beautiful, aspiring students at De La Salle North Catholic High School, Portland, Oregon
At De La Salle North Catholic High School in Portland, the staff is about 80% white whereas nearly 80% of students are ethnic minorities, life experiences that generate quite different world views and aspirations. As Cornel West’s famous book asserts, race does matter.
I am trying to map a system of change: what are the key stocks within our bounded system, and how can we leverage them to improve student learning? Maybe you can help me think this through.