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Insight: Strong teaching is as complex as rocket science


The fourth industrial revolution is approaching. Scientific advances, technological breakthroughs, conservation solutions are altering with improvisations as per the 21st century scenario. In no time, our students will be pressurized to reinvent almost everything. Here comes the significant need to make them future ready.

The primary demand of bringing Innovation in education surfaces where schools are expected to serve solutions. Juggling with various aspects of curriculum and unfit expectations, they fetch out suitable answers.

To contribute in the process, Brainfeed interacted with Terry Heick, Founder and Director of TeachThought, who aims to bring innovation in education through the growth of innovative teachers. He is a technologist, futurist, and an education thought leader. As an adviser, he helps schools, districts, start-ups, and tech developers navigate the ecology of progressive teaching and learning. Recently, he worked for a digital citizenship project with the White House.

Tell us on innovation in curriculum today

Innovation can improve any of the domains of teaching and learning, and curriculum is only part of it. The delivery of content, measuring understanding, personalizing complexity, the timing of specific experiences, and so on all can be innovated without diverging from curriculum. The irony is that curriculum needs innovation perhaps more than everything else combined.

What are your favorite innovative teaching methodologies?

I’m personally fond of self-directed learning, learning through play, learning blends for open-ended learning, adaptive learning algorithms/competency-based learning for academic content.

For schools today, why is it hard to identify an effective teaching methodology?

The primary characteristic of an effective methodology is that it consistently produces the desired effect, goal, or objective for most/all users. Put another way, something is effective if it does what we want it to do—the key is all stakeholders being clear what the ‘thing’ is supposed ‘to do.’ In education, this is rare.

Share a success story of how innovation has helped transform a child?

Once as a teacher, I had a student who struggled with the traditional approach to curriculum. I saw it as the student struggling with the curriculum rather than the curriculum struggling with the student. Once I made that shift in my own mind, I was able to make adjustments for him that made all the difference in the world. One example was replacing an On-Demand writing response with a shorter version of the assignment mixed with a concept map and visual metaphor—all assessed the same things as the original assignment, but in different ways that he ‘bought into’ and thus was able to demonstrate what he actually understood rather than simply his ability to do what he was told, how we told, when he was told.

How can we improve quality of teachers rather than replacing them?

The biggest factor here is a lack of vision—like blaming police officers when crime goes up and firing them in turn. The analogy isn’t perfect—there are differences of course with enforcing the law and teaching children, but crime is a ‘downstream’ effect and the efficiency of the enforcement of the law is only part of the ‘problem.’ Education is much the same.

Teachers do need to improve, but so do principals, superintendents, curriculum designers, edtech developers, parents, etc. We’re all in this together. Once we see it that way, we can begin to create more precise metrics of teaching performance while also seeing teachers as partners rather than something to be weighed on a scale and tossed out if the number doesn’t match our expectation.

How to improvise the school environment to remove gun culture which has threatened educators across the globe?

Help students see issues critically— critical thinking about critical issues for critical literacy.

This stands in contrast to framing these issues academically or politically or even personally. This is a great question as a metaphor—when education can’t begin to answer questions like this that impact lives on such a massive scale, we’d do well to examine education and all of its bits and pieces.

Please share a message for educators in India.

I’m hugely appreciative of teachers who give so much of themselves every day, year in and year out. It’s easy to be a mediocre teacher, but strong teaching is incredibly complex—as complex as rocket science, engineering, law, etc. Those that are able to accomplish it consistently are due every bit of the acclaim we grant doctors and lawyers, if not more so. Teaching and learning are catalysts for human improvement. Along with parenting and medical care—these are among our most important practices as human beings.

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