The SAIL Teaching Framework

This is a condensed version of the complete chart, but it's a good place to start. Click for a larger view (and to download).

Two Types

Engaging Teachers and Effective Teachers

It is possible for a teacher to be effective but not particularly engaging. It is also possible for a teacher to be quite engaging but not at all effective. It is not enough for a teacher to be engaging; the teacher must know how to guide a student through appropriate and effective instruction. It is also not enough for a teacher to simply provide effective instruction. This will work for a relatively self-motivated and diligent student who knows how to learn, but a teacher must be able to engage any student.

High school students have a good feeling for this distinction between engaging and effective. Though they are comfortable with or even entertained by an engaging teacher, if they feel that they aren't learning, they will complain. But they will say of an effective teacher that they can really learn from that teacher. They will say this even if they think the teacher is boring, stiff, weird, or a stickler for the rules.

To be engaging is not the same as being friendly, nice, forgiving, entertaining, or amusing. The point of engaging the student is to harness the student's own attention and ability to focus. This attention can be gathered the way a performer can gather the energy of an audience. When the attention demands release and dissipation, an engaging teacher senses it and switches gears appropriately. When attention wanes, the teacher senses it and adjusts. When a student is ready, the teacher knows it. If this sounds like classroom management, it is.

But classroom management is often imagined to have orderliness and control as its goal. Orderliness means very different things to different people, and the meaning is strongly culture and class dependent. Too much control can actually diminish effectiveness, especially if the teacher's ego is involved. The only proper and measurable goal of classroom management is the harnessing and management of the student's attention in order to have that attention focused on the instruction. To do this effectively, the teacher must consciously develop the instincts of a performer. To have integrity, these instincts must arise sincerely from the teacher's own personality. Training, practice, and the freedom to experiment and improvise are all indispensable to the development of these instincts.

The teacher who is both engaging and effective can couple this performance instinct with well-designed instruction. What this looks like in the classroom will differ from teacher to teacher, but it will result in a student who is learning, and learning how to learn.

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