*For more insights from education leaders on teacher improvement, head over to the Edthena blog.
Check out this #PLtogether Lounge Talk with Doug Reeves about what helps teachers get better more effectively than rubrics, including video self-reflection and watching the teacher down the hall.
You can find the full transcript below:
– Welcome back to this Pl Together Lounge Talk. If you’re just joining us, I’m Adam Geller founder and CEO of Edthena, where we build video and AI powered tools for teacher professional learning. Today we’re talking with the bestselling education leadership author Doug Reeves. Doug, thanks for being with us.
– My pleasure.
– All right, so Doug, we’ve been talking about the five Cs in classrooms and engagement, and there’s a quote from one of your books that I want to kind of dig into here. “Students need to know where they are going, select tools for their journey and monitor their own process, with practice and feedback. Students can increase their ownership of learning.” So, you know, I’m curious to apply this to the the teachers as learners, right? How can school leaders support teachers to take control and ownership over their learning in the same way we wanna see with students?
– Well, let me begin by saying what does not work. What does not work is a 30 page rubric. What does not work are these incredibly convoluted electronic observation systems. Teachers need to be, and we’ve got a let’s also say that teachers are coming into our profession sometimes very unprepared for the challenges that they’re facing in the third decade of the 21st century. So we need to be set. We as teachers, need to be set up for success. So don’t give me a 30 page checklist, say, Doug what I’m looking for when I come into your classroom is effective engagement. I want you to use equity sticks or random calling, Doug when I come into your classroom I’m looking for checks for understanding. None of this thumbs up, thumbs down, everybody with me. That’s ineffective. I want you to have effective questioning that will pursue whether or not students really understand what you’re saying. And if they don’t, I want you to be skillful enough to stop go back and reteach it and make sure that misunderstandings are cleared up. And what I encourage school leaders to do is not come in with a giant checklist but tell me in advance, Hey, Doug, this week this is what I’m gonna be looking for when I come into your classroom. And I promise you, before the sun sets I’ll give you feedback on what I saw and I’ll give you a chance to tell me what you saw. And next week, Doug I’m gonna be checking for a multi-method assessment. I don’t wanna just see worksheets and and multiple choice tests. I wanna see that you had performance tasks. I wanna see that students were able to engage in self-assessment. So you get the idea. What teachers need is not this avalanche of checklists and books. They need to know specifically what constitutes effective instruction. And Adam if I could push the envelope a little bit, that means that the teacher, that the administrator rather had better know what effective instruction is. And I’ve got a running argument with some of my very good friends in this field about everybody’s an instructional leader. You know, God bless the late Dick Elmore who was the foremost advocate of leaders having instructional leadership at the forefront. But there’s a lot of people there that are not instructional leaders. And if you can’t tell me what effective instruction is then that’s a big problem. And that’s something that as our leaders are hiring the next generation of leaders they’ve gotta really think about.
– I definitely, I understand the kind of the the kind of gap that you’re talking about, helping all leaders become instructional leaders. I wanna take us back to, you know kind of how you were kind of speaking to the ways to make those observations more effective and that professional learning more focused. And in a way, I feel like the kind of big picture message there was, yes, there are lots of things we could be changing in our classrooms but we need to be changing or knowing what we’re looking for one thing at a time. Because, you know, to have that, as you called it the 30 page checklist or the 30 page rubric, it’s just too much. You know, I’m curious for the teachers who are engaging in their professional learning and kind of really holding on to that in an active way, you know they do have a limitation in this process which is they can’t watch themselves in real time. So I’m curious how can video help a teacher understand their teaching and take control of their learning for that matter?
– Well, they can do both. I think self-observation is very revealing. I also am a huge advocate of teachers observing one another. And let’s take a contemporary example. One of the big issues in the post covid era is classroom management and discipline. And it’s the least taught thing in undergraduate school. So if you’re struggling with classroom management then don’t go to an eight hour seminar in classroom management. Go down the hall and watch the very best classroom manager and you know who I mean? That teacher who never sends anybody to the office they’ve got the same kids, same demographics they always are in control. They’re physically present throughout the classroom. They have what we used to call ranger eyes eyes in the back of their head where they stop a problem before it even starts. Watch that great teacher for 45 minutes. So administrators watching this, how does that happen? You gotta take over that teacher’s classroom. You gotta show that you’ve still got your instructional chop chops and that you know that the best professional learning are people watching each other. And Adam, as you suggest, filming that great teacher will help us understand what really great classroom management is all about. And I would argue the same is true for checks for understanding, for engagement and the other elements of great teaching.
– What about this angle of self-reflection though? Because I mean, I certainly am with you, the kind of going down the the hall to observe the colleague, a very very powerful learning tool. But there’s still this kind of fundamental need to develop you know, as Jim Knight likes to say a clear picture of your current reality. You know, that kind of true understanding of what’s happening in your classroom to understand if you know, if this week’s about checks for understanding, if the implementation or the execution was actually matching what you believe to have been happening you know, from your perspective.
– Well, you are channeling your inner Robert Burns. Oh, what the gift the giftygy-est is to see ourselves as others see us. We can look at ourselves, but we need a guide. We don’t always see ourselves as others see us. So I think it’s really important that when you do that sort of self-reflection and observation what you do is with a quantitative lens, okay we’ve watched this for 10 minutes, there were 30 kids in the classroom, how many students were engaged? And I really need to get down to that level of specificity where people can delude themselves. ‘Cause the tendency, honestly is to focus on my presentation. You know, I’m the expert, I’m the leader rather than the learning that happens. So I’m all for that sort of self-reflection but it has to be guided through the lens of not just teaching, but learning.
– Right. I like that kind of call out here that video as a tool for self-reflection is very powerful when you have the right sounds like you’re saying the guide, the guide on the side so to say right on how to focus on what you’re looking at and really, you know be specific in how you’re observing yourself.
– Well, Doug, we’re gonna take a short break. If you’re watching this video or listening to this as a podcast and curious about what we talk about next head to pltogether.org for the rest of this interview as well as many more. Doug, thanks so much for joining us.
– My pleasure.