Michigan Education Magazine Fall 2021

Page 58

TeachingWorks looks toward its 10th anniversary


100 YE ARS M i ch i g a n

E d u c at i o n

fa ll 2 0 2 1


Practice Makes Progress

“Many organizations don’t get down to the level of the actual relational work between a child and a teacher, and I feel like that is really where the rubber meets the road.”

Deborah Loewenberg Ball

eachingWorks was founded on the idea that great teachers aren’t born, but made. In January 2022, this pioneering organization housed at the SOE will celebrate its 10th anniversary. The concept itself, however, began years before.

“TeachingWorks grew out of what had been an unusually deep period of collective work in the SOE,” explains TeachingWorks founder, director, and former SOE dean Deborah Loewenberg Ball. “Almost all the faculty in both elementary and secondary teacher education were working together in a variety of ways to change the program. We were driven by the fact that teacher candidates weren’t being sufficiently prepared to do the work that they would face as teachers—including their ability to understand the content well enough to connect with kids, and their ability to think about issues of what we would have referred to as ‘equity’ in those days. I think the way we would have named the problem at that point was that beginning teaching is often weak because teacher education in general doesn’t prepare people well to begin teaching—and that systemic problem disproportionately lands on Black and brown children, who are far more likely to be taught by beginners.” To tackle this problem, faculty members at the SOE worked together for several years to identify a small set of instructional practices crucial for beginning and early career teachers to be able to do well. Called high-leverage practices, these instructional practices are those that teachers carry out constantly—such as building relationships, explaining and modeling content, and eliciting and interpreting students’ thinking—and are fundamental to helping students develop socially, emotionally, and academically. “The idea of TeachingWorks developed out of this work,” Ball says, “because we saw that if we really wanted it to affect the quality of beginning teaching in this country, we would have to take the things we’d been learning here and begin to build a way to increase capacity in the broader field of teacher preparation and contribute to the field beyond our own programs and the teachers we prepare.”

“We had a whole committee that was looking at high-leverage practices and thinking really carefully about the work that teacher educators need to do to prepare beginning teachers,” says Nicole Garcia, TeachingWorks Associate Director. “We’ve tried to think really carefully about how we help others to see that this work on practices isn’t just a checklist of things that people need to do—that there are critical decisions teachers make that are really impacting the experiences children have in classrooms.” Since its inception, TeachingWorks has partnered with teacher preparation programs and school districts across the country, bringing its unique approaches and resources to support the improvement of teachers’ professional education. Today, the work is centered in four primary strands: partnerships with teacher preparation providers, partnerships with K-12 schools and districts, special programs and events designed to build and connect networks of educators, and efforts to shape the public discourse around public education. “Where we would like to see our work go,” Garcia says, “is a more systemic approach. So we’re able to work with the teacher preparation institutions that are serving the districts that we’re supporting, so we’ve got a broader set of impacts. Right now, that work ends up being slightly separated—we have a lot of work in teacher prep that’s happening in these pockets where we don’t have the same set of K-12 work happening. Part of that has to do with how things get funded. We are increasingly focusing our partnerships in areas where we can be in either arena—in K-12 or in teacher prep—and where we know that the K-12 schools are serving children of color. So that we can expand that work, expand our reach, and get the greatest impact that we can.” In supporting teacher educators, Teaching-

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