The Taxonomy of Teaching Kids

I just read a fascinating article from the New York Times entitled Building a Better Teacher.

It’s a long article, but what got my attention was the fact that it’s built on a search for the fundamentals of teaching.

It turns out that teacher quality is the single most important variable in the ability of students to learn in a classroom setting.  The article describes the years of research that’s been done to identify the practices that good teachers use to produce results.  They selected the teachers to study that are able  to produce results in some of the poorest schools in the US, where resources and family support is below average.

The researchers have isolated these practices in a way that that has put them into words, and has helped teachers to begin to set up sessions to master individual skills in coaching sessions with other teachers.

It turns out that a lot of things that schools and teachers do to impact their effectiveness don’t really matter, and a few things do that are not that hard to learn with enough dedicated practice time.

In other words, it’s a bit like the world of time management.

The journalist who wrote the article reported that many teachers and well-meaning experts are looking for improvement in the wrong places.

I believe the same is true in the case of time management.  Some of the approaches that have a minimal effect include:

– trying to follow someone else’ system of habits without regard for one’s current habits

– improving by ignoring habits and instead focusing on things like “energy,” “attitude” and “motivation”

-over-simplifying the challenge that we all have of changing ingrained habits quickly, whether it involves learning or un-learning habits

It struck me that it took a long time to develop this taxonomy, and that it’s all based on empirical research that’s been captured on film.

I started to wonder… how long will it take to popularize the concept of Time Management 2.0? After all, like the teaching researchers, I am actually (and mostly) putting some names to things which people have done for many years.

I am also daunted by the fact that years and years of work has been put into the taxonomy of teaching, and that I have spent only 4 years on this effort, but I haven’t started any kind of empirical research.


Here is the link once again to “Building a Better Teacher.”