It’s Time to Document Teaching Styles More Carefully
College-level teaching is more complex and nuanced than ever, and simple descriptors such as “lecturing” or “interactive” don’t tell us much.
Reducing how an instructor teaches Biology 101 to a variable such as “lecturing” masks other important dimensions of her teaching. What kind of questions does she ask students? How often? How are students socially and cognitively engaged in the classroom? How is technology used?
Those who evaluate classroom teaching can record their observations using a number of tools, but most are limited: They rely on open-ended response items that preclude reliability tests or comparison across individuals; they focus only on the use of teaching methods; they ignore temporary fluctuations in teaching practices throughout a class period; or they equate instructional quality with one teaching method. Read more.
Measuring Coherence in Teacher Knowledge
To measure the coherence of teacher knowledge, researchers asked math teachers to react to a mathematical task. As teachers addressed the problem, patterns of connections among concepts became apparent. To visualize these patterns, the research team created conceptual “network maps” for each teacher. The stronger teachers invoked high numbers of concepts and demonstrated a clear pattern of connections among key concepts. The remaining teachers used fewer concepts or had fewer strong connections.
What does it mean for teachers to have coherent understanding of their subject?
Coherence is considered an important aspect of knowledge. Incoherent understanding of a subject reproduces disconnected facts. By contrast, coherent knowledge allows one to bring to a subject richly connected ideas, to zoom to the heart of a complex subject, and to offer strategic solutions. Yet coherence has seldom been defined or measured, even in the context of teaching and learning. Read more.