The Online PD

Teachers working smarter

The Case for Prioritization

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Teaching is an artful profession. There are many layers of teacher actions the lead to great teaching and student results. Especially at the beginning, it is tempting to have “teacher action A.D.D.” – to work on improving seven or more things all at the same time. While it is possible to solve several small technical problems at the same time, when diving into bigger problems it is best to “chase one rabbit at a time” as my corps member Eric says. There are only so many hours in the day and it is better to work smarter not harder than to work harder, not smarter. Fortunately for us, the student impact model is designed to help us do just that.

Let me give you an example:

Rob teaches freshmen Algebra I. Twenty five of his students are currently averaging above 80% mastery. Another thirty two are averaging between 60% and 79%. Rob has five students whose mastery is below 59%.

Rob decides to focus on his students masterying between 60% and 79% because if those students were to move closer to 80% it would significantly impact his classes’ movement towards their end of the year goal of 80% mastery on a teacher created final exam. When Rob thinks about what his students are doing or not doing that is keeping them in the 60-79% bucket he can think of several things:

* not turning in homework

* not focused & paying attention in class

* talking during the intro to new material

Rob decides to focus mainly on putting a stop to the talking during intro to new material. In order to do this he decides to spend his time working on three teacher actions: investment, classroom management, and lesson planning to create more engaging INMs.

Rob’s intentions are good – he wants to make sure that he really stamps out the talking during his INM so his students have the best chance of learning the material. Unfortunately, his plan does not demonstrate strong prioritization. It is unlikely that Rob will be able to spend the time thoroughly reworking investment, classroom management and lesson planning in a meaningful way to get the student result he wants. All three of these are complex teacher actions that require time and energy to improve. It is more likely that he will only improve slightly in all three by dividing his time and energy among them.

Not prioritizing a single teacher action also is a sign of failing to think through the alignment to the desired student action thoroughly. Upon a more detailed examination Rob would certainly come to the conclusion that one of the three options would have a greater effect on the prioritized student action. By developing an order of operations, Rob would be able to focus his energy on the one action most likely to give him the biggest results for his time and hard work.

In other words – it is beneficial to only chase one rabbit at a time. If you find yourself chasing several, it is time to step back and think more thoroughly about the alignment of your desired result (prioritized group of students and student action) and the teacher action you deem most likely to create the desired change.

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Written by theonlinepd

February 16, 2008 at 8:32 pm

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