IN:SIGHT Dual-Tension in Effective Instruction

September 28, 2016 – Several years ago, I was leading a professional development session for a group of experienced educators. During a conversation—around the tensions in teaching that tend to separate out the inner life of educators from the outer technical domain—one teacher commented: “The joy of teaching has been tested and legislated away. All that is left is sand and dust.” I find this statement devastating in the way it describes the real impact of focusing the purpose of education too narrowly on elements such as testing, accountability and technique. And at the same time, it points the way forward to a time in education when conversations about best-practice are equally matched with questions about deep-practice; the rich, joyful life of educators.

The title of this blog captures the dual-tension that exists in education around conversations about effective instruction. There is an outer-technical aspect of teaching present in the day to day actions or inactions of teachers—the walking around tasks that anyone can witness who is an observer of teaching.  In short, this is the “sight” that teachers exercise to act on and in the world of the classroom. “Sight” can be thought of as best-practices and there are many books, articles and teaching standards that define its essence. Yet, “sight” can also take on a prophet or activist orientation in terms of provoking action toward change. It is this second aspect of “sight” that I’m particularly interested in while acknowledging the existing of the outer-technical.

The “in” of the blog title speaks to another facet of teaching which is often acknowledged but rarely examined with integrity. This is the inner-life of a teacher that corresponds to elements such as calling, passion, affective knowledge, courage, or vulnerability. “In” points to the importance of organizing conversations and discussions of effective teaching around the affective and social-emotional aspects of teaching. Education takes, in part, its root meaning from the Latin word educere, which means to “lead, draw or take out…” I often ask myself, my students, and other educators to consider what is worth drawing out of learners. For me, whether the learner is a student in K-12 schools or higher education, or a teacher, the answer is essentially the same. It is my purpose to create an instructional space where the inner wisdom of the learner is invited to come forth and engage the question at hand.

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