TECHINQUES 3 & 4: Standardize the Format and Tracking, Not Watching
The intentional physicality and deliberate instruction presented in the original edition ‘Teach Like a Champion’, 2011², to me, were very tangible; a down to basics, “grass roots” if you will, approach to modeling ideal teacher models. Technique 3: Standardize the Format, essentially asks teachers to train themselves to look in the same, consistent place while attempting to gather data of student understanding and mastery. If the educator knows in advance, where to look for student data, and that “place” is a consistent location; the teaching is reducing “…the transaction cost of data gathering”.¹ Gathering data mid-instruction can be very time consuming, especially, in high student volume classrooms. ‘Standardizing the Format‘ suggests the utilization of forms with a consistent layout or expectations that students written responses are assigned a very specific location. For example, always use a ‘T-form’, information/text are printed in the left hand column, the right hand column remaining black for student responses. Or the expectation that students list responses in the upper right hand corner for all written tasks, perhaps in a blank box. As the teacher circulates, they know precisely where to look for responses, instead of searching the pages, flipping through pages, stopping to ask where student work has been recorded. Training the teachers eyes, with the aid of standardized forms, reduced the amount of time spent checking for student comprehension and allows a greater quantity of data to be gathered. Personally, as an educator, re-visiting written materials and converting them to a standardized format smacks of re-inventing the wheel…although I do agree with the concept and the resulting efficiency of data collection in ‘Standardize the Format‘, I’m more inclined toward the principles behind Technique 4: ‘Tracking, Not Watching’.
Instead of format standardization, Lemov suggests that teachers also “Standardize the (Visual) Field“.¹ Here, in ‘Tracking, Not Watching’, is another clear example of deliberate, simple measures that educators can take into consideration in an attempt to maximize their efforts to gather data on students’ levels of understanding. In my opinion, the configuration of student desks or seating arrangement is of critical import. Asymmetrical, non-linear student seating creates complex visual fields and inherently presents data gathering barriers. Lemov suggests that if the classroom is arranged in a “predictable visual pattern”, the teacher increases their ability to effectively gather observable data. Regarding seating arrangements; “…add something observable to indicated engagement, setting the expectation that during group discussion you should see knee-to-knee conversations, eye contact, nodding or other visible signs of engagement.”¹ (p.45) What is significantly attractive to me in TLAC 2.0 techniques is that “to do’s” are tangible; literal, bodily instructions that the teacher and clearly enumerate to students. This is a perfect example of something that is seemingly basic yet provides incredible structure to the classroom.
The last component of ‘Tracking, Not Watching‘ requires advanced preparation on the part of the instructor. If the purpose of your observation in the active classroom is gathering data, Lemov recommends “…a healthy dose of intentionality in your looking…Tracking, Not Watching means deciding specifically what you’re looking for and remaining disciplined about it in the face of a thousand distractions.” (p.45). Intentional observation requires that teachers plan the following in advance and involves a modicum of “prediction”:
- Identify in advance, which items, #problem, responses the students will most likely make mistakes. (Prediction of specific errors).
- Identify in advance, which responses students will likely have successes.
- Which questions, in review, will reveal student understanding for the teacher.
- Which tasks will distinguish between excellence and completion.
Generating these “predictions”, as a natural part of the lesson plan, affords teachers a built in re-teaching script, a means for circling back on material. So much of ‘great’ teaching stems from advanced planning; not ruling out the inventive, spur of the moment, idiosyncratic teaching moments, which do encourage and inspire genuine learning. I feel that an overall pedagogical movement toward rigorous planning and less teaching “from the hip” is in motion. Here is the inter-play of the Art& Science of teaching. Personally, I do believe that Script, seasoned with Spontaneous Engagement has been a successful formula.