What should teachers disclose about themselves on day one?

As part of our study of teachers’ ‘day one, class one’ practices, Peter Taylor and I  had the privilege of observing seventeen highly effective teachers introduce themselves to a new cohort of their students. We noted that, while some teachers said little if anything about themselves that might be construed as personal in nature, others did self-disclose to a greater or lesser extent. There seemed to be no obvious ‘rule’ governing self-disclosure within this sub-set of teachers. So what, then, was the thinking that made for such a wide variety of teacher practices when it came to self-disclosure? And what might we learn from it about effective classroom practice?   Read More…

Planning for a great first day: How do good teachers do it?

In the first paper Peter Taylor and I wrote documenting findings from the ‘Establishing Enabling Routines’ project (McWilliam & Taylor, 2017), we argued that effective pedagogy must be planned for. Furthermore, we insisted that such planning is not to be conflated with decisions about what subject content would be ‘covered’ over the duration of a term or semester. We were also aware, that while videoing provides a visible record of teachers’ ‘first day first lesson’ activity, the planning process that preceded the pedagogical activity was not amenable to capture in the same way. Because, as we asserted in our initial paper, planning is the first step in a five step process of establishing enabling pedagogical routines (plan, communicate, initiate, establish and normalise), we needed to know more about how the 17 teachers videoed in our study understood and planned for their ‘first day, first class’ practices. Read More…

First Day, First Class: What do good teachers actually do?

Of all the practices that impact learning engagement, few could be more important than the ‘first day, first class’ signals teachers give their students about the learning culture desired in their classrooms. Yet of all the issues impacting learning engagement, no issue seems to be so lacking in empirical evidence about how effective teachers actually do this. In other words, we have not found a single well-documented and published study into the way capable teachers initiate the routines that will enable and sustain their students’ learning. The 2017 Brisbane Grammar School Project that Peter Taylor and I conducted breaks new ground in the research literature on teaching and learning by investigating how highly effective teachers establish enabling pedagogical routines with a new class of students. Here is our first set of findings from the project. Read More…

What counts as good teaching?

We hear a great deal about the importance of good teaching these days.  Yet we still seem to struggle when it comes to putting flesh on the bones of what good teaching looks and feels like for digital times. It seems that the more we celebrate ‘quality’ teaching, or ‘excellent’ teaching (we don’t call teachers ‘great’ any more!), the more elusive our quest becomes for high quality, sustainable, digitally-enhanced teacher practice. Indeed, while many schools are introducing more digital technology with the expectation that this will enrich schooling outcomes, some schools are now reversing the trend by banning digital tools for part or all of the school week.

Why is there still such a confused landscape of advocacy and ambivalence when it comes to the value of digital tools in the classroom?   Read More…

What counts as good teaching? Looking back and looking forward

2017 was a terrific year for learning more about collaboration in the classroom, and for understanding how good teachers start their first class on their first day, thanks to the generosity of 17 of Brisbane Grammar School’s best teachers. So as a reflection on the year, I have put a few of the recent papers I have sole-authored or written with my partner Peter Taylor. The first of the 4 papers deals with what is coming at us ‘over the horizon’. We can’t make a case for or against certain pedagogical moves without it. When I was asked by the Australian Catholic University to speak briefly to its graduates and their families on their graduation night, this is  what I said about ‘context’ and capability. Read More…

Two Cheers for STEM, Three Cheers for Creativity

Productivity means Innovation means STEM. That premise is looking increasingly irrefutable when it comes to building the nation’s future and the employability skills of the next generation. In other words, more investment in, and engagement with, science, technology, engineering and mathematics education in schools and universities will deliver both career opportunities and a secure economic future for the nation. In the paper that follows we make a case for re-thinking STEM as a means to securing our economic future.  Read More…

Beyond ‘Best Practice’: How teacher improvement actually works

Peter Taylor and I are aware that the term ‘best practice’ is still alive and well in talk about teacher improvement. In fact, contemporary educational literature is replete with calls for both leaders and teachers to pursue ‘best practice’ as a holy grail of educational endeavour, a goal that school leaders and staff developers ought to aspire to in every aspect of their daily practice. No-one should settle for anything less! In the brief paper that follows we want to share some thoughts on the impact of this aspirational discourse on the principal audience – school teachers and school leaders – to explain our ambivalence around this term, and to suggest more productive alternatives for the work of improving teaching performance. Read More…

‘Smart Building’ for a Practice-Focussed Profession

My partner Peter G. Taylor (Adjunct Professor, Griffith University and Special Advisor, Teaching Development, Brisbane Grammar School) has long and strong experience working to assist teachers to improve their pedagogy through a process he once called ‘Smart Borrowing’ and now calls ‘Smart Building. Here is his paper elaborating fully on the process:
Read More…

If Average is Over…

In Tyler Cowen’s latest analysis of our work and social futures, he insists that “Average is Over’. What does he mean by this and what does it mean for the current generation of Australia’s students and teachers? Read More…

Teaching Gen Z

Generation Zs (5 to 6 year olds) make up the bulk of our school populations now. So how different are they from other previous Generations – X and Y – and what does this mean for what teachers need to do more of and less of?  Below I explore this issue – who Gen Zs are and  the implications for those who teach them.  Read More…

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