Learning Bets
Chapter: Ideas to Action

Three Case Studies on Implementing Learning Bets



Urban Teachers

screen-shot-2016-10-21-at-12-43-02-pmThis teacher preparation program is built on the idea that, like doctors and chefs and lawyers, teachers should train side-by-side with professionals before they take charge of their own classrooms. In this model, teachers  go through a first year of residency followed by three years of coaching  and certification.  (Residents complete over 1500 clinical hours working in urban classroom). In 2015, more than 15,000 students across 93 public schools in Baltimore and Washington, DC, were taught by their new 107 residents. Last year, 70% of teachers returned for a third year of teaching.





screen-shot-2016-10-21-at-12-46-49-pmCEO & Founder, Urban Teachers

What is your program’s vision of an effective teacher?

An effective teacher is a skilled diagnostician who knows exactly where each student is — especially in literacy, in math and in understanding. He knows what the instructional target is. He’s a master at planning. He’s a master at building a deeply respectful classroom and puts a heavy emphasis on talk in the classroom, and children’s talk in particular. Those are the teachers we want to create at Urban Teacher Center.

How metacognitive is your program about learning?

I think we are very explicit with our learners on how they learn. The guiding source is our rubric (which is also not an answer for everything). What matters is that if you are working together with teachers, a rubric helps you have something organized in your feedback system. So you get into the habits of mind of ‘I am reflecting on my practice against the north star’ so that tool has to be pretty explicit, narrow and deep.

On the metacognitive side, participants do a regular self-reflection, they get an analysis, they do video observation, they give feedback, and they do peer to peer observation. They get a trimestral report that summarizes how they are doing. When we started we were terrible at this, and this is something we have really improved. We are to be much more explicit and clear with our teachers about how they are growing and progressing.

How does your program exit candidates who are not teaching well enough?

We lose 1 in 5 of our residents, so the way that I talk about it is that we have a high bar to enter the program,  but we also have a high bar to earn the right to become a practicing teacher. We do this through with extensive support and a high degree of accountability. We ask teachers to demonstrate to us that they are ready to be a prepared and qualified teacher. We know this process does take time, so we do a five week summer institute, and they start co-teaching from day 2. It is a fact that we can’t tell in five weeks who has to exit. It takes a year to see if somebody clinical practice is progressing or not.






Teach For India


screen-shot-2016-10-21-at-1-59-37-pmTeach for India is building a movement of  leaders committed to work from inside and outside the educational system to effect the long-term changes necessary to realize educational opportunity for all. The program is currently in seven cities, impacting 38,000 children through 1100 fellows, 200 staff members and 1050 alumni.






screen-shot-2016-10-21-at-2-02-58-pmProgram Director, Teach For India

Why does your program lead with mindsets?

If we are in pursuit of transformational outcomes for our children, we need to start reflecting from what happens in the classroom, how does it tie in with our beliefs about our kids and how can we overcome our own barriers to help our kids see success. The recurring idea is that the more we understand our students’ context the better we understand them in the classroom.  We need to overcome our own limiting mindsets.

People have begun to see the long-term benefit of working on mindsets. Fellows have come back and given us the feedback that the biggest thing they take away from Teach for India is self-awareness.  They have learned to be reflective, and they can actually go and learn the rest on their own.  Those reports helped us keep focus on our bets and handle the discomfort. 

How, exactly, to you grow mindsets?

It’s by reflection, building reflective practice. That happens one-on-one or in the group setting. We try to use the classroom as the primary experience to keep reflecting on. So through the experience in the classroom there is a lot of reflection on what work what didn’t and what mindsets limited you, what mindsets enabled you. And beyond that we specifically do experiential activities, games, and a lot of video observation and reflection. 

Why do you focus on collective learning?

This is how we believe teachers should be operating in schools, so that is the big learning bet that we focus on—learning with and from peers. It becomes the first collective idea that this is your movement. We do a lot of work in pushing each other to discover, understand and unpack their mindsets and this can only be achieved collectively.




DC Public Schools

screen-shot-2016-10-21-at-2-06-22-pmLEAP is a mentoring program that aims to support DC public school teachers hone their practice, through a heavy emphasis in content-based learning skills. The program has been piloted this year and is ready to be launched in 2016.






screen-shot-2016-10-21-at-2-08-33-pmChief of Instructional Practice, DCPS

Why are you betting on contextual and collaborative learning?

During the last years we have taken a general pedagogical knowledge approach, but we are seeing that what really makes a difference for children is having teachers digging into the content pedagogy practices you need to master to be successful in teaching your subject. The main shift is that our coaching programs were generalists, they focused on things like classroom management, good questioning skills, check for understanding, which are generically applicable to subject content.  Those things are different in reading, math, science, so they cannot be generic. In math for example, it is a little bit about developing more expertise with the content and deeply understanding the content itself.

So what would this actually look like in the LEAP seminars, for math for example?

Our teachers will be wrestling with their own potential content misconceptions, or practicing a particular skill in mathematical discourse around a particular misconception.  They will be practicing with an expert and colleagues in the room, and then actually doing the skill in the classroom.

What are the biggest changes that your teacher-learners will experience with LEAP?

1) Shifting from general pedagogy to content-based pedagogy.

2) Shifting from largely passive learning (getting feedback) to more action-learning and practice.

3) Learning from not just looking at the instruction but also focusing on planning and preparing for instruction. Teacher preparation programs tend to spend most of the time just looking at what happens in the classroom, which is important, but not a lot of time around what happens before you even get there. This is reflected in our theory of development.

LEAP seems largely skills focused.  How are you building or nurturing mindsets?

We believe that the best way to fortify mindsets is by first having the skills to be successful. The bulk of what we are going to focus on is skills-oriented. I think you can try session after session working on mindsets, but at the end of the day what you have to see is your students doing well, and I think that largely comes from having the skills to do the work. 



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