Learning Bets
Chapter: The Issue

The “How” Is Holding Us Back

screen-shot-2016-10-06-at-10-13-31-amAcross our Teach For All network, we see in each partner organization a small number of teachers having a transformational impact in the lives of their students, but we are not yet seeing the wide-spread, at-scale breakthroughs in teacher performance and student outcomes to ensure all children are on an enduring path to self-determined leadership and opportunity.  Despite significant investments, innovations, and learning in teacher training and support, we are finding elusive a dramatic shift in the percentage of teachers who are embodying transformational learning and leadership. 

Like most teacher development organizations across the globe, our partner organizations are producing a relatively wide and standard distribution of teachers.  While our  partner organizations’ teachers are often outperforming other first and second year teachers in terms of student growth, that gap is small and has not increased much over time.

Across our network and the education landscape more broadly, lack of understanding, clarity, alignment, and explicitness about how to grow our teachers is inhibiting progress toward a day when all children attain an excellent education.

Illustrating The “Problem of How”–In the Kitchen

Imagine for a moment that you want to become a chef.  Not just any chef, but a great chef. . .dare we say, a transformational chef.  🙂

You know that what makes a transformational chef is a difficult question, but there seem to be real patterns in kitchens that have profound influence on diners, from the very simple (the food is served hot and fresh) to more complex (the food combines familiar tastes to make new ones) to more personal (transformational chefs share a common drive to make people happy).  In fact, you have a whole list of qualities of transformational kitchens and chefs.  Excellent. 

Does that make you a transformational chef?

It’s doubtful.

So, with your list of qualities in hand, what is going to help you grow to become a transformational chef?  Let’s say you have limited time before people are going to show up hungry.  What’s your best “bet” for growing as a chef?  You could read about great cooking.  You could watch great cooking.  You could practice small elements of great cooking and gradually put them together.  You could spend time with a transformational chef, picking up skills, knowledge and mindsets with increasing responsibility.  You could fuel your desire to learn by tasting excellent food and seeing first-hand the influence of great cooking on diners.  You could get a cooking coach who would watch you work and give constructive criticism as you work.  You could get a different cooking coach who helps you analyze your own cooking and discover ways you want to improve it.  You could develop relationships with others who are trying to learn to cook and draw from their strengths and share yours.

screen-shot-2016-10-06-at-10-13-18-amALL of those are legitimate “bets” to grow your culinary skills.  But it might not be the best choice to pursue ALL of these bets at once.  Would you learn faster if you focused on a few, strategically chosen “bets” and invested heavily in them?  How would you decide which “bets” to make?  Perhaps it matters whether you want to cook many things or just a few things.  Perhaps you should consider what you know about how you have best learned in other contexts.  Perhaps it matters what your diners are going to be hungry for.

WHAT performing an endeavor requires does not answer the question of HOW to improve one’s performance in that endeavor.  The “problem of the how” is the topic of this document and is what we face when  are not purposeful in considering which learning bets will best grow our teachers chefs.

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