Learning Bets
Chapter: Executive Summary

Our Students Will Be Better Served If We Make More Intentional, Clear, and Explicit “Learning Bets” With Our Teachers—Informing HOW We Expect Teachers to Grow with Our Organization’s Identity, the Field’s Best Insights & Practices, and Our Practical Realities

screen-shot-2016-10-06-at-1-35-27-pmOur growing clarity and alignment about what it takes for a classroom to put children on an enduring path to broader self-determined opportunities in life is outpacing our clarity and alignment about how to grow people to act on that  understanding.  And, across the Teach For All 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. 

Many teacher development models are built on implicit and unexamined assumptions about how teachers best grow and we perpetuate the problem by conflating the “what” of great teaching with the “how” of becoming great teachers.  In the absence of clarity, some teacher preparation models do “a little bit of everything” half-well instead of prioritizing implementation of well-chosen learning bets.  Meanwhile, unfortunately, the academic research on how teachers best grow is limited, weak, and contradictory.

We can drive learning and innovation if we bring hidden assumptions about how our teachers learn into the light. Do we “bet” that teachers best grow starting with mindsets or skills, with generic tactics or content-specific methods, with reading and watching or with doing and coaching?  Are we working on the assumption that our teacher-learners grow best individually or collectively, through more or less explicit collective engagement with issues of power and privilege, via more systematized or individualized learning experiences?   What factors should influence those choices?

We are unlikely to come to one, universal set of “learning bets” that is right for every effort to grow teachers.  We can, however, move from less-thoughtfully embracing an array of different learning bets for reasons of convenience toward more-thoughtfully to prioritizing among learning bets by focusing on three families of factors:

  • ORGANIZATIONAL IDENTITY.  Our learning bets should be informed by the purpose of our organization (the why), our teachscreen-shot-2016-10-06-at-1-36-21-pmer candidates (the who), and the knowledge, skills and mindsets in our definition of excellent teaching (the what).
  • BEST PRACTICES. We will best prioritize among learning bets when we also consider fundamentals of adult learning theory, some of the learning bets that consistently appear in the strongest teacher development models, and some organizational systems and culture elements that enable our teachers’ learning.
  • PRACTICAL REALITIES.  While they are important to consider, the practical realities of when and where we are supporting teachers should be a final consideration so our choices are not over influenced by logistical challenges of time, pace and resources.

By being more intentional and explicit about how each of our organizations is growing teachers, we will be able to better learn from each other for the sake of the children we serve.

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