Saturday, October 1, 2011

Principles versus Strategies

"As to methods, there may be a million and then some, but principles are few.  [The person] who grasps principles can success select [his or her] own methods.  [The person] who tries methods, ignoring principles, is sure to have trouble."          --Ralph Waldo Emerson
Next week, a few teachers will begin reading together Never Work Harder than Your Students and Other Principles of Great Teaching by Robyn R. Jackson (2009).  I am looking forward to using the Quick PD section of the Network to report out some of our learning and discussion.
To begin, however, I wanted to share a couple thoughts about teaching principles and teaching strategies.  A teaching strategy is what we do as a teacher; a teaching principle is how we do something.  Teaching principles guide our work; they are flexible, dynamic, and important guides for the strategies we choose.  Teaching strategies tend to be narrow and static.  If we have teaching strategies without teaching principles, then we lack an underlying context or standard for the strategies we choose.
Jackson lists seven master teaching principles in her book.  They are:
  1. Master teachers start where their students are.
  2. Master teachers know where their students are going.
  3. Master teachers expect to get their students to their goal.
  4. Master teachers support their students along the way.
  5. Master teachers use feedback to help them and their students get better.
  6. Master teachers focus on quality rather than quantity.
  7. Master teachers never work harder than their students.
Our curriculum work so far this year is particularly related to principle number two: Master teachers know where their students are going.  As we continue with this work, you will see evidence of the other principles as well.
Thinking in terms of teaching principles is consistent with our previous work with mission and vision:
  • Mission describes why we exist.
  • Vision describes what we will see.
  • Principles are our agreements about how we teach.
  • Goals hold us accountable for all of the above.
As we discuss each principle during our book study, I will share more in this section of the Network.

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