Harvard Graduate School and “Transforming Teaching”

Written by: Dave Reid

Primary Source: Green & Write, November 18, 2015

By Dave Reid

The Harvard Graduate School of Education is working on a new initiative called “Transforming Teaching” with the goal of supporting high-quality teaching in a systematic and coherent way. The initiative recently released a white paper, arguing: (1) there is a lack of usable knowledge about good teaching and the knowledge that is available does not get passed along to current teachers; (2) what we do know about good teaching needs to be put into action; and (3) policy changes are needed to make teaching more attractive to a wider pool of candidates.

Photo Courtesy of Texas State Teachers Association

Photo Courtesy of Texas State Teachers Association

Not a Teacher Problem

Transforming Teaching starts with the premise that is well-documented in educational research – quality teachers can positively impact student educational and life outcomes. However, there is considerable variability in the quality of current classroom teachers.

Transforming Teaching argues the problem with this variability in teacher quality is not a teacher problem, but is due to a problem of a “non-system” of support for teachers. Transforming Teaching believes teachers need a system that produces, vets, and disseminates information about quality teaching, a process for getting this information into use, and a policy environment that fosters the type of infrastructure and support for this type of information. In their white paper, Transforming Teaching argues there should be a concrete system that ensures quality teaching by providing all teachers the knowledge, support, and influence needed to be excellent educators. The authors argue these changes will require a change from how teachers are trained and prepared to the professional development new and experienced teachers receive.

Who is Involved?

The initiative is led by Harvard Graduate School of Education professor Jal Mehta. In addition to the professors involved in the initiative, Transforming Teaching has garnered the support of Randi Weingarten of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), Steven Farr of Teach For America, and hundreds of other educational organizations.

Can this Initiative Make a Difference?

In the past many organizations, government agencies, and education researchers have authored work on the importance of connecting research to practice in an effort to transform teaching. However, these earlier efforts have had mixed impacts in part due to the general lack of knowledge of what makes a good teacher.

Transforming Teaching has an ambitious agenda. For this initiative to be more successful than previous work, the people involved need to be confident they can systematically identify what makes an effective teacher.

The people and organizations involved in this initiative enter with a wide variety of perspectives. Having such smart people and diverse groups working on this initiative has the potential to make it impactful. While ambitious, Transforming Teaching provides a glimmer of hope that a more coherent “system” of good teaching is within reach.

Contact Dave: reiddav1@msu.edu

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Dave Reid
Dave is a doctoral student in Educational Policy and Teacher Education. His current research interests include how teachers make sense of and interact with the policies they are asked to implement. Prior to returning to graduate school, Dave was a 7th and 8th grade special education teacher and also served as an instructional coach for elementary and middle school teachers. Dave earned his bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communications from Franklin Pierce College and an M.Ed. in education from Arizona State University. - See more at: http://edwp.educ.msu.edu/green-and-write/who-we-are/#sthash.DLSaPTbe.dpuf