Training teachers like ice skaters

Teachers should be trained like ice skaters, argues Mike Goldstein, founder of the very successful MATCH school in Boston. That means lots of “deliberate practice.” From Jay Mathews:

“A kid who practices 10 hours playing sloppy pick up basketball with his friends might develop less than a kid who has a focused two hours of practice with measurable, highly specific, small chunk feedback,” Goldstein told me in a long email. “Similarly, a rookie teacher who simply student teaches or acts as an assistant teacher might simply be repeating the WRONG moves.

“Deliberate practice means (1) specific & technique-oriented, (2) high-repetition, and (3) paired with immediate feedback which includes telling the novice what to do.

“That’s what we do: ‘Do X. Now you say it, right in front of me. Tone needs to be firm: do it again.’ High dosage feedback, after every day of student teaching. And feedback that is directive. Don’t say ‘Here’s 5 different ways you could try.’ Cut through that.”

Goldstein’s school recruits bright college graduates for its MATCH Corps. Most live in a dorm on the school’s top floor and serve as tutors for students who need more help.  Teacher training is scheduled for Friday, Saturday and the summer.  In interviews on the MATCH site here and here, two Corps members, graduates of Brown and Princeton, describe a typical 12-hour day of tutoring, grading, prep, parent phone calls and support duties. Teaching FTW (for the win) is a Match Corps’ veteran’s blog.

. . . “to develop an intuitive sense for how kids learn, we think 1,000 hours of sitting next to kids and tutoring, 1-on-1 or 1-on-2, is the way to go. This frees you from classroom management issues, and gets right to the heart of actual learning and learning breakdowns.”

The MATCH teacher trainees also practice classroom management using The Gateway, “simulated classroom environments with real kids executing coordinated small potatoes misbehaviors.”

Most MATCH Corps members go on to teach at “no excuses” charter schools.

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  1. Richard Aubrey says:

    As I’ve said before, certain successful educational techniques resemble military training. Which is also successful. If you control for the fact that, currently, somewhat over a third of the relevant age cohort actually qualifies to be let into basic training.

  2. Interesting similarity to certain trends in aviation, where some people think 500 hours, mostly in simulators in the context of a carefully-designed training program, is a better foundation for the aspiring airline pilot than 2000 hours, mostly in actual airplanes teaching students or flying freight. (the latter being the traditional path)

  3. Not a bad way to teach teachers and not a bad way to teach students.

  4. Whatever says:

    My most recent two choir directors have both said, not “Practice makes perfect” but “Practice makes permanent.” It’s important to practice the correct technique. Practicing crap will embed crappy technique in your brain. Probably works just as well with singing, ice skating, and solving math problems.

  5. my piano professors always said, “perfect practice makes perfect”

  6. The way that we educate teachers is certainly not enough, I find that to be undeniable. Mere college classroom, lesson planning and student teaching do not a teacher make. However teaching is not ice skating. Ice skating is a skill that you practice hours a day for and perform once in a while, where as teaching is a skill you practice and refine in the classroom every day. I do not believe that they are adequately similar to be learned the same way.
    That is not to say that this method of teaching is without merit. That kind of drilling combined with a real classroom experience, would have the student teacher learn that particular teaching style. I cannot imagine a simulation is enough to create the confidence needed to handle the situations that not only can but inevitably will occur in the classroom. Perhaps this drilling paired with an apprentice style program instead of a simulation.