- Personalized and blended instruction models are difficult to make work in the typical one-teacher classroom, per an analysis by Public Impact and the Clayton Christensen Institute, EdSurge reports.
- Key elements of a successful new staffing model include differentiated roles for educators, intensive collaboration on small teaching teams, and a culture of intensive coaching.
- Challenges to implementing a different educator model include the logistics of classes with many moving parts and teacher compensation commensurate with more responsibility, but schools must — and some already have — find workarounds to roadblocks. A co-author of the report insists that the most creative efforts to build a 21st-century school can only get so far without rethinking teacher roles.
While a focus on teacher quality has shifted to deregulation and school choice at the federal level, administrators at the state and district levels are looking at how educator impact and student performance can be maximized through an array of new practices.
An elementary school in Maryland has doubled student-teacher face time with a co-teaching model common in special ed and ESL settings, but still rare in general education. The model was instituted as a pilot program last year. Two classes of 2nd-graders are mixed into five groups, based on reading levels, and the groups move through stations. At two of them, a teacher awaits. One looks at reading accuracy and attention to detail, while the other focuses on comprehension. The system has allowed for targeted instruction to more levels of readers, in less time than it would take the teachers to go over all the material on their own. Plus, the kids get more direct interaction with their teachers, which they seem to love. The students have shown such positive gains, the program is expanding to a neighboring school.
A different sort of new teaching model — Opportunity Culture — is being used in more than 150 schools across eight states. Its hallmark is sharing the wealth, so to speak, of the top teachers. The initiative has some stellar educators simply teaching more children, either in bigger classes or by participating in a rotating learning stations model with other classes. Other excellent teachers “rub off” on colleagues with similar student populations by coaching them. After the first schools that implemented Opportunity Culture were evaluated, it was found that — after adjusting for the possible effects of other school improvement efforts — students of the “average” teachers who’d been matched up with a coach showed statistically significant gains in math.
More flexible teaching models often go hand-in-hand with more flexible spaces, designed to be used in several different configurations and purposes, now and in the future. As workplaces grow more open and collaborative as old silos are broken down, it follows that school redesigns will follow suit. Students are getting used to working in the kind of environments they’ll encounter down the road.
Individual teacher desks have been swapped out for a teacher collaboration space in Colorado’s Boulder Valley School District. As for the students, they are installed in big, airy rooms that lend themselves to group project work, but they also take up residence in secluded nooks when independent work is called for.
Those looking to spearhead such a redesign should think about who the space will serve, and what those users will be doing. (IKEA can be a great source of budget-friendly, serviceable furnishings for student spaces.) It’s important to test out changes on a small scale before expanding the redesign to a wider area to gauge student reaction. To keep from going overboard while reinventing a learning space in an economical way, taking three things away, adding two things, and tweaking or adjusting one is a good rule of thumb.