Hiebert, Morris, Berk, & Jansen Preparing Teachers to Learn from Teaching

Hiebert, J., Morris, A. K., Berk, D., & Jansen, A. (2007). Preparing teachers to learn from teaching. Journal of Teacher Education, 58(1), 47-61. DOI:// 10.1177/0022487106295726

Summary: Drawing upon research, the authors propose four skills that compose a conceptual framework for preparing teachers to learn from their practice. Those four skills include setting learning goals for students, assessing whether the goals are being achieved during the lesson, specifying hypotheses for why the lesson did or did not work well, and using the hypotheses to revise the lesson. The authors argue that these skills are necessary in supporting teachers’ abilities to learn subject matter knowledge in practice as compared to devoid of practice.

Important Quotes:

  • Implications for Supervision – “We propose that assessing whether students achieve clear learning goals and specifying how and why instruction did or did not affect this achievement lies at he heart of learning to teach from studying teaching. This kind of analysis is different than that which focuses on particularly features of teaching or behaviors of teachers, such as asking higher order questions or managing discourse. We propose that focusing on students’ learning and explaining such learning (or its absence) in terms of instructional episodes provides a targeted but comprehensive and systematic path to becoming an effective teacher over time” (p. 48).
  • “However, we emphasize the analytic skills, not only because they have received less attention but also because we believe the core of teaching – interacting with students about content – is not learned well through acquiring expert strategies during a teacher preparation program. Rather, it is learned through continual and systematic analysis of teaching” (p. 49).
  • “Analyses of teaching involve assessing the effects of an instructional episode against precisely defined learning goals. An episode might be a task or activity that constitutes part of a daily lesson, a full daily lesson, or a sequence of lessons. By defining the learning goals for an episode precisely and explicitly, it is possible to investigate whether and how instruction facilitated or inhibited students’ achievement of the goals” (p. 50).
  • “Describing learning goals precisely requires unpacking them into component goals or subgoals” (p. 51).
  • “First, goal descriptions are more useful when they are more specific, when they include subgoals and primary or general goals. Second, goal descriptions are useful when they use the language of the subject” (p. 51).
  • “When learning goals are specified, evidence can be collected about whether, and to what extent, each student is achieving the goals” (p. 51).
  • “Conducting empirical observations to collect the evidence involves (a) appreciating that evidence about students’ learning is essential for assessing the effects (and effectiveness) of teaching – indeed, no other information will suffice; (b) recognizing what counts as evidence that students are achieving the learning goals – distinguishing students’ responses that are relevant from those that are irrelevant; and (c) knowing how to collect evidence – identifying key moments in a lesson where evidence of students’ learning should be apparent and planning ways to collect it from each student” (p. 52).
  • “Developing hypotheses that link teaching with learning requires forming conjectures about how a particular instance of teaching (task, question, activity, etc) facilitated or inhibited a particular kind of learning” (p. 54).
  • “Constructing hypotheses about causal connections between teaching and learning requires an appropriate level of skepticism” (p. 55).
  • “To summarize, the skills aim to clarify the learning goals, gather information about whether students are achieving the goals, and generate hypotheses about how instruction is (or is not) facilitating students’ learning. Making revisions to improve the instructional episode is then a matter of following the implicit recommendations contained in the hypotheses” (p. 55).
  • “A third reason for selecting the four skills is that they create a framework that allows space for the influence of subject matter knowledge. Subject matter knowledge clearly influences how and how well teachers teach (Borko et al., 1992; Borko, Livingston, McCaleb, & Mauro, 1988; Carlsen, 1993, 1997; Hill et al., 2005; Leinhardt & Greeno, 1986; Stein et al., 1990; Stodolsky, 1988); however, the mechanisms through which such knowledge enters teachers’ thinking and practice are not well understood” (p. 57).