One of the several pedagogies we've used to support novice teachers in working on their decision-making is called rehearsal; the seminal article from Magdalene Lampert et al is here, and a primer on what and why can be found on UW's Teacher Education by Design site here (click on "introduce"). UW partnered with us last year to redesign our summer training institute (click for video if you're curious about the redesign), which is how I was introduced to rehearsals. I'd encourage you to take a moment and skim those resources, because we're using the term rehearsal to mean something very specific-- it's not just getting up and trying out a piece of a lesson in front of others, or running through or practicing some teaching, but rather, a method of deepening teachers' attention, supporting their thinking, and expanding their repertoire through a laboratory setup.
Leading rehearsals is really hard. I insert this here because they're pretty sexy-- just about every time I've described them to a fellow teacher educator, the response I've gotten has been an enthusiastic "oh, I could totally do that and I'm going to go try it right now!" I don't doubt that they're doable-- after all, I learned under pretty strained circumstances and like to believe I do a decent job-- but I do have a few words of caution about common pitfalls that I have experienced and have also seen from others who are just starting to use this pedagogy:
- When to pause: I have seen facilitators interrupt teachers almost constantly, which breaks a teacher's concentration, or pause for things that are unrelated to the focus of the rehearsal. There are so many possible opportunities to stop and either unpack what's happening or share thoughts, and it takes quite a bit of discipline to let things go (the classroom analogue: too many teachable moments lead to tangents); without this discipline, teachers end up being inundated with disconnected bits of advice that are difficult to follow and often overwhelming. On the other hand, I used to err on the side of letting too much go-- because I'd spend too much time deliberating whether something was worth pausing for or not, and by the time I decided, the moment was gone.
- How directive to be: When do you say "do this" vs. offering several options to choose from vs. asking the teacher what they think they should do? When do you ask for a teacher's rationale vs. assume it vs. assume it doesn't matter? There are clearly social consequences to these choices, in terms of how the teachers feel (supported, challenged, threatened, dismissed, validated...), but there are also pedagogical consequences. Simply telling teachers what to do doesn't build their judgment (rather, it starts to create another one of those "good/bad" lists I critiqued previously), but letting novices in particular wander blindly isn't productive either.
- Involving the group: While the teacher rehearsing benefits from rehearsal, so should the entire group; the other participants aren't there just to play students, but also to refine their own skill at noticing choice points and building a repertoire of possible decisions they could make and what consequences might result from those decisions-- and in doing so, contribute to each other's learning as well. As a facilitator, how often and in which circumstances do you open up a question for the group to consider together? I have missed opportunities to engage and push on participant learning in this way, and I have also opened up conversation in moments that have led to the airing of inappropriate suggestions, unproductive mindsets, or tangents that would have been better surfaced/addressed in a different space.
Apologies for the mediocre AV quality, but if you were able to make sense of it, here's what you probably saw me do in an attempt to demystify and make explicit the teacher's choices and rationale and to support the learning of both the teacher and audience:
- Open by naming a set of practices and moves that we would focus on in this particular rehearsal (which, for context, we'd been focusing on all day as we learned about number strings)
- Preemptively remind teacher of useful moves (to open the lesson by sharing rationale, to use gestures to highlight the area model)
- Ensure that the first time I pause the teacher, it's with affirmation
- Name and validate teacher actions (in this case, to offer a model and to give "students" time to discuss the model offered) and provide rationale for why these choices support student learning
- Reinforce mathematical language (the precision of base and height, solve vs simplify)
- Ask teacher to share her rationale for particular choices (why was that a good time for a turn-and-talk?), and use that to make a broader point about turn-and-talk
There are a number of facilitator moves you don't see in this clip: pausing to invite the audience to engage in a discussion about a question or a teacher choice, for example, or prepping certain audience members to play particular roles (either in terms of the mathematical thinking they demonstrate or the behavior they demonstrate, depending on the focus of the rehearsal). I know some of y'all out there have also led rehearsals, likely with much more sophistication and intentionality than is visible in this example (and authenticity, given the context here)... can I convince you to share some video for our collective learning too? Those of us in the teacher educator role last summer didn't have time to watch each other, because we were always facilitating at the same time, and yet (just as with teachers), I think there's so much we could learn by observing each other's practice!