Pseudoteaching and Teacher Development

The following comment from Brian Frank (who blogs at both Students Talk Science and Teach. Brian. Teach. and is also @brianwfrank on Twitter) deserves to stand as its own post:

This post made me want to talk about three kinds of teachers I have faced.

First, I meet some teachers who have mostly been doing a lot of pseudoteaching (PT), who immediately recognize the value of teaching (T) when they see it modeled for them well (perhaps at a workshop, in another classroom, or whatever). Because of that experience, those teachers go back and try something minimally new in the classroom; but then through practice, reflection, and collaboration, they gradually shift away from PT.

Second, I meet some teachers who are doing most PT who resist any move away from PT. Perhaps they don’t see value in T; or perhaps they are threatened by the implicit offense against their current PT. These teachers often come up with excuses for why it won’t work with their students, or at their school.

Third, I meet some teachers who keep trying new “gateway” drugs, but it never goes anywhere. I can’t pin it down, but they somehow engage in the gateway teaching in a way that doesn’t allow them to grow. Perhaps, for Peer Instruction, they don’t facilitate the discussion in a way that allows them to hear students ideas (and change their minds about what students can do). For these teachers, the gateway teaching is not enough, because there is some other barrier involved.

I suppose the problem for this last teacher is that the gateway is not within their zone of proximal development for teaching. They need some other skills, knowledge, or experiences prior to the gateway. But this is a very different kind of problem than the second teacher.

At the end of the day, no lesson, method, curriculum should ever leave our critical eye. The moment we stop criticizing, assessing, and refining the teaching we do is moment we become increasingly vulnerable to pseudoteaching. I think that’s true no matter who you are or how you teach. Which brings up a fourth teacher, one who has made a significant transition to non-pseudo teaching, but eventually becomes complacent and over confident in what he/she does. Sorry for the long rant!

How do we shape the development of teachers into these different types? Can we expedite the development of  a Type 1 teacher? Can we change the attitude of a Type 2 teacher? How can we help the Type 3 teacher? And how to do we prevent the advent of the Type 4 teacher?

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