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Doug Lemov's field notes

Reflections on teaching, literacy, coaching, and practice.

08.08.18Announcing TLAC Online!

Setting yourself up to practice well.

This week we are making a set of 24 online self-study modules aligned to Teach Like a Champion techniques available to educators everywhere. We think these modules can help teachers learn and develop their teaching skill and therefore ensure greater student success and achievement—and we think they can help teachers improve on their own time no matter where they are; no matter what time of day it is. We’re really optimistic about the modules, and that’s a funny thing to hear myself say in particular because I am an immense online learning skeptic. But maybe that’s one reason why the modules ended up being useful.

Some context: My colleagues and I have always believed in practice as one of the core ways to get better at the craft of teaching—but practice combined with study and reflection, is often hard to do.  How do I know what to practice? How do I know my practice is any good? When do I find time for it?

These are questions that the modules are designed to address.

But first, an overview. There are 24 modules. Each takes about 20 minutes to complete and involves a bit of reading, a bit of watching video and a bit of practice. They cover three broad categories that are critical to great instruction: building strong positive culture, effective planning, and ensuring that students are engaged in academic work of substance. The modules select certain techniques within each of those categories and often subdivide the techniques into smaller pieces in order to facilitate mastery.  Cold Call is a good example.

There are five modules to support Cold Call. There’s an introduction, a module on making Cold Call positive, and a module on timing the name (asking the question first to ensure that students do the cognitive work).  There’s a module on “unbundling and follow-ons” to build a culture of peer-to-peer listening.  And there’s a module on Slow Call—using Cold Call to slow students down and cause them to think deeply.

The reason for this is simple: It’s not enough to just say: “Hey Cold Call is great. Here’s a video. Try it out!”  It’s difficult to use Cold Call well and helping people succeed or improve means, to us, providing practice in a series of manageable steps. That’s how we think we can best help teachers master the complexity of a technique.

We designed the modules to help teachers practice core skills to improve their craft and they are the result of a partnership with Relay Graduate School of Education that started with my saying, “Absolutely not” when asked if I had any interest in developing online modules.

Here’s the story, briefly.  For years people would tell me I should make online tools that people could watch—”There’s a huge market they’d say.”  But while I knew you could sell people online tools, I never wanted to do it because I didn’t think they would help make anyone better.  Most online tools I saw were passive. You watch a video. You answer some questions. You barely engage. You were googling on one screen and answering some simplistic questions on the other.  I’d done that myself. Online modules couldn’t cause you to practice, to be accountable for engaging deeply to get better.

At least that’s what I told the people who offered over the course of several years to help me make online ‘courseware.’  Then I met the folks from Relay and they said, “Will you at least meet with our design team and tell them why you think it’s such a waste of time?” So I did. And I explained. And they came back to me with a model where you got to study some video and then actually practice.  Where your laptop camera kicked on and you tried out a technique and then got to watch and assess your own practice.  And then email it to a colleague for feedback if you wanted. And in the end they convinced me there was something real here.

And now I see that they were right.

The best way to describe what that looks like is to let you see a sample, so here’s one of the modules, Positive Cold Call Culture, in which you’ll script and practice 3-5 Cold Call questions you’ll use in an upcoming lesson. Try it out: TLAC Online–Positive Cold Call Culture 

Here’s where they now live on our website: http://teachlikeachampion/training/tlac-online. You can sign up directly for them here. The idea is that if you want to get better you can use them on your own. And if you have a PLC and want to practice and share your practice together you can do that. And if you are a school and want tools your teachers can use—or that you can ask them to use—to focus on pieces of their craft, well you can use these to support observations or training sessions or whatever else you’re doing to support your teachers.

So here they are. We’re very excited to make them available. We can’t wait to hear more about how you use them.

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