Learning to Teach, Teaching to Learn


I have been thinking deeply about the core business. I’ve had good lessons, great lessons and some fairly unsuccessful ones too. A highlight has been Tuesday, as I work with Master of Teaching students at University of Sydney. We unpacked the concept of the instructional core, in preparation for classroom observation.

The instructional core can be interpreted as overly simplistic; Teaching of content clearly leads to learning. Or we can look at this framework as the core business, where good teachers affect learning by building relationships with their learners and a deep passion for the content. It is the teacher who makes the connections sparkle!

There is much debate over content v concepts. Howard Gardner once said that subject disciplines are some of the greatest and most significant social constructs of humankind. While I agree that PBL/ Inquiry is key to ‘education’, the joy in learning the specifics of our world and the ideas of fellow people can be equally magical; and certainly an understanding of such siloed concepts is taken higher when students are guided in inquiry and cross curricular discovery. An MTeach student was talking about her subject; Maths. She painted a beautiful picture of the instructional core; teacher, student, content.

I see myself as the conductor of a symphony when I am engaged in teaching Maths. There are kids at different levels of engagement and understanding, different parts to be learnt; algebra, trigonometry, geometry. They all come together in a crescendo of understanding, of skills mastery. When it all comes together, there is that moment when the poetry of how we can make more sense of the world and the song of patterns becomes harmonic.

Whoa. I had a sudden thirst to engage with a calculator.

It reminded me of a quote from Carmine Gallo, in The Innovation Secrets of Steve Jobs “would Steve Jobs’ ideas have been translated into world changing innovations had it not been for his ability to persuasively communicate?”

Teaching is a specific skill. The instructional core values the role of the teacher in the ever changing educational space. There is a need to focus on good teaching, and in this comes reflection. In Australia, AITSL is working to make teachings standards actually living documents and focus points for lifting the esteem and productivity of the profession. The most important work of AITSL is their advocacy for building learning communities; teachers as learners.

When we put learning at the central point of the instructional core, and conscious observation of ‘learning’ as a common process, we build consistent dialogue and value into what we do. And what we do transcends the success of our curriculum, learning spaces (of which, I think is perhaps another part of incorporate into the IC), schools, systems; Teaching and Learning is critical at a range of scales.

It has come down to two important questions;

  • What is Learning?
  • How do we know it’s happening?

I value your thoughts.


One thought on “Learning to Teach, Teaching to Learn

  1. What does learning look like indeed? The more I try to understand it, the more complex it seems such as this quote from my post – Making Progress:

    Anyway, I had to watch that video lots and lots and lots of times. What really hooked me was this notion of variability as aid to learning and transference, even if the performance gain (observable stuff we teachers measure as evidence of learning) is non-existent or slow. See folks, this is why I love Algebra! And in fact, that’s how Algebra should be taught, i.e. change those variables so students can see that the relationships expressed in an equation will yield different values as variables change. This is transference in number terms, literally

    If I were a conductor, I’d like to be that for a jazz band so kids can and are encouraged to improvise – informed/inspired but not constrained by the musical score.

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