The 7 questions every new teacher should be able to answer

shutterstock_241366579-300x200Teaching for the 21st century looks a lot different. Here’s what admins — and teachers — need to know for job interviews and beyond

Not long ago, the leadership team of a school district I was working with asked me: “If you were going to hire a new teacher, what would you ask in the interview?” They were concerned that hiring teachers with the right skills now can save a district a lot of money in staff development later. Moreover, they wanted to hire teachers who would be open minded about changes to come. The problem is to balance the reality of today’s pressure for test scores and required teacher evaluation with the changes that can be anticipated during the next two decades.

Current question: What do you know about your subject?
New question: How do you manage your own professional growth?

We typically hire teachers for what they already know, subject knowledge. But what may become more important is to hire teachers who have a great capacity for continuous learning. How do you find resources around the world that you can share with your students? How do you continuously learn?

Current question: How do you share what you already know with students?
New question: How do you teach students to learn what you don’t know?

A common interview question is to demonstrate a lesson you’ve created. But at a time when knowledge transfer is less important than learning how to learn, we may need to reframe this question to: How can you teach students how you learn?

Increasingly, teachers are going to be in a position where their students will have jumped ahead in the curriculum as they explore YouTube and iTunes U for content in the subject. Increasingly, curious students will come to class asking questions about the subject and the teacher may not know the answer. Teachers can either encourage this spark of curiosity and “awe and wonder,” or not.

Current question: How do you teach students to solve problems?
New question: How do you teach students to become problem designers?

With relatively limited access to information in the world of paper, we generally give (maybe spoon feed) students the problems they need to solve. We emphasize finding and memorizing answers. But now that the internet is replacing paper as the go-to media we need to balance our students skill set from finding answers to asking the most interesting questions.

Current question: How do you assess student work that is handed in to you?
New question: What are your expectations for students to self-assess their work and publish it for a wider audience?

Researcher John Hattie has pored over nearly 1,200 educational studies from around the world to identify the factors that most strongly contribute to student success. Of the 195 independent variables he has identified, self-assessment ranks third on his list.

We need graduates who are independent. Yet in our schools, too often we’re fostering a culture of dependency, where kids are waiting for teachers to tell them how well they are doing. In some cases, our system of assessment becomes a ceiling for quality work. Many students will ask “What do I need to do to get an A?” The rubric for an A can lead can stop students from creating their very best work.

Current question: What is your contribution to our faculty?
New question: What is your global relationship?

Many schools have formed professional learning communities in which faculty work together to improve instruction. Who can argue against the value of educators sharing best practices and how to help specific students? However, if all these conversations are limited to people you see every day, within the structure of a school, there is a very real danger that an echo chamber will develop that has serious limits to professional growth. There is even a danger of unknowingly perpetuating bad practice.

Current question: How do you make sure students are on task?
New question: How do you give students an opportunity to contribute purposeful work to others?

This comes from Dan Pink and others who have written about purpose, and why it’s such a motivator for doing our best work. Educators know that all students aren’t motivated by grades; achieving a higher grade is an external reward (or punishment) given by someone else — the teacher. By adding a larger purpose to the design of student work, we may be able to have more students who are much more likely to become engaged and self-motivated.

Current question: How do you manage your classroom?
New question: How do you teach students to manage their own learning?

Traditional teacher evaluation systems often focus the evaluator’s observations on the teacher’s behavior. Much of this behavior is focused on creating students to become dependent upon their teacher. Many classrooms are set up to teach students “how to be taught.” What we need are teachers who can teach students to “learn how to learn”.

Learning how to learn

Notice that there are no interview questions that ask about the candidate’s technology skills. While an understanding of technology is essential, these questions revolve around the application of technology to fundamentally change the culture of the classroom.

Collectively, the questions move away from a classroom that is designed to “learn how to be taught” to one that highly values “learning how to learn.” In some ways, the teachers we need moving forward are the antitheses to the teacher skills we have been demanding. It will be difficult to avoid the tension that would naturally evolve between the two approaches to managing a classroom.

While disruption of the traditional classroom culture is inevitable, it would be impossible to simply flip a switch to the new one. We will need leaders who understand how to manage the transition.  Now is the time to rethink the added value of a teacher in the age of the internet and to redesign our hiring practices to match this new role.

Read the entire article by Alan November in eSchool News at http://www.eschoolnews.com/2016/06/13/the-7-questions-every-new-teacher-should-be-able-to-answer/

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