I saw on Twitter this morning a discussion about an upcoming teaching competition, The Great American Teach-Off. Now, I love to watch cooking competitions & The Voice singing competition; so I understand the general idea. According to the website, two teams of teachers will teach a lesson to a live audience and receive judgment from a panel of "teacher celebrities". The intent is spotlight the craft of teaching but what are your thoughts about this type of competition? Good, Bad? Discuss here.
It's creating a minor tweetstorm in the #MTBOS community -- people like Marilyn Burns, whom I respect immensely, think it is a bad idea... lots of folks recoil at the notion of teaching being a competitive thing and imagine "teacher celebrities" who are more celeb than teacher... others don't like the idea of teaching as "performance art" as opposed to the long-term cultivation of relationships w/ students, etc. Still other arguments were about a teaching "contest" not really showing just how hard it was to teach in a school.
Another math teacher educator whom I follow is involved in the project and maintains that with so many deeply held negative attitudes towards math and math education and math teachers, a well-crafted contest could show facets of math education in a positive light. This made me wonder what a parent w/ a studnet in a lousy situation would feel like if they realized watching it that ... no, math didn't *have to* be (insert one of the lousy experiences here).
Me? I just don't know. I imagine something like the Olympics where the "event" is only part of the story and there are clips about the humongoid real challenges that different real teachers face along the road to giving a good math lesson. I imagine totally redesigning the whole contest silliness into a "Cooperative Survivor" event where all the teachers end up collaborating and sharing resources (OER again :P ).
Very interesting approach. I can't say that I have seen or been part of a teach-off. I'm curious to see how they stage the live challenge at SXSW EDU. Are the students actually "students" or actors? The supporting article explains how the idea started (snippet below). From my perspective this approach could draw attention to new and diverse teaching practices.
The idea stemmed from my reporting in Japan, where I watched public research lessons — complete lessons taught before an audience of fellow teachers, and followed by a discussion of what could be learned from the teaching episode. Public lessons are common in Japanese schools, part of the larger practice of jugyokenkyu, or lesson study. I absolutely loved observing these lessons and the discussions afterward. Each one was a gripping drama packed with confusion, struggle, and moments of revelation. I had already begun to see teaching through new eyes when I traveled to Japan — not as a matter of charisma and personality, the common American understanding, but as a craft — and these research lessons built on, and deepened, that lesson. - Elizabeth Green
I think this could be an interesting way to examine how the audience values different teaching practices, personas, and media. But the term "teach-off" struck me as a little odd. Depending on the audience, the winner might rely on approaches that aren't effective with today's learners in general.
Teaching is both an art and a science. Artists participate in public exhibitions, and scientists share/debate theory and results in public...so I am thinking of the teach off as an experiment. In the context of an experiment, sometimes failing (example: Thomas Edison) means that you have learned more than you anticipated :)