Tuesday, May 21, 2024

The Teaching Lab Process

 Implementing Teaching Labs in Teacher Training

To be as impactful as possible, teacher training should be as realistic as possible. This can be difficult in a school situation, as we don’t have live students with which to practice methods or approaches during group meetings. (This would be an interesting exercise, but probably not often practical.)

Administrators can use role-play and analysis of live mini-lessons with teachers as the ‘class’ to make the situations more realistic. Having teachers engage in teaching, even in a short format, will require them to think carefully through the steps of the ‘lesson’, and the following time for critique and analysis gives valuable feedback to both the teacher and the participants, as well as any observers. 

The teaching lab training process, when conducted consistently over a period of time and in conjunction with faculty learning, is a powerful tool to develop in teachers a shared understanding of the elements of excellent teaching, a shared vocabulary about teaching practice, and, very importantly, a growing adaptive wisdom about what, how, and when to use these practices.

The Teaching Lab Process

Regardless of the teaching lab format used, the following four-step process will help teachers get the maximum benefit from the exercise.

1.     The Review (5 minutes)

-as a group, discuss the previous teaching lab session: lessons learned, applications, etc.

-review elements of the teaching lab rubric (guide) in the teaching lab notebook


2.     The Brief (5 minutes)

-lesson plan to be received in advance

-on own prior to teaching lab meeting, use rubric (guide) to analyze and assess the lesson plan

-pre-lab: 2-3 minutes in triads, discuss lesson plan analysis and assessment conducted prior to meeting

-teacher briefly summarizes lesson plan


3.     The Practice: The Teaching Lab (20 minutes)

-the lesson is taught


4.     The Debrief (a dynamic, candid, professional discussion) (15 minutes)

-individually analyze and assess for a few minutes using rubric (guide)            

-discussion in small groups

-analyze and assess as a full group

-individually reflect and apply in teaching lab notebook

Some possible additional debrief questions:

  • What was the learning target? Was it accomplished? How do we know?
  • What did the teacher do to help students learn during the lesson?
  • For the teacher: what would you do differently if you were to teach this lesson again?

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Is Failure Good for Student Learning?

The research cited below concludes that, at least for older students, building struggle and even failure into lessons results in deeper learning. As teachers we should consider how we can move more of the thinking onto students, including letting them struggle a bit with solving problems or issues prior to direct instruction or giving them the solution (or even how we would solve or answer the question). 

While we want to be aware of the potential to frustrate certain students, having them wrestle for solutions and make mistakes can have great benefit for their learning and retention. 

From the introduction to the linked article:  

"When learning a new concept, should students engage in problem solving followed by instruction (PS-I) or instruction followed by problem solving (I-PS)? Noting that there is a passionate debate about the design of initial learning, we report evidence from a meta-analysis of 53 studies with 166 comparisons that compared PS-I with I-PS design. Our results showed a significant, moderate effect in favor of PS-I..."

When Problem Solving Followed by Instruction Works: Evidence for Productive Failure