When I came to Boston University in the mid 70’s, I enrolled simultaneously at the School of Public Communications and the School of Education. I wanted to learn how to produce videos that would illustrate good teaching. I thought the doctoral studies and the excellent B.U. library would enable me to figure out what good teaching was, and the courses at the School of Public Communication would give me the video skills to create useful images of it in action. What I discovered early on, along with my immersion as an instructional coach in the Cambridge Public Schools, was that I was asking the wrong question in my studies.
The question wasn’t “what is good teaching?”. The answer to that question turned out to be a resounding “it depends.” The real question was, “What are the things teachers do that are important?” They build relationships, they make ideas clear and accessible, they give students tools to be effective learners…..and on and on and on. There are key tasks successful teachers accomplish, quite a few of them. Each is a variable that contributes to student learning, and they all operate simultaneously, some in the foreground and some in the background. In addition, there is no one right or best way to accomplish any of them. There exists a repertoire of ways. Good teaching (Skillful Teaching) is actually one’s ability to match a response from one’s repertoire to the student, the situation, or the curriculum. The bigger one’s repertoire, the better chance of making a good “match”. And as a school, the more the faculty could collectively learn together, the better the odds we could all increase our repertoires and serve more children.