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Deliberate practice in teaching

In interviews and surveys, working teachers described how they improve their teaching over time. The table below summarizes the results. Read the table headings together as a sentence:

A goal-directed teacher working in a complex environment...

..engages in prolonged, deliberate practice to improve her performance...

..to high levels of situated competence.

Has a goal to improve her pupils' learning or her own performance.

Has uncertain, ambiguous feedback about her own performance.

Works in a complex, unpredictable setting.

Has some support for improvement, e.g. mentoring, IPD.

Works in some culture of practice and improvement, perhaps weak.

That practice applies to common acts of teaching; the teachers studied listed these as most relevant and frequent:

>> Mental and written planning [perhaps for classroom management or leading discussion].

>> Informal and formal evaluation, particularly of written work and teacher-made tests.

>> Discussions with other teachers, and observing other teachers teach.

Competence is not an automatic response to experience, but a product of deliberate learning and effortful adaptation.

The expert continues to regularly engage in practice activities which contribute to continued improvement in performance.

Expert habit: Mental resources are continually reinvested back into solving additional problems at higher levels of complexity.

Routinization/habit is one result of the learning; it frees space for development of greater expertise, but the expert does not settle into routines.

Growth in ability to see problems in ways that help to solve them in particular situations.

Gains in recognizing classroom patterns, time required to complete tasks, accuracy in representing and solving problems and short- and long-term memory.

Dunn, T. G., & Shriner, C. (1999). Deliberate practice in teaching: What teachers do for self-improvement. Teaching and Teacher Education 15,(6), 631-651.