Doug Lemov on the Power of Teacher Practice

Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2012, 12 to 1 p.m. ET
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 Doug Lemov on the Power of Teacher Practice(11/13/2012) 
Bryan Toporek: 
Good morning, and welcome to Education Week Teacher's free live chat, "Doug Lemov on the Power of Teacher Practice." I've just opened today's chat for questions, so please feel free to start submitting yours below.

We'll be back at noon Eastern with author Doug Lemov -- hope to see you then!
Tuesday November 13, 2012 10:37 Bryan Toporek
Bryan Toporek: 
Folks, thanks for joining us today for Education Week Teacher's free live chat, "Doug Lemov on the Power of Teacher Practice." We're going to get underway in just a few minutes.

In the meantime, please continue submitting your questions below! 
Tuesday November 13, 2012 11:57 Bryan Toporek
Bryan Toporek: 
Alright, I'm handing the chat off to today's moderator, Anthony Rebora, the managing editor of Education Week Teacher. Take it away, Anthony!
Tuesday November 13, 2012 12:00 Bryan Toporek
Anthony Rebora: 
Hello. Thank everyone for joining our chat with Doug Lemov, founding managing director of Uncommon Schools and author of the influential book "Teach Like a Champion." His most recent book, co-authored with Erica Woolway and Katie Yezzi, is Practice Perfect: 42 Rules for Getting Better at Getting Better." Welcome Doug.
Tuesday November 13, 2012 12:01 Anthony Rebora
Doug Lemov: 
Thanks, Anthony. I'm really happy to be here. And hello to all the teachers out there. You do the most important job in the world!
Tuesday November 13, 2012 12:01 Doug Lemov
Anthony Rebora: 
Before we get to our viewers questions, let me get us started. Without going into too much detail, can you tell us about your new book "Practice Perfect." What prompted you to write it?
Tuesday November 13, 2012 12:02 Anthony Rebora
Doug Lemov: 
Necessity! and sometimes failure! Katie and Erica and I run workshops together. And as we started to train teachers on what we'd found in Teach Like a Champion, we noticed something...
Tuesday November 13, 2012 12:03 Doug Lemov
Doug Lemov: 
...that when we'd run a wokshop people often loved the ideas that they got from other teachers classrooms. But when we checked back in with them a few weeks later they were often struggling to do what they wanted... we realized there was a big gap between "getting it" and "doing it" and as we started to use practice in our workshop it made a tremendous difference. And people loved it. and so the book announced itself to us.
Tuesday November 13, 2012 12:04 Doug Lemov
Anthony Rebora: 
So what would you say the difference is between the professional development that teachers routinely get and the kind of practice you're talking about?
Tuesday November 13, 2012 12:05 Anthony Rebora
Doug Lemov: 
Well the firstthing is that PD should be "by" teachers, I thin, rather than "at" them. and by that i ,ean that i think the core ideas should come from the classrooms of teachers themsleves. But beyod that i think that we spend a lot of time in PD reflecting and talking about and discussing. But we don't spend a lot of time doing and repeating and hining. And that's what makes you better. Teaching is a performance profession, andby that i mena...
Tuesday November 13, 2012 12:06 Doug Lemov
Doug Lemov: 
that it is performed live. if you have a great lesson on Tuesday it guarantees you nothing on Wednesday. And if you are crashing during your lesson you can't stop and call someone ot ask for advice. you're live in front of 30 students. and every other profession that performs live prepares for the main event by practicing. and the beneift is that it makes you calm and poised in performance and reduces stress. which is really nice.
Tuesday November 13, 2012 12:08 Doug Lemov
Anthony Rebora: 

What sort of things do you have teachers practice in your workshops?
Tuesday November 13, 2012 12:09 Anthony Rebora
Doug Lemov: 
Here are two very different examples-

1) practicing responding to unexpected wronganswers (or misunderstandings) from students during discussion. THis idea came from a teacher. She would be discussing a novel with her kids and when she got a very unexpected answr from a studnet she would freeze mentally and not know how to respond. and so she would kind of shut down the discussion and givethe answer herself. result: poor discussion with low ration and engagement. So she asked a colleague to meet with her for ten minutes a day three times a week. they read questionsfromthe lesson plans to one another and gave each other typical student wrong answers. then the practiced responding. in a few weeks both of them were relly good at reacting and redirecting the conversation in a way the preserved discussion. So we stole that idea and we do it in our workshops now. in other workshops we practice...
Tuesday November 13, 2012 12:12 Doug Lemov
Doug Lemov: 
... correcting students who are off-task in the least invasive way so that the lesson can go on and not be interrupted. To do this well "in the game" you need to have done it a few dozen times in practice. So we set up a simple lesson and have people practice it until they can correct without thinking about it. When they actually teach their lesson they are then ideally thinking abou the math or the novel or the science and can reset the behavior without it distracting THEM either.
Tuesday November 13, 2012 12:14 Doug Lemov
[Comment From CalebCaleb: ] 
Performing arts teachers know intutively the value of practice. How would you say we can best focus on practice in *teaching*, not just in our teaching subject?
Tuesday November 13, 2012 12:14 Caleb
Doug Lemov: 
Thanks, Caleb- I think performing arts teachers are really comfortable with the idea that in order to play a symphony--say--you have to practice your scales. You master some core fundamtental elements of the craft and it frees your mind and your creativity to think of something else more nuanced when you're on stage. so one thing i would do to borrow fromthat wisdom is to ttake something "fundamental" like, say, how you phrase your questions so they are open ended or perhaps how you Cold Call students and practice that. It might seem "mundane" but if you get really fluid at it, when you get to class your mind will be freed to think about higher topics--like improvisation or what studnets are saying--during performance. Great question, by the way.
Tuesday November 13, 2012 12:17 Doug Lemov
Anthony Rebora: 

Just as an FYI: One of our viewers, Fran, has her own take on the difference between traditional teacher PD and actual practice:
Tuesday November 13, 2012 12:18 Anthony Rebora
[Comment From FranFran: ] 
The difference to me is active involvement versus passive listening.
Tuesday November 13, 2012 12:18 Fran
[Comment From R. TerwilligerR. Terwilliger: ] 
As noted by Malcolm Gladwell, "geniuses" like Mozart became the way they did through intensive practice--over 10,000 hours of it. How much practice should teachers have?
Tuesday November 13, 2012 12:18 R. Terwilliger
Doug Lemov: 
Yes! that's what durprises me most about practicing with adults, Fran. That they love it because it's active and energetic and yuou can feel yourelf changing. and it makes teaching--which can be lonely--a team sport.
Tuesday November 13, 2012 12:19 Doug Lemov
Doug Lemov: 
My answer to R. Terwilliger is 1) i'm not sure but 2) certainly morethan they do now... which is not very much. one thign that helps is setting the expectation that you cna practice in short increments... ten minutes a few times a week, like the reading teacher i referred to before.
Tuesday November 13, 2012 12:20 Doug Lemov
[Comment From Stuart BuckStuart Buck: ] 
I've read the book and loved it. Are there any plans to test your model of professional development using a randomized trial?
Tuesday November 13, 2012 12:20 Stuart Buck
Doug Lemov: 
Good question, Stuart. We're working right now to gather data on implementation in a variety of setting. To be otally honest none of them is a perfect randomized trial. Still, we think we'll have much better data to learn from in the near future.
Tuesday November 13, 2012 12:22 Doug Lemov
[Comment From GuestGuest: ] 
How about recording the teacher teaching in a workshop and then showing him/her what they looked like and then generating constructive comments before recording a second round?
Tuesday November 13, 2012 12:22 Guest
Doug Lemov: 
Love it. at our most recent workshop some of the teachers started spontaneously taping themselves practicing with their i-pads. it struck me as a lot like what happens in performance management in sports. FIRST people realized you should tape the games to learn from them and inform your practice. But really quickly after that they realized that taping your practices was even more valuable. it allows you to accelerate your feedback cycles and make them more precise and objective.
Tuesday November 13, 2012 12:24 Doug Lemov
[Comment From MaxMax: ] 
Where do you see child development in your work? What about the role of content? In addition to efficient, expedient classroom management techniques, what does support for teachers look like in understanding developmentally appropriate practice? What about making sense of meaty content (take multiplication or a mystery genre study or the life cycle for examples)?
Tuesday November 13, 2012 12:24 Max
Doug Lemov: 
Nothing cna replace the critica role of content. real rigorous and powerful content. period full stop end of story. it makes me crazy when reading teachers, say, ask kids to read any old book and just track their pages--they do that in a district near me--instead of reading animal farm or lord of the flies. But where i see "technique" fitting in is two fold 1) it makes teahers more ale ot get students to engage fully in real content and 2) it allows a fuller range of potentially knowledgeable teachers to enter the profession. if youare looking for a physics teacher for your inner city HS there's a really small pool of applicants. if you need a physics teacher who can motivate 30 teenagers and keep them on task... then you're really searching for needlesin haystacks. Butif you can help more people with knowledge of phyics to be able to thrive inthe classroom, then you have a true synergy.
Tuesday November 13, 2012 12:28 Doug Lemov
Anthony Rebora: 

I want to interject here with one obvious--but important--question: How do schools/teachers find time for the sort of practice your recommending.
Tuesday November 13, 2012 12:29 Anthony Rebora
Doug Lemov: 
It's a challenge. I think there's an opportunity for the agendas from staff meetings and department meetings to be taken of line and replaced with practice. And i think that the time currently allocated to "professional development" (ie in service days) couldbe switch to something more practice intensive... i also realize there are barriers to those things. However i thik the power of pracice is significant enough to make it worth it. AND i think at the same time that small groups of people can always find small blocks of time to get together and try to improve- ten minutes at lunch or after school. If i wanted this to happen in my school i'd set up a room for it at lunch, provide the sandwiches and let people "opt in" ie if you choose to make time to invest in yourself, i'll say thank you by making your life easier. and feeding you.
Tuesday November 13, 2012 12:33 Doug Lemov
Anthony Rebora: 
A reader follows up on this one:
Tuesday November 13, 2012 12:33 Anthony Rebora
[Comment From MartyMarty: ] 
I think you find time with what Doug wrote about in TLAC with "golden time." All work in front of the teacher or with the teacher has to be considered golden and cannot be wasted. It can't be used to word-process an essay or watch a movie, it has to be thought of as the time that can never be wasted.
Tuesday November 13, 2012 12:33 Marty
[Comment From CalebCaleb: ] 
How can we get students engaged with the idea that teachers practice? i.e. that we aren't always perfect, or the source of all knowledge?
Tuesday November 13, 2012 12:34 Caleb
Doug Lemov: 
First, I agree with Marty. Part of showing teachers the respect they deserve is only asking them to spend their time on what's truly useful to them in helping their students learn. Their time is precious. a scarce national resource and it makes me crazy when a principal starts a meeting by saying "I've send you an email about this already"... but on to Caleb's question...
Tuesday November 13, 2012 12:35 Doug Lemov
Doug Lemov: 
I think that students notice what you narrate to them. So i love it when a teacher narrates his or her own practice and--inherently--fallibility... e.g. "It took me a few times to get this right. I had to really concentrate on eliminating passive voice from my writing. But now i think i have it. How'd i do?" the other thingthat works really well is to model and ask for feedback and insist thatthe feedback be constructive. I think that school leaders should do this too, by the way. If we/they want teachers to be comfortable with getting constructive feedback and, in the end, with the idea of exposing errors as a route to improvement, then we/they have to model that. We always try to model in our own workshops if we're going to ask others to and we just say at the outet--we're not as good at teaching as some of you are. so hopefully we'll do a few good things that you can point out. and certainly you'll give us the gift of construtive feedback to help us improve. Version 2 of TLaC is going to have a MUCH expanded section on building a culture that valorizes error making... and that has to be demonstrated by everyone in an organization or a classroom... especially the leader.
Tuesday November 13, 2012 12:41 Doug Lemov
[Comment From R. TerwilligerR. Terwilliger: ] 
Should administrators take part in teacher practice? What is the administrator's role here beyond "encouragement"?
Tuesday November 13, 2012 12:41 R. Terwilliger
Doug Lemov: 
Yes! I think they HAVE to. They have to show their own willingness to learn and improve and to be comfortable making mistkes in front of their team mates. Making it safe to take risks and be wrong is one of the most important things an administrator or leader can do. so starting off by modeling the practice and even saying "iknow i'm going to get some things wrong and some things right, just like you" is , for me, a moment of great leadership.
Tuesday November 13, 2012 12:43 Doug Lemov
Anthony Rebora: 
We have a few questions that relate more to your previous book, "Teach Like a Champion." But the issues (perhaps obviously) are very much related. For example:
Tuesday November 13, 2012 12:44 Anthony Rebora
[Comment From Carole FullerCarole Fuller: ] 
One of our study circles (or PLCs) is studying Teach Like A Champion this year for professional learning. We are an adult ed charter school, and we are interested to apply some of the same strategies in an adult ed context. One of the concerns we have is that the techniques explained in the book could lead to a more teacher-centered classroom. Please could you speak to how we can maintain a student-centered approach while incorporating these techniques? Thank you so much for this opportunity to interact with you directly.
Tuesday November 13, 2012 12:44 Carole Fuller
Doug Lemov: 
Hi, Carole. Thanks for doing such important work. Your question is a good one.

1) i recognize that many people prefer a less structured model than what appears to exist in many of the videos. I say "appears to exist" because there is (andhas to be) lots of less teacher-centered time in every good classroom. I would just note that from a videography perspective, the techniques we see teachers using are most legible in teacher centered moments. But great teachersusethem all the time.
2) one way i'd think about it is this--you need to be able ot have structurewhen you want it... but often you want it in order to giveit away. so i would PRACTICE--to get back to that idea--establishing and then giving away control of the classroom... and then probably taking it back.
3) i'd also draw your attention to the other technique which i think will getthe biggest revision in version 2--Everybody writes. Over the three or so years since the book came out i've really come to focus even more on the role of writing in a strong classroom... and writing is a fundamentally autonomous task. and it's a great tool for accountability... for making sure that people use their autonomy effectively. my goal wouldbe to have every autonomous activity conclude with a well-crafted sentence that accurately captures a complex idea
Tuesday November 13, 2012 12:49 Doug Lemov
[Comment From CJCJ: ] 
Hey Doug, thanks so much for your work. I'm wondering if you have any ideas for how best to integrate "live" performance into the practice process. That is, sandwiching an authentic performance of a given task in a real live class into a broader practice cycle. (I'm thinking along the lines of sports: practice all week, play on sunday, watch film on Monday.) Any thoughts on how to design that process to make the most of it?
Tuesday November 13, 2012 12:49 CJ
Doug Lemov: 
Great question, CJ. Thanks! We write in the book about the difference between "drill" and "scrimmage"... i think i'd want to start with a lot of drill... isolating a skill and then integrating ith with others in increasinly complex situations. than, to make sure i was ready forthe "game" i might think about a short period of authentic practice. my goal here woudbe for people--new teachers, say--to practice just long enough to be successful but not so long that they can't sustain their new skils and then begin to fail. so we often ask our developing teachers to play "Copy Cat" with a master teacher. the master teacher goes into class and says something like "I'm going to teach the first problem. Watch how i Cold Call to start and how i ask students to develop one another's ideas. then i'm going to pass off to you. you do the second problem and try to do as i've done in the first. Then pass it back to me for the third problam and i'll either model more of the same or add the complexity, depeding on how you're doing." so there's a live performacne--often several of them--but it's very short at first so people practice being successful and can concentrate on doing the new skill.
Tuesday November 13, 2012 12:54 Doug Lemov
Anthony Rebora: 
Doug, do you see the role of teacher-coaches growing in light of what you're finding and seeing on the ways teachers improve?
Tuesday November 13, 2012 12:55 Anthony Rebora
Doug Lemov: 
quite plausibly. it always makes me happy when there are career paths for great teachers that involve them still teaching... or doing work that is about developing teaching skills (which is different from administering a building, say). if it were me and i coud design the ideal role it might have me still teaching some... one or two classes a day, say. that would let me keep my skills honed and also give me a demonstration space where teachers could come see me or teac with me--and play COpy Cat, for example--but would also let me get out and watch and coach other and plan and implement pratice sessions. Houston ISD in Texas has been doing a great job of something like this under Terry Grier. My sense is that the teachers really like it!
Tuesday November 13, 2012 12:58 Doug Lemov
Anthony Rebora: 
This is somewhat related to the earlier issue of time, bu what's your advice for a teacher who wants to get better--who wants to hone his or her craft in the way you prescribe--but is only getting more traditional types of PD from her school or district. What can a teacher do on her own in the way of practice?
Tuesday November 13, 2012 12:59 Anthony Rebora
Doug Lemov: 
It would be great if that teacher was placedin a school that could support her in that way but if not....

1) she could find a like minded peer or maybe a small group of peers who want to do some practicing. a bit like the colleague i talked about before who found a partner to practice with ten minutes a day 3x per week. When i was a first year teacher, we had a group of staff memebers who got together to cook dinner and hang out once or twice a week. something like that would be a fun way to practice
2) there are so many ways ot build a virtual communiy now if a proximate one doesn't exist in your school. find some peers on line and flip yourslef praticing. or practice via Skype, etc.
3) but make sure to let your school know what youneed to get better. this is important because--i think--IT IS THE FUNDAMENTAL OBLIGATION OF ANY SCHOOL OR KNOWLEDGEBASED ORGANIZATION TO MAKE ITS PEOPLE BETTER--teachers give their lives to public service and they deserve to be as successful as they can with that commitment.... if a school isn't doing hat it needs to know so i can fix it.. or know why people are leaving.

ok, down off my soap box now. :)
Tuesday November 13, 2012 1:03 Doug Lemov
Anthony Rebora: 
Well, on that note ... I'm afraid that's all the time we have left. Great conversation! Thanks to our readers for the great questions. And thanks to Doug Lemov for taking the time to share his ideas with us. More information on "Pratice Perfect," including a video trailer, is available from the publisher:

See you next time.
Tuesday November 13, 2012 1:05 Anthony Rebora
Doug Lemov: 
Thanks for having me and thanks to all your readers for listening in. My favorite place in the world to be is with a roomful of educators... even if the room is "virtual." Best, Doug
Tuesday November 13, 2012 1:06 Doug Lemov
Bryan Toporek: 
Thanks, Anthony! And thank you all for joining us today. Special thanks to our guest, Doug Lemov, for taking the time to be with us.

A transcript of today's chat will be posted on this same page within the hour, or at this link, too:

Thanks again, folks! Have a great rest of the day.
Tuesday November 13, 2012 1:06 Bryan Toporek


Doug Lemov on the Power of Teacher Practice

Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2012, 12 to 1 p.m. ET

Teaching is a performance profession, says Doug Lemov, author of the influential Teach Like a Champion. And like other performers—musicians, athletes, actors, etc.—teachers need extensive and focused practice opportunities before "going live." Yet the majority of professional development experiences for teachers include useful advice and materials—and almost no follow-up practice.

In this live chat, Lemov answered questions on why practice is critical for effective teaching and what steps educators can take to integrate it into their work. In doing so, he explored themes from his newest book, Practice Perfect, such as how to design successful practice sessions, the role of feedback, and ways to instill a culture of practice at your school.

Doug Lemov, managing director, Uncommon Schools and author of Teach Like a Champion and Practice Perfect: 42 Rules for Getting Better at Getting Better

Anthony Rebora, managing editor, Education Week Teacher, moderated this chat.

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