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Education Bookcast

Nov 4, 2019

In the past three episodes, we have looked at three great teachers: basketball coach John Wooden, mathematics teacher Jaime Escalante, and primary school teacher Marva Collins. Each has their own domain of expertise (basketball, mathematics, and literature) and age of students (university, high school, and primary school). Are there any ways in which we can generalise about them?

A list of features that tend to make teachers likely to be nominated as "favourite" teachers are given in You Haven't Taught Until They've Learned (the book about John Wooden), and they are mostly true of the above three that we've looked at in detail. Here is the list:

  1. They make learning engaging;
  2. They have a passion for the material;
  3. They have deep subject knowledge;
  4. They are extremely organised;
  5. They are intense;
  6. They know students need to be recognised for even small progress;
  7. They treat everyone with respect;
  8. They are fair;
  9. They believe that all students are natural learners;
  10. They make it implicitly known that they like being with their students;
  11. They place priority on individualised teaching.

There are also some notable absences from this list, such as giving students autonomy, focusing on learning styles, teaching generalisable skills rather than content knowledge, and having a student-centred approach.

I also made my own list of features that they have in common, as follows:

  • They use drills;
  • They focus on fundamentals;
  • They are highly didactic (rather than using e.g. group work or problem-based learning);
  • They hold power/authority, and lead the class;
  • They show warmth/love to their students;
  • They take responsibility for the students' learning;
  • They are very dedicated;
  • Unfortunately, they are poorly paid;
  • They have long-term effects on their students.

Enjoy the episode.