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January 16, 2007

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John  Powers

LOL, splitting into camps, I'm with supporting unique outcomes, no surprise there. But I was a little surprised this post made me think about great teachers.

I've tried to pay attention to attributes of great teachers, however not nearly systematically enough. But on a superficial level it's hard to tell whose a great teacher; they come in all sorts of flavors: hams, shy quiet types, real sticklers and free-formers. I've often thought that what Christopher Alexander et al. did for buildings in "A Pattern Language" would be great to apply to teaching, after all there really isn't much doubt when it comes to great teachers. But what are the patterns they demonstrate? One book that goes in this direction a little ways is, "Twenty Teachers" by Ken Macrorie.

Learning requires confronting complex systems. Tests and evaluation are critical to learning well, but it seems we don't consider the limitations of our instruments enough.

People generally seem to think that IQ tests are incredibly important. But teachers rarely find any use for them, quite often teachers have no idea what their student's IQ test results are. And when IQs are useful it has to do with the rare students who fall outside the big bell in the middle. The 50/50 perspective is awful because it distorts the plain understanding of a normal distribution.

Too many districts in the USA are content to let half the students fail, as evidenced by high school graduation rates.

Studying the diversity of great teachers I'm sure would reveal patterns in many combinations. I presume the same would apply to great students too. We need better ways for talking about the patterning and composition of of lives. Simple sorting doesn't provide a rich enough view.

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