Recently I spent the morning facilitating a lesson study with K-2 teachers and an afternoon meeting with coaches only to find that both groups were having problems with the same basic idea – lack of transfer from instruction to independent work. For the teachers, they felt they had taught students lesson after lesson about editing writing for punctuation, spelling, and capital usage, but students were unable to correct the work on their own. If teachers pointed out the errors, students recognized them and could fix them, but they weren’t finding the mistakes on their own.
With the coaches, the concern was that the teachers they worked with had watched them model workshop and mini-lessons, but when coaches dropped by classrooms the teachers weren’t necessarily putting the work into practice. Instead, unannounced visits revealed teachers reverting back to the instructional methods they’d previously used.
In both of these cases, instruction had happened, but wasn’t sticking. Why?
There could be lots of reasons, but I wonder if it has to do with the gradual release model not being gradual enough. When we think about “I do” moving into “we do” until finally “you do,” I’m not sure we’ve really thought about the different variations of “we do” deeply enough. Within that large middle section of “we do,” how might we intentionally back off our support in ways that translate to confidence on the part of the learner?
Perhaps part of the confusion lies in how long gradual release should take. I wonder if the teachers discussing writing conventions felt like they had gradually released sufficiently since over the course of the mini-lesson they’d modeled and had kids work with partners? But what if it takes longer than that? Are we building in enough time for kids to discuss their options and work through the difficulties? Do the materials we model with closely match the students’ materials, or are they just different enough to confuse those extra-literal students? Are we giving kids the concrete steps or strategies they need in order to walk through the editing process?
In thinking about gradual release as it applies to coaching, perhaps we’re also cutting gradual release too short. Just because we’re working with adults doesn’t mean those adults don’t also deserve to receive a great deal of “we do” support from the coach.
That might mean the coach co-plans and co-teaches more lessons with the teacher. It might mean asking the teacher to videotape her teaching in order to capture “the work” for you both to reflect on. It might mean building in more intentional reflection time after lessons in order to point out on-the-fly decisions and to look at the resulting student work.
And what about our so-called “you do” segment? Are we really expecting learners, whether children or adults, to apply what they’ve learned in completely solo environments? What if we built in support through partnerships by coaching two teachers instead of one, so there’s a built-in talk-partner for times the coach is not available?
These are just a few of my current ideas on why our work might not be sticking, whether it’s with students or adults. I need to do a lot more thinking about this. What are your thoughts? How can we make sure that the work we’re doing is effective and transfers to independence?