Task 10: Powerful Classrooms

Leadership with education

1.1 WATCH this TED talk by Christopher Edmin entitled ‘Teach Teachers How to Create Magic’.

[Teach Teachers How to Create Magic]

1.2 READ this paper from Alan H. Schoenfeld entitled ‘What Makes for Powerful Classrooms, and How Can We Support Teachers in Creating Them? A Story of Research and Practice, Productively Intertwined.’  [Focus on ‘Case 3’ (Page 3 onwards) and the Tables and Figures outlining the TRU model]

1.3 WRITE a 500 word think-piece summing up your thoughts on the article and video, and post it below. You may wish to consider:

  • What is your opinion of the recommendations put forth in both the article and the video?
  • What connections did the video and article make with your past experiences and with other big ideas we’ve explored?

[1.4] BONUS Check out Dan Meyer’s 3-Act Maths lesson ideas


One thought on “Task 10: Powerful Classrooms

  1. Christopher Emdin delves into the delights of rich engagement, highlighting places where people feel that they are lifted up in a magical ecosystem with no barriers and full immersion – perhaps not peak experiences, but experiences where the internal monologue is often silent, with minds totally focussed without effort in on the experience of content and presence. There is often, in my experience, a fine line between being open to clever rhetorical engagement in a subject in which one gets immersed and being subject to undesirable manipulation, but within a trusted professional context, there may be occasional room for such an approach, ever mindful to ensure that learning is the focus, not entertainment, nor self-promotion. Yet, Emdin is right in my view that there can be places for this ‘magic’ in the classroom, that it can be taught, by immersion and experience, albeit, in my view, with only very occasional use of the dizzy heights of searing rhetoric. I am not convinced, however, that learning would be improved with a sustained level of such ‘magic’ without the base factors leading to effective learning being a key part of the classroom already.
    Schoenfeld sets out that many people have lots of opinions about ‘good teaching’ in maths (and other) classroom, often with little evidence. He then sets out five dimensions of mathematically powerful classrooms. Compared to Emdin, Schoenfeld has scoped out a thorough and quality research based analysis of his subject, where it is clear that the desired outcome is student attainment through understanding of content.
    My sense of the history of education research is that it is a still a largely growing field, and there are a large number of people – educators, parents, observers – with opinions, some contradictory. It would be very helpful to have a more simple summary of practical help for teachers, summarising key research of the best type. ‘Best’ here, of course, is open to interpretation, yet whilst awareness of education research is important, for a teacher effectively to function within a living organisation that is a school, one would best be armed with practical rubrics, as a part of a whole school approach, providing consistency of learning approach to students. This is not to say that professional acumen is to be removed, but rather a recognition that educators seldom, if ever, function within the more atomised context that perhaps would be best described as individualised tutoring. I am taken with cognitive load theory, and its current application by current notable practitioners, such as Dani Quinn, the head of mathematics at the Michaela Community School, who mesmerised me at a recent Complete Mathematics conference I attended. Mesmerised me, I might add, without any of the searing rhetoric that Emdin seems to favour, simply because the content and her presentation of it was the clear, precise outline of how a cognitive load theory-based approach to whole school mathematics education may be simplified into practical rubrics.
    Learn, practice, reflect, and repeat. This is my favoured recipe, coupled with the observation that if one cannot summarise for practical reference the output of what is in essence a practical and human endeavour, then this may indicate that one does not have the instinct for operating within the messy and thickly contextual environments within which schools and the people within exist.

    Emdin, C (2013) “Teach Teachers How to Create Magic” Available at https://www.ted.com/talks/christopher_emdin_teach_teachers_how_to_create_magic?utm_campaign=tedspread&utm_medium=referral&utm_source=tedcomshare [Accessed 17 March 2019]
    Schoenfeld, A (2014) “What Makes for Powerful Classrooms, and How Can We Support Teachers in Creating Them?” Educational Researcher, vol 43, no 8, pp 404-412


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