Parsing the Practice of Teaching

Author: Mary Kennedy

Year: 2016

Paper Description

Educators have tried to deconstruct teaching into parts, knowledge, or effective practices for better communication and novice guidance. Challenges arise from choosing granularity – too detailed overwhelms, while too broad lacks clarity. Isolated components may lose context, and superiority between versions can be unclear. Trends can lead to transient focus. Parsing issues arise in knowledge-focused and practice-focused curricula. Shifting from behavior to knowledge in the 1980s led to a multitude of domains, making teaching overwhelming. Now, a return to visible practices prompts a search for comprehensible parsing. The article examines past attempts and proposes sorting practices by purpose for a solution.

Key Takeaway 1

There have been various attempts to break down teaching practice into specific components or actions. The Commonwealth Teacher Training Study in the late 1920s aimed to list all teacher activities for curriculum development, while process-product research in the 1960s and 1970s focused on discrete teacher movements. More recently, efforts have turned towards identifying core practices that reflect broader patterns of instructional behaviour. However, these attempts often lack a clear understanding of the underlying instructional purposes, leading to challenges in effectively teaching these practices to novices. The author suggests that instead of focusing solely on visible actions, the emphasis should be on understanding the purposes and goals of these actions for effective teaching.

Key Takeaway 2

Novice teachers often hold simplistic views about teaching, and it’s crucial to help them understand the underlying purposes and challenges of teaching practices. Shifting the focus from observable actions to the purpose of those actions is essential. The proposal suggests categorizing teaching behaviors according to five universal challenges faced by teachers. These challenges include effectively portraying curriculum content to students, enlisting active student participation, addressing diverse student needs, promoting understanding through assessment, and managing the classroom environment. By understanding and addressing these challenges, novice teachers can develop a more sophisticated understanding of teaching and make informed decisions about their instructional strategies.

Standout Quote

“The first persistent challenge for all teachers is to portray curriculum content in a way that makes it comprehensible to naïve minds, and to decide how that portrait will be constructed from some kind of live activity that takes place in a specific space, uses specific materials, and occurs within a specific time frame.”


leadership, teacher development, professional development, teacher training, ITT, ITE, ECT, development, education, teaching, teacher knowledge, pedagogy, curriculum, teacher training, case knowledge, strategic knowledge, principles of teaching, professional development, teacher education, classroom management, reflective practice, qualitative research, educational philosophy