Changing Our Practice, Slowly

I am enjoying our slow book chat on Dylan Wiliam’s Embedding Formative Assessment. (You can download the first chapter here, if you are interested.)

Chapter 2 is Your Professional Learning.

Wiliam says, “A far more likely reason for the slowness of teacher change is that it is genuinely difficult.” (page 17)

I second this with a resounding yes!

How many professional development sessions have you attended where the goal of the presenter was to “save the teacher”?

The presenter has all of the answers for how teachers should be teaching students mathematics, and those still in the classroom have none of the answers.

When are we going to believe that those teachers who are still sitting around the table have the best interest of students’ learning at heart?

When are we going to realize that over the past few years teachers have been making efforts to change their classroom instruction from students “sitting and getting” to students actively engaging in the mathematics?

And that changing our practice is good, hard, slow work.

We certainly aren’t completely “there” yet, but we are closer than we were a few years ago, and we need to acknowledge that progress instead of pretending that it’s nonexistent.

Wiliam says, “…we have to accept that teacher learning is slow. In particular, for changes in practice – as opposed to knowledge – to be lasting, it must be integrated into a teacher’s existing routines, and this takes time.” (page 18)

Most of the teachers I know are doing good work.

Even so, “All teachers need to improve their practice; not because they are not good enough, but because they can be better.” (page 20)

Can we, as PD presenters teachers of teachers, recognize that it’s not our job to “save” the teachers in our care?

Can we, as PD participants lifelong learners, recognize that we can all improve our practice?

Is there something you’ve wanted to do differently in your classroom but haven’t had the time to try it yet? Do you keep meaning to give your students a challenge from Estimation 180 or Which One Doesn’t Belong but just haven’t [yet] taken the time? Do you keep meaning to have your students tweet what they are learning? Do you want to incorporate short-cycle formative assessment into your lessons?

A new semester has started (or will start soon, depending on your school calendar). Matt Cutts suggests that we should try something new for 30 days to help make it a habit.

Wiliam suggests teachers need to take small steps as we change our practice. We need accountability, and we need support.

What practice will you change for the next 30 days? Who will serve as your “supportive  accountability” partner?

Together, we can do even better work to effect student learning and understanding of mathematics.


Cross posted on Easing the Hurry Syndrome.


Wiliam, Dylan, and Siobhán Leahy. Embedding Formative Assessment: Practical Techniques for F-12 Classrooms. West Palm Beach, FL: Learning Sciences, 2015. Print.

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