A review of Never Underestimate Your Teachers: Instructional leadership for excellence in every classroom by Robyn R. Jackson, ASCD, 2013. ISBN: 978-1416615286
Instructional leaders can inspire teachers to continually grow and improve their practice and attitudes in order to make excellence in every classroom a reality, says Robyn R. Jackson, author of Never Underestimate Your Teachers. The founder of Mindsteps Inc., a professional development organization, Jackson has extensive experience coaching school leaders in how to recognize good teaching and how to support teachers in employing research-based instructional strategies.
Dr. Jackson argues that masterful teaching is influenced by teacher skill and teacher will. Teacher skill is conceptualized as a combination of pedagogical and content knowledge ranging from low skill to high skill on a four-level continuum: novice, apprentice, practitioner, and master teacher. (Updating the conceptualization by adding technological knowledge to the teacher skill set would provide a more comprehensive description of what teachers need to meet the demands of 21st century teaching and learning.) Teacher will refers to what helps or diminishes teachers’ desire to learn and grow professionally and their willingness to accept new pedagogies; it is often related to their sense of autonomy, mastery, purpose or belonging.
Diagnosing a teacher’s skill level and mindset about effective teaching is important in determining appropriate leadership approaches and professional supports, says Jackson. Authentic narratives are used in each chapter to provide real-life situations with practical strategies for helping all teachers strive towards masterful teaching. Helpful takeaways are provided at the end of each chapter and the appendix includes diagnostic tools for identifying teachers’ skill and will, a template for development plans, and strategies for tracking skill development, improving time management and fostering collaboration. Moreover, a study guide with reflective questions for each chapter is also provided to support individual reflection or dialogue among study groups.
This book will help school and instructional leaders coach teachers towards masterful teaching in a supportive and growth-oriented environment.
Photo: Dave Donald
First published in Education Canada, January 2014