Unpacking Discourse Norms, Expectations, and Behaviors for Teacher Candidates

From October 3–5, 2017, TeachingWorks, an organization out of the University of Michigan’s School of Education, hosted the first of a three-part series in Detroit focused on increasing the impact of novice teachers by ensuring that teacher educators, and the programs and institutions they represent, focus on developing a core set of high-leverage practices in their teacher candidates. To that end, TeachingWorks has compiled a list of 19 High-Leverage Practices that form the core set of capabilities needed for responsible teaching. October’s convening, attended by four mentor teachers from Alder GSE, focused on maximizing three of the high-leverage practices: building respectful relationships with students, implementing norms and routines for classroom discourse and work, and leading a group discussion.

Grounded in the idea that each discipline has its own specific set of discourse norms, expectations, and behaviors, and that therefore teachers should be trained in each discipline, participants chose which discipline best applied to them: ELA, mathematics, science, or history/social studies. From there, participants spent the following three days participating in sessions that helped them explore, study, and practice the best pedagogical approaches to building these practices in their novice teachers in a discipline-specific setting. Each day paired a learning goal with a pedagogical approach to teach it.

In the math sessions, for example, the first day was spent helping teacher educators recognize and identify math-specific discourse norms (learning goal) and used video to pedagogically convey it. The second day continued to use video as its pedagogical approach, adding transcript analysis as well. Combined, these two approaches helped our group unpack three components of leading a whole-group discussion:

By participating in the first of three convenings for 2017–2018, I and the other participating teacher educators were able to identify specific discourse characteristics of their focus disciplines; explore the process of leading a whole-group discussion; and use video, transcripts, and peer run-throughs to build an understanding of them to inform their approach to preparing our next generation of teachers.