Right is Right, right?

In Doug Lemov’s Teach Like A Champion he describes Right is Right as a series of moves teachers use to “set and defend a high standard of correctness in their own classroom.”  He continues, “it’s about the difference between partially and all the way right.”  Although we aren’t there yet as a family I imagine right is right will be a critical message during potty training.

For many of us this comes naturally while teaching kids.  We hold out for complete sentences, precise vocabulary, and units of measure in every answer.  We expect our kids to work towards the best answer and we push for more rigorous thinking and evidence.  My hunch is that many of us (like me) may struggle with Right is Right when it comes to adults.

In my own teaching of teachers and in lots of the adult teaching there’s a tendency to allow  adults to answer incorrectly, imprecisely, and without evidence.  This often shows up while watching teacher video or examining lesson artifacts. For example after watching this clip, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MMet5BOvJao the following dialogue occurs during the PD:

Caleb: What are some ways that Drea stretched student thinking past the right answer in the clip we just watched?

Teacher A: She asked a follow-up question.

Caleb: Great

Teacher B:  She moved around with a lot of energy.

Caleb: Sure

Teacher C: She made the kids use their vocabulary.

Caleb: She did-yep-let’s look at another example

One way to ensure Right is Right works is changing our responses to half-right answers. How might I revise my responses in the script above?

Caleb: What are some ways that Drea stretched student thinking past the right answer in the clip we just watched?

Teacher A: She asked a follow-up question.

Caleb: And?

Teacher B:  She moved around with a lot of energy.

Caleb: That’s an interesting point-How does the teacher’s energetic movement stretch student thinking?

Teacher C:  It keeps kids engaged.

Caleb: Our assumption seems to be that engaged kids are thinking more deeply about the content.  Does raising the level of engagement automatically raise the level of thinking?

Ideally the questioning (and lack of fluffy, vague, or rah-rah praise) would reinforce a rigorous expectation for staff responses without making people reluctant to respond.  My experience has been that adults are often more nervous than kids about having the wrong answer.

Another way to push for all the way right answers is to alter the activities we do.  In adult PD I (and more than a few other teachers of teachers) tend to rely on generative activities.  For example: brainstorm possible motivations for this aim or script as many examples of high quality praise for student answers as you can. Continuums, Forced Debate, and Ranking all help push rigor into this process. For example during a lesson on developing criteria for success instead of having teachers generate or brainstorm criteria for aim I wrote the criteria and had teachers evaluate them on a continuum from ineffective to highly effective.  I would go so far as to say that almost any brainstorming exercise in teacher training should be followed by an evaluative task.  There are a few examples of this in last year’s KAL PD which can be found on a Better Lesson.

Do you have other ideas about increasing the rigor of adult learning?  Please share.

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