A Quick Thought on Teaching Cycle and Ratio

I am c0aching a super talented and hard working second year teacher.  It’s been thrilling to watch her improve.

This teacher’s natural exuberance, which if bottled could solve our energy crisis, combined with solid routines made her the rare first year teacher who didn’t have oodles of management struggles.  However the kids didn’t knock out the end of year test in the way we anticipated.

After the initial disappointment we dug into the data and saw that the kids were struggling with open response questions and while knocking out 80%+ of the lower lever questions they struggled with the questions that required inference or stringing together multiple pieces of knowledge and skill.

Kids having a hard time with writing and hard questions is not spectacularly novel analysis but it yielded one immediate lever:  If kids were going to be better at thinking, they had do more of it.  If the kids were going to do more thinking then they had to talk, write, read, and do more. The teacher had to talk less.

There are five key behaviors in the Ratio competency in the KIPP Framework for Excellent Teaching (KFET).

A.Lowers the ratio of student-teacher: student talk by fostering student dialogue and and evaluating one another’s ideas.
B. Develops cooperative learning and partner structures that allow for students to dialogue, debate, and create without the teacher’s presence.
C. Employs economy of language and action to maximize the amount of time students think and work.
D. Uses a variety of wait times to increase student talk and thinking.

Using my handy E-cove app to time Teacher Talk, Student Talk, Partner Talk, and Work Time  I was able to provide baseline data on the teacher’s ration.  It frequently looked like this:

Teacher Talk  60%

Student Talk   15%

Group Talk     15%

Work Time       5%

Housekeeping 5%

She immediately practiced behavior C (economy of language) by not repeating student answers.

Once this behavior was down, kids were talking more and listening to each other better.  She then tackled behavior A (foster student-student dialogue) by having kids use hand signals to evaluate each others responses and then quickly calling on kids to facilitate back and forth discussion and debate.

These two behaviors and a deliberate observation and feedback cycle resulted in a ratio that looked like this

Teacher Talk  30%

Student Talk  20%

Group Talk     20%

Work Time     25%

Housekeeping  5%

More importantly student achievement was improving and the teacher was onto the next tiny experiment to improve her instruction (more about previewing later).

The ratio timer is a simple and helpful coaching tool.  I’d love to find some software nut to figure out version 2.o that visualizes the data on a timeline perhaps even comparing a line of ratio against a line of student engagement.  This would help focus coaching even more and become a way teachers could track themselves and direct more of their own growth.  Anybody out there?


5 Responses to “A Quick Thought on Teaching Cycle and Ratio”

  1. Napleton Says:

    Your tech savviness has come a long way. 🙂 What app did you use? Tell us about it!

    • mrdolan Says:

      It’s E-Cove Observation tools. Available for free on Android or Apple. I bought the whole set for my laptop but the free one is the right way to start.

  2. Napleton Says:

    Thanks ace! Great app and the price is right. 🙂

  3. Robby May Says:

    This app is awesome. I seriously would love to find an app developer out there that would develop some free teaching apps for me that then he/she could sell. I have an idea for a great app for my class that the kids could use, but dont know how to do it….maybe I should just buy a dummies book and do it myself. 🙂

  4. Janice Smith Says:

    Loving the heads up on this app. Just downloaded it on my iPad and phone and can’t wait to test it out when we head back to school next week. Thanks!

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