Teaching On Purpose

October 18, 2019

By Teresa Lien

When I graduated from high school over forty years ago, many women thought there were three occupations to choose from, a nurse, a teacher or a secretary. I chose nursing, but I changed my mind when I came across a bad car accident during a visit home from college my sophomore year. My reaction to the accident scared me, so I decided I shouldn’t be a nurse. I switched to teaching. My fellow education majors chose teaching because they had a K-12 teacher who inspired them to pursue this career, a family member was in the profession, or they loved kids. My story about why I went into teaching wasn’t the same as my peers who always knew they wanted to be teachers. I went into teaching by “accident” when others seemed to pursue teaching on purpose.

Although I chose the field by accident, I found that teaching is a purposeful discipline. Through the evolution of my career, it became more apparent that we must be acutely aware of the intentionality of teaching. Like other fields, a pendulum swings with various initiatives but whatever ideas we need to implement, they need to be taught. The skills of teaching are critical to how content is delivered  and how students learn the content. “The purposeful nature of teaching” is an underlying assumption of The Framework for Teaching, which was built over twenty years ago. Charlotte Danielson understood that “instructional decisions are purposeful. In the Framework for Teaching, purpose is central.” (p.18, Enhancing Professional Practice, A Framework for Teaching (2007).)

Each component in The Framework for Teaching has a purpose. The components are tasks of teaching and should be applied intentionally to advance student learning. To be deliberate about our instructional decisions, our thinking should be anchored in how we will promote intellectual engagement to support successful learning for all students. After we plan a lesson, could we explain how we will strategically have the students do the thinking through the instructional decisions we choose? Do we engage in professional conversations about the effects of instruction? Can we provide rationales for our instructional decisions? Do we reflect on the success of a lesson based on what happened with the activity or on how the instructional decisions we made transformed our students’ learning and why?

Teaching is the key to student learning. There is a purposeful nature to teaching we need to apply to our instructional skills in order to increase student achievement. When we are thoughtful about how we teach, we make conscious instructional decisions that will impact learning. The Framework for Teaching Clusters informs and guides the six major areas of instructional practice. If (1) Clarity of Instructional Purpose and Accuracy of Content, (2) A Safe, Respectful, Supportive, and Challenging Learning Environment, and (3) Classroom Management are in place, then the conditions exist for (4) Student Intellectual Engagement with important content to occur, which is necessary to reach the ultimate goal of (5) Successful Learning by All Students. Teaching rests on a foundation of (6) Professionalism and must be supported by teacher- centered professional learning systems and teacher- powered school improvement efforts that honor and reflect the needs of the whole teacher. Teaching doesn’t happen by accident.

Check out Teresa’s Lien On Me Youtube on Teaching on Purpose.