What Do Teachers Know about How Colleagues Teach?

Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice

What Do Teachers Know about How Colleagues Teach? (Part 1)

larrycuban

Jul 6

If my experiences as a high school history teacher between the mid-1950s through the early 1970s is any guide, the answer is "very little." If my seven years of experience as a district superintendent who visited classrooms weekly, the answer again is "very little." And the answer then was straightforward: no time.

From scanning the Internet for surveys of classroom practice and teacher accounts, I suspect but cannot prove, the uncommonness of teachers observing one another in 2022. Why is that? The simple answer is time.

Elementary school teachers are responsible for teaching one class for the entire school day. While there are instances of schools where, say, three third-grade teachers plan lessons together and teach 90 children in large and small groupings as well as independent work allowing planning time for each of them--most elementary school teachers close their doors when the first bell of the day rings and spend the entire day alone (save for lunch) with their 25-30 students.

Secondary school teachers usually carry a teaching load of five classes (including multiple lesson preparations). In these classes, most secondary teachers see anywhere from 125 to 150 students a day. They march through a schedule of seven or eight periods where they will have at least one "free" period, that is, no students and, of course, lunch.

Yes, there are exceptions to these daily grinds. Some schools have block schedules where teachers spend an hour to hour and a half with groups of students. Nonetheless, nearly all public schools insure that teachers spend the day with the students assigned to them.

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