What is Teaching with Purpose?

Teaching with PURPOSE means thinking through the
WHY, HOW, and SO WHAT of instructional delivery.

WHY?

Why are you using a specific teaching strategy?
Is the technique effective for the student/students you are trying to reach?
Has the strategy been proven to be effective? Do students show improved retention of information or acquired skill acquisition based on your use of this strategy? In general, did you plan ahead with a purpose in mind for the activities in your lesson?

This part of instruction, purposeful planning and delivery, is critical, and a big part of what makes good teachers, GREAT teachers.

In real estate arenas we hear the phrase, "Location, location, location." In educational arenas it needs to be, "Plan, plan, plan." Students can sense in a heart beat teachers who don't know why they are doing what they are doing.

HOW?

Exactly how are you going to have a sense of purpose in the way that instruction is delivered to your students? Teaching and learning should not be a "hit or miss" scenario. It takes purposeful thinking and planning. If you are using collaborative learning, for example, have you thought through the reasons why this type of grouping is best for the type of information to be learned.

Thinking through the logistics of a teaching strategy are so critical. Details and procedures as simple as distributing materials can make the difference in providing a smooth lesson where the focus is on thinking and learning.

SO WHAT?

Is teaching just stand and deliver and collect your paycheck at the end of the month? Of course not. Our goal is to help produce happy, healthy and productive citizens who can contribute to society and exhibit a love for learning. This goal is not reached without carefully planned checkpoints along the way. We have many ways to check for understanding. We seem to have plenty of formal assessments in place that drive funding, school recognition, parental choice and even student promotion or retention. What we are lacking, however, is the day-to-day, frequent small checks for understanding that should be part of every lesson. It's the "so what?" after introducing new information. So, did they get it. Do they know what your talking about. Can they use the information in other examples? A final chapter test is way too late to find out if your students "got it". Assessment should be frequent, ongoing and varied. Teachers need to love assessment and embrace it.....it's how we know we are effective.

BEING PURPOSEFUL

I recently observed a teacher working with a young beginning reader on the process of phonetically decoding the word “teach”. She had the child find each letter to build the word. A “t” at the beginning and the “ch” at the end. When it came to the vowels in the middle she had a row of plastic letters with AEIOU. She told the child you can choose from these. Think hard… you have three choices to get it right….three strikes and you’re out. The child guessed two vowels incorrectly and instead of getting the third strike the teacher gave the child a hint to pick the letter “a”. This was a pure guessing game for the child with no purpose or strategy to know why the vowel she had chosen was in this word or what she would do if a similar word like “reach” were encountered. This is an example of teaching without purpose. This teacher may have seen another teacher lay out vowels for students to choose or in her heart of hearts thought that she was using an effective strategy. Too often in education, we see strategies being practiced that are ineffective and not really making a difference in the acquisition of skills for students.

As educators, it’s easy to get caught in the cycle of performing our day-to-day lessons. We work diligently. We do the best we can. We pack up our papers in our bookbag and head out the door. We get into a teaching routine and rarely stop to think about why we are teaching the way we are teaching or if our lessons are designed, implemented and assessed with PURPOSE.