Teaching teens' teachers
Illustration by Robert Meganck, Communication Design, Inc.
Psychology professor Joseph Allen and Curry School of Education professor Robert Pianta are combining their expertiseto help teachers connect with their students.
“For all the attention that goes into curricula and standardized testing, surprisingly little has gone into students’ interactions with their teachers,” said Allen, director of the Virginia Adolescence Research Group, where he conducts long-term studies on teens’ psychosocial development.
The best teachers, Allen and Pianta say, allow teens to be active in the classroom and encourage them to make choices and decisions; they don’t, however, give up their authority as teachers.
A $1.25 million grant from the William T. Grant Foundation will support their work.
The researchers will use a video-based, one-on-one conference system with about 80 teachers in Virginia public high schools. The two-year program, geared toward teachers in their second to fifth year — a group that is more likely to leave the profession — allows teachers to attend an introductory workshop on adolescent motivation and discuss how to apply this psychology in the classroom.
After videotaping themselves in class, teachers will work with a consultant who reviews their actions and practices with them. The consultant will also show teachers video clips of successful educators and suggest alternate strategies.
“We think we have learned that our approach to supporting teachers and providing them feedback about their actual classroom practices has proven effective with teachers of younger children,” Pianta said, “and we have every reason to believe that early career teachers in secondary classrooms will find this approach as or more helpful.”