Teaching is complex, elaborate, and elegant work. It’s time to quantify how that work gets done.

February 27, 2020
Penn GSE Dean Pam Grossman talks with students in her class.

Before beginning her academic career, Penn GSE’s Pam Grossman was a high school English teacher. Her research has convinced her of the need to treat, and train, teachers as professionals.

The teaching profession faces a crisis. Studies have routinely shown that teachers are underpaid, overworked, and burned out, to the point that prospective teachers, especially from minority backgrounds, are increasingly unlikely to enter the profession.

In a new article in Phi Delta Kappan, Penn GSE Dean Pam Grossman makes the case for continuing to professionalize teaching, and suggests next steps for how the field should adjust.

“How can we advise teachers on how to build productive relationships across racial and class differences, differentiate instruction without watering down the curriculum, or meet individual needs in crowded classrooms without some common way of describing what such pedagogical practices look like?” Grossman writes. “If we lack common understandings of the complex, elaborate, and elegant work we do, then that work becomes ephemeral and local, difficult to replicate.”

Grossman writes that she sees promise in growing professional communities, like the National Writing Project and The Fellowship: Black Male Educators for Social Justice.

But, she adds, the field still needs to do work to create replicable standards for practice to better serve all students.

“In particular, we need better ways to capture how teachers create trusting relationships with students — both when teachers and students share racial or linguistic identities and when they do not … Similarly, as we try to prepare teachers to address inequity in their classrooms and schools, we need richer ways to describe what the complex work of addressing inequality in learning opportunities in the classroom looks like.” 

Read the full piece here: Making the complex work of teaching visible