Fundamental Educational Practices Promote Greater Innovation

I confess to be an educational article junkie. In particular, I avidly read the latest educational theories and love learning about recent discoveries in neuroscience that shed light on the content schools should teach and how they should teach it. And I believe that all educators should stay informed about these trends while keeping one eye on the horizon to anticipate the twenty-first century knowledge and skills students will need. But no matter what we learn about how we learn it, I also believe there are fundamental educational practices that will always be necessary for effective teaching. Here are four practices I will continually circle back to in my work with faculty:

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1) Develop and sustain a thoroughly vetted and coherent curriculum and cultivate a school-wide understanding of what is taught in each subject across all grade levels.

2) Encourage teachers to continually evaluate student mastery of their curriculum and make sound adjustments in their teaching that is informed by a variety of accurate assessments.

3) Boost student content knowledge through reading and writing across all subject areas with the understanding that knowledge serves as a kind of Velcro for future learning and improves overall comprehension.

4) Foster a school culture where students and teachers value success across all disciplines, and celebrate mastery with venues to exhibit student work and have ample opportunities for performance and public speaking.

Of course, there are many other fundamental approaches that strengthen educational practices in high-performing schools across the country. And there are many new ideas and approaches that should be considered, and at times, implemented on a trial basis. But once these fundamental practices are widely established, the newer and perhaps more experimental theories and pedagogies have a much greater likelihood of success.

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