Tuesday, January 19, 2010

21st Century Teaching Skills and Teacher Interviews

I was in my first #edchat using twitter today (what a great group by the way - thanks for making me feel welcome) and partway through our large group discussion I was struck with (what may be) a crazy thought about interviewing teachers.  I've sat on the administration side of the table for a great many interviews over the last 12 years, and I reflect often on making our hiring practices more effective.  Before I get to the crazy thought...a little background.

I've attended workshops on how to develop and ask questions designed to identify behaviors. Myself and my colleagues have put a lot of work into hiring the right teacher for the right job, and I think we have gotten pretty good at it, judging by the excellent people we have had join our team.  Assuming we agree there is a need for change in overall instructional practices (which I think we do, based on our common calls for learner-centered instruction this morning), things are going to change in the hiring game. Based on that assumption, and the fact that technology integration will only continue to gain in importance, I think we are going to need to change what we are looking for in a 21st Century teacher.

I thought I would share my thought from today here and I hope you might consider leaving your  thoughts in the comments section so we can have a little discussion about teacher interview practices and preparing our schools for the future.  Heck, even if you disagree that we need to seek a different skillset than in years past, let me know that too, please!

During the discussion this morning I began to think of turning the interview into a more practical demonstration of teacher skills. Years ago my mentor had prospective teachers teach a practice lesson in addition to the spoken interview.  It worked wonderfully, but unfortunately we don't often have a timeline conducive to arranging for test instruction.  I'm a little sad to say that I've never used that technique since, because I love that idea.  Surely there are other practical techniques out there.  Perhaps we should be looking for an electronic portfolio?

Back to the crazy thought at hand though!  Regarding 21st Century Skills, my thought today was that if we value a teacher's ability to learn and creatively solve problems (so they can teach those skills to our students), why wouldn't we ask the teacher to prove it?  What if we gave the prospective teacher 5 minutes, a telephone, and internet access to summarize a difficult concept they are not familiar with?  Would that give us a realistic view of their tech proficiency as well as their ability to grasp and synthesize new concepts?

After I raised that idea, one of the other participants in the #edchat discussion suggested giving the teacher an exemplary model of a traditional lesson plan and asking them to critique it and/or address how they would change it.  The intent of that activity would be to see if they would suggest changes to make the lesson differentiated or more learner-centered.  I think that is a very innovative idea too!

Now, what do you think?  Are those crazy ideas?  What other interview techniques/practices might we employ in order to assess teacher proficiency in the skills we know they need for the 21st century?  Have any of you participated in authentic or non-traditional interviews?  Did they work?  Did you like them?

If you have the time, I'd love to read your thoughts in the comments section…



Derek Keenan said...

I don't think these are crazy ideas at all. In fact, they brought up a good point for me, and that is the importance of using what we believe in. I have sat through enough presentations talking about 21st CL and the new methods of teaching and learning to know that often our espoused theory is very different to our theory-in-practice. I make a point of creating presentations for educators that are structured around 21cl principles. If I can get an audience of my peers engaged in a lesson and thinking differently, I feel they take more relevant learning away from my talks. For this reason, I would say you may want to go even further than summary and have the prospective teacher actually plan and teach the concept you have given. My belief is that you should never ask an employee to do something you are not willing to do yourself, and I would relish the opportunity to do this activity for a prospective employer.

sugarray said...

Crazy is the new sane!!!

No such thing as crazy, just creative. The idea of defining the quality you are looking for in new teachers, and developing a measurable test for this quality is awesome!! what do they say about action speaking louder....
I use something similar, the quakity I need to see in new teachers is passion, so I ask them to tell me who inspires them and why, traditionally there are 2 responses: 1. this question wasn't in any of the practice interviews I did, or 2. an honest passionate response that really shows the level of passion of the respondents...great exercise.