The Story of the Teaching Genome

I had taught for 6 years and trained and supported teachers for three. By that time, there weren’t very many teaching-related questions that stumped me.

But during graduate school, I found myself sitting in a van in Mexico, driving up into the Sierras to visit a school, when one of our representatives from the Ministry of Education turned to ask me a truly perplexing education question.

“What is the predominant pedagogical style in the US?”

The question took me aback. After 9 years of working in education, I certainly had teaching experience. I had lesson plan templates, assessments I liked and didn’t, an amalgam of activities, labs, culture-builders, ice-breakers, interventions, etc. etc. But to be honest, I was hard-pressed to articulate my “style”, a way to describe a comprehensive approach and decision-making framework to guide my teacher actions.

I started to wonder what it would look like if teaching were more like architecture, dance or psychiatry, professions that had distinct and codified schools of thought that were all recognized as meaningful ways to do the work.

I wondered what could happen if teachers could name their own preferences and approaches.

  • What if teachers could see the alignment (or lack thereof) between different parts of their teaching? Would they become more strategic about their professional development?
  • What if teachers could talk to one another with a clearer language for instructional practices? Would collaboration become easier?
  • What if administrators knew what styles they had in the building? Would they coach and support differently? Buy PD differently?

The list went on.

As a result, I spent my last year at the Harvard Graduate School of Education working to develop the Teaching Genome, a taxonomy of teaching styles that describes how four schools of thought approach some key parts of teaching. Then I worked to develop the Teaching Genome Assessment, a series of questions that can help teachers better understand their approach to teaching. I began building an organization that would bring this idea to teachers.

Our goal is to enable the education system to harness the power of diverse styles of teaching to improve teaching and learning. While you’re on the site, I hope that you learn something about your own teaching and how to use that knowledge to improve your practice!

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