Teaching Lab: The Art of Teaching in Practice

The Art of Teaching in Practice — Practicum Video


A teaching practicum for teachers and for the administrators who serve them.


Teaching is a high calling. Indeed, the scriptures urge educators to maintain high standards of excellence. We do so by subjecting our work not to our own appraisal, but to the scrutiny of others, correcting and receiving correction, lest we become wise in our own eyes (cf. James 3:1, 2 Corinthians 10:12, Isaiah 5:21, Pr. 27:17). This practicum puts these principles into practice.

This is a practicum for teachers (9), and also for administrators (31) who are charged to evaluate teachers. Participating teachers will prepare and deliver an actual classroom lesson and receive feedback; administrators will learn how to observe a lesson and how to offer constructive feedback. The ACCS national conference provides a unique opportunity for us all to see a variety of classroom teachers in action, drawing them from various schools. Our practicum facilitators have wide experience visiting classrooms around the country; they will assess each teacher while walking the other participants through the constructive task of evaluating classroom lessons.

This practicum fosters high standards that can be approached only by reaching outside the local insularity of the familiar practices in our own schools. As iron sharpens iron, so one educator sharpens another.

Space is limited to NINE participating teachers (who must prepare and deliver lessons) and THIRTY-ONE participating classroom observers.

Why This Practicum?

Ancient educators insisted that excellence comes about by theory, imitation, and practice. So it is with the art of teaching. Teachers excel in their classrooms when they adopt sound principles of pedagogy (theory), when they observe other teachers model those principles (imitation), and when they implement them in their own classroom lessons (practice).

This practicum breathes life into theory by providing a unique venue for imitation and practice. Participating teachers will hone their craft as they plan lessons, deliver them, receive input from mentors, and observe and discuss the lessons delivered by others. Participating administrators will develop an eye for discerning effective lessons from ineffective ones while building a vocabulary that helps them describe the difference.

We all grow as teachers and administrators not by precept alone, but also by exercising our craft and by taking in feedback. This practicum places actual teachers in a simulated classroom setting where they teach an actual lesson and receive input. True, no simulation can fully replicate an actual classroom, yet it can capture enough real-world elements to hold value for training. Indeed, simulations have proven effective to serve people in a variety of callings, including athletes, business executives, pilots, soldiers, emergency first-responders, lawyers, and physicians, to name just a few. Why not teachers?

This practicum is not for the faint of heart. But neither is teaching! Participating teachers must prepare beforehand, then they will deliver in the practicum, where they will receive a critique. If the prospect of facing criticism makes us squeamish, then consider how often we teachers pass judgment upon our own students. Indeed, we must judge our students; for how else do we bring them to see a difference between where they are today and where they could be tomorrow? We of all people–we who routinely scrutinize our own students–should gladly subject ourselves to the scrutiny of others. The best critic is one who receives criticism well. Besides, we should not take ourselves too seriously. Of course, effective feedback is gracious and charitable; for our aim is godly excellence in our teaching, an aim that is never served by unkind cheap shots. We elevate our standards and improve our practice only if we are willing to face up to our own shortcomings and overcome them.

This practicum helps teachers hone their craft. It does so by subjecting their own classroom practice to a review from experienced mentors, and also by observing and reviewing the classroom performances of other colleagues—and all the better that these colleagues come from different schools around the country. Teachers learn the most about teaching by carefully observing other teachers at work, and by being observed themselves. Just what should we be looking for during these observations? Participating teachers will improve their “situational awareness” and grow in self-assessing their classroom practice, thereby progressing toward the ultimate goal of improved student learning. Teachers, please participate! We especially encourage new (or newish) teachers to join in, though we also welcome more experienced teachers who wish to up their game.

This practicum serves administrators by supplying them with models for teacher observation and review. It will develop their eye for seeing and differentiating between teaching practices that are more or less effective in the classroom, and it will equip them with a vocabulary to support the constructive feedback they must provide to the teachers they lead back in their own schools. For administrators are ultimately responsible for student engagement and learning.

This practicum serves our entire movement by identifying key principles and practices of effective teaching. It draws classroom teachers out of their local school contexts and brings them together into one room where their lessons are observed and discussed–thereby supplying a forum where best classroom practices can be identified and disseminated. It also models a teacher training exercise that can be replicated with faculty members in any local school. Our initial effort at this coming 2021 Repairing the Ruins conference stands as a prototype that can easily be replicated.

Details and Logistics for Participants

Participating teachers will develop lesson plans and submit them ahead of the conference. At the conference they will deliver an actual classroom lesson. Lesson topics must fall broadly within the humanities (history, rhetoric, literature, philosophy, theology), and must be tailored to upper-school students–i.e., grades seven through twelve. Prior to the conference, facilitators will reach out to registered participants with additional details and clarification to help them prepare.

Instructions for Lesson Plans: Participating teachers shall submit lesson materials prior to the conference as directed below.

Prepare lesson plans for an entire week. This entails five daily lessons total: prepare one lesson for each day–Monday through Friday, one class period per day. (For example, you could prepare a week’s worth of lessons for your 11th-grade humanities course, a course that meets daily in the second period of the school day.)

Lesson Plan Elements:
The set of lesson plans shall include the following:

  1. A cover sheet (one page or less) that provides a basic orientation to your lesson plans
    • Your name, along with the name and city of the school where you teach
    • Grade level, course name, and specific subject matter of this week’s lessons (for example: “11th grade humanities course; this week we consider Virgil’s Aeneid books 1-3”)
    • Identify which of the five lessons you will deliver in the simulation (per below—see Lesson Delivery);
    • A very brief description of what background knowledge your students carry into this week of lessons. (For example: “By this point the students have already read Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey; they are practiced in composing poems in various poetic types, but their historical knowledge of Augustan Rome is probably weak and rusty.)
  1. For each of the five lessons—Monday through Friday—prepare objectives (or goals or learning outcomes) and a brief synopsis of the lesson’s activities. One to three pages; no more than three pages, please.
  2. Prepare at least one handout, a handout you would distribute to students at some point in the week’s lessons you have prepared. This handout could be a worksheet, guidelines for an assignment or project, etc. The handout may be associated with the lesson you deliver (see Lesson Delivery, below), but it need not be. One to three pages; no more than three pages, please.
  3.  A written assessment of some form—a quiz or a test—that you would administer to students as part of Friday’s lesson. The assessment should cover the material from the lessons you planned for Monday through Thursday. One to three pages; no more than three pages, please.

Format for Lesson Plans:
Combine all lesson plan materials into one PDF file. Materials should be gathered and compiled in this order: (1) Cover sheet, (2) daily lesson plans, (3) handout, (4) assessment. Once you have compiled your lessons into a single PDF file, submit them electronically as directed. (Instructions forthcoming.)

Lesson plan materials must be submitted on Monday, June 7.

Instructions for Lesson Delivery: Participating teachers shall deliver a lesson during the practicum session in Louisville, as directed below.

Select one of the five daily lessons you have planned and deliver that lesson. Your colleagues in the audience will cooperate by role-playing the students in your classroom. You have 20 minutes total.

This is an abridged lesson. Of course an actual lesson fills more than 20 minutes! The point is to display your teaching in action—to show how you bring the material and the students together. Consider opening the lesson as you ordinarily would, launch an activity and carry it through to a point where it gathers momentum, and then you can “fast-forward” and demonstrate how you would bring the session to a close.

Practicum Schedule

Facilitators will offer constructive feedback and invite other participants to join in. Debriefing will fill five to twelve minutes per lesson.

1:00-1:20         Orientation

1:20-1:50         Lesson 1 by a participating teacher, then feedback

1:55-2:25         Lesson 2 by a participating teacher, then feedback

2:30-3:00         Lesson 3 by a participating teacher, then feedback

3:05-3:35         Presentation by Facilitator

3:35-4:00         Lesson 4 by a participating teacher, then feedback

4:05-4:35         Lesson 5 by a participating teacher, then feedback

4:40-5:10         Lesson 6 by a participating teacher, then feedback

Dinner break

6:00-6:25         Presentation by Facilitator

6:30-7:00         Lesson 7 by a participating teacher, then feedback

7:05-7:35         Lesson 8 by a participating teacher, then feedback

7:40-8:10         Lesson 9 by a participating teacher, then feedback

8:10-8:30         Wrap-up


More Speakers

To find out more:

Chris Schlect | Bryan Lynch