Right now, a book called Classroom Instruction that Works by B.J. Stone is popular in my district. I’ve seen B.J Stone present on concepts from the book, and she’s a very organized, poised speaker. Many of the ideas in the book are familiar to teachers, like reinforcing effort and cooperative learning. B.J. Stone (and the Robert Marzano “system” of books) are good at organizing ideas and research and presenting them in understandable, easily digestible chunks.
But one concept/suggestion stood out to me during the presentation. Stone suggests that buildings should strive to “reduce diversity” in instruction. The idea is that if all teachers in a building converge on a set of common teaching strategies, this consistency and unified effort will help students succeed.
I’m not sure why this is, apparently, an attractive idea, but I am sure that it’s a misguided one. The idea that a group of teachers (like a PLC) might choose to all use the same teaching strategy makes some sense (although there are downsides to that idea too), but the claim that reducing the diversity of teaching strategies in general is a GOOD thing for students – that idea needs a lot of support before I’d buy it. It’s a complicated and odd idea, I think. It assumes that teaching strategies are distinct, categorizable behaviors that can be labelled and categorized. Stone’s book depends on the idea that I can use the same “strategy” as you are using. That’s true in a surface way – we can share ideas and both try them in our classrooms – but on a deeper level, we are going to incorporate them in unique and important ways in our classes. Teaching and learning are very contextual, and I question whether or not it’s a good idea to even try to “reduce diversity” in instruction.