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Is Good Teaching Innate or Learned?

by KYW’s Dr. Marciene Mattleman

American Public Media’s documentary, “Testing Teachers,” asks if good teaching is taught or innate. Knowing how important it is for children to grow up with books and be school-ready, it pursues the question— can instruction overcome the effects of poverty?

With all the emphasis on tying teacher effectiveness to student achievement, is that all there is to good teaching? If we can define good teaching, can it be taught?

In the discussion, economist Eric Hanushek is mentioned. His 1970 study brought focus onto the potential effect of individual teachers. Hanusek said good teachers are born and not made.

However, the documentary highlights the successful efforts of the Public Education Foundation of Chattanooga, Tennessee, partnering with the Benwood Foundation to help implement a system of professional development for each teacher, built into teachers’ work on a daily basis, along with a mentoring program.

The contention is that teaching is not a set of things a teacher does, but a series of responses a teacher elicits from students. An Education Sector report has found that Chattanooga teachers have become far more effective since the initiative began.