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Building a Better Teacher

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Building a Better Teacher

How Teaching Works (and How to Teach It to Everyone)

W.W. Norton,

15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Teaching is a skill anyone can learn, but the quest requires devoted effort and time.

Editorial Rating



  • Innovative
  • Concrete Examples
  • For Beginners


Great teachers are made and not born, according to former journalist Elizabeth Green, co-founder of the Chalkbeat news organization. She debunks the myth of the naturally capable teacher, shows how people can learn to teach well and explores why teaching matters. Green cites examples of great teachers in action as they strive to connect with their students and to inspire them to feel excited about learning. She relates vivid stories to show how leading researchers affect educational practice. Each student and each class is unique, so teachers seeking a formal how-to text should look elsewhere, though Green offers great ideas to consider. getAbstract recommends her insights, research and conclusions to educators, parents, policy makers, training officers, educational industry participants and anyone interested in how practitioners, researchers and policy makers are shaping education today to make it better tomorrow.


Pioneers in Education

In 1920, nearly 400,000 teachers taught more than 20 million children in the US; by 1948, the nation had almost a million teachers. At the time, little research on how to teach teachers was available. Some pioneers of US educational research, including Nate Gage, Lee Shulman and Eric Hanushek, had rich ideas about teaching even though they weren’t teachers. Gage began his research on educational psychology at the University of Illinois in 1948. He set out to create a formal study of the science of teaching. In 1963, after years of experimentation, he published The Handbook of Research on Teaching – also called “The Gage Handbook.” It sold 30,000 copies.

Lee Shulman, who taught at Stanford and Michigan State, challenged Gage’s book. Shulman became fascinated with teachers’ classroom timing. Teachers must balance moving through lessons efficiently against giving students sufficient time to absorb information and answer questions. By 1973, researchers were answering this question in terms of “cognitivism,” that is, how human thought works.

Economist Eric Hanushek was studying economics at MIT when a research study by James Coleman, ...

About the Author

Former journalist Elizabeth Green co-founded Chalkbeat, a nonprofit educational news organization, where she serves as CEO and editor in chief.

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