Effective Teacher-Child Interactions
October 21, 2019
Economic research makes it hard to deny that
investment in early childhood development is the smartest strategy that we can make.
There’s really no more fertile period of time for investing in human capacity.
We’re having a national debate right now about effective teaching. We’re focusing in ways
that we never have before on the importance of the teacher that is in the classroom with
the children. What we’re learning is that there are elements of what teachers know that
are important, but it’s far more important what teachers do with children in those classrooms.
“That is delicious! OK, I want that. Alright, get that now. Don’t forget!”
Dozens of studies now from all across the country converge really on the finding that
it is the qualities and nature of interactions between the adults and children that are responsible
for the learning and development of those kids.
There are a lot of ways to define quality. Our way of measuring quality involves observing
the interactions that occur between teachers and student in those settings. We use the
Classroom Assessment Scoring System to do that. We’ve been able to show in almost thousands
of classrooms across the country that indeed when one uses a standardized reliable way
of looking at interactions, that what we’re looking at is predicting children’s learning
and development. When we look at the interactions that adults
have with kids, we generally think of them in terms of how emotionally supportive is
the adult toward the children, how much does the adult organize the child’s activity and
attention and time in the classroom, and what is the adult doing to foster cognitive development
that stimulate language and conversation with the children.
On the emotional side of things, we’re looking for how warm those interactions are, does
the teacher genuinely enjoy the child, and is there some reciprocity in that enjoyment?
“Oh, Fideles says we have cheer for him. So we’ve got to say ‘Go Fideles! Go Fideles!
Go Fideles! You can do it! Go Fideles! Go Fideles! Oh you did it!”.
A child should feel that they are supported in their growth of self esteem, in their use
of curiosity, and persistence and resilience. All the types of life-long management skills
that we want every individual to have find their seeds in these very young years.
“Can you help me make it like this monster?” “OK, first draw a line here, and then point
here, then make the ears, eyes, nose…” “Help me. I can’t” “Here, that’s how you do it!”
“Aha! That’s too funny” “Sorry!” We also pay a lot of attention to how teachers
manage time and manage behavior and activities. So, we like to see teachers structure learning
environments in ways, or learning activities in ways, that allows kids to move and allows
kids to make noise and allows them to really kid of express themselves individually. [singing]
But I think one of the more important elements that we see of interaction are the ways in
which adults provide ways that stretch the children’s thinking.
“Number 10” “Is 10 on the top or should 10 be on the bottom?” “Bottom” “OK. And then
what comes before 10?” “7” “What’s this one?” “9” “so, 10…”
A child might be fiddling with a puzzle or trying to learn a new word and the teacher
wouldn’t give them the answer but would just come in and try to offer some hints that would
help the child perform the task a little bit higher level, hopefully have an experience
of success, and then celebrate that success together.
“Would you be able to show 0?” “No zero” “You don’t have to show zero, why? Zero is how
many?” “Nothing” “How many is zero? Nothing! Excellent! Good job, Jack! You know your numbers
really really well.” The ability to actually measure, assess, and
then support effective interactions in a classroom has given us a great opportunity.
We’re opening up a field of understanding, measuring, and improving the quality and effectiveness
of teachers’ interactions with kids that I think has enormous promise. I think it actually
has the potential to move education forward.