When Doug Lemov and Craig Barton do a podcast together, I listen.
Lemov is best known for writing Teach Like a Champion (“TLAC”), the first book on any trainee, or experienced for that matter, teacher’s shelf. He is a legend to those who want to learn to teach maths, sport or anything else.
Barton is the best known Maths teacher in the UK, has written numerous books on the detail of teaching maths and his podcast has tens of thousands of listeners from across the globe. He is a very capable, knowledgeable and generous teacher who supports all those who want to improve their teaching of the subject.
And so when on Friday 5th March 2021, the latest installment of The MrBartonMaths podcast was released, I knew it would be worth making time for.
In the end I listened to it twice, back to back, and think I will have to listen to it at least once more. It was full of valuable insights, the most profound of which I write about here.
Lemov is obsessed with the importance of attention in the role of good teaching.
Students will learn where their attention is focusedDoug Lemov
In the episode he explained how for students to learn, they must first be focusing their attention on the topic before moving onto the next stage of actually understanding the content.
Lemov therefore explains that when teaching a student, or coaching a colleague, a much better question than ‘what should we do next?’ is
‘What do you see?’
It is only by asking this that we can first confirm that the student or coachee is looking at the right part of the equation, workflow, risk assessment or balance sheet and that their attention is directed to where it needs to be, confirming that they aren’t overwhelmed by the situation or otherwise distracted.
And from confirming what they are seeing in the problem they face, we can then support them in building an approach towards a solution.
So the next time you are helping someone, whatever the circumstances, maybe first check that their attention is focused on what matters. Of course the other real quality of this question is that it is entirely open, leaving the coachee free to share what they are seeing and giving you, the coach, quality information about their progress.
This was only one insight I took away from the episode but it is definitely one I will be using in the classroom.
Let me know if it works for you!