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‘Teaching is the profession on which all other professions depend’: Linda Darling-Hammond on transforming education

Linda Darling-Hammond
Linda Darling-Hammond (Photo: Linda A. Cicero)
Education Policy | K-12 | Teaching

‘Teaching is the profession on which all other professions depend’: Linda Darling-Hammond on transforming education

On this episode of School’s In, Linda Darling-Hammond shares her top-five list of ways to change education in America.

What are the most powerful things we can do to transform education? Linda Darling-Hammond, President and CEO of the Learning Policy Institute and the Charles E. Ducommun Emeritus Professor of Education at the Stanford Graduate School of Education, offers her top five recommendations in an interview with GSE Dean Dan Schwartz and Senior Lecturer Denise Pope.

Listen to the full episode at the link below and find more episodes at Stanford Radio. School’s In airs weekends on SiriusXM Insight channel 121.

Interview highlights

Taking care of children

In the 1970s the U.S. was probably, hands down, the number one country in the world in terms of educational attainment … by every measure that was available. Now we rank anywhere between around 21st and 39th, depending on the subject area.

How do countries that have built an education system that is really strong do it? What's the difference between what they're doing and what we see in the United States right now? Number one, they take care of children. They have a child welfare system. They don't allow high rates of child poverty. In the United States, one out of four children lives in poverty. Homelessness has increased astronomically, children with food insecurity and so on. In [nations with a strong education system] – Canada is one, by the way, that's near the top – they take care of children, they have food and housing, and they have early learning opportunities that are high quality.

Teaching for the future

If what you've done is memorize information and spit it back on a test, you will be utterly unprepared for [our changing] world. In fact, our kids are going to have to work with knowledge that hasn't been discovered yet and technologies that haven't been invented yet, to solve big problems that we haven't been able to solve. They need work in school that allows them to take up a problem, figure out how to find the resources that will be needed to solve that problem, work with others to design a solution, test it, evaluate it, revise it, and be able to generate their own progress in learning.

That's a very different kind of teaching. It doesn't mean the facts disappear. It doesn't mean that teaching a structured curriculum disappears. But it does mean that the way you approach the curriculum has to be much more focused around that kind of inquiry than simply reading the chapter and answering the questions at the end of the book.

The “basket of knowledge”


There's a pretty wide and deep basket of knowledge that teachers need to have. They need to understand how people learn, and how people learn differently — not everyone learns exactly in the same way. They need to know how people develop in social and emotional and academic and moral and physical ways, and all those areas of child development interact with each other. They need to understand the relationship, for example, between emotion and learning. You only really learn when you are excited or interested. There's a set of positive emotions; it might just be that you like your teachers. If you're fearful, if you think somebody is going to criticize you or stereotype you, you're going to learn less. All of that has to be understood by teachers.

Teachers also need to know how to build a curriculum that gets kids from wherever they are to the curriculum goals we have for them. They need to understand assessment — how not only to give a test and give a grade … but also how to assess how kids are learning and then either reshape the teaching or help students revise their own work so that they can improve.


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