Yale University

Critical Practice

The other six domains each contribute to the development of effective teaching. But taken as a list of competencies, they fail to show the full process of thinking and acting that we expect from our candidates. A meta-competence, critical practice, captures the dynamic work we expect.

Critical practice is the process of putting into play the other six competencies. The result is student achievement. Critical practice recognizes that, at its core, effective teaching requires problem solving of the highest order. Who are my students? What are their assets? What do they need to make the next leap? What does my specific subject matter offer them? How do I need to act to maximize a lesson's effectiveness? How do I build on their prior knowledge? How do I take into account the different assets and needs? How does that inquiry make the design better for the class as a whole?

Critical pedagogy is our attempt at grounding the ubiquitous phrase "reflection" and demanding it be connected to action for improved student learning. As a meta-competence, it is best assessed holistically, in the way in which our candidates talk and teach. It is a quality of "teacher talk" that defines barriers, lists alternate ways of framing those barriers and uses assets of students and discipline-based content to move through those barriers.

One of the culminating projects for Master's candidates is a portfolio of Evidence of Professional Development. This portfolio is a collection of artifacts that each candidate compiles in the work of teaching: crafting lessons, shaping content, learning about students, assessing learning and adjusting what happens next. It is the clearest evidence of both candidate and student growth. Videotape, audiotape, written reflections, lesson rewrites, and critical incidents all contribute to this collection. To paraphrase Maxine Greene, the collection represents a connectedness to the task, a responsibility for student learning and attentiveness for improvement.