Instruction isn’t easy. And it shouldn’t be. Planning for quality instruction is daring, compelling, and challenging work. The more I immerse myself in the work of instruction, the more I find myself grappling with the complexity of true instruction.
I am conflicted with the word itself. “Instruction” almost feels unilateral, radiating from a central source, a knowledge giver, and sloughed on the receivers. We often have to put adjectives like “student-centered” or “learner-centered” in front of the word to negate it’s perceived disposition.
I’ve found that there is a dichotomous nature in the instructional framework. Instruction should be organic and authentic, but at the same time requires structure (via planning) to ensure that it is purposeful and standards-based. I’m phlegmatic toward the dichotomy, but it’s important for me to acknowledge it and to consider the balance that should exist within the continuum.
I grapple with the view of instruction. I see instruction through two different lenses: ground-level and airplane mode.
The view of instruction from high above (airplane mode) looks at the interdependence between teams of teachers and professionals. A network of professionals address instruction through a collective body of strategies and practices. The view in airplane mode is truly holistic and theoretical in approach to student learning.
Then you have the ground-level view of instruction. This is the literal classroom level view of what is truly occurring. What are the students actually doing? What types of questions are being asked by both teachers and students? What are the tasks, activities, projects, and products?
Distinguishing “airplane mode” and “ground-level” views allow us to recognize the tangential but complementary perspectives that exist. It is on the ground that instructional impacts are felt, but sometimes we can’t see the problems until we view instruction from the air. We can develop solutions in airplane mode, but must ensure that these solutions will work on the ground-level. There can be a harmonious and fruitful relationship between both views, as long as we affirm that both are integral and interdependent.
I’ve unpacked just some of the complexities of instruction. As we seek to understand how students learn best, we will encounter more intricacies and therefore quandaries inside of instruction. I believe we must continue to embrace uncertainties moving forward for the sake of society, education, and most importantly, our students. After all, we expect our students to embrace perplexities and leverage difficult situations.