Getting better on purpose

One of my favourite things about the festive season is games. Darts, cards, pool, beach cricket and, more recently, finska, kubb and cornhole!

Games are great. They bring people together around a common pursuit, they get us up and moving, and they build relationships (read Superbetter for a great overview of the power and benefit of games for relationship building).

Last week I was playing cornhole with my teenage cousin and he said to me, ‘You always do the same thing whenever we play games.'‘What's that?' I replied…‘You always play for a bit, then you go away and watch some YouTube videos on the game, then you come back and play better.'

Curious! I hadn't thought about it a whole heap, it just seemed like the natural thing to do for me. In chatting to my cousin a bit more, I realised he'd seen me follow this same process at least three times in the past year, with darts, surfing, and now cornhole. When I reflected more, I realised I was simply following the process of deliberate practice, getting better on purpose by ensuring that I was practicing the right things, and basing my self-reflection on a good model of quality.

Whenever we begin a new pursuit, there's an initial ‘getting your bearings' stage, after which we begin to lay down some habits, and following that, the habits that we've established either act as a solid foundation for future improvement, or act as a hindrance to it.

This is the purpose of interrupting play to watch YouTube for a few minutes. The goal here is to try to gain a clear picture of the fundamental principles of the sport's technique, so that the foundation that's being build is a strong one.

The same is true of teaching. Last night I finished recording the forthcoming episode of the ERRR Podcast with Josh Goodrich, who's done a lot of work over the years on supporting teachers to improve. One of the big themes of our chat was the role that habits play in teaching, including how firmly they've formed, and how much conscious ‘getting better on purpose' it takes to break them.

Wouldn't it be great if laying down the foundational habits for teaching was as simple as watching a 10 minute YouTube Video! (Wouldn't it be great if teacher training helped more people to do this too)

Good luck with your own games this festive season, and with any new habits you hope to establish in relation to your teaching or learning next year. And watch out for those guys who stop playing games to watch YouTube… sometimes it's better just to have fun!


ps: If you do find yourself playing cornhole this festive season, this is the cornhole technique clip I started with. Love the video analysis in this clip!

You are reading an instalment 129 of Teacher Ollie's Takeaways, an (aspirationally) weekly email in which I share some personal thoughts on teaching and learning, as well as great resources from others. Subscribe here, view all back issues here.

Announcements and Opportunities

The event is now live! You can now book in to the Steplab Instructional Coaching Intensive with Peps Mccrea, Josh Goodrich, Dr Mark Dowley and myself in Melbourne on Monday March 6th next year. This will be the premier instructional coaching event of the year in Australia 2023. Not to be missed. To find out more, and to book, see the event page.

If you're based interstate, why not make a weekend of it and come down to Vic for ResearchEd Ballarat on Saturday, March 4th, then stick around in Melb for the coaching intensive on Monday the 6th? Book here for ResearchEd. (Josh, Peps, and Daisy Christodoulou will all be presenting at this ResearchEd!)

Science of Learning Leadership Accelerator Perth is on March 9th-10th. These are always amazing events, and I'll be at this one too as MC. Come along to be part of the Science of Learning movement in Australia. Link (it's going to be a busy week!)

Articles and Resources (TOT129)

  • For an excellent guide covering what Instructional Coaching is, a summary of the research evidence for Instructional Coaching, guidance for how to set up coaching in a school, advice on how to select and train great coaches, and more, check out the Steplab Beginner's Guide to Instructional Coaching.

  • Stellar thread about the thought and preparation it takes to make an initiative work in schools, thread by George Coles

  • A helpful thread by Peps Mccrea on variation theory. My fave two points: 1. Start with far and move to near positive and negative examples, 2. Increase discriminative contrast by presenting pos and neg examples side by side

  • Zach Groshell on the importance of clear explanations, and some tips for giving them. Link.

  • What it looks like when you see an expert teacher doing their thing. Link.

  • Craig Barton has just released my discussion with him on his Tips for Teachers podcasthere.

  • Quote:

    • “Although we all have at least the potential to make more money in the future, we can never go back and recapture time that is now gone” – Bill Perkins. (A repeated quote from about a month ago, but thought it might help some of us to really make the most of this festive season with friends and family

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