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Addressing the Pinterest problem in teaching

Deans for Impact

Category: Teaching Practice

For many novice teachers, entry into the profession is trial by fire.

After exhausting days, they spend their nights clicking through the web, searching for lesson plans and instructional materials to use in class the next day. In one study, nearly 90% of US elementary school teachers reported using Pinterest and Teachers Pay Teachers to plan lessons. Ninety-five percent reported using Google.

This is despite a dramatic shift in K-12 curricular materials over the past decade, as more and more districts adopt high-quality instructional materials (HQIM), which are entire curricula designed to support students in meeting college- and career-ready standards. A key advantage of HQIM is that they lighten the planning load for novices, enabling them to focus on building relationships with students and families, deepening their own pedagogical content knowledge, and adapting materials to meet the needs of their particular students rather than creating lessons from scratch.

The widespread adoption of HQIM is promising, but teachers need more than just access to materials. They must understand and appreciate the why behind HQIM; they must know how to identify HQIM, including where to find trusted guidance; and they must have opportunities to analyze materials, plan to foster effortful thinking through careful implementation, anticipate common misconceptions, and prepare to scaffold support to meet the needs of all learners. Instead of spending hours scouring the internet and planning lessons from scratch, novice teachers are freed to focus on what matters: improving their instruction and building relationships with students, families, and their school community.

We’re now testing this idea through a partnership with the Tennessee Department of Education and four educator-preparation programs that collectively prepare about 20% of new teachers in the state. The participating programs include the Nashville Teacher Residency, Lipscomb University, Tennessee Tech University, and The University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Over the next year, we’ll work with faculty from these programs to develop and pilot training modules for novice teachers on HQIM. The modules will help teacher-candidates learn to evaluate whether or not materials are high-quality, how to use them to deliver consistent, standards-aligned instruction, and why such materials are important component of equitable and inclusive environments.

Through the fall, faculty will work with us to develop the modular course content, and next spring, they will pilot modules in their courses with support from experts on our program team.

Senior Program Director Rebekah Berlin will share more about this initiative during the Tennessee Department of Education’s Read 360 Summit on September 21-23. She’ll also be presenting at the Tennessee Association of Colleges of Teacher Education Fall Conference on September 27-28.

At Deans for Impact, we believe that educator-preparation programs have a critical role to play in ensuring that novice educators can both identify and internalize HQIM to support equitable student learning and make efficient use of their planning time. By removing the need for midnight Pinterest searches—and creating space to focus on high-quality enactment and relationship building—we can create environments in which every child receives equal access to great teaching and rigorous learning.

Learn more about our Tennessee HQIM network.