The school classroom is an amazing place. It is simultaneously filled with dazzling complexity and profound simplicity. It is at once driven by reassuring routines and constant surprises.

As all pupils return to classrooms from the vagaries of the third lockdown this coming week, it will time for teachers to resume running the room and all that it offers.

On one level, teaching in the classroom is about human connections – an alchemy involving thinking, talking, laughing and learning. It is also a place of unending expert decision making.

What if I told you there were 205 trillion ways to teach? 

When you disaggregate the seemingly-smooth act of teaching, the sheer mass of decisions and teaching moves proves dizzying. It is no surprise it is an exhausting task!

US researchers – Kenneth Koedinger, David Klahr, and Julie Booth – wrote a fascinating article in renowned journal, Science, back in 2013, called ‘Instructional Complexity and the Science to Constrain It’. They explore the vast array of decisions and choices a teacher makes. It proves both interesting and helpful.

They devised this diagram on the intricacies of instruction:

Teachers would rightly debate the choices here – exploring what is emphasised and what is omitted – but the decision-tree goes some way to unveil the tacit expertise teachers unlock each time- they teach a lesson. The researchers calculate that the choices add up in the trillions.

The researchers go on to share a range of design principles that proves useful to explore and discuss:

As classrooms fill up once more in the coming week, relationships will reconnect, laughs will be shared, and teachers will once more enact a thousands of expert teaching moves with seeming ease.

I am delighted my two children get to return to the classroom and to be a part of that magic. I am thankful for the energy and efforts of the brilliant teachers that will thread their way through trillions of teaching moves in the classroom.

Here’s to teachers and the magic of the classroom!

[Feature image via Pixabay]