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Think Before You (Inter)act: What it Means to Be an Intentional Teacher

by Ann S. Epstein
January/February 2009
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Article Link: http://exchangepress.com/article/think-before-you-interact-what-it-means-to-be-an-intentional-teacher/5018546/

The heated debate over child-initiated versus adult-directed instruction may be cooling down, replaced by a search for balance. In the landmark report Eager to Learn, the National Research Council (2000) ­emphasized the need for both approaches, and said teachers must play an active and intentional role in each type of learning:

“Children need opportunities to initiate activities and follow their interests, but teachers are not passive ­during these [child]-initiated and directed activities. Similarly, children should be actively engaged and responsive during teacher-initiated and -directed ­activities. Good teachers help support the child’s learning in both types of activities” (pp. 8-9).

While most of us claim to act with ‘intention’ in our dealings with young children, it is worth pausing to reflect on what this term means. In The Intentional Teacher, the author of this article says, “intentional teaching means teachers act with specific outcomes or goals in mind for children’s development and learning. ­Teachers must know when to use a given strategy to accommodate the different ways that individual ­children learn and the specific content they are ­learning” (Epstein, 2007, p. 1).

How do we know which strategy to use? As a general rule, in child-guided learning, teachers provide ­materials but children make connections on ...

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