Isn’t Reciprocal Teaching just good teaching?

But don’t we need more than ‘just good teaching’? More than ever before, with today’s 21st century students?

Even highly experienced expert teachers are excited that this modernised Reciprocal Teaching has added value, as it continues to enhance how they teach and how their students learn.

Why not just let it happen?

To get lasting, deeper and wider scale results takes time with a spiralling out PLD.

Even our super schools are likely to need a whole school and team approach over at least two years.

What is the comparison of Reciprocal Teaching with rugby?

Both Reciprocal Teaching and rugby are not learnt through a one-off.

Both are more complex than they first appear.

One of our secondary principals, excited about the impact the new version was having on his Māori students, first made this comparison of Reciprocal Teaching with rugby.

Here’s my attempt at a comparison:

Training for rapid learning of complex skills, such as those required in either Reciprocal Teaching or rugby, has similarities. With both, students require frequent, deep and flexible cognitive support and coaching. With both, the trainer needs not only to be able to play the ‘game’, but also to have the skills and motivation to build each player’s physical, focus, strategic, and team skills, during practice and in ‘matches’. With both the trainer needs to put in effort, momentum, challenge.

Why is this evidence-based practice not in widespread use?

Some of the most powerful evidence-based practices, such as formative assessment / feedback and reciprocal teaching, are not in common use and/or are the least well implemented. International researchers have for a long time raised concerns that these complex interventions are widely misunderstood and prone to ‘fall prey to lethal mutations’[1] – by both teachers in their classrooms and in online forums. These can produce nil or negative results for our students.

This issue, common in applied science, is centre-stage internationally. Attempts to address it have generated the rise of the new discipline of implementation science.

At a system level, barriers to using implementation science effectively to inform change, have included a lack of funding, a short-term reactive environment for innovation, lack of mechanisms for refining practitioner knowledge into a professional knowledge base, insufficient involvement by school-based leaders, and failure to build relational trust.[2]

The implication is that attention must be paid to getting it right on the ground. This means that set-up and implementation must be deeply theory-driven, informed by understandings and practices based on ‘improvement science’.[3] Central to this is informed and determined leadership in a school, and an effective plan for this instructional apprenticeship approach.

The RT3T™ modernised version was developed in response to this situation.


[1] Ed Haertle (1986) first coined the term “lethal mutations” with science-based methods in education.

[2] Robinson, Hohepa & Lloyd (2009). School Leadership and Student Outcomes: Identifying What Works and Why Best Evidence Synthesis, http://www.carnegiefoundation.org/resources/publications/ruminations-reinventing-rd-capacity-educational-improvement/

[3] Bryk, A.S. et al. (2015). Learning to Improve – Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement, http://www.carnegiefoundation.org/resources/publications/learning-to-improve/