What can teachers really learn from doctors? Atul Gawande’s Better as a model for improving teaching

Great stuff from Harry Fletcher-Wood! We used Atul Gawande’s ‘Better’ in whole-school INSET some time ago – Here’s a blog that sets out the book’s main ideas in greater detail and brilliantly highlights their relevance for teaching and learning.

Improving Teaching

The book which best expresses how I aspire to improve my teaching has nothing to do with teaching.  It’s Better, by Atul Gawande – a surgeon writing about how he and his profession can improve their performance.  In my brief blogging career, I have eschewed comparisons between medicine and education; too many seem hackneyed, simplistic or rhetorical.  This book is so good, its message so apposite for teachers, that I shall now break this rule.

Gawande’s meditations on medical practice span time and space and range from the general to the personal in their search for insight.  In examining hand washing, for example, he begins with Semmelweiss’s pioneering attempts to convince his peers that this simple measure worked, then proceeds to consider the travails of his colleagues today, whose job is to ensure medical staff implement Semmelweiss’s nineteenth-century findings.  He explains the occasions when he and his peers breach these…

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