Rehearsal in PD

Practising outside the classroom

Hey 👋

Hope you’re getting your March on. This week, we’re wrapping up our PD series with a peek at rehearsal

Big idea 🍉

Alongside modelling, 'rehearsal' is one of the most essential ingredients of effective professional development (PD).

Rehearsal is when we practise a change to our teaching outside the classroom, either on our own or (even better) with the support of a colleague or coach. It’s important because:

  • Making a change to our teaching requires the repeated co-ordination of novel sequences of thought, speech, posture, and more—all at once.

  • The classroom is already a highly cognitively demanding environment.

This combo means that when we try to make a change to our teaching within a lesson, we end up only being able to give it a fraction of our focus (and our students get less attention along the way).

Practice works best in spaces that are distraction free and emotionally safe. Such as an empty classroom with the door closed or a PD session where everyone else is doing the same activity. In this environment, we can max out the impact of rehearsal by:

  1. Shrinking the change Even outside the classroom we have limited attentional bandwidth. It's best to focus on one small change at a time, rather than trying to implement multiple modifications and not doing any of them well enough to count (or last).

  2. Running multiple 'rounds' The best rehearsal entails planning what we will do when we get to the classroom, and then rehearsing this several times while getting feedback between each round (from a peer, coach, or yourself using video).

  3. Ramping up the authenticity As we begin to master the change, we can start to modify the environment to make it more like the classroom, by varying the conditions of practice, introducing additional demands/distractions, and combining steps together.

To butcher a phrase from Big Dawg Lemov… “don't practise till you get it right [outside the classroom], practise till you can't get it wrong [inside the classroom].”

Note → Initially, rehearsal can feel uncomfortable. We're opening up to failure and focussing on ourselves rather than our pupils. Rehearsal requires bravery—otherwise, we can easily end up defaulting to activities such as discussion and reflection, which might be more comfortable, but are nowhere near as powerful.

🎓 For more, check out this working paper on rehearsal and responsive teaching by Mancenido et al.


  • Effective teacher development requires practice outside the (cognitively demanding) classroom.

  • In the best rehearsal, we shrink the change, run multiple rounds, and ramp up the authenticity.

  • In the early days, rehearsal can be uncomfortable, but this quickly fades (if we are brave enough to stick with it).

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Peps 👊