Pygmalion and the Elephant in the Room


Falling in love with one’s own views is potentially harmful; especially if one wants to act upon them. But how does one avoid becoming Pygmalion? Certainly not by ignoring blind spots. Not to see the obvious can occur easily when one operates too long, too isolated in the same mode of conduct. Every profession, teaching not excluded, falls into the deception of not seeing “The Elephant in The Room”. For that reason we have our professional development programs, one might say. However knowledge and reflection, and even sharing of experiences are not enough. So, how to proceed then?
The cited article acknowledges the detrimental effects of working solo as a professional and designed a PD program within which teachers learned to look at instructional events more closely. Video clips (cases) were shown to which the teachers had to react and interpret them from the view point of raising the task involvement of students. The program was quite successful in that teachers became observant of what was going on in instructional events and could make sense of what they saw.
Video (training) is known to be a powerful instrument in teacher change (1) . Showing video clips of other teachers or, even stronger, confronting teachers with their own classroom videos, either discussed individually or in a group of teachers (being familiar with each other or not) are operative modes of confronting the Elephant in the Room.
Learning to look and notice (2) is what videos are excellent at. But Pygmalion knew that the act of looking can be a deceiving thing. One looks at what one wants to see. Chasing the Elephant away would require to stir up prevalent modes of conduct, not just views. In that respect the tearing down of solo performance, to which the article took position, is an addition to the professional development program that proved its worth.

Learning to See Teaching in New Ways: A Foundation for Maintaining Cognitive Demand by Miray Tekkumru Kisa & Mary Kay Stein
American Educational Research Journal, February 2015, Vol. 52, No. 1, pp. 105–136
www.DOI: 10.3102/0002831214549452 ; AERA.