Are you a full stack teacher?

Are you a full stack teacher?

There has been a bit of discussion lately around full stack employees, and employers, and this post quoting John Hattie as suggesting teachers should stay out of research. IOI Weekend if definitely aimed at full stack teachers, although we’ve been using Valve’s definition of a T-shaped person.

I strongly disagree that teachers should stay within their narrow set of expertise and away from research, firstly because it just isn’t practical, and secondly it isn’t consistent with how we’re seeing other industries understand and respond to innovation.

To suggest that teachers should stay stay out of research is to suggest that they deny their moral purpose. Teachers are the best placed to both recognise the opportunities for improvement in learning and teacher, and to assess the effectiveness of the interventions. A supposed lack of skills also misreads the new world we live, teachers like all other modern workers are constantly re-skilling themselves, thanks to online communities of practice and professional learning networks. To suggest that teachers are unable to develop research knowledge and skills to the level required to understand what works in their classrooms is no longer true, if it ever was.

Other industries are turning to full stack employees to reap the benefits of new ways of working. Prototyping, for one small example, as promoted by design thinking and learn startup has resulted in the need for small teams to be able to quickly produce full end to end solutions. No longer is it ok for individuals to have a narrow set but high level set of skills, workers in these teams now need to take on a wide variety of roles and understand roles previously outside of their main area of expertise. This enables these teams to be more agile, and therefore more likely to respond adequately to new opportunities. Modern full stack workers are now expected to be marketers, communicators, and workers who understand all major aspects of their field.

This is not to suggest that full stack employees have the same high level of knowledge and skills across all areas, but rather that their core area of expertise is complemented by a broader base. This is also not to suggest the core competency of a full stack teacher will ever be anything but learning and teaching!

So where once, the teacher’s competencies could be summarised by Shulman’s pedagogy and content knowledge dimensions, what are the competencies of full stack teachers?

Full stack teachers are learners first. Full stack teachers understand that they must constantly be learning, that things change fast, and that what is important to know also changes. They use online communities to learn with others, and they develop a personal learning network, that is wide and diverse.

Full stack teachers understand the learning shifts that are caused by modern technologies. Full stack teachers are highly skilled users of technology, they develop a professional online profile, their work practices change with new technologies, and they understand how new technologies relate to their underlying learning strategies.

Full stack teachers innovate in their own learning and teaching practice. Not content to simply reap the benefits of shifts in learning in their own learning, full stack teachers use innovative learning strategies and approaches in their own classrooms. They test and try new pedagogical ideas with their students, seeking to understand how innovation practices can best impact student learning.

Full stack teachers contribute to the depth and breadth of professional knowledge about learning and teaching. Not content to improve just their own learning and teaching practice, full stack teachers share their learning with others.  They attend and share at teach meets and other unconferences, they blog, they tweet, and present in more formal professional learning situations.


If you are, or if you aspire to be a full stack teacher we would love you to join us at IOI Weekend Melbourne.

A free fast paced three-hour taster on Friday night will provide you with a shorter experience of the IOI Weekend. This is a free event and will be held at:

May 15th 6PM – 9PM at New Era Melbourne
Level 2 141 Capel Street North Melbourne VIC 3051

Over three hours we will give you a taste the IOI Process highlighting:

  • IOI Pedagogical Quality Framework,
  • IOI Learner Development Profile,
  • the Modern Learning Canvas,
  • how pedagogical quality, effectiveness and capacity can be measured,
  • and get you on your way to develop an Innovation Thesis.

Please RSVP to if you intended to join us to help us with catering (light finger food and drinks.)

Your Email (required)

Bringing a friend ?


Photo credit: Pancakes taken by hedvigs CC By 2.0

3 thoughts on “Are you a full stack teacher?

  1. I would like to first start by debunking Hattie’s comments about teachers as researchers – in fact, I found these comments almost insulting and patronising….so I’m glad you agree too Richard. If we want teachers to be abreast of the latest educational thinking, we cannot disregard that they are the coalface workers responsible for the effective enacting of the big picture thinking that others might do in the comfort of offices, far removed from the demands and competing requirements of the classroom. Great teachers are great learners and willing researchers. They understand the pedagogical theories upon which their teaching practice is based and they have access to a rich, flexible, and informed repertoire of strategies to engage, inspire, and ignite the learning of their students. This is their moral purpose.

    Not sure if the “full stack” analogy resonates with me (I’m getting a major Pancake Parlour flashback here)….but the idea of fully expert, fully, prepared, fully engaged, fully inspiring, fully connected, practical, innovative and knowledgeable teachers certainly works for me.

    Thanks again Richard.

  2. Yeah, I know what you mean by full stack, its origins stem from the full stack developers and therefore are meaningless without the technology context. At ideasLAB we used to present Valve’s T-shaped person, a range of broad range of narrow expertise and a narrow range of high level depth. The T-shaped teacher is probably a better term for it.

    Thanks again for the comment Nikki, appreciate you taking the time.

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