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San Clemente, CA, United States

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Ready or not, here we come!

As has every educator near my age, I've watched a BUNCH of ideas flow into the classroom.  For over 20 years I've watched dozens of "great" new approaches to teaching.  Teachers, without question trying to do the right thing, have tried an untold number of ways to educate kids.  Each new idea or technique or method was the "silver bullet".  Each of them was going to magically sweep away the failed policies of the past and guide us down the "right" road.  Each would eliminate the achievement gap and raise our International test scores.

Nope.  The evidence reveals that there has been zero improvement over those past 20 years.  I content that all these new pedagogies have in fact hurt our performance.

Never mind that for YEARS we have known there is a direct relationship between student success and parental influence, we keep thinking that we 'can overcome this with a new approach to teaching

Back when I was a younger man and went to happy hour's with my colleagues, one game we used to play was the alphabet game.  We had to go around the alphabet and name an educational fad or program or inservice we knew of.  It was amazing how many we could name.   Alternative assessments, Brain based learning, Cooperative groups, Differentiation, Enrichment, Favorite mistake, (just learned this one) , Guide on the side, etc.   I really could go on and on and on.   And on.

The problem is, none of them work.  Well, that may not be true.  What we can say definitively is that none of them have any evidence of working.  In the past 40 or so years of educational trial and error, there is exactly ZERO research to indicate any of it improves learning.  Wouldn't you think that after 40 YEARS we might have collected some data indicating what approaches work?  Well, hundreds and hundreds of surveys and experiments and observations and trials have been done and NONE OF THEM indicate that students learn better with Discovery Learning or Reverse Classroom or Cooperative Groups or any of it.

These fads, and "flavor of the month" approaches all fall short because when teachers first try them, as college students or adults, THEY ARE COLLEGE STUDENTS OR ADULTS!  Why do we think that the methods used to teach adults will work with kids?  They often don't.   All of our students learn the alphabet.  We wouldn't put a bunch of 4 year old kids at tables and tell them that if they learn it on their own they are more apt to remember it.  It would be ridiculous.  My point is that there is a line people cross for when they may be ready for self directed learning.  MOST high school kids aren't there.

The dirty little untold secret in education is that the ONLY method that has been proven to work consistently is Direct Instruction. (Project Follow Through)    Imagine that.  Stand and deliver.

It isn't about how a methodology.  Its about an educators expertise and willingness to deliver quality and understandable lessons.  Its about imparting knowledge and motivating kids to take it all in.  We need to stop trying to find the next great method and start trying to train better teachers.

1 comment:

  1. Boy I wish I could say that to some if the people I work with. As mathematicians know we can make statistics show whatever we want. Unfortunately some people only believe the stats they want. Still haven't learned any math specific strategies. Are you surprised?