Archives for category: Education schools

From a blog written in 2005-2006 by an “old-school” teaching candidate attending Columbia Teachers College. Education Departments believe in teaching “skills” (“21st century skills,” “Habits of Mind,” etc.), not knowledge, and that’s the theme of her struggles in the program:

So I am at a graduate school of education, home of teaching people how to give urban kids a crappy education. I am currently using all my powers to ward off the incessant doctrinal attacks on being oldschool. An argument I had with my instructor yesterday should serve as an excellent starting point.

The class is a “methods class” on teaching social studies. We were practicing writing a lesson plan, as a class. The lesson was about Hurricane Katrina and its effects on New Orleans. So we dutifully planned the lesson, and then came to the part about what homework we were going to assign. After deliberation, the class decided that, as homework, our high school students would have to design a Hurricane Survival Kit.

I meekly raised my hand and said, “well, this is a very creative lesson, but I think maybe it’s a little too lite, especially the homework.” My instructor replied, “well, actually, I think it’s quite difficult. They have to use all this information from class and synthesize it and even maybe look up an evacuation plan for their city.” Right. Here would be the Hurricane Survival Kit from most of the kids: , where the blank space represents how they didn’t do the assignment because it was stupid.

I responded that, at my old school, god bless its hard heart, my ninth graders had 20 pages of reading a night for one class. And sometimes they didn’t do it, but when they didn’t, they failed quizzes. And eventually they would have to read it, or they would fail essays, tests, and the class. And failing a class meant summer school, or repeating the year. So a lot of them just did the damn reading. The rest of our conversation went like this:

Instructor (who is, sadly, very smart): Well, does reading 20 pages a night give you all the skills you need?

Me: Well, it sure does improve your reading.

Instructor: But what about life skills that are so important today?

Me: Those are great too, but there’s not really a lot of time for that, what with needing to read.

Instructor: See, that’s the thing: I don’t consider these other skills “extra.”

Me: But basically, reading and writing [we don’t talk about math] skills are really what you are going to need in college. They are the limiting factor here. Even if you have the other skills, if you don’t have reading and writing, you’re just not going to college.

Instructor: Well not everyone wants to go to college.

At that point, I sat back in my chair, crossed my arms, and looked resigned. Let me paraphrase the underlying thinking here. Basically, we must produce project-based edu-tainment to occupy the kids who couldn’t care less about school, meanwhile dooming the other kids (and there are more than you would think) to failure in ever attaining any kind of dreams of accomplishment. She argued that traditional education is a turn-off to urban kids and that trying to force them to do it will cause them to drop out of school. Hello. They already are, in huge droves. The schools that do what I’m talking about–the oldschools–are actually successful. I don’t think it’s easy to work with urban kids–they have a lot of really difficult things to deal with at a young age. But some of them can make it, IF we let them.

After class, in an email, she suggested we start a message board discussion of these ideas so they won’t take up so much class time. Excellent.
Welcome to School | 9/29/2005 | by newoldschoolteacher

This paper aims to discuss epistemological and philosophical foundation of meaningful learning and teaching mathematics and science from the perspective of radical and social constructivism. I have reflected on my experiences of radical and social constructivism through dilemma, dialogue, and defense of my personal epistemology of learning. I went through articles of different authors which immensely put me into a dilemma as I tried to make connections to my experiences of learning and teaching mathematics and science. While doing this, I found myself in a great crevice of philosophical tensions between radical and social constructivism that lead into further dialogue between two selves, one as radical and other as social constructivist, and defended each epistemological/philosophical identities in terms of learning and teaching mathematics and science.
Radical versus Social Constructivism: Dilemma, Dialogue, and Defense
Shashidhar Belbase
Graduate Student of Mathematics Education College of Education
University of Wyoming, Laramie, Wyoming
October 19, 2011

What teachers are taught in education school

Teachers as facilitators

Teachers can facilitate a student’s self imposed learning by using techniques like; peer to peer learning which is when students are left to their own means of discovering the answers to their exercises. After a lesson is introduced students can attempt to learn together and try to help one another solve the problems. Another useful tool for community learning in the classroom is reading or literacy circles. Students are given guidelines and challenged to find the answers as a group. Working together takes the pressure off of an individual and encourages shared learning. The teacher’s job is to introduce concepts, ask questions about the subject and show them what route to take but the students get to the answers by themselves.
SOURCE: Voices in Education | website written by 3 students working on Bachelors degrees in education at the University of Windsor

What the research says


Recent studies conclude that teachers are important for student learning but it remains uncertain what actually determines effective teaching. This study directly peers into the black box of educational production by investigating the relationship between lecture style teaching and student achievement. Based on matched student-teacher data for the US, the estimation strategy exploits between-subject variation to control for unobserved student traits. Results indicate that traditional lecture style teaching is associated with significantly higher student achievement. No support for detrimental effects of lecture style teaching can be found even when evaluating possible selection biases due to unobservable teacher characteristics.
SOURCE: Is traditional teaching really all that bad? A Within-Student Between-Subject Approach BY Guido Schwerdt and Amelie C. Wupperman | CESifo Working Paper No. 2634
And see: Harvard Study Shows that Lecture-Style Presentations Lead to Higher Student Achievement

You can find scattered studies showing success with student-centered learning in some settings.

You can find many studies showing success with teacher-centered learning.

What you absolutely cannot find is a large and respected body of scientific research establishing constructivism as superior to direct instruction.

Yet education schools teach student-centered methods as dogma.

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From a UK teacher:

“It wasn’t until I had been teaching 11- to 18-year-olds for four years that I realized I had been consistently misled. Up until that point I had trusted my teacher training to provide the best of what had been discovered in the discipline of teaching and learning. If I had been shown a method or theory by which I could perform my job more efficiently, I assumed it would have been forged in the crucible of experience and evidence. I assumed that what we knew about teaching, say, chemistry, for example, progressed in a linear, accumulative way. But I found the opposite.

As a philosophy and religious studies high school teacher in the United Kingdom, I discovered that a good deal of what was considered orthodoxy in my profession was unsubstantiated. I believe many of my teacher colleagues in the United States have made similar discoveries.

In 2004, I had just emerged from the U.K. Department for Education’s Fast Track recruitment program into teaching, where I had spent weekends learning about Neuro-Linguistic Programming, a program called Brain Gym, and how to sort my students according to their learning styles. I was told that my students possessed multiple intelligences, and it was strongly hinted to me that the more technology I could accommodate into my lessons, the better their needs as digital natives would be met. My initial classroom design of rows and columns was frowned upon, and tables and horseshoes were recommended. And all because, I was told, the research confirmed each avenue.”
Group Work for the Good
Unpacking the Research behind One Popular Classroom Strategy
By Tom Bennett

And see:
Do we want to become a 21st-century skills district?

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Irvington Union Free School District
Irvington USFD Board Meetings – YouTube

“…the chief barriers to effective school reform are not the usual accused: bad teacher unions, low teacher quality, burdensome government dictates. Many a charter school in the US has been able to bypass those barriers without being able to produce better results than the regular public schools they were meant to replace. No wonder. Many of these failed charter schools were conceived under the very myths that Ms. Christodoulou exposes [in her book Seven Myths About Education]. It wasn’t the teacher unions after all! Ms. Christodoulou argues convincingly that what has chiefly held back school achievement and equity in the English-speaking world for the past half century is a set of seductive but mistaken ideas.”

A Game-Changing Education Book from England
by E. D. Hirsch, Jr.
July 2nd, 2013

From Daisy Christodoulou’s Seven Myths about Education

My central argument is that much of what teachers are taught about education is wrong, and that they are encouraged to teach in ineffective ways. After I had been teaching for 3 years, I took a year out to do further study. I was shocked to stumble across an entire field of educational and scientific research which completely disproved so many of the theories I had been taught when training and teaching. I was not just shocked; I was angry. I felt as though I had been misled. I had been working furiously for 3 years, teaching hundreds of lessons, and much information that would have made my life a whole lot easier and would have helped my pupils immeasurably had just never been introduced to me. Worse, ideas that had absolutely no evidence backing them up had been presented to me as unquestionable axioms. One of the writers I most enjoyed reading was Herbert Simon. His research into decision-making won him a Nobel Prize. Together with two other cognitive scientists, wrote a paper criticizing many of the ideas that are popular in US education:

New ‘theories’ of education are introduced into schools every day (without labeling them as experiments) on the basis otheir philosophical or common-sense plausibility but without genuine empirical support.

Simon’s observation appeared in a paper published in 2000: “Applications and Misapplications of Cognitive Psychology to Mathematics Education” by John R. Anderson, Lynne M. Reder, & Herbert A. Simon | Texas Education Review, v1 n2 p29-49 Sum 2000.

In the years since 2000, common-sense plausibility has taken a back seat to theory. A “hot! hot! hot!” practice like the flipped classroom not only defies common sense but is actively promoted in counterintuitive terms (“turning the traditional classroom on its head,” “learning from YouTube is as natural as it gets,” etc.)

As E.D. Hirsch tells us, the thoughtworld of education schools has insulated them from science — and, today, from common sense as well.

This graphic from Knewton, which writer David Neilsen links to, explains the rationale behind ‘flipping’ the classroom. The goal isn’t to “engage” students (Powerpoint movies are boring) or to increase achievement (achievement won’t be measured), but to eliminate the teacher as “sage on the stage.” Or, because the teacher-sage can’t be eliminated altogether–not if you want students to pass Regents examinations–to banish the act of explicit instruction out of sight, in the student’s home. Explicit instruction is rejected by education schools. In their ed-school classes, aspiring teachers and administrators are told that students must teach themselves via “inquiry,” “discovery,” “problem-solving,” “collaboration,” and the occasional “struggle.” The correct role for the teacher, they learn, is as “guide on the side,” not “sage on the stage.” Guide-on-the-sidery is the core belief, the core message, and the core teaching of the education programs all public-school teachers and administrators are required to attend. It is also the core teaching of  the “professional development” provided by education schools and their graduates. In all likelihood this group of teachers singing about becoming guides on the side thanks to Common Core wrote their song at a professional development workshop. The dream of the flipped classroom is the dream of finally removing the teacher from the front of the classroom forever.


Flipped classroom - complete - Knewton

Source: Knewton Infographics

UPDATE: Mathematics teacher Vern Williams responds: One of our local high schools started the flipped classroom strategy and both students and parents pretty much rebelled. I was asked to tutor former students taking Algebra 2 who had been outstanding “real” Algebra 1 students. I actually encourage my students to hang out on Khan’s site but only because many of his lessons are interesting and can serve as an excellent supplement. An important part of teaching and learning math is the interaction among students with their peers and teacher WHILE learning is occurring, not a day after the fact. And that even assumes that quality learning occurred while watching videos with no opportunity for questions. The guide on the side folks have been trying to separate me from my students for the past forty years. They accuse you of being the sage on the stage because you dare attempt to teach. If flipped classrooms are being pushed by educrats and colleges of education, beware.

Vern Williams is something of a legend in ‘instructivist’ circles. He teaches algebra to gifted 8th grade students, served on President Bush’s National Mathematics Advisory Board, and was I believe the sole classroom teacher involved in writing the Common Core math standards. Two of his articles in the Times: