Archives for category: “Teacher-centered classrooms”

Our Failure To Follow Through by Billy Tashman

Reprinted from New York Newsday, November 15, 1994, with permission

Project Follow Through, America’s longest, costliest and perhaps, most significant study of public school teaching methods quietly concluded this year. The good news is that after 26 years, nearly a billion dollars, and mountains of data, we now know which are the most effective instructional tools. The bad news is that the education world couldn’t care less.

Started in 1968, Follow Through was intended to help kids, from kindergarten through the third grade, continue the progress they had made in Head Start. But the Feds also wanted to find out which instructional methods delivered the most bang for the bucks. So they funded 22 vastly different educational programs in 51 school districts with a disproportionate number of poor children. Standardized test results were collected from almost 10,000 Follow Through children, as well as from kids not in the Follow Through program.

Abt Associates in Cambridge, Mass., analyzed the numbers, then issued the verdict. When it came to academic performance, children who participated in the Direct Instruction method blew their peers out of the classroom. More important, later evaluations of 1,000 Direct Instruction graduates showed that they were still ahead of their cohorts in their senior year of high school.

If something works this well, why aren’t public schools using it? One reason is that Direct Instruction, at first glance, looks dated. Indeed, teachers who treat their jobs as a cross between stand-up comedy and the Superbowl halftime show might, after peeking into a Direct Instruction classroom, disappear faster than a spare textbook at the Board of Ed.

To make matters worse, these methods owe a lot to the late B. F. Skinner, the Harvard behaviorist some recklessly called a fascist. That’s unfortunate and unfair, because Skinner demanded a scientific approach to classroom instruction, which is lacking from almost every hot reform idea du jour.

Direct Instruction stresses basic skills, breaking them down into mini-components. Children learn to read, for example, by learning the sounds of the letters before the letter names. They master each skill before moving onto the next one. Teachers track each student’s progress on daily charts. They also track behavior, encouraging good conduct with praise, while ignoring bad behavior for the most part. In short, if you can’t measure it, you probably shouldn’t teach it. This kind of micro-management is almost unheard of in most classrooms.

But Direct Instruction’s most controversial feature is a script from which teachers conduct lessons. Picture this: A first-grade teacher, reading from her script, makes the “m” sound. The pupils respond in unison. After a word of praise, the teacher, prompted by her script, tells them to repeat the sound.

This may sound a bit like a “Road to Wellville” approach to education, but Direct Instruction has had stunning success at scores of schools. One of the original sites in the early ’70s was P.S. 77 in the South Bronx. After five years, DI “significantly raised the reading, writing and arithmetic performance and scores of the participating children,” said one report. Federal budget cuts eventually gutted the program but, interestingly, P.S 77 old-timers still cling lovingly to the teaching methods.

It may come as a shock to the layperson, but school policymakers haven’t adopted Direct Instruction because they have an aversion to scientific research. Educators throw their weight behind the latest fad, then refuse to abandon it when it doesn’t work. In fact, the federal oversight panel for Follow Through cut the Direct Instruction program even as it continued other models that were spectacular flops. Eschewing basic skills, the failed programs tried to teach kids how to learn on their own, or tried to raise students’ self-esteem (both categories, by the way, in which Direct Instruction students excelled). In these failed programs, students had even lower reading and math scores than the control groups that had no Follow Through program. Yet these failed programs have spread through America like fire through dry corn.

Follow Through demonstrated that scientific research and the classroom are still strangers to one another. Until they join forces, American schoolchildren will continue to receive a second-class education.

AND SEE:
Super’s plan: replace college prep with “workplace” prep
Teacher-centered v. learner-centered classrooms 
“Fast trends”
Teachers “taking risks”
Project Follow-Through

10.10.2015 Teacher-centered v. learner-centered

In a learner-centered classroom, 7th graders “focus” on adjectives.

7th_grade_ELA_-_Kelly_Kozak_-pixels-_Timeline_Photos_-_Irvington_Union_Free_School_District_2_png

In a teacher-centered classroom, 7th graders learn the grammar of English composition:

7 CORE KNOWLEDGE – Gr7 – CKFSequence_Rev-4

And see:
6th grade English at Brearley
Teacher-centered v. student-centered

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

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

ABSTRACT

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.

Irvington Parents Forum at Yahoo Groups
Irvington Parents Forum on Facebook
Irvington Union Free School District
BoardDocs
Irvington USFD Board Meetings – YouTube

Our superintendent is a constructivist who is pursuing constructivist reforms.

His predecessor was also a constructivist who was pursuing constructivist reforms (e.g.: “the high school vanishes“), but while she brought in balanced literacy and doubled down on Math Trailblazers, she was never able to transform the high school, possibly because the then-principal was a long-tenured veteran who publicly embraced the various directives but ignored them in practice.

He is gone now, and we are seeing constructivist reforms — flipped classrooms being the most obvious — in the high school.

“Constructivism” is the current term for “progressive education.” Another term: “student-centered.” Constructivist classrooms are student-centered. Traditional classrooms, the kind you would see at an elite college, are teacher-centered.

“Student-centered classroom” sounds like a good thing, but what it actually means is that students teach themselves in pods and pairs. The teacher is a guide on the side, not a sage on the stage. Nor does the curriculum hold authority over students, who choose their own books to read. (The middle school Reading Workshop is a student-centered class.)

So that’s where we are. Our current curriculum director is a “child-centered professional.” The superintendent is hiring a new curriculum director, and that person will also be “student-centered.”

The question: is this what taxpayers want?

Here is a definition of constructivist teaching from the article “Ubiquitous laptop usage in higher education: Effects on student achievement, student satisfaction, and constructivist measures in honors and traditional classrooms” | Christian Wurst a, Claudia Smarkola b,*, Mary Anne Gaffney a:

3. Constructivist teaching
Constructivism is a learning theory where individuals construct meaning from their own current knowledge. It is a way of attending to teaching that allows for a multiplicity of alternatives; it is a concept that is broad enough to allow for a great deal of variation but specific enough to provide guidance to practitioners. Many educational psychologists and curricular specialists have created lists of the traits that they expect to find in a constructivist classroom (Brooks & Brooks, 1993; Jonassen, 1991; Jonassen, 1994; Murphy, 1997; Partlow & Gibbs, 2003; Savery & Duffy, 1995; Wilson & Cole, 1991) A comparative analysis of these traits revealed ten general patterns that seem to be common to constructivist classrooms. They are:

1. Learning is collaborative and cooperative. Students work in groups or task-based ad hoc teams. These types of groups help students recognize the role of social contracts in the learning process.

2. Students have control and responsibility for their learning. Self-regulation strategies are encouraged. The teachers are more interactive and act as mediators, coaches or translators.

3. There is an acceptance of multiple perceptions of reality and students’ opinions are valued and actively sought by the teacher. Students are asked how they feel about a topic; they are not told what to feel about any topic.

4. Students’ learning is embedded in authentic, real world scenarios and problems are posed as actual situations. When possible, original data are provided to the students.

5. Instructional goals are negotiated not imposed. Students’ questions are valued and sought, and they control the pace and direction of much of the classroom activity. Instructors allow ample time, after posing questions, for students to frame answers. While these goals are often disparate, the solution is negotiated.

6. Assessment is both formative and summative. Grades are based (either in whole or in part) on portfolios, presentations and other forms of knowledge display. Formal examinations are not eliminated; however, their use is heavily supplemented by these other assessment media.

7. Learning is active. Teachers stress understanding rather than rote memorization. There is an emphasis on the integration of learning and life; students are urged to discover the interrelatedness of concepts and their application to the real world. Students are implored to explore alternative understandings and applications of the classroom concepts.

8. Classes are not highly structured. Topics emerge and meaningful digressions are permitted. Students are pushed to derive alternative outcomes for problems and to see conflicting points of view.

9. Teachers are the guides on the side; this often gives rise to the notion that the teacher is a co-learner. They pose problems and engage students in dialogue; they often give advice on how to find an answer to a problem but never directly provide a solution for the problem at hand. Their role is to help the students understand the task, not provide the solution.

10. The students are urged to become self-reflective and to aid their student colleagues in their self-reflection.

Constructivism has altered the roles of professors and students. However, the roles of professors and their students have been slowly changing over time. A key catalyst for this change began in the 1960s when rebellious students on college campuses challenged existing social traditions (Oldenquist, 1983). Students found themselves being treated as peers and participants in many college-governing activities (Joughin, 1968). In 1968, the American Association of University Professors and the Association of American Colleges issued a Joint Statement on Rights and Freedoms of Students. This document stated that students should be consulted on all educational matters and defined them as the immediate consumers of college educations (Joughin, 1968).

Do we want to be a constructivist district, part 2

Perhaps the best way to convey how rigorous the humanities are at Hunter is to list some of the texts that 7th graders read in their humanities class a few years ago. Students read widely from original sources such as The Prince by Machiavelli, The Republic by Plato, and Two Treatises on Civil Government by John Locke (as well as many other, less well-known, documents of similar difficulty).
A realistic view of Hunter College High

Students reading well above and well below grade-band level need additional support. Students for whom texts within their text complexity grade band (or even from the next higher band) present insufficient challenge must be given the attention and resources necessary to develop their reading ability at an appropriately advanced pace. On the other hand, students who struggle greatly to read texts within (or even below) their text complexity grade band must be given the support needed to enable them to read at a grade-appropriate level of complexity.
Appendix A: Research Supporting Key Elements of the [Common Core] Standards p9