Archive for the 'Content learning' Category

Free gift from Education Consumers Foundation!

partial image of cover of Clear Teaching

Isn’t it unusual to get something for free that is actually worth a lot? The good folks over at Education Consumers Foundation (ECF) are giving away a small book that is quite valuable, and I encourage readers to download it, read it, and tell their friends to get it, too.

What are they giving away? It’s a book called Clear Teaching: With Direct Instruction, Siegfried Engelmann Discovered a Better Way of Teaching by Shep Barbash. As one can tell from the subtitle, it’s about Zig Engelmann’s work on education. I talked with Mr. Barbash as he worked on the manuscript for the book, read an earlier version of it, and am very impressed with this finished product. It’s even more impressive that the book is now out in the wild for free. Kudos to Mr. Barbash, John Stone, and all the others at ECF who made this happen.

Clear Teaching – The Book
Written by veteran journalist Shepard Barbash over a period of 10 years, Clear Teaching is a well-researched, highly readable introduction to Direct Instruction (DI), a systematic teaching approach which for more than 40 years has dramatically improved learning outcomes for students of all abilities and from all walks of life. The book looks at the development of DI through the early experiences of its creator, Zig Engelmann; explains the principles that underpin this approach; and looks at DI’s reception in the world of teaching, where it has been effectively shunned despite a formidable research base and example after example of transformative success.

The image at the top of the post is hot, but readers can also click here to go to the ECF page where they can download the PDF.

Skeptic Dictionary for Kids

Late in July of 2011, Robert Carroll published Skeptic’s Dictionary for Kids, a complement to his long-standing Skeptic’s Dictionary. He reported that he created it after a twelve-year old told him she found the entries in the original “hard” and “too long” and a ten-year old wanted more pictures.

Like The Skeptic’s Dictionary, the SD for Kids defines words and tells the reader what scientists and skeptics think about whatever is being defined. The first version has 45 entries from abracadabra to zombies written for kids 9 and up. I recommend that kids first read the page About the SD for Kids and then read the entry on scientific skepticism.

I recognize that it’s a little off point to note the publication of Mr. Carroll’s site here on Teach Effectively, but I hope most readers harbor enough skepticism to recognize the potential utility of helping students develop a healthy sense of scientific literacy of their own. I’ll put it in the category of “content learning.”

I regret that Mr. Carroll used the “hard” and “more pictures” rationale for writing the for-kids version of his work. I’m glad that he’s introducing kids to thinking hard, though. That’s important. There are too many kids growing up with the mushy reasoning of advertising and the dodgy logic we see regularly in—sigh—education. A little scaffolding is O.K.

Summer’s coming to an end. Lots of folks are back into the school year! I hope anyone who hasn’t previously done so will resolve to employ effective teaching procedures rather than those that just look good or sound nifty.

Teaching effectively and LD

Folks who are interested in effective teaching for students with Learning Disabilities (and other students as well) can learn a lot at the up-coming conference of the Division for Learning Disabilities in Baltimore (MD, US) later this month. Michael Gerber assembled a fine group of sessions, as shown at the end of this post.

Check out the all-star cast. Note the coverage of relevant topics ranging from RTI to math, primary to adolescent ages (with some adult interests included!), and skills to cognition. On top of the fine content, there will be excellent opportunities to mix and mingle with other people attending the conference as well as presenters and members of DLD’s executive board during social events that include breakfasts, a luncheon, and a reception. Lots of materials are included.

Learn more about the TeachingLD Conference 2010, including how to register on line.

  • Using Evidence-Based Interventions to Teach Primary Level Students Early Numeracy Concepts and Skills
    —Diane P. Bryant (University of Texas at Austin) & Brian R. Bryant (University of Texas at Austin)
  • The Math Learning Companion: An Individualized Intervention for Students with Math Learning Disabilities
    —Lindy Crawford (University of Colorado at Colorado Springs) & Barbara Freeman (Digital Directions International)
  • Responsive, Comprehensive, and Intensive Intervention for Older Struggling Readers
    —Lynn M. Gelzheiser (University at Albany) & Laura Hallgren Flynn (University at Albany)
  • Adults with Learning Disabilities: Current Research, Evidence-based Conclusions, and Emerging Directions
    —Paul J. Gerber (Virginia Commonwealth University)
  • Effective Rime-Based Instruction to Improve the Decoding Skills of Students with Learning Disabilities
    —Sara J. Hines (Hunter College), Jennifer T. Klein (Hunter College), & Kathleen M. Ryan (The Churchill School)
  • The Essay Writing Strategy: Helping Students Write More Organized and Complete Responses to Essay Questions and Prompts
    —Charles A. Hughes (Penn State University) & Bill Therrien (University of Iowa)
  • Strategy Training, Problem Solving, and Working Memory in Children with Math Disabilities
    —Olga Jerman (Frostig Center), Amber Moran (University of California at Santa Barbara), Cathy Lussier (University of California at Riverside), Michael Orosco (University of California at Riverside), Lee Swanson (University of California at Riverside), & Michael Gerber (University of California at Santa Barbara)
  • The Technology and Pedagogy of Universal Design for Learning
    —Peggy King-Sears (George Mason University)
  • Early Reading Intervention for Struggling Readers
    —Jill Marie Leafstedt (CSU Channel Islands) & Catherine Richards-Tutor (CSU Long Beach)
  • Response to Intervention Screening and Progress-Monitoring Practices in 41 Local Schools
    —Daryl F. Mellard (University of Kansas)
  • Strategic Instruction for Building Vocabulary
    —J. Ron Nelson (University of Nebraska, Lincoln)
  • Beyond Reading Words: Improving Reading Rate, Fluency, and Comprehension
    —Rollanda E. O’Connor (University of California at Riverside)
  • Growth in Literacy, Language, and Cognition in Children with Reading Disabilities who are English Language Learners
    —Michael J. Orosco (University of California at Riverside), Lee Swanson (University of California at Riverside), Michael Gerber (University of California at Santa Barbara), & Danielle Guzman (University of California at Santa Barbara)
  • Response to Intervention in Math: An Instructional Focus
    —Paul J. Riccomini (The Pennsylvania State University)
  • Developing Text Level Literacy Skills in Beginning Readers
    —Emily J. Solari (University of Texas Health Science Center Houston) & Alexis L. Filippini (San Francisco State University)
  • Reading Progress Monitoring for Secondary School Students: Reading-Aloud and Maze-Selection Measures
    —Renata Ticha (University of Minnesota) & Miya Miura Wayman (University of Minnesota)

Please note that I am compensated by DLD as its executive director so this is, indeed, a shameless promotion!

Children of the Code posts Engelmann 2

Over on Children of the Code, David Boulton and colleagues affiliated with Learning Stewards, a non-profit organization, posted the second segment of an extended video interview entitled “Professor Siegfried Engelmann Part 2: Improving the Quality of Learning.” Here’s a snippet from the the announcement:

Siegfried “Zig” Engelmann is Professor of Education at the University of Oregon, the Director of the National Institute for Direct Instruction, and President of Engelmann-Becker Corporation, which develops instructional materials and provides educational services for students with various educational needs. The creator of “Direct Instruction”, Professor Engelmann is also the author or co-author of more than 100 articles and chapters of professional books, and more than a dozen professional books and monographs.

“It doesn’t matter what your theory of learning is, all you need to do is look at the facts of what you did and the facts of what the kids are doing.”

I like that quote. It captures the raw empiricism that undergirds Professor Engelmann’s approach to teaching and instructional design.

Siegfried Engelmann 2: Improving the Quality of Learning
Read an earlier entry from Teach Effectively that links to the first part of the interview: “Engelmann interview on instructional design.”

Engelmann explains

Zig Engelmann, progenitor of Direct Instruction (DI), has posted a video of a talk he gave earlier this month. The presentation is an explication of the underlying principles of DI, “Theory of Direct Instruction.”

In the presentation (video below the jump), Mr. Engelmann shows some of his chops from his undergraduate degree in philosophy. He starts with philosophers’ fundamental arguments and shows how those correspond (or don’t) with learning and teaching concepts. For example, as he works through John Stuart Mills’ five methods of induction from A System of Logic, he makes clear how each would apply to teaching. I suspect that this particular sequence will show many people why DI instruction (the examples used in the scripts, not the teaching behavior) is structured the way it is.
Continue reading ‘Engelmann explains’

Promoting reading competence

Over on Britannica Blog, Dan Willingham has a new post entitled “What Makes a Good Fourth-Grade Reader? Knowledge.” Professor Willingham asks, “What makes for effective reading instruction?” and then answers, “A new study indicates that an important contributor is integrating material from other subjects into reading instruction.”

He’s talking about a recently released study by Wai Ming Cheung and colleagues from the University of Hong Kong. They examined predictors of reading literacy among fourth graders and found that “the most powerful predictor [of high outcomes] was the use of materials from other subjects as reading resources.”

This finding is consistent with points made elsewhere as well as here on TE: It’s not sufficient to teach decoding and abstract strategies. Kids need to read stuff! That means they need real content, and certainly one of the best sources of that content would be what they’re learning in other courses. It’s relevant, probably pitched at their level, etc.

Reading literacy of fourth-grade students in Hong Kong showed a remarkable improvement from 2001 to 2006 as shown by international PIRLS studies. This study identified various aspects of the teacher factor contributing to the significant improvement among students. A total of 4,712 students and 144 teachers from 144 schools were randomly selected using probability proportional-to-size technique to receive the Reading Assessment Test and complete the Teacher’s Questionnaire, respectively. A number of items pertaining to teachers’ instructional strategies and activities, opportunities for students to read various types of materials, practices on assessment, and professional preparation and perception, were found to be significantly correlated with the outcome of students’ reading literacy. Stepwise regression procedure revealed four significant predictors for students’ overall reading achievement. The most powerful predictor was the use of materials from other subjects as reading resources. Suggestions to improve quality of teaching of reading and further studies are made.

Cheung, W. M, Tse, S. K., Lam, J. W. I., & Loh, E. K. Y. (2009). Progress in international reading literacy study 2006 (PIRLS): Pedagogical correlates of fourth-grade students in Hong Kong. Journal of Research in Reading, 32, 293-308.

Link to Professor Willingham’s blog entry. Link to the abstract for the study by Professor Cheung.

Duncan: Effective teachers

US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan spoke to the National Education Association today, calling on its members to work with him toward the goal of ensuring that “every child in America is learning from an effective teacher—no matter what it takes.”

That’s a noble goal. In my view, it requires that educators shed their allegiance to theory and adopt effective teaching practices. That’s what it takes.

To be sure, there is a lot of emphasis on high-stakes testing. Mr. Duncan even discussed it as one of the four features of his plan for reforming education. The effective teacher idea is another of the four. High-stakes tests (which need reform of their own, in my view—that’s another post) are only part of the game. Another is using evidence to guide instruction.

But even in the absence of results on high-stakes tests and from pristine research projects, educators can ascertain whether they’re using effective methods. That is, we can devise our own means of ascertaining whether teaching practices are effective at a more micro level. In a lot of ways, the process is relatively simple:

  1. Identify goals and objectives in objectively measurable terms. How will we know if the students have learned X?
  2. Identify the skills and knowledge that students will need to demonstrate mastery of those goals and objectives. What is required to show that a student can competently and independently do X?
  3. Devise teaching algorithms for leading students to acquire the skills and knowledge identified in (ii).
    • Model: Demonstrate the skills for the students or tell them the knowledge;
    • Test: Have the students perform the skill or state the knowledge;
    • Coach: Reinforce and correct their performance;
    • Practice to mastery: Have them perform the skill or repeat the knowledge until they are facile with it and can do it under different, increasingly more challenging conditions.
  4. Assess students’ competence according to the goals and objectives specified in (i).

Sure, I’ve simplified it here. Sure, the goals and objectives would need to be integrated in a fashion consistent with an epistemology of various subject areas. And, you’ll have to cut me a little slack about my use of words such as “tell” and “correct”; telling would need to include providing materials to read, for example. But the idea is just about as simple as I’ve sketched it here.

The area of early reading has been mapped according to this perspective on teaching. We can say how we would recognize a competent reader (i), what the component skills are (ii), and how to teach those skills. But the to-be-learned material doesn’t have to be elementary level reading. If the area is chemistry and the objectives were conducting an experiment using electrophoresis, I think we could perform a similar analysis.

Of course, the real trick will be to get people on board with such thinking. Mr. Duncan seems to want to do something like that, but he’s talking about things at a much grander scale.

Remarks of Arne Duncan to the National Education Association—Partners in Reform

Monitoring progress–resources

Over on Reading Rockets Kathleen McLane has an entry about monitoring progress that’s got a good intro and some valuable links. Take a look at it. There’s also video about progress monitoring in action, a link to a Web cast featuring Roland Good, Mary Ruth Coleman, and Michael C. McKenna discussing assessment including progress monitoring, and an opportunity to ask CBM guru Lynn Fuchs questions about monitoring progress (click the dropdown menu to select Professor Fuchs as the target of your question).

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