Archive for the 'Secondary' Category

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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’

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

BEE on struggling readers

Under the auspices of the Best Evidence Encyclopedia, Bob Slavin and colleagues Cynthia Lake, Susan Davis, and Nancy Madden released an analysis of the research literature on methods for teaching students who are struggling to learn to read, “Effective Programs for Struggling Readers: A Best-Evidence Synthesis.” In the synthesis they report the results of their examination of nearly 100 studies that used randomized or well-matched control groups, lasted for at least 12 weeks, and employed trustworthy measures of outcomes. The results of their review, which include both effect sizes and narrative descriptions of the studies, provide valuable insight into effective methods for remediating reading problems.

Key Findings

Overall, 96 experimental-control comparisons met the inclusion criteria, of which 38 used random assignment to treatments. Effect sizes (experimental-control differences as a proportion of a standard deviation) were averaged across studies, weighting by sample size.

One-to-One Tutoring by Teachers: ES=+0.38 in 19 studies
• Reading Recovery: ES=+0.23 in 8 studies
• Other programs: ES=+0.60 in 11 studies

One-to-One Tutoring by Paraprofessionals and Volunteers: ES=+0.24 in 18 studies
• Paraprofessionals: ES=+0.38 in 11 studies
• Volunteers: ES=+0.16 in 7 studies

Small Group Tutorials: ES=+0.38 in 11 studies

Classroom Instructional Process Approaches (low achievers): ES=+0.56 in 16 studies
• Cooperative Learning: ES=+0.58 in 8 studies

Classroom Instructional Process Programs with Tutoring (Success for All, low achievers): ES=+0.55 in 9 studies

Instructional Technology (low achievers): ES=+0.09 in 14 studies

Salvin, R. E., Lake, C., Davis, S., & Madden, N. A. (2009). Effective programs for stuggling readings: A best-evidence synthsis. Best Evidence Encyclopedia:

Just wondering–graduation ages

What if students could declare an intention to enroll in college and take an accelerated course of study during high school so that those who qualify could exit high school earlier than ~18 years of age? To be sure, the standards for qualifying would have to be rigorous (serious competency tests, perhaps created in collaboration with colleges and universities).

Would such a policy create strong incentive for intensive study as a way of escaping some of the drudgery of HS? Would it be counter-productive because students would miss too much growing-up time? Would it make HS less fun for other students, as there would be fewer peers? Would some HS teachers object to losing the students whom they find the most fun to have in their classes?

Will high pay yield high outcomes?

What do teachers make?
According to various sources, teachers earn a median salary that is in the $40-50,000 range; for 2007, the American Federation of Teachers reported that respondents to its survey reported an salaries greater than $50,000 for the first time ever. Of course, salaries vary according to location, qualifications, and assignments.

Sources: American Federation of Teachers; Payscale; US Bureau of Labor Statistics

I’m a fan of paying teachers way higher salaries than most receive now. I’m wary of tying compensation directly to student test scores, but some connections between the two are probably warranted. The Equity Project (TEP) has taken a different tack on doing so. TEP hopes to lure teachers who have been selected for something akin to effectiveness by paying high salaries.

Elissa Gootman of the New York Times covered TEP in a story entitled “Next Test: Value of $125,000-a-Year Teachers.” TEP is an ambitious effort to create a school where pre- and early-adolescent students receive instruction from selected because of the putative quality of their teaching. The aim is to “to put into practice the central conclusion of a large body of research related to student achievement: teacher quality is the most important school-based factor in the academic success of students, particularly those from low-income families.”
Continue reading ‘Will high pay yield high outcomes?’

Progress on US standards

I took considerable pleasure today in reading an article by Maria Glod of the Washington Post in which she reported about plans to develop national standards in reading and mathematics for students in US schools. In her article, entitled “46 States, D.C. Plan to Draft Common Education Standards,” Ms. Glod described efforts by the governors of most US states to describe a framework of knowledge and skills that would characterize a high-school diplomate who is ready for the world of work or higher education or, ideally, both.

Forty-six states and the District of Columbia today will announce an effort to craft a single vision for what children should learn each year from kindergarten through high school graduation, an unprecedented step toward a uniform definition of success in American schools.

The push for common reading and math standards marks a turning point in a movement to judge U.S. children using one yardstick that reflects expectations set for students in countries around the world at a time of global competition. Today, each state decides what to teach in third-grade reading, fifth-grade math and every other class. Critics think some set a bar so that students can pass tests but, ultimately, are ill-prepared.
Continue reading ‘Progress on US standards’

Test exemption effect

Jennifer Jennings and Andrew Beveridge reported that exempting students from tests, a controversial practice sometimes employed with students with disabilities, may have deleterious effects on the performance of younger students with disabilities. Here’s the abstract:

Analyzing data from a large urban district in Texas, this study examines how high-stakes test exemptions alter officially reported scores and asks whether test exemption has implications for the academic achievement of special education students. Test exemption inflated overall passing rates but especially affected the passing rates of African American and Hispanic students because these students were more likely to be exempted. Furthermore, our results suggest that tested special education students in Grades 3 through 8 performed better academically than they would have if they were not tested. However, taking the high-stakes test provided no academic benefit to special education students in Grades 9 through 11.

I rarely work on topics related to high-stakes testing, so I am not well-enough informed to comment on this paper; however, I thought it was interesting enough to merit mention here. What do readers make of this finding?

Jennings, J. L., & Beveridge, A. A. (2009). How does test exemption affect schools’ and students’ academic performance? Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 31, 153-175.

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