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.
In “Using Encoding Instruction to Improve the Reading and SpellingPerformances of Elementary Students At Risk for Literacy Difficulties: A Best-Evidence Synthesis,” professsors Beverly Weiser and Patricia Mathes of Southern Methodist University reviewed of studies of the effects of spelling instruction on literacy performance and found that systematic instruction in helping students to convert speech into print promotes not just spelling but also reading competence. What is more, the benefits appear to persist over time.
Using Encoding Instruction to Improve the Reading and SpellingPerformances of Elementary Students At Risk for Literacy Difficulties: A Best-Evidence Synthesis
Although connectionist models provide a framework explaining how the decoding and encoding abilities work reciprocally to enhance reading and spelling ability, encoding instruction in today’s schools is not a priority. Although a limited amount of high-quality experimental or control studies to date (N = 11) give empirical support to using direct, explicit encoding instruction to increase the reading and spelling abilities of those students at risk for literacy failure, the benefits of integrating this instruction into current reading curriculums warrant further consideration. Students receiving encoding instruction and guided practice that included using (a) manipulatives (e.g., letter tiles, plastic letters) to learn phoneme–grapheme relationships and words and (b) writing phoneme–grapheme relationships and words made from these correspondences significantly outperformed contrast groups not receiving encoding instruction. Robust Cohen’s d effect sizes, favoring the treatment groups, were found in areas of phonemic awareness, spelling, decoding, fluency, comprehension, and writing. Educational implications of these findings suggest that there is support for using encoding instruction to increase the literacy performances of at-risk primary grade students and that encoding instruction can be successful in improving the reading and spelling performances of older students with learning disabilities. Importantly, there is also evidence to support the transfer effects of early encoding instruction on later reading, writing, and spelling performances.
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.
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’
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).
Zig Engelmann, principle author of a sweet suite of instructional materials that cover the range from beginning language skills to core concepts in physical sciences, has revised his Web site, Zig Site. If you’ve ever heard of “Direct Instruction” (sometimes said, “Big DI”), you’ve heard of Zig’s work. The new site has somethings new and somethings old. Rather than précis the changes, here’s how Zig describes it:
Starting in 2009, Zigsite is going to have an emphasis on training through videos. The first will be a series of 13 video sessions on teaching English pronunciation to non-English speakers. It will be followed by a series of training videos on teaching our new program, Direct Instruction Spoken English.
The longer printed works on Zigsite include, Rubric for Identifying Authentic DI Programs, Low Performers’ Manual, and the log of the first formal study I did in education—Comparative Preschool Study: High and Low SES Preschoolers Learning Advanced Cognitive Skills. These are constructive. Most of the other works are constructive only in the sense that they help clarify why education has gone basically nowhere in the past 40 years. Only now are educators starting to “invent” some of the stuff we used back in the 60s.
My colleague Dan Willingham has posted a marvelous video that’s an introduction to thinking about neuroscience and education. Under the title “Brain-based Education: Fad or Breakthrough,” he illustrates important elements about what are reasoned extrapolations from cognitive neuroscience to education and what are not.
Update (18 May 2008): It’s heartening to see that other sites are pointing to Dan’s video. Here’s a preliminary list (please add others via the comments):
Teach Effectively provides news and commentary about evidence-based instructional practices. We focus on educational methods that have proven track records; that focus allows us to spend time lampooning some pop-ed fads, whims, and bologna-based innovations.