Archive for the 'Teacher education' Category

Brit neuroscientists ding learning styles

In a March 2017 letter to the Guardian, a group of prominent neuroscientists from Great Britain argued expressly against basing instruction on learning styles. They contended that not only are there too many so-called styles to form a coherent framework for guiding instruction and not only is there little evidence supporting benefits from teaching according to learning styles, but also, using resources to follow learning-styles approaches wastes valuable instruction time. Here’s a link to the original letter and another link to an accompanying article by Sally Weale. Continue reading ‘Brit neuroscientists ding learning styles’

Slavin on Shanker, professionalism, and evidence

Over on the Huffington Post blog, in a fine remembrance of the founder of the American Federation of Teachers, Bob Slavin reminded readers that Al Shanker championed both professionalism and evidence.

Back in the day, I knew Al Shanker, the founder of the American Federation of Teachers. No one has ever been more of an advocate for teachers’ rights – or for their professionalism. At the same time, no one was more of an advocate for evidence as a basis for teaching. He saw no conflict between evidence-based teaching and professionalism. In fact, he saw them as complementary.

Professor Slavin continues his remembrance with sage argument about the importance of teachers embracing evidence-based practices. Ultimately he cited the value of Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) evidence standards.

I applaud Professor Slavin’s argument and amplify it with an additional call for educators not only to embrace evidence-based practices, but to do even more. As professionals, we educators have a duty to

  • Identify evidence-based practices that have the strongest effects. Some evidence-based practices are more effective than others (in fact, Professor Slavin has been among the leaders in helping refine research methods to compare instructional practices). Professionals need to know how to find those practices.
  • Implement evidence-based practices with fidelity (see Cook & Odom, 2013). Having a great recipe for a soufflé is no guarantee that one will serve a gourmet dish; one has to use the right ingredients and execute the steps in preparing it, as well. That’s a big part of professionalism.
  • Monitor the effects of programs on individual students and groups of students so that, when needed, adjustments can be made. It is inevitable that evidence-based practices will move too slowly or rapidly for some learners. Professionals need to adjust instruction for them. These adjustments should, of course, employ evidence-based practices. See this post for an illustration.

There may be other important relationships between professionalism in education and evidence-based practices. Readers are welcome to suggest them in comments.

Cook, B. G., & Odom, S. L. (2013). Evidence-based practices and implementation science in special education. Exceptional Children, 79, 135-144. doi: 10.1177/001440291307900201

Teach reading effectively

head-and-shoulders shot snagged from video
K. Hempenstall

Professor Kerry Hempenstall wrote a literature review on teaching reading for Australia’s Centre for Independent Studies. It is an excellent resource, because it is true to the scientific evidence, but it is written in a way that is accessible to lay readers.

Parents, teachers, administrators, and interested others: You don’t have to put up with the statistics-ese and mumbo-jargon that we researchers often use when discussing scientific evidence. In Read About It:
Scientific Evidence for Effective Teaching of Reading
, Professor Hempenstall clearly explains the five fundamental features of reading competence and how to foster them in learners. Down load a copy of this excellent PDF or follow this link to learn how to purchase a hard copy.

ECF: Misdirected Teacher Training has Crippled Education Reform

In the summary for a recently released policy analysis, John Stone of the Education Consumers Foundation argued that developmentally appropriate practice (DAP), the widely promoted approach to early childhood education, has effectively prevented struggling students from achieving what educational policy makers have sought since 1983: The chance to close the gap. In the statement, Misdirected Teacher Training, Mr. Stone details the ways that DAP has hindered young children’s progress.
Continue reading ‘ECF: Misdirected Teacher Training has Crippled Education Reform’

A few questions for Joel Klein

According to widespread reports, in your just-published book about your time as chancellor of the New York City Schools, Mr. Klein, you wrote that firing a teacher “took an average of almost two and a half years and cost the city over $300,000.”

I’d ask you to consider a little context, please…. The reasons we have teacher unions and tightly worded contracts in the first place is because teachers historically were mistreated and they lost confidence in their employers. And what of the “incompetent” administrators—you fail to mention them. It takes two to tango. One more thing—you hired these people. Instead of deflecting blame to Ed Schools (I’ll get to them in a second), why don’t school districts and boards take responsibility for those they hire? The union did not make you hire them. The union did not make you neglect proper induction, good supervision, mentoring, effective programs of professional development. And the union did not create the pool of low SAT/GRE applicants. You and your board did that by not paying a professional salary or offering professional working conditions for professional work. What’s that? Better compensation requires higher taxes? Well then, what exactly have you and the board done to educate the voters on this issue instead of playing the politics of union confrontation. And by the way, maybe the value-adding abilities you tell voters you want can not be had at the price voters are willing to pay. Have you told them that?

As for Ed Schools—hang on a moment—let’s talk about state licensing boards and commissions. Your state, with support of your legislature, issued licenses to these teachers. Have they met labor market demands at the expense of quality? Who told them to do that? Not the unions. With legislative consent, are they setting the licensing bar low because the salaries we pay will not draw better candidates into the field? Have you lobbied your legislature on this issue or are you just writing books about the problem and running for-profit companies to sell products to the same schools you once administered? By the way, do you really feel the problem is we have too few commercial products or that commercial products have a hope of solving the systemic problems you describe.

UOh, and Ed Schools…. Why do you persist in thinking that you are small colleges of letters and sciences? Why have experimental stations filled with scientists to solve agricultural problems produced increasing yields (anyone use a split plot ANOVA recently?). Does growing crops require science but growing children require philosophy? And about those SAT/GRE scores, Mr. Klein, have you considered that training standards are set by accreditation bodies that respond to market demand which are created by salaries that you, your board, and your voters are willing to pay.

Thank you, Mr. Klein, for listing these problems, although some serious solutions for the system in which teachers do their work would have been more edifying.

Mike Gerber
Ex-teacher

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Michael M. Gerber, Ph.D.
Professor, Gewirtz School of Education
University of California, Santa Barbara

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.

B. Cook on evidence-based practices

Over on SpedPro I have a post about an up-coming Webinar on evidence-based practices presented by Bryan Cook. A product of the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) and and CEC’s Division for Research, the session is billed as helping educators answer questions such as these:

  • What exactly does evidence-based practice mean for practitioners?
  • How are evidence-based practices different from “best practices” and “research-based practices”?
  • Where can you find them?
  • How should you select them?
  • How can you use them?
  • How can you evaluate them?

I haven’t seen the syllabus, but I bet this will be a worthwhile session. For one small fee, one can register as many folks as you can gather around a computer and a projector; and then you get a copy of the Webinar to review later, as well. It’s like a ready-made, re-usable staff-development program. To read the SpedPro post, follow this link. Alternatively, simply follow this link to register for the session!

Teach like a rockstar, legend

Mr. Hal Bowman is advertising professional development opportunities for US teachers. They’re promoted with the lead, “Teach Like a Rock Star.” Here’s the main content of two e-mail messages I received:

Principals from coast-to-coast are sending their teachers by the boatload to attend Teach Like A Rock Star.

Is it unconventional? Definitely.

Entertaining? Absolutely.

Effective? Beyond belief.
Continue reading ‘Teach like a rockstar, legend’




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