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
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’
The Council for Exceptional Children released a document providing guidance for identifying evidence-based practices in special education on 23 January 2014. Developed by a work group composed of leaders from the Division for Research—Bryan Cook (chair), Viriginia Buysse, Janette Klingner, Tim Landrum, Robin McWilliam, Melody Tankersley, and Dave Test—and aimed at serving groups or individuals who understand educational research design and methods, the standards provide a means for categorizing practices as (a) evidence-based, (b) potentially evidence-based, (c) mixed evidence, (d) insufficient evidence, or (e) negative evidence. To make these determinations, groups or individuals will need to apply quality indicators, which the document also identifies to studies, to ascertain the extent to which individual studies are methodologically sound.
Continue reading ‘CEC standards for evidence-based practice’
In “How to Get More Early Bloomers” (New York Times, 30 January 2014), Dan Willingham and David Grissmer argue that policymakers should be more cautious about the benefits of universal preschool and should employ the tools of science to examine policies so that quality can be built into the preschools that states and localities offer.
When New York City’s mayor, Bill de Blasio, went to Albany earlier this week to talk about his program for universal preschool, the discussion reportedly focused on funding, not on whether or how preschool would actually help children. President Obama seemed equally confident when he introduced his plan for universal preschool last year, flatly stating, “We know this works.” But the state of research is actually much murkier. And unless policy makers begin to design preschool programs in ways that can be evaluated later, the situation won’t get any clearer.
You can read the entire editorial on-line. Observant readers might say the authors could have cited some other historical examples of effective preschools (e.g., Bereiter & Engelmann, 1966), but that doesn’t negate their general thrust that policy on preschools should be guided by science.
Bereiter, C., & Engelmann, S. (1966). Teaching disadvantaged children in the preschool. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall
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.
Does all the verbiage about the ills of education make you wonder about the reasoning skills of educational reformers? Well, it does make me have questions. I practice resisting the urge to walk away when people start attributing educational underachievement to problems we educators can’t change (poverty, for example) or to features of schooling that are like nibbling on one’s napkin rather than eating food (e.g., walls height in classrooms).
I also get a bit incensed when folks go after teachers as the bad people in the equation. I find it foolish to suggest that education simply needs to raise pay to attract more qualified people into classrooms; it is an admittedly biased sample, but there are lots of smart people going through U.Va.’s (and similar) teacher education programs. (Sadly, too many teacher education programs fill their students’ thinking with Pop-Ed bologna.) And even though I talk about dysteachia and dyspedagogia, those are references to practices, not to the people—and some of the worst cases of dyspedagogia probably can be observed in the professoriate at schools of education!
Anyway, I am glad to report that a couple of my colleagues argued a coherent case about the importance of curriculum in the effects of teaching in an editorial for the New York Daily News. In “The teacher quality conundrum: If they are the problem, why are kids gaining in math? Curriculum design is key to reform,” Dan Willingham and David Grissmer use evidence and reason to explain that it’s not the teachers per se, but the teaching that matters. I encourage people interested in sensible reform of education to read it.
The folks who brought us the give-away of Funnix Beginning Reading are doing it again! They’re giving away Funnix Beginning Math for free throughout the month of June 2011. Funnix Beginning Math is a 100-lesson computer program designed for children who have not learned beginning math operations. One can download the program from the Funnix site (see link at the end of this post). All of the components of Funnix Beginning Math are included in the download—100 animated, computer-based lessons; workbook materials; a teaching guide, including explicit directions for the teacher; and a placement test for assessing and placing the student.
Continue reading ‘More free Funnix! It’s math this time.’
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.
Continue reading ‘Teaching spelling promotes general literacy’