Tag Archive for 'logic'

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.

It’s the teaching that matters

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.

Learning styles goes public (radio)

“Think You’re An Auditory Or Visual Learner? Scientists Say It’s Unlikely.” That was the headline that Patti Neighmond used in reporting on the popular myth of learning styles for US National Public Radio’s Morning Edition. One of the experts she interviewed for the segment that aired 29 August 2011 was friend of Teach Effectively, Dan Willingham.

The coverage by Ms. Neighmond is brief (4+ mins), but it includes solid content. In addition to Professor Willingham’s comments, she has sound from Doug Rohrer, one of the authors of the thorough examination of the evidence about learning styles published by Psychological Science in the Public Interest in 2008.

As Ms. Neighmond noted, there is big money in learning styles. Do you think the folks who have a stake in this unproven, thin-sliced bologna will accept this report without response? I doubt it. It’ll be intriguing to watch the comments in Ms. Neighmond’s story. There’ll be some shameless appeals to intuition and personal experience, some references to shoddy studies, and more. Watch the fun!

For those of us who have for many years been noting that the learning styles hypothesis is bogus, it’s very nice to have the message reach the general public. Thanks to Ms. Neighmond for that.

Read the print version of “Think You’re An Auditory Or Visual Learner? Scientists Say It’s Unlikely” (or go there to listen to the audio version or download an MP3 of it). Read other posts about learning styles that have appeared on Teach Effectively.


Kavale, K. A., & Forness, S. R. (1987). Substance over style: A quantitative synthesis assessing the efficacy of modality testing and teaching. Exceptional Children, 54, 228-234.

Lloyd, J. W. (1984). How shall we individualize instruction-or should we? Remedial and Special Education, 5(1), 7-15.

Pashler, H., McDaniel, M., Rohrer, D., & Bjork, R. (2008). Learning styles: Concepts and evidence. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 9, 106-119.

Willingham on neuropsych bunkum

If you’re interested in understanding why “most of what you see advertised as educational advice rooted in neuroscience is bunkum,” slip on over to LD Blog and catch up with a post about Dan Willingham’s recent entry explaining what educators need to know about brains.

McNergney: Small teaching

My colleague, Robert McNergney has a post on Education News entitled “Small Ball: Small Teaching” that captures an important idea: Pay attention to the details. He based his brief essay on an enquiry from a student about whether he had read a well-known book about baseball, Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game by Michael M. Lewis, about the Oakland Athletics. Mr. Lewis documented the success of an approach to assembling a team that was predicated on systematic analysis of less-glamorous achievements rather than the flashy, headline-grabbing statistics; in place of subjective judgements about players’ talents, the Oakland general manager, Bill Beane, employed modern statistical methods to find players whose achievements were correlated with higher numbers of wins and fewer losses.

Professor McNergney argued that, indeed, the analogy applies to teaching as well.
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Where reformers ought to be aiming

Over on Ed Excellence, Robert Pondiscio published an editorial entitled “The Fierce Urgency of Eventually” in which he argues that those reform efforts that ignore curricular and instructional issues present less-than-timely and -helpful alternatives at the very time when US education needs immediate, substantive change. Mr. Pondiscio presses his case for doing the hard work of specifying what students need to know. He wants reformers to talk about—get ready!—curriculum, teaching, and learning!
Continue reading ‘Where reformers ought to be aiming’

Tech talk

I usually leave the technology cheering up to colleagues who know better than I about the topic, but this piece from the mainstream press is too good to let pass without amplification. In the Wall Street Journal, Jennifer Valentino-DeVries reported about children using contemporary devices as assistive technologies to their great benefit. Under the headline “Using the iPad to Connect: Parents, Therapists Use Apple Tablet to Communicate With Special Needs Kids,” she reported about the popular tablet device allowing a young child with disabilities to communicate.

Before she got an iPad at age two, Caleigh Gray couldn’t respond to yes-or-no questions. Now Caleigh, who has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy, uses a $190 software application that speaks the words associated with pictures she touches on Apple Inc.’s device.

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Left AND right brain

Teach Effectively pal Dan Willingham’s entry for this week at the Washington Post is about the myth of the left-brain-vs-right-brain dichotomy. He drives a very large convoy of vehicles through the gaping hole in the putative theory, a hole that was reopened by a report published by Arne Dietrich and Riam Kanso in a prestigious Psychological Bulletin article entitled “A Review of EEG, ERP, and Neuroimaging Studies of Creativity and Insight.”

Professors Dietrich and Kanso examined a shipload of studies that used multiple methods to examine the relationships between neurological functions and structures and creative thinking. What they found does not accord with the Pop-Ed views one is likely to hear in what passes as professional development sessions provided by at least some—if not many—schools and teacher education programs.
Continue reading ‘Left AND right brain’

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