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04 Aug 2006 - 12:31
Ed can pull the article, so I'll take a look. Given my immersion in the world of non-math teaching, this line from the abstract to Siegler's article on children's learning is chalk on the blackboard for me (chalk on the electronic whiteboard, I meant to say):
Learning has many sources; one that is particularly promising for educational purposes is self-explanations.
I've come to feel that in math ed - though not in other subjects - this proposition is almost completely false.
From Seigler's homepage:
My colleagues and I have built computational models to illustrate how young children can make such intelligent decisions and also to show how the decisions improve as knowledge and skill improve.
He's not anti-content.
NCLB: one law, two philosophies Meanwhile, Education Week has a terrific article on NCLB (registration required): What Works vs. Whatever Works: Inside the No Child Left Behind law’s internal contradictions by Mike Petrilli.
[T]he No Child Left Behind Act is the result of an uncomfortable truce between two groups of school reformers: the “what works” camp and the “whatever works” camp. The law is an amalgam of their ideas, and their ongoing competition will shape the contours of No Child Left Behind version 2.0. First, let’s examine the what-works crowd. These reformers look across the education system and see its failings in terms of ignorance and ideology. They decry the pedagogical fads that sweep through our schools, bemoan educators’ resistance to scientifically proven reading-instruction methods, and abhor the quasi-religious nature of disliked educational “philosophies” such as constructivism and “multiple intelligences.” They seek to bring order to this chaos through the dispassionate eye of science. Using medicine as their model, they aim to employ rigorous research methods to determine what works, and then to use the force of law and regulation to ensure adoption of these methods throughout the land. After all, they say, we don’t allow doctors to wing it when they are practicing brain surgery; we expect them to use best practices in order to save lives. The stamp of what-works advocates is clear throughout the No Child Left Behind legislation, but especially in two of its most controversial provisions: the Reading First program, and the “highly qualified teachers” mandate. The former requires schools to use funds for a narrowly defined type of reading instruction—namely, that which has been found by rigorous research to be effective. The U.S. Department of Education has dutifully implemented the program in this narrow, prescriptive way, leading to much gnashing of teeth and complaints of bullying. But for leaders of the what-works coalition, such as the former federal reading czar, G. Reid Lyon, anything else would amount to malpractice. Then there’s the “highly qualified teachers” provision of the law, which demands that all teachers be able to demonstrate their subject-matter knowledge. This, too, is said to be based upon rigorous research, though even admirers of the mandate must admit that the evidence is somewhat flimsy. (Most studies linking subject-matter knowledge to teacher effectiveness have examined math or science at the secondary level; their applicability to elementary school, much less to subjects such as art, geography, or economics, is unknown.) But again, the what-works coalition borrows from the language of medicine, insisting that we wouldn’t allow doctors to practice if they didn’t have the relevant credentials. Surely we need teachers who are similarly well-qualified. The whatever-works camp holds a very different worldview. These reformers look out across the education system and see its failings in terms of incentives, power, and politics. They decry the daily decisions made by school boards and district leaders that benefit adults instead of children (especially poor children). They abhor the red tape and bureaucratic inertia that keep educators from innovating. They don’t particularly care what happens inside the “black box” of classroom instruction; they just want children to be well-educated at the end of the day. They seek to right the system through the classic management model of “tight-loose”: Be tight about the results you expect, but loose as to the means. Put differently, the whatever-works camp combines accountability for student learning with flexibility around everything else. Using the entrepreneurial sector as its model, this camp aims to create a marketplace of schools, free to experiment, compete, and improve. After all, there’s a reason that America has the strongest economy in the world, they assert, and if we can empower educators with significant freedom (in return for getting results), they, too, will rise to the occasion. The stamp of whatever-works advocates is also clear in the NCLB legislation. The very heart of the law is its accountability system, built into the Title I program, which was designed to create incentives for schools to boost student learning and close achievement gaps. Most important, the design of “adequate yearly progress,” with its disaggregation of test scores by racial groups, was meant to help local communities overcome the political barriers that keep resources and attention from flowing to needy children. In the spirit of “whatever works,” and in return for this increased accountability, the rules around the use of Title I funds were relaxed dramatically, and many more schools were given permission to use their federal dollars for “schoolwide” reforms. New “transferability” provisions were included in the law, too, allowing states and districts to move federal funds from one program to another. Just show us the results, Congress seemed to say, and we’ll leave you alone. Is it any surprise, then, that educators feel whipsawed between competing demands? On the one hand, the federal government is saying to do whatever works to boost student learning, and on the other hand it’s saying to do things in a certain prescribed, preapproved way. The result is frustration and anger. Imagine a poor, rural Title I school that is doing whatever works to get great results. In this case, it hires a former engineer from the local coal mine to teach 8th grade mathematics. She’s a natural, and her students’ test scores go through the roof. But because she didn’t major in math, she’s not considered “highly qualified.” How is that school’s principal going to feel when the feds come knocking, telling him to replace the teacher or risk being “out of compliance”? Or consider an elementary school whose reading results are soaring but which dares to use a reading program not on the state-approved Reading First list. Should the school’s principal be punished for insubordination, or celebrated for innovation and inventiveness? What does all of this mean for the next version of the No Child Left Behind Act, due to be reauthorized in 2007? Surely both camps will try to consolidate their gains, further push their agenda, and avoid surrendering ground. The what-works camp will seek to expand its influence beyond reading to other areas, such as math. (This is especially true if the newly named National Mathematics Advisory Panel can identify rigorous evidence to support certain approaches to teaching math.)
in a nutshell what works
Coming off of Animals in Translation, I was a whatever works person. I favored tight-loose because of McDonald's success reforming the meatpacking industry using Temple Grandin's 10-item animal welfare audit. Temple created simple metrics such as "No more than 3 in 100 animals can boo in distress." Just 10 items, all focused on the animals. Nothing about employee training, nothing about non-slip plant flooring, nothing about plant maintenance schedules. That was the "loose" part. A typical government regulator-type will audit at least 100 different aspects of a plant, and Temple has seen the results in countries where that's the case. The results aren't good. When the audit went into effect, plants thought it was far too strict to pass. McDonald's told plants that if they didn't pass, they'd be off their supplier list. That was the "tight" part. Not only did plants figure out how to pass the audit, a lot of them ended up exceeding the standards. Most plants passed the audit using the same management, the same workers, even the same out-of-date equipment. So I'm a believer in "tight-loose." But I no longer believe that a tight-loose approach will reform the schools. Charters & vouchers might, over the long haul, put so much pressure on existing schools that they're forced to change. Might. But I'm not hopeful. As far as I can tell people don't give up core values to increase market share, and neoprogressive ideology has been a core value of U.S. ed schools for nearly 100 years. They're not going down without a fight.
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Robert Siegler abstract: "A new field of children's learning is emerging." Don't waste your time on the full paper! Don't get sucked into thinking that there is anything in this paper that will shed light on the problem of education. It's just not that complicated. "what works versus whatever works" This is just so much c*** that I don't know where to begin. "Is it any surprise, then, that educators feel whipsawed between competing demands?" Educators are pragmatists caught in the middle? Don't make me laugh. Besides, it's NOT what works versus whatever works. It's specific content and skill expectations by grade (minimal for NCLB standards) versus full-inclusion, social promotion, low expectation education. These two groups do not have the same basic expectations for lower grade education. One can argue about constructivism, but it's meaningless if the kids are not expected to master fractions by 7th grade. Educators love to argue the fuzzy area of pedagogy and methods of learning as if all other things are equal. THEY ARE NOT EQUAL. This discussion allows them to avoid the fact that they set lower expectations. NCLB expectations are set so low that the psychological details of learning styles is almost meaningless. At this level, learning is not some magical process. It is very easy if there are specific standards and if teachers and students get down to work. Better methods and pragmatic approaches are important, but don't mean much if you're going in the wrong direction. We should be talking about expectations and competence and not learning styles. Educators want to confuse the issue with fancy-sounding psychological talk. They do not want to talk about basic assumptions and grade-level expectations. "The what-works camp will seek to expand its influence beyond reading to other areas, such as math. (This is especially true if the newly named National Mathematics Advisory Panel can identify rigorous evidence to support certain approaches to teaching math.)" His bias is showing. I suspect he will not be able to separate what is taught with how it's taught. He probably thinks that defining content and skill level is an "approach". -- SteveH - 04 Aug 2006
These two groups do not have the same basic expectations for lower grade education. well.....it's possible they do, given that neoprogressives don't seem to be included in either category But when it comes time to set those standards, neoprogressives have tremendous power and authority that, when combined with political pressure to close the achievement gap, is fatal There's no tight in tight-loose -- CatherineJohnson - 04 Aug 2006
NCLB expectations are set so low that the psychological details of learning styles is almost meaningless. We just had a jolt this morning - I'll put it in a post - -- CatherineJohnson - 04 Aug 2006
I have the sense that the Carnegie Mellon psych department is good.....(could be wrong; that's my memory - ) -- CatherineJohnson - 04 Aug 2006
Applications and Misapplications of Cognitive Psychology to Mathematics Education John R. Anderson
Lynne M. Reder
Herbert A. Simon*
Department of Psychology
Carnegie Mellon University
Pittsburgh, PA 15213
You've probably seen this before. I'm assuming Robert Siegler is their colleague. -- CatherineJohnson - 04 Aug 2006
This is cool. From Lynn Reder''s page: Link to the work of one of the pioneers in formal models of memory--Wayne Wicklegren -- CatherineJohnson - 04 Aug 2006
Here's Seigler: My colleagues and I have built computational models to illustrate how young children can make such intelligent decisions and also to show how the decisions improve as knowledge and skill improve. -- CatherineJohnson - 04 Aug 2006
I'd be surprised to find neoprogressives at Carnegie Mellon, though, again, I could be completely off-base. (I'm thinking Carnegie Mellon may have good autism people, too...though it's possible that I'm confusing Carnegie Mellon with University of Pittsburgh.) -- CatherineJohnson - 04 Aug 2006
Link to the work of one of the pioneers in formal models of memory--Wayne Wicklegren That's sad. I didn't realize that he had died. -- SusanS - 04 Aug 2006
He had one of those horrible diseases - I think it was....oh gosh. The heat's been so incredible here my brain is shot. Oh - I think it was Lou Gehrig's disease. He has one beautiful web page where he says, basically, "I'm dying, so I want to get all this stuff written and posted now." He was an incredible man. -- CatherineJohnson - 04 Aug 2006
Hey Susan - which Zaccaro book did your son like so much?? Was it the algebra book or the challenge book? -- CatherineJohnson - 04 Aug 2006
He loved the 10 Things...something or other. I'm losing my mind. We have it packed up somewhere. 10 Things Mathematicians Need to Know But are Rarely Taught...something like that. I loved the Real World Algebra book, but he didn't run off with that one. I remember his teacher using it when he was in 3rd grade to try and determine if he'd be ready for pre-algebra the next year, so I think he'd already used it in school and wasn't enamored with it. He absolutely loved the stories of the other one. He still does. Northwestern University actually did a Saturday class based on the algebra one, but we were already too far along. -- SusanS - 04 Aug 2006
oh! I have 10 things! -- CatherineJohnson - 05 Aug 2006
maybe we should read that! -- CatherineJohnson - 05 Aug 2006
What was the algebra book like? -- CatherineJohnson - 05 Aug 2006
I've been reading a bit of ALGEBRA THE EASY WAY, which is the algebra novel. It's incredibly fun. I have no idea whether it would be fun for your son, but for some goofy reason I like it. -- CatherineJohnson - 05 Aug 2006
of course, I'm losing my marbles -- CatherineJohnson - 05 Aug 2006
otoh, I am apparently the last non-hybridized human being alive on Planet Earth -- CatherineJohnson - 05 Aug 2006
I was saying to Ed tonight, we're probably the people the aliens tried to hybridize but had to spit back out. -- CatherineJohnson - 05 Aug 2006
Us and everyone at ktm -- CatherineJohnson - 05 Aug 2006
Real World Algebra is probably best for the kid who is ready for algebra and maybe has had a little. A bright older grade schooler seems perfect in some ways, but a middle schooler would do well, too. After each chapter (very cutsey drawings and easy to read) there are exercises at three different levels of difficulty. I have a friend whose daughter is a mathhead (high school). She went off with my copy for a couple of days and later remarked that she finally understood why she needed to learn algebra. -- SusanS - 05 Aug 2006
I have a friend whose daughter is a mathhead (high school). She went off with my copy for a couple of days and later remarked that she finally understood why she needed to learn algebra. oh, wow! I didn't realize she was a math kid. sheesh Now I'm thinking I may have to get Real World Algebra, too. I think I'm going to be sensible and order it in to B&N where I can look at it. I've been reading Algebra The Easy Way (the algebra novel) and for some reason I find it incredibly fun. It's set in some kind of faraway kingdom, and there's a court character named Recordis, who records things, and is constantly protesting all the various tenets of number theory & the operations; then there's the King, who is the boss of algebra, and who patiently explains why it's OK to use a letter to stand for a number. -- CatherineJohnson - 12 Aug 2006
If you swing by this way anytime I can just give you mine (and the Well Trained Mind, also.) -- SusanS - 12 Aug 2006
Susan - I'm there next week! -- CatherineJohnson - 12 Aug 2006
Call me when you get a break! -- SusanS - 12 Aug 2006
I got your number - thanks! -- CatherineJohnson - 13 Aug 2006
The National Panel has just updated its website with transcripts and summaries from the meeting on June 28 to 29, which was held in Chapel Hill. This will make good back-to-school reading, I hope. -- LynnGuelzow - 02 Sep 2006