Wednesday, July 18, 2007


Two things worth checking out:

1. The video of the American Enterprise Institute's symposium on a recent article showing that No Child Left Behind probably doesn't benefit either the lowest-performing students or the highest-performing students.

2. This article by Martin Haberman, which includes this scathing passage on education textbooks:
The interminable advocacies are not based on or derived from any psychological theory… none.

Each of the four volumes did have separate sections with a few pages devoted to various "theories" of learning. These included the following six "theories" with very pretentious names: radical constructivism, information processing, cognitive connectivism, social constructivism, situated cognition and socioculturalism. I read these descriptions carefully. They are not theories of learning that explain and predict learning and its causes. * * *

* * *
Following are the most typical behaviors teachers pursue in classrooms.

-give information

-ask questions

-give directions

-make assignment

-monitor seatwork

-review assignments

-give tests

-review tests,

-assign homework

-review homework

-settle disputes

-punish noncompliance

-mark papers and

-give grades.

(M.Haberman, The Pedagogy of Poverty vs. Good Teaching KAPPAN.Dec., 1991)

Which of these teacher behaviors implement radical constructivism, information processing theory, cognitive constuctivism, social constuctivism, situated cognition, or socioculturalism?

Two thirds of what happens in classrooms is talk, two thirds of the time it is the teacher talking and two thirds of the teacher's talk is giving directions. Which of these six "theories of learning" explains this talk?

Following are some of the most typical teacher comments one can hear in a classroom. These are comments made by star teachers as well as by average teachers and quitter/failure teachers. Which of these comments indicates that the teacher is implementing one of the six "theories" of learning textbook writers of the texts in learning claim exist?

-"George, for the last three days you haven't handed in any work. What's going on?"

-"OK. When you finish p. 65 answer the questions and put your papers on my desk.

-Whatever isn't finished is your homework for tonight."

-Laticia, we've spoken about this before. I'm going to have to call home.

-"Don't interrupt Kyle. Let her figure it out for herself."

-"I'm not calling on anyone out of their seat or anyone who has already had a turn."

-"Today we are going to pick up the story from where Robin wakes up in the woods. Who remembers what he was doing in the woods?"

-"Who knows the difference between ensure and insure?"

-"OK. That's how it's done. I want you to do the next three examples just like I did mine. I will be coming around and helping anyone who needs help."

-"We're not leaving the room until everyone shows me they are ready."

-"What did you find the most exciting part of the story? Alexandra?"

-"Who would like to read next?"

-"This was a good piece of writing. Please copy it over, include my corrections and hand it back."

-"On your blank map of Africa fill in as many countries and rivers as you can."

-"That's a good idea, is it your idea or your team's suggestion?"

-"If you don't have a book look on with Eric."

-"You've been sitting here for five minutes. Why don't you get started?"

-"When you come back tomorrow we'll pick up with p. 32. I will ask you the causes of the war."

"If you've finished please check your work before you hand it in."

Do these statements and the literally thousands more just like them show that a teacher is implementing the learning theory of radical constructivism? information processing theory? cognitive constructivism? social constructivism? situated cognition? socioculturalism? Can any of these theories provide other sentences that would take the place of these sentences or any other teacher talk? Can these theories ever be specified into teacher talk? The fact that they cannot is a powerful indication that they are the constructs of textbook writers and "scholars" unable to apply their supposed "theories" to the real world of schools.



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