Tuesday, December 07, 2004

New essay

I published an essay on education here.


Blogger Doc said...

Good essay. I must admit I'm not entirely sure how to interpret the chart you reproduce. But it's interesting how poorly the open concept model fares in this study. My wife has been a pre-school teacher and was trained in the open concept model. Our daughter's preschool does not use this model (they use A Beka, I don't know where that falls on the chart though it seems to align with direct education), and my wife has had many complaints about it, which has resulted in many discussions. I will be bringing your essay to her attention.

9:41 AM  
Blogger Jody said...

As a masters student in Psychology I was required to spend a semester tutoring children in our reading clinic, using the method of Direct Instruction. Having learned about the effectiveness of this method, and having learned also that it wasn't used nearly enough, I asked my teacher friends about it.

The response was unambiguous. They'd all heard of it, they all hated it, they all disapproved of it. My impression of why squared exactly with yours: it just wasn't very fun to teach.

Today as a psychotherapist I'm working hard to employ skillfully those interventions that have some empirical backing. Funny but the stuff that's known to work shares characteristics with Direct Instruction--it's structured, well-defined, a little monotonous. Most of my colleagues favor a more creative approach.

I like your obstetrician analogy. Doctors and lawyers figure out somewhere along the line that they're going to be bored some of the time. Teachers and therapists might do well to keep in mind the product they're aiming to produce, and put up with a less gratifying process.

10:08 AM  
Blogger Doc said...

The more I think about this, the more questions I have. Initially, I said I wasn't sure how to interpret the chart. That's because I don't know what's on the y-axis. What exactly is being shown? (Understand, I am just playing devil's advocate here, trying to flesh out what is really demonstrated and to more fully understand these results.) From what I have read on other sites this morning about the Follow Through study, my impression is that they looked at 1st graders and evaluated them on quantifyable aspects of their education to date. This seems somewhat contrived.

As I indicated in my first comment, my daughter is in pre-school in an A Beka curriculum which sounds somewhat like direct instruction. She is in K4 and learning to read. The school is teaching her the sound of each letter and then to blend those sounds into words, and she has developed the ability to read simple words. In an open concept classroom, she would not be learning to read at this age, according to my wife. So, clearly, kids from my daughter's school ought to have an advantage in reading ability at 1st grade over their counterparts from the open concept schools. This seems a somewhat contrived conclusion because the curriculum in my daughter's school is built on preparation for that testing, something the open concept school is not.

For illustration, let's say students in some district were going to have to take a standardized test in mathematics at the end of the year, and it is known that 75% of the test will be on algebra, 15% on trig, and 10% on elementary calculus. In school A, the curriculum is built with this test in mind, giving the students a heavy dose of algebra and trig, and basically ignore calculus, with the idea of helping them to ace the first two sections of the test. In school B, the curriculum is more balanced, so the kids don't get as much algebra but get more calculus relative to the students in school A. Which group would you expect to do better on that standardized test? Obviously, the students whose education has been more focused on doing well on that test, namely the students in school A, ought to do better. But, does that mean the curriculum in school A is superior? That's a different question, I think, and one not easily answered.

My daughter's school emphasizes academics, so we would expect students from that school to do better in 1st grade academically. They have been better prepared for that environment. But, in talking with her teachers, kids from open concept schools are stronger in, for example, imagination and creativity than the A Beka kids. In summer program at my daughter's school, when kids from other schools come in, and they are told to build something or be creative, the A Beka kids stand around clueless while the other kids dive right in. Surely those are strengths as well.

At first grade, there may be a noticable difference in test scores between the two groups, but what about at 6th grade? Or 12th grade? Are direct instruction kids more likely to go to college than their open concept couterparts? Should one base an evaluation of the quality of a curriculum or educational model simply on test scores? Or should there be more complex criteria?

(Sorry for the overly long comment. You have really piqued my interest and given me food for thought.)

1:05 PM  

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