skip to Main Content

Is Our “Gold Standard” for Education Research the Right Standard?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFirst grade students show improved performance with a reading intervention. But what about their enthusiasm for reading? And, have they improved on isolated skills or on being able to comprehend, analyze and use/appreciate the information?

Fifth grade students taught with a new mathematics curriculum show better ability to multiply and divide fractions. But do they understand the concepts? Can they come up with real-world illustrations of what  3 1/2 / 4/5 really means?

Eighth grade students show mastery of more science concepts when online teaching modules are used to supplement curriculum. But are they developing curiosity, a necessity for great scientists? Are they learning the lab techniques necessary for meaningful research? What about measures of their creativity? Are they increasing or decreasing?

Right now I’m seeing a great deal of research showing improvements that are:

Read More

The Truth About Math Curriculum

question markA few years ago, two of the school districts I work with adopted new mathematics curricula–they each chose the one the other was abandoning. Golly, they could have saved a lot of money by simply boxing up all the teacher and student editions and swapping!

When student performance falls short of expectations, most educators seem to go hunting for new tools such as the ideal curriculum, the ideal personalized intervention program, the ideal iPad app, and so on.

But take a look at my post from last week, The Right Kind of Lazy for Math. What depth of math knowledge do teachers need to guide students in the deep number sense required for this kind of mathematical agility? 

Read More

The Right Kind of Lazy for Math

IMG_0277
Is math a chore or a fun puzzle?

What if students approached math problem sets as if they were fascinating puzzles rather than boring worksheets? And did great work while being lazy? Sound crazy? It’s not–and there’s a neuroscience connection!

Quick–multiply 19 x 24. Are you reaching for paper and pencil? Or a calculator? That’s what students (and adults) trained in algorithms do. My colleague, Dr. Dario Nardi, has gathered EEG images of dozens of college students solving such problems. Those trained in algorithms use just a couple areas in their brains for calculations. The good news is that they solve these problems quickly and accurately. The bad news? They don’t access the part of the brain used for skillful working of unusual problems.

Instead of reaching for paper or calculator, did you say to yourself, Well, I can make this easier and do it in my head…20 x 24 – 24. If so, you used more parts of your brain, connected with understanding the steps in a process, rotating images, and viewing things holistically. And, if you learned to use  strategies such as “friendly numbers” in collaborative groups, you also activated the speaking and listening areas of your brain. You did less work and fired more areas of the brain, creating new synapses for later, even more complex mathematical thinking!

This is the right kind of “lazy” for math.

Read More

Common Sense for the Common Core?

Let's Exercise Caution When Taking a Stand!
Let’s Exercise Caution When Taking a Stand!

The Common Core State Standards (CCSS)…once again educators, politicians, parents, and business leaders are taking sides on an issue. But is declaring “for” or “against” really going to help education? I mean, with which of these arguments for the CCSS can one truly disagree? Don’t we need

  • A common set of learning targets–what Marzano calls a “guaranteed and viable curriculum.” Enough standards that we know students are learning what needs to be learned, but limited to the quantity that can actually be taught in the time available.
  • A bit of efficiency–without the CCSS we’ve got 50 teams in 50 states creating and revising standards. That’s a lot of time and effort.
  • A way to know whether students are learning–great measures of student learning. Creating good assessment items is really difficult. In fact, I know of at least one instance where a state’s publicly available sample items were rejected test questions; they couldn’t waste good questions.

Did you say, “Well, yes, but…” to any of the above statements? For example,

Read More

Are You Nurturing Creativity?

split apple rockLast month’s edition of Educational Leadership was all about creativity. The article that struck me the most described how Einstein cited his secondary school training in using his senses during observations, practicing visualization, and exploring the construction of devices as a patent examiner fueled his abilities as a scientist. He also directly attributed his breakthrough on the theory of relativity to his ability to think musically, nurtured by his study of violin since the age of six.

What’s the so what? These are all skills. Einstein is talking about physical and mental skills and habits of mind. He didn’t cite memorizing theorems or formulas, but skills he mastered through purposeful practice. Take a look at the schools around you. Are students getting a chance to develop in nonbook-learning ways that scientists and other problem-solvers need? Ask yourself 

Read More

What’s Involved in this Math Problem?

k problemA blog this week asked us to guess the grade level for which this math problem was written:

Kristen has four flowers. She gives some to a friend. Now Kristen has two flowers. How many did Kristen give her friend? Draw pictures to help you solve the problem.

It’s listed as a kindergarten homework problem.

If you teach math, you know this problem includes some of the biggest arithmetic concepts there are and you’re not deceived by the use of small numbers.

  • Students need to understand hierarchical inclusion–that 4 includes 2
  • They need to understand conservation–that the number of objects remains the same, no matter how they are arranged
  • And, they need to understand cardinality, that the name of a number relates to a specific quantity–including the huge idea that “two” isn’t the second object, but a set of two objects. This is a major leap in knowledge, often hindered by memorizing names of numbers. Too often, students learn to count to 30 or 100 but don’t understand the concepts involved.
Read More

Were You Ever a Child???

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALast time, I posted about the Platinum Rule for leaders:
“Treat others in the way they would like to be treated”

I’d like to suggest a twist on it for those whose decisions affect children in our public schools:
“Would you want your own child in a classroom following these policies? How would you have fared as a student?”

For one thing, this simple data item–our own values around a policy–would halt debates on topics such as “Do students benefit from recess?” “Should a first-grader be asked to sit still for a three-hour test?” I think we could answer these with the question, “Were you ever a child?”

But more important, we need to have students as excited on their first day of their senior year as they are on their first day of kindergarten.Why? Because their learning has only just begun. To really make it in today’s world, no matter what they learned in school, they will have to keep learning their entire lives. Cultivating a love of learning is as, if not more, crucial as any content matter.

Read More

If the Common Core Devalues Narrative Writing, Who Are We Devaluing?

L Superior 2011-08-20 199Last week I voiced my concerns about decreasing the emphasis on narrative writing in schools, with more effort going to evidence-based argument and other skills that business and colleges say are essential.

Could we think beyond the needs of business for a moment?

My first reason for wanting to do so: Could we think of other cultures? And the high value placed on story as one conveys values, truths, societal norms, warnings, rules, wisdom and so much more through narrative? I’ve done some work with schools for Native American children, for example. In a powerful book, Our Stories Remember, James Bruchak says this about the use of narratives.

What is the place and purpose of stories? What is their proper use? Stories were never “just a story,” in the sense of being merely entertainment. They were and remain a powerful tool for teaching. Lesson stories were used by every American Indian nation as a way of socializing the young and strengthening the values of their tribal nation for both young and old (p. 35)

Read More

Why Narrative Writing is Crucial For Students: A Warning for Common Core Implementation

Narrative within professional development nonfiction: Readers kept going past midnight, telling me, "I had to find out what happened to Josh!"
Narrative within professional development nonfiction: Readers kept going past midnight, telling me, “I had to find out what happened to Josh!”

As 46 states implement using the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), one big change is from the traditional amount of narrative writing students do to far more analytical and argumentative writing. As someone who knows and uses the power of narrative techniques in a considerable amount of business writing, this has me worried.

Susan Pimental, one of the primary authors of the standards, explained that the reason for the switch is

to reduce writing “opinion untethered to evidence” and “decontextualized” writing—writing not based on the reading of a text—in favor of writing that requires students to read, comprehend, and respond to text, grounding their interpretations in evidence found there. That shift reflects what young people can expect in college and work, she said. “In faculty and employer surveys, the kinds of skills that score high are the argument and evidence-related skills, developing ideas with relevant details and reasons,” Ms. Pimentel said. “Telling stories scores very low” (Gewertz, S11).

Really? Really? I can only guess that these employers and professors equate narrative writing with “How I Spent My Summer Vacation” essays. REAL narrative writing is every bit as complex and every bit as crucial to businesses as “argument and evidence-related skills.” I’m not saying instead of. I’m saying both narrative AND evidence-related writing.

Read More
Back To Top
%d bloggers like this: