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Some Hubris About Instructional Strategies & Some Good Plain Talk On School Reform

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First, there’s hubris:

A clueless Harvard professor talks about how direct instruction works better, and how that’s too bad because “problem-solving classes… require less preparation and are easier to teach.” Happily, many comments on his piece take him on, as does Walt Gardner at Education Week. How can anybody even think about comparing their experiences in teaching a class in Harvard to teaching in a K-12 public school, much less write about it publicly?

Next, there’s some good plain talk on school reform:

Joe Nocera at The New York Times takes on school reformers in a column:

…school reform won’t fix everything. Though some poor students will succeed, others will fail. Demonizing teachers for the failures of poor students, and pretending that reforming the schools is all that is needed, as the reformers tend to do, is both misguided and counterproductive.

Over the long term, fixing our schools is going to involve a lot more than, well, just fixing our schools. In the short term, however, the reform movement could use something else: a dose of humility about what it can accomplish — and what it can’t.

I’m adding his column to The Best Places To Learn What Impact A Teacher & Outside Factors Have On Student Achievement.

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Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.

4 Comments

  1. Just out of curiosity why do you disparage the problem based method of teaching?

    • Sal,

      I’m not disparaging problem based learning. In fact, I use it all the time and have written chapters about it in my books. I’m disparaging his observation that it’s easier to do than lecture. I think it’s harder to do, but much better for learning.

      Larry

  2. Commonsense? Nocera is out of his depth. He mistakes privatization for school reform and blames teacher unions for almost everything, except at the end when he pessimistically suggests that nothing will work because poor parents are “indifferent.” He quotes from an article about a real reformer, a Bronx-based school principal trying his best in a system with other priorities, but somehow paints the reformers as those who’d rather see the whole system shut down.

  3. I got that, Larry! I’ll bet the professor’s “direct instruction” isn’t even up to DI standards. It’s “lecture about stuff that interests me.” Pillows in class optional.

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