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Teachers Must “Focus Attention On Relationships Among Ideas, Facts & Procedures”

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Thanks to Jason Flom on Google+, I learned about a new article titled Closing The Teaching Gap.

In it, the authors describe their research and observation of mathematics teachers from around the world and compare what they saw in “high achieving” countries with what they see in United States classrooms. Even though they talk about math and, of course, the definition of “high achieving” is always debatable, they do make some important points applicable to any kind of teaching.

Here’s an excerpt:

[The was a] striking similarity among higher-achieving countries. About half of the problems in those countries emphasizing relationships [among ideas, facts & procedures] were worked on with students to do just that. The other half…were changed so that students practiced procedures or recalled information they had learned before. In contrast, few problems in the United States with the potential to emphasize mathematical relationships were used to teach those relationships. Nearly all of them were merely used to practice procedures or recall information….Students…ended up with very few opportunities to learn the concepts.”

The authors say that one tool to change this might be for teachers in the U.S. to incorporate the collaborative style of Japanese Lesson Study instead of our existing model of professional development. That sounds good to me!

I suspect their observation of teachers emphasizing recall instead of relationships between concepts holds true in a lot of classrooms besides math ones. I’ve previously posted about research from McRel using 90,000 classroom observations:

Just under two-thirds of observations (60%) indicate that instruction is at the lowest two levels of the Blooms Taxonomy.

At our school, one way we try to help make those relationships connections is through the use of inductive teaching and learning.

Do you agree with the authors’ critique? How do you help students “connect the dots”?

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Author: Larry Ferlazzo

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

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