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Attention to sociocultural capital in High-Performing High-Poverty Schools (HP2S) helps teachers understand where marginalized students are coming from. Teachers who share a sociocultural identity with students in the school may increase achievement in marginalized students (Chu Clewell & Campbell, 2007). Regardless of the focus on AYP in reading and math, ultimately, education is “the process of cultural transmission” (Rury, 2005, p. 10). The cultural resources imparted to students become capital “when they function as a ‘social relation of power’ by becoming objects of struggle as valued resources” (Swartz, 1997, p. 43). Cultural capital has a positive effect on all educational outcomes (Dumais, 2005). Acting as a resource for social power is why sociocultural capital is hoarded from marginalized groups by the dominant class. The power connected to cultural capital is a valuable resource “intersect[ing] with all aspects of cultural life” (p. 286). Bourdieu’s studies into capital have led him to believe that schools act as the main gatekeepers to capital giving the dominant class access to status, privilege, and symbolic power. “Schools offer the primary institutional setting for the production, transmission, and accumulation of various forms of cultural capital” (Swartz, 1997, p. 189) making restriction to capital through education a likely abuse by the privileged who already control education policy and practice (Nesbit, 2006). Even some reformers intent on social justice follow the dominant class way of thinking, valuing the expertise of professionals and managers over the working class, which presumes that “knowledge deficits” in the working class may be overcome through greater effort to move closer to dominant ideology (Livingstone & Sawchuk, 2005).
A long-term view of student success by educators recognizes that students are not blank slates waiting to be filled, but “are the products of many years of complex interactions with their family of origin and cultural, social, political, and educational environments” (Kuh et al., 2007, p. 5). The combined SES of students in the school along with differences in sociocultural capital is an important factor in student performance. The resulting push for accountability has narrowed education’s view of what schools should be doing down to reading, math, and science (Henig et al., 1999; Kuh et al., 2007; Rury, 2005).
Schools are middle class institutions where teachers have high levels of middle class sociocultural capital and reward students who have it, but may consciously or subconsciously discriminate against students who do not. When teacher and student capital is congruent, the performance of marginalized students is more likely to benefit. Popular society and specialists transmit values about the best way to raise children which is generally followed by middle class society aligning them with the beliefs of educational institutions. Working class parents are slower to change child-rearing practices to dominant practice keeping them out of sync with the school’s perception of the ideal home environment influencing teacher perception of the child and the child’s home life (Dumais, 2005; Lareau, 2003; Nesbit, 2006; Chu Clewell & Campbell, 2007).
The test scores of marginalized students would currently be lower if schools had not already been making progress at reducing the disadvantages of family educational background and SES previous to the passage of NCLB (Henig et al., 1999). Educational leaders, principals in particular, use an understanding of “cultural, social, and the promise of economic capital” to bring competing groups and individuals together to find common goals and shift marginalized interests to the center by “mutual choice” (Watkins & Tisdell, 2006, p. 156). Schools tap into a sense of agency in communities to bring about mutual choice to move toward federal goals, otherwise mandates like NCLB will ultimately get nowhere (Cohen & Ball, 1999, p. 23). Different forms of capital, but sociocultural capital in particular, can operate as lenses principals use to view particular educational contexts. A lens of the middle-class, white norm limits a school’s responsiveness to cultural capital possessed by students (Machtinger, 2007; Swartz, 1997).
Learning capacity is equivalent to intellectual capital (Livingstone & Sawchuk, 2005). All forms of capital are resources “that can be drawn on for social advancement” (Rury, 2005, p. 13). Bourdieu, one of the world experts on capital, believes there are four basic types of capital: economic, cultural, social, and symbolic with economic capital being the most important form in the United States followed by cultural (Swartz, 1997). While school cannot provide students with economic capital, schools can help students develop the other types of capital. Incongruence between the amount and type of capital students possess and the forms of capital valued in the school community can cause problems for the student (Kennedy et al., 2006).
Cultural capital has been defined in numerous ways. Church (2005) quotes Nieto’s definition of culture as
the ever-changing values, traditions, social and political relationships, and worldview created, shared, and transformed by a group of people bound together by a combination of factors that include a common history, geographic location, language, social class, and religion…Culture is dynamic; multi-faceted; embedded in context, influenced by social, economic, and political factors; created and socially constructed; learned; and dialectical (p. 48).
Or in other words: highly complex. Cultural capital comes in an objectified form such as works of art, an embodied form based in an appreciation and understanding of objectified cultural capital, and institutionalized form found in educational credits and degrees. Cultural capital is a resource used to gain or maintain power and privilege. Based on the assumption that certain attitudes, behaviors, and values are more admired and rewarded in society than others, dominant forms of cultural capital give students who possess them an advantage over marginalized students (Dumais, 2005; Rury, 2005).
Cultural capital, within the school setting, is the embodiment of the previous experience and learning of a community of people and influences how students accumulate, exchange, and utilize resources they gain from the school. Culture can be verbal facility, general cultural awareness, aesthetic preferences, scientific knowledge, and educational credentials and becomes a power source. Objectified cultural capital such as books, art, scientific instruments, and other tools require cultural abilities to use which can impact student engagement and parent involvement (Cohen & Ball, 1999; Stacey, 1996; Swartz, 1997). Parent access to the educational setting is also mediated by their personal experiences with school and other education-related institutions. In theU.S., where the dominant culture is not as strong as in other countries, cultural capital benefits both students from privileged backgrounds and all students who possess it allowing for “cultural mobility”. As cultural capital is distributed unevenly by society, schools make important decisions based on capital they have or capital they are trying to get which can be attributed to school failure as opposed to the limitations of individuals (Dumais, 2005; Lee & Bowen, 2006; Nasir & Hand, 2006; Schaughency & Ervin, 2006).
Coleman expands cultural and human capital theories into social capital which is a “community-based support-system network” that is context specific and has the two common elements of social structures and facilitation of individual and group actions within those structures. Social capital is a network of individual human capital. This view seems too limiting to the richness of cultural capital as described by Bourdieu (Musial, 1999). Social capital is the benefit derived from social networks and organizations including relationships within family and community that generates trust and schema to increase the capacity for collaboration (Dumais, 2005; Farmer-Hinton & Adams, 2006; Lee & Bowen, 2006; Rury, 2005; Zacharakis & Flora, 2005). Agents in the form of individuals and class will “struggle for social distinction” in a form of self-organization (Swartz, 1997). In this light, capital seems destined to be reproduced as “the quality of education children receive is directly related in part to the ability of parents to generate social capital” (Noguera, 2004, p. 2155).
Obviously, the forms of cultural, social, human, and economic capital are often interrelated. Cultural capital intersects with social capital to give agents more influence. This intersection means agency cannot be separated from the social and cultural contexts within the global environment in which it occurs. While social capital can be a means to a desirable end, the dominant class will most often prevail as they possess more capital (Lattuca, 2002; Lee & Bowen, 2006; Watkins & Tisdell, 2006).
More simply, “culture can be thought of as a set of behavioral characteristics or traits that are typical of a social group” (Rury, 2005, p. 9). The social setting is an organization of networks between social positions where dominant and marginalized groups compete for control of resources. Capital is specific to setting and does not exist without it. The education system reproduces social inequity where the possession of cultural capital leads to academic success. The most valuable form of capital in school is cultural capital congruent with capital valued within that particular school’s social setting (Dumais, 2005).
Whereas the social-constructivist perspective makes a distinction between the individual cognitive activities and the environment in which the individual is present, the socio-cultural perspective regards the individual as being part of that environment. Accordingly, learning cannot be understood as a process that is solely in the mind of the learner…Knowledge, according to this perspective, is constructed in settings of joint activity…Learning is a process of participating in cultural practices, a process that structures and shapes cognitive activity (De Laat & Lally, 2003, p. 14).
Nasir and Hand (2006) explain this complex interaction of social and cultural capital within specific environments as proof that educators need to attend to fostering agency in students’ focus on local problems. The number of students bringing middle class capital with them to school is decreasing and the number of students bringing sociocultural capital from the lower classes is increasing. “As in any demographic switch, the prevailing rules and policies eventually give way to the group with the largest numbers” (Payne, 2001, p. 79).
Engrained dispositions from previous experience can sub- or un-consciously limit student success. Called “habitus”, these dispositions provide the opportunity to mitigate cultural predispositions by structuring school situations and interactions with positive models and diversity-oriented experiences (Kuh et al., 2007). However, the concept of habitus does not account for the complexity and variety of hopes and dreams of different groups. Humanity is too varied and complex to be perfectly categorized into any model, but habitus does give a vocabulary to talk about how dominant and marginalized groups may be socialized starting at a young age. “Habitus…privileges the basic idea that action is governed by a ‘practical sense’ of how to move in the social world. Culture is a practical tool used for getting along in the social world” (Swartz, 1997, p. 115). Habitus is a collection of cultural habits.
Field is the social setting organized around types and combinations of capital which habitus operates. Schools act as a field for the competitive investment, exchange, and accumulation of various forms of capital (Swartz, 1997). Struggling within a local environment, schools should reflect the shifting community field. “Education clearly affects the course of social development, and schools reflect the influence of their immediate social context” (Rury, 2005, p. 1).
Schools are viewed as vehicles for individual social and economic mobility. The education field itself provides mobility of cultural capital for low SES/marginalized groups and is often one of few examples children and community members have of mobility and opportunity. This perception itself may create the reproduction of limited mobility in marginalized groups. In truth, some schools value cultural knowledge while others are more forgiving (Dumais, 2005; Henig et al., 1999; Johnson et al., 2000).
Empowerment of marginalized communities is collective, not individual. In order to realize change in the face of limited resources, communities rely on social capital for strength and agency. For school communities, this means that improved engagement can have profound consequences in improving achievement, agency, and equality (Schutz, 2006). Communalism helps build and accrue capital, generates “positive emotional energy”, and “may enhance motivation and engagement” (Seiler & Elmesky, 2007, p. 393). The social capital web is comprised of household, neighborhood, and school (Musial, 1999). But “working class peoples’ indigenous learning capacities…have been denied, suppressed, degraded or diverted within most capitalist schooling” (Livingstone & Sawchuk, 2005, p. 111). Overcoming cultural and historical differences “concerns activity and access to tools and mediated learning” (Portes, 2005, p. 176). Literacy, numeracy, and student well-being are practiced fluidly and dynamically across boundaries in social contexts. These pathways between family and community “need to be understood in out-of-home learning communities so that pedagogies, including assessment practices and the pedagogy of relationships can address the complexities related to children’s different life chances and ways of learning” (Kennedy et al., 2006, p. 16).
“Biological models of deficiency [such as the Bell curve have been] replaced by cultural deficit models” (Nasir & Hand, 2006, p. 451). Private and charter schools can stick to a particular ideology that does not have to concern itself with discipline, ideology, and related social problems. These schools are successful because the students who attend them possess congruent sociocultural capital. The success of private and parochial schools suggests these schools acting as self-organizing units self-organize around the sociocultural capital available within and surround them as opposed to the capital they possess being superior (Bower, 2006; Portes, 2005; Walk, 1998). Capacity becomes a non-issue in middle class schools because the ingredients for success already reside in the boundaries and pathways established within the school community.
There have been many editorials over the past year or so with strong feelings that creativity and engagement have been taken from students and teachers in the classroom setting. I had the good fortune this week to have two very excited and proud first grade students come to see me, making me realize that student engagement and creativity are alive and well within the classrooms of my school and within the curriculum based on Common Core State Standards .
I was just preparing to start one of my monthly literacy department meetings, when my administrative assistant came to get me in my office. Normally, I hold those meetings in our literacy center, however, on this day, I was holding the meeting in my office due to some testing that was being done in our regular meeting space. I left my office and went out to the main office area, only to find two first grade boys standing there waiting for me, both looking serious with papers in their hands.
Both boys shared that they had done some writing and they were there to share with me. Knowing that students often times enjoy sharing their work, I invited them to my office where the literacy staff were waiting for me and I asked the students if they would share with me and the other adults I was meeting with. I was pleasantly surprised when the two boys let me know that they wanted to share some persuasive writing with me!
The first student began to read his piece, which in fact, was about me. He shared in his piece of writing that he thought I was a good principal and that I helped students. I wasn’t sure who his intended audience was, but I gave a small chuckle and appreciated the fact that he was trying to persuade someone to think I was a good principal. It was very flattering.
The second student then read his piece, which was writing that was intended to persuade me to buy some soccer balls so that they would have them to play with on the playground. The student had tried to use a basketball and that didn’t work too well for soccer, thus, his persuasive letter. After reading his letter, the other student turned to him and told him that he had a soccer ball at home and that he didn’t use it, so he would gladly bring it to school for them to use.
My reading specialists, the K-5 ELA department head and I all shared with the two boys how impressed we were with their persuasive writing. The two boys beamed as they held their papers in my office and were excited that they not only got the chance to “persuade me”, but that adults were pleased with their writing. Their teacher later shared with me how thrilled they were to come to the office with their writing and she also was very happy with how much her children were writing in the classroom.
Providing students opportunities in the classroom to prepare them for college readiness does not equate to learning that is not engaging and it certainly does not equate to teachers not using their skills to provide students with creative ways to learn. The “art and science” of teaching refers to teachers employing their “art”, which is the creative way they deliver content and instruction to students. The “science” is the following of aligned curriculum, which over time, helps create well prepared students to leave our schools and go forward into the world.
As a school leader, it is important to foster a culture where teachers feel that they can use creativity in the classroom no matter what standards are being taught and no matter what curriculum is being delivered in a district. Teachers must have latitude to use a level of professional judgement around what will stimulate learning and engagement for students.
It is also important, that while promoting creativity, that principals have open and transparent dialogue with teachers about what needs to be taught. Delivering instruction that will support students after they leave our schools is imperative and should be a non negotiable.
In the end, it really is about the art and science of teaching, it is about balance, and it is about using good judgement to provide students engaging instruction within a structured curriculum where teachers are able to use the gifts that we’ve hired them to give to students!
As teachers digest the barrage of information relative to the implementation of the Common Core standards, it’s important to take time to reflect on the our role. As districts scale up and align curriculum, purchase materials, and think about assessment tools, we can’t forget the critical piece in all this: teacher as decision maker. The shifts we are being asked to make require intentional, responsive teaching. It requires deep inquiry and reflection, understanding of pedagogy, and thoughtful awareness of what it means to be a 21st century learner.
We have reviewed countless versions of “shifts” we need to make in our teaching. Well meaning bloggers, staff developers and curriculum specialists create resources that will help us make those shifts to more non- fiction text, more text dependent questions, more citing evidence from text, and so on.
As we make these shifts, it’s vitally important to remember that it is our decision making that is of the most importance. Following standards, following basal program guides, following carefully devised curriculum modules are a worthless endeavor if we are not following the child and following their thinking. Teachers need to be keen observers of students, their processing, their engagement, and their individual abilities to construct and convey meaning. Choosing a content area topic, according to a lexile level, to teach to a standard, does not mean we are making shifts toward common core alignment. We need to do much more than that. We need to think about how our responsive decision-making fosters deep learning in ways that enable our students to become thoughtful, engaged, and strategic with a self-extending system for learning
Making shifts to the common core means we have to hone our skills at assessing students, choosing materials for them and providing engaging learning activities. In order to do this, we have to understand how to assess what children know, what they need to learn, and give them multiple ways to represent their knowledge. Differentiated instruction and differentiated assessment requires thoughtful, intentional responsive teaching, not basalized activities. Again, we are talking about the teacher as decision maker, not a teacher that follows a program.
The common core initiative can and should help us make shifts in our teaching so that students can truly become college and career ready. But, we have to be careful that we don’t make these shifts strictly as a compliance exercise. We need to engage in thoughtful intentional responsive teaching that respects the learner more than it respects the policy initiative. We need to make informed teaching decisions during that teachable moment. We have to know how to recognize it and sensitively respond to it. Those moments are fleeting and we can’t let them pass. We need to be that expert decision maker on the run.
We hear a lot about “Blooms taxonomy” and the verbs that align with Blooms. Yes, we have to make sure students analyze, synthesize, create, etc. But more importantly, we have to look at the verbs that assure intentional responsive teaching: Model, scaffold, respond, prompt, cue, question, acknowledge, wonder, check in. And perhaps the simplest action, but maybe the most important: ask, “What are you thinking?” A truly intentional, responsive teacher asks that question, waits for the thinking, and expects a thoughtful response that she can use to build upon and extend learning.
Intentional responsive teaching demands an engaged teacher. A teacher who understands the enormity of her decision-making. A teacher who understands that his/her choice of teaching moves and teaching language are critical to student learning. A teacher who does much more than follow a program, match students to lexile levels, or teach skills and content without understanding purpose or relevancy.
So as we work toward full implementation of the common core standards, we have to pause and reflect. Are we teaching to the common core as an exercise in compliance, much as we did with the NCLB initiative? Or, are we using the common core standards as an opportunity to further develop our intentional teaching skills so as to assure that our students will be college and career ready for the 21st century workplace.
Teacher as decision maker. What’s your decision?
This post is a part of the ASCD Forum conversation “What is the role and responsibility of educator preparation programs to foster and sustain effectiveness?" To learn more about the ASCD Forum, go to www.ascd.org/ascdforum.
Despite my alma mater’s best intentions, I was not ready to be a teacher upon graduation. Sure I completed all my methods courses, and found my student-teaching experiences to be excellent learning opportunities. Yes, I was lucky enough to get a job in the subject area I had been “trained” for, and for all intents and purposes, I was ready to “start” my life.
Unfortunately for me, I had no clue what I was doing. Seriously. I still recall a conversation I had with a colleague (who would later become a trusted friend and co-worker). It went a little something like this:
Ray: Hey Fred. How was your first day? You’re packed up and ready to go? What, do you have an appointment or something? (Note: It was about 2:30 in the afternoon)
Me: Oh, hey Ray. It was great. I can’t believe how easy it was. No appointment, I just got everything done I needed to do.
Ray: Oh. Huh. (staring at me with one eyebrow raised)
Needless to say, from Day 2 on, it was rare for me to ever leave before 4:00 (and those were often good days). I just didn’t get it, and while a scenario like this might be very common, the fact that I thought I understood the time commitments of my new career and yet was so off-base means that there was (and still is) a major disconnect between teacher preparation programs and the “real” world of education. There are a number of issues we need to consider in order to make sure that folks new to the profession aren’t left picking their jaws up off the floor when they realize all that teaching involves.
Let’s prepare specialists, not generalists. Educators new to the profession can no longer afford to be generalists (in fact, I would offer the challenge that this has always been the case). Teacher preparation programs are often woefully short on subject matter deep-dives (particularly for elementary pathways). When I was a middle school science teacher, there were times when I would provide misinformation because I believed I knew something that I didn’t. But, I was secure enough in my knowledge base to write the wrong after I did further research. Plus, I was never afraid to say, “I don’t know. Let’s figure it out together.” Unfortunately, it can be tough to teach a subject with little content background. We can teach our students how to write essays, but if they have no content to write about, the process is pointless. Preparing prospective teachers with methodology without the subject-area skeleton is much the same. As an added bonus, this adds rigor and an air of “the serious” to the preparation program. We all know how challenging teaching is. We can’t afford to have those who aren’t serious about the profession enter it.
Provide certification blueprints. I went to a university in a state I did not plan to teach in. Yet, I never knew to ask what I would need to do to become certified to teach in the state I DID want to teach in. Maybe that was just naïveté on my part, but I don’t think so. It would have been nice if I knew what I would have to do to transfer my certification before I graduated, and without me having to try and navigate not just one state education department, but two (my head still hurts). While times may have changed since I graduated college, it would be great if prospective teachers were given this information ahead of time and had the opportunity to ask the important questions about what they need to do, and why they need to do it. While this might not have changed anything in my career progression, I will never be sure. I ended up paying for and sitting through multiple certification exams in multiple states. Needless to say, my initial certification in my first awarding state has long since expired. And guess what? It was never used.
Let’s Talk. Considering the emphasis on college and career readiness, why aren’t colleges and universities regularly meeting with K-12 teachers (by the way, this isn’t meant to be a dig on post-secondary staff, those of us in the K-12 world can be reaching out to colleges and universities too)? In the ten years that I taught middle school science, never once was there talk about seeing what was taking place in our area colleges and universities to prepare future science teachers. It was almost like the two relatives in everyone’s family that refuse to acknowledge each other. It seems to me that better preparation pathways could be designed by engaging in regional symposia that would bring K-12 and postsecondary educators together to share curricula and discuss methodology. If nothing else, it would be a great start to opening discussion and would help provide pre-service educators with a clearer horizon to head towards.
Involve all Stakeholders. Wouldn’t it have been helpful if one (or a few) of the courses you took in your preparation had parents and students from the area actually attend? Stakeholders could share their thoughts and feelings about current education, and prospective teachers could role-play the types of parental and student scenarios that can be demoralizing for new teachers. Imagine how helpful these types of interactions could be towards helping future educators meet parents and students where they are and to always move towards positive resolution.
Begin Teacher Prep in High School. It isn’t appropriate for post-secondary faculty to find out that a student isn’t ready to become an educator during a junior level methodology class. Unfortunately, by this point, students have already progressed through two years of college, and in these days, have already amassed debt and are simply trying to graduate. This may force some to enter a career that they don’t find themselves interested in, simply because they can’t spend another year or two in college with a new major. It stands to reason, then, that we should be providing students with coursework in education earlier on in their academic careers. Why not provide child study courses at high schools across the country? Or, why not give juniors and seniors at the high school level the chance to pair up with teachers in their own school (or other district schools) and get a brief intro to student teaching? This could would strengthen the prospective teacher pool by providing experience and much needed perspective, and perspective can be everything.
The future of education depends on the next generation of teachers. They can’t be faulted for being ill-prepared. In fact, I would even suggest that our manner of “evaluating” new teachers shouldn’t put blame on them for not necessarily knowing what to do. In those situations, the blame should be put on the collective “us.” If we expect new educators to become effective master teachers and learners, then we need to provide them with the path to do that, and just as importantly, join them as they progress down that road.
The smell of sunscreen. The taste of cool watermelon. The sound of laughter and splashing at the neighborhood pool. These are the signs; school’s out and kiddos are home. The hectic pace of campus life has paused long enough to greet summer. For many, this is the ideal time for participating in professional development. Students are not a consideration and teachers do not have as many demands on their time. There is an old school of thought that reasons a teacher is only working when she is with her students. As educators, we fully realize that this is absolute nonsense! We know that this narrow view of a teacher’s work is ruled by the notion that time with students is of singular importance; that teachers are mainly deliverers of content; that curriculum planning and decision-making rest at higher levels of authority; and that PD is unrelated to refining and improving instruction.
The summer months provide teachers with an opportunity to participate in the development of curriculum; for studying and sharing effective approaches for reaching an increasingly diverse population of students; for discussing effective ways to implement standards; and for continuing their own learning. However, all of this time invested in summer PD is for naught if, as instructional leaders, we do not consider that teachers are more likely to apply their new learning if they receive feedback and support while testing out and fine-tuning these newly acquired ideas and strategies. This statement suggests that teachers need, and even desire, regular opportunities for gauging and reflecting upon the effects of the new strategies and approaches while students are in school.
One of the ASCD consultants that works with our district shared that following a recent two-day PD session she facilitated, a small group of excited teachers approached her. They shared with her that they had already texted and arranged a time they could meet with their principal to discuss how they might use what they learned. They desired to take their new learning for a spin around the campus and sought the support of their principal.
The question we face as leaders is how to find time for teachers to practice and reflect upon what they learn. In many ways, learning for teachers is similar to that of kids. Howard Gardner (1993) suggests that kids need time, experience, and multiple opportunities to learn important concepts. Research in professional development tells us that teachers need the same. They need time and multiple opportunities to wrestle with and experience their new learning. It comes as no surprise that finding time is easier said than done.
Leaders throughout our district continually seek ways to carve out teacher time. A long-standing expectation in our district is that teachers plan together as teams. Common planning time allows teachers opportunity to plan lessons and find ways to fold new curriculum strategies into their lessons. A few campuses have found success in carving out extended planning time for teachers. These common or extend planning times are further supported through the use of instructional coaches. At the middle school level, our district utilizes content area specialists (instructional coaches) who are able to provide expert support for teachers as they implement new practices in their classrooms. Another district-wide practice involves teacher data teams meeting regularly to analyze results from various assessments. The teams work together as they consider what the data is telling them about student learning; discuss ways to improve student achievement; and work on refining future assessments to gather more useful student data.
Each of these strategies for folding in time within the school day comes with a word of caution. Setting high expectations for how teachers utilize the PD time is critical. After all, assuming that our goal is always improved student performance, we need to assure that we clearly communicate how this time is to be used, while demonstrating the value and purpose of the PD time.
The point is, summer PD is a great jumping off point, but it’s only the beginning. On-going PD is vitally important and must be woven into the fiber of a teacher’s day in order to continually fuel new ideas and refine teaching practices. We must provide teachers with opportunities to develop, master, and reflect on new approaches to working with students.
Dr. Glenda Horner is the Coordinator for Staff Development in the Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District in Houston, Texas. She has participated in ASCD’s On-Site Capacity Building services. Go to www.ascd.org/oscb to learn more.
What does creativity really look like?
Are students more creative in their early years than in the latter parts of their schooling?
Does this fly in the face of what we know about creativity, that it is grounded in deep knowledge and requires the patience to ruminate over a period of time?
So at an early age, what are kids doing instead? Are they more playful? Are they less inhibited about how they will be judged?
This is a window into a conversation that teachers, administrators, local employers, parents and Board members had in the development of a continuum for 21st century skills. The concept behind the conversation is simple but powerful: collectively describe 21stcentury skills so that staff can design tasks appropriately given the developmental-level and content matter.
So far, we have treated 21st century skills as a typical initiative — it has generated keynote speeches, and amorphous goals but it has not gained any real traction in curriculum, assessment and instructional design. In my latest book, Breaking Free from Myths about Teaching and Learning, I asserted,
We must move away from squeaky-clean problems with simplistic answers and resuscitate the curiosity, interest, motivation, and resilience of the learners in the classroom.
The power of a 21st century skills continuum.
Take a look at this example on Informational Literacy — part of a continuum that I facilitated for the Virginia Beach City Public Schools in Virginia on Information Literacy. (To see the full continuum visit www.vbschools.com.)
Novice: Explore simple questions through the completion of a given procedure that requires location and collection of information through navigation of digital sources and/or text features in order to share information with others.
Emerging: Generate questions, locate and evaluate digital and other sources that provide needed information, analyze information to verify accuracy and relevance, categorize information using a given organizational structure, and report findings.
Proficient: Use an inquiry-based process that requires the development of questions, identification and evaluation of a range of digital and other sources, analysis of information and point of view, identification of significant information and any conflicting evidence, categorization of relevant information using a self-selected organizational structure, and production and presentation of a verifiable synthesis of research findings that lays the groundwork for conclusion(s) drawn.
Advanced: Use an inquiry-based process that requires the generation and refinement of specific questions to focus the purpose of the research, evaluation of digital and other sources from a variety of social or cultural contexts based on accuracy, authority, and point of view; resolution of conflicting evidence or clarification of reasons for differing interpretations of information and ideas; organization of information based on the relationships among ideas and general patterns discovered; and combination of information and inferences to draw conclusions and create meaning for a given audience, purpose, and task.
After we developed this continuum on Information Literacy, I showed it to several-thousand library media specialists and asked them this straightforward question — based on the assignments that are designed by middle school and high school teachers, where would you place them on the continuum?
Over 90% of respondents described that the tasks were still at the novice level.
So here is the challenge for many school divisions. IF you do not have shared consensus on what you are aiming for and how the skill becomes more sophisticated over time, THEN you cannot systematically grow the capacity of your students. To design a coherent experience from a student’s perspective requires teacher collaboration to ensure the goals of learning are guaranteed. The methods employed to arrive at those goals should be flexible to encourage teacher creativity and expertise as well as tap into a student’s prior knowledge and personal interests.
This high percentage can be attributed to several long-standing problems, including:
The first three problems delineated above have been at the heart of Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe’s emphasis on meaning-making and transfer (Understanding by Design, Schooling by Design). The fourth problem, clarity about what the skill means, is the focus of these two blog posts. Read on if you are interested in:
Difference between a continuum and a rubric.
A continuum clearly describes how students progress in their development: how they become more skillful, reflective, sophisticated, and intuitive over time. Each part of the continuum explains as students move through the grades how their tasks should become more challenging.
A rubric defines levels of performance that clearly describe the level of success on a particular task for the purpose of feedback and guidance on future tasks.
Therefore, a teacher uses a continuum to identify the appropriate level (i.e. emerging, proficient) whereas a teacher uses a rubric to accurately describe student performance.
Continuum in action.
Another powerful model is an ongoing project that I am facilitating in Newport News Public Schools (Newport News, VA). First, staff, parents, and community representatives drafted a set of 21st century skills. Then, they created a companion document linking the drafted "College, Career and Citizen Ready Skills" to performance task Categories that require transfer and meaning making. (For more information about this type of task design, check out the work of Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe — Understanding by Design.)
The performance task categories they created are:
Then, they created definitions of what the performance task required and connected that task to the skills. Here is a sample.
Multidisciplinary Performance Task
What it DOES measure
What it MIGHT measure
Problem/Solution- Identifies and defines a problem and generates a possible solutions (or solution paths), evaluates the viability of each solution, and offers a recommendation.
Inquiry/Investigation- Systematically develop questions and pursue an explanation/pattern based on, but not limited to, known information.
Source/Comparative Analysis- Analyze data, information, artifacts, and/or textual evidence to develop an explanation, interpretation, and/or determine impact.
So here is a sample of a new performance task developed by the World Languages curriculum design team. This is designed as a Level 1 (new to the world language) performance task for all spoken languages.
Task Summary: You have finally arrived at the airport in (TL country) and are anxious to meet your host family. Suddenly, a member of your group approaches you frantically waving her hands. You notice she has bumps all over her face and arms and yells: “I am having an allergic reaction to something in the (TL-appropriate food) we had for lunch! I need help! Within your group, you have 10 minutes to come up with a minimum of five (5) ways to communicate the problem to TL speakers who could provide you assistance in this situation. Do not assume everyone speaks English, they don’t. Be prepared to share your solution(s) to this problem with the class.
The Newport News curriculum staff continues in their efforts to identify, refine and create performance tasks that are in alignment with their College, Career, and Citizen-Ready Skills Continuum. Their goal for every student? Providing evidence of proficiency before graduation day. (To find out more about the project in Newport news, contact Executive Director for Curriculum and Instruction: email@example.com.)
So, if you are compelled to take action, read the second blog post — the Do-It-Yourself Manual on how to create a 21st century skills continuum in your school division.
For more information, check out my book Breaking Free from Myths about Teaching and Learning . Contact me directly via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or attend my session on July 1 at the Summer ASCD Conference
Updating a pretty neat movement is in order these days. Growing out of the ritual of teachers asking their young students to share with the class what they want to be when they grow up, several practices sprang up to advance awareness. Those events grew in popularity and changed with the times. It’s time for another version to be released upon society, but let’s first recall how this all got started.
Take Your Child to Work
In 1993, feminist icon Gloria Steinem was instrumental in launching Take Our Daughters to Work, a program in which daughters could shadow a parent or other worker. The idea stemmed from a substantial history of women having limited access to work outside the home, and therefore, even smaller exposure to young girls about the very nature of a workplace. Many companies at the time, motivated by a wide range of views, permitted the supervised accompanying by both sexes into their workplaces, where appropriate, though the practice of sons tagging along with fathers predated the activity by a few centuries.
A decade later, the practice had become well-accepted, and the day, by now a national event, was officially remade into some version of Take Your Children to Work or Take Our Sons and Daughters to Work. While debatable, an emphasis on career education, rather than any reference to past historical exclusion of any particular gender, made the practice acceptable on a widespread scale. A lot has changed since the 1990s and the world of work is, more than ever, closely tied to education.
Shadowing the halls
Children born around the time Ms. Steinem first drew national attention to young girls’ unrequited desires to see a life beyond the kitchen stove entered a world in which globalization was quickly becoming a household name. While skill levels had been a concern for years, attitudes about the need for training and education lagged, in some regions, by decades. Increasingly, though, post-secondary enrollments began to grow, and guidance counselors and admission specialists began to pay special attention to school children who just might become 1st generation college students. Tours, mini-courses and other campus activities prang up to expose even young children to the experience of seeing themselves physically on a university campus. Now, with globalization a full reality and a college education valued by most, a new dynamic has entered the mix.
Take Our Daughters and Sons Online
In many quarters, mom and dad perform their career duties on the same type of device as their children learn shapes, colors, number and letters – the computer. More to the point, for the family begun by parents who already finished a four-year-degree, mom and dad may well be working on an online master degree project before bedtime, breaking only to read a nighttime story for the kids.
Why not let the little ones in on the contemporary version of “the office” as well as those “halls of learning,” now floating about in cyberspace?
Imitation is the most sincere form of – learning
For years, academic success has been tied to such factors as the number of quality books a household possesses and the education level of parents. It stands to reason that if a young child sees his or her mom reading online for a class, they will value, and therefore want to imitate that behavior. If a little one grows to see a computer being used for much more than entertainment, especially if a parent shares what college activity looks like today, with interactive engagement with faculty and classmates, that memory may well translate into a perception that learning is a natural behavior.
Just as we changed attitudes about access to a glimpse of the world of work for all people, we have a great opportunity to instill in our kids an acceptance and a value of learning that can leave a great impression starting at a pretty young age.
You may be like countless executives who, in the back of their minds, believe doing more work with fewer resources is something you do until a recession ends and then things get better. If you’re still employed, however, it’s a good bet you haven’t based your actions on that specious wish. Lean is in and what you did last month doesn’t count. More importantly, if your expense accounts don’t scream “I’m using technology to innovate my division, region, department,” you need to step up your game. So, grab that stack of expense reports, pull up your favorite search engine and settle in for some online learning that might just save your job.
Use your expense report’s categories to guide your homework. Start off by discovering the answers to these three questions:
What constitutes my biggest expense claims?
Which activities deliver the highest ROI for time spent?
When do I harness the most synergy from my colleagues, vendors and support resources?
For most managers, travel is the biggest expense on your report. With rising ticket prices and the concomitant hotel and meal outlays swelling the total sum, relatively new web services can fashion significant savings on your bottom line. Begin your search by typing in such terms as online meeting, video conference, virtual communication or all three sets and you’ll quickly get a short list of resources. Understandably, not all meetings should be held virtually, but if your next get-together isn’t going to produce near-term revenues greater than the expenses incurred by the meeting’s logistics, then you really need to rethink how you’re spending the company’s money. Besides the dollar amounts you’re spending on travel, what about your time?
For better or worse, the days of getting a little down time while traveling are over. Laptops and smart phones have replaced rest and reflection on flights to and from meetings and trade shows. Still that time, spent more efficiently in many regards than before, is still costly as compared to doing the same activities elsewhere. Hopefully, your time in a rental car doesn’t involve more than hands free communication with others, but again, the return on cost per hour goes down as the seconds tick away. Even when you do reach your destination and join with others to collaborate, are the human costs of travel cutting into the potential offered by all parties?
In Stephen Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, his sixth habit, synergize, is all about tapping into the creativity of the group. While the group isn’t limited to your immediate team, customers or vendors, it does tend to involve interactions that contribute to your expense report. If travel is involved, it also implies people who may not be performing at peak efficiency simply because they’re pooped from a long flight or drive. There’s no metric for weighing how much inspiration is lost through individual journeys to hotels, conference centers or distant restaurants, but there are new ways of accomplishing old outcomes that technology offers. Selling those ways, to yourself as well as others, is a great opportunity to use the same synergy you use in distant meetings to both cut down on the expenses of such meetings and to harness more creative collaboration than before.
A note of caution: Whatever technology you employ, it must reduce, not add to, anyone’s e-mail inbox!
Social media is no longer the domain of high school classmates with whom you no longer have much in common. LinkedIn, Skype, Twitter and the fast-up-and-coming Google+ each have functions that can replace different wasteful processes, particularly when it comes to the preparatory training needed in any transition. Start by using an existing service, if available.
There’s an old sales maxim that goes, “If I say it, they doubt me; if they say it, it’s true.” Start with those who report to you, be they a sales force, senior managers or key support personnel. Ask them how, not if, they could use technology to better facilitate what presently is accomplished at meetings requiring travel. You’ll not only be leading, but you’ll be getting invaluable feedback from experts. Establishing a goal by encouraging collaboration will filter out most, though probably not all, knee-jerk resistance, while also curbing overreach in which people feel pressured to eliminate those meetings that really need to be held face-to-face at a remote location.
From your feedback, you’ll learn not only what technology is available to accomplish your goals, but valuable information about by-in and training needs. At this point, bring in your own training specialists to the project, adding them to your virtual team. Your goal? Design an on-line meeting to design how best to conduct future meetings.
As you know, not all travel meetings will be appropriate for web-based conferences. However, it’s a sure bet that not all travel meetings are maximizing efficiency, productivity and economy, either. By using technology to innovate how you conduct your work and how you leverage creativity to cultivate a greater return on investment, you’ll be able to cite positive changes in those expense reports during your next performance review, if not at your next quarterly meeting of investors.
ASCD EDge has educators who frequently write about the following topics:
Common Core State Standards
English Language Learners
21st Century Skills
Understanding by Design
Web 2.0 Tools
ASCD EDge has grown from 12 members (ASCD Staff) to over 25,000 members. One important topic seems to be missing from the professional conversations. Who is addressing "Exceptional Children?" There are thousands of specialists, teachers, school administrators and parents with expertise in this area. With over 25,000 members, one would think that this topic would have several blogs and even an expert who blogs on a regular basis. This is an open invitation to anyone who works with Exceptional Children (EC) in K-12 schools. Your experiences and resources will benefit all teachers and administrators.
ASCD EDge helps you start or join professional conversations. If you have a specialized interest, you can join an existing group (i.e., Understanding by Design or Teaching English Language Learners) or create a new group. ASCD EDge provides educators with the opportunity for teachers, administrators, curriculum coordinators and others to share ideas, discuss recent books about curriculum, share tools for supporting the work of teachers and administrators, and participate in an online professional learning community. If you are still wondering how ASCD EDge will support your career, join today! You will have access to educators who share your interests and who are waiting to learn from your experiences!
Walter’s blog archive: http://surfaquarium.com/blog.htm
Think you know what you need to make a difference in education? So did I. I’m here to tell you…think again!
A decade ago I was as an Instructional Technology Coordinator for the Arlington, Virginia Public Schools. I beat the bushes for computer donations from local businesses, worked with PTAs to fund network cabling for individual schools, and rolled out technology for new and renovated schools. It was hard, all-consuming, satisfying work, and I loved it. Technology was just becoming a school-wide commitment, and I was interested in helping make it happen.
Eventually I was ready to make that same difference at a district level. I searched back home in Massachusetts where I became the Director of Information Systems for the Salem Public Schools, an urban district north of Boston that hadn’t funded technology for the three years prior to my arrival. I walked in to discover outdated network infrastructure, aging computer systems, and data management challenges. Instructional implementation was actually a bright spot, thanks to a small, dedicated team of technology integration specialists out in the schools. After reporting an assessment of the situation to my boss, Superintendent Herb Levine, I was given a commitment of $300,000 the first year and additional matching or increased funding in subsequent years to get Salem technology where it needed to be. In my tenure there, we upgraded cabling and electrical wiring, swapped out old servers for new Mac OSX servers, upgraded network switches to HP Pro Curves so that we would be better able to manage network traffic, and added laptop carts to initiate ubiquitous computing in classrooms. Again, it was rewarding work, but there was no end to what more needed to be done. As I finished my tenure in Salem, I remembered thinking to myself, “Imagine how much more we could do with educational technology if it were better funded!” I have many fond memories of my time in Salem…
I moved to take the job as Director of Technology for my hometown of Northborough as part of the Northborough-Southborough Regional Schools in central Massachusetts. This was a more affluent suburban district in which technology was funded annually, albeit at minimal levels to maintain the status quo. Algonquin, the district regional high school, was just being renovated and its technology was brand new including a state of the art network with redundant back-up systems, industry standard firewalls and filters, and a Windows Update server. I worked with librarians district-wide to identify, requisition and roll out a single, central library automation system that for the first time allowed for sharing of data and collections. And my work with schools to more optimally use technology for productivity, communication, collaboration and instruction was the most rewarding part of my job. The challenge was that this district was funded by two neighboring towns with separate agendas and separate funding priorities, so standardizing technology across all schools was difficult. I concluded, “If we could agree on a single vision for technology across the two towns and fund it appropriately, we could do great things for our students!” Still, the work was good, I loved being home, and I never thought I would leave…
A couple of years down the road came calls out of nowhere from old friends and colleagues back in Arlington, Virginia. Apparently, Arlington had gotten its act together on educational technology and formed a new department of Information Services with a new assistant superintendency to lead it. They were encouraging me to apply. This was difficult to think through, because I was very happy serving my hometown of Northborough. Still, this opportunity sounded ideal: a top-level well-funded district ed tech position. It was flattering to be asked to come back and apply, and there was certainly no guarantee I would get the job. Why not send in my resume and see what happens? At least it would satisfy persistent colleagues hounding me to apply. And so I did…
Long story short I was offered the position and after talking it over with my wife and children, I accepted. Coming back to Arlington was like a second homecoming because the names and faces and schools were so familiar. I administered a department of 75 staff and a $16 million budget…surely enough money to do things right…right? Mathematically, yes. But I am here to report that for all its funding, Arlington had the exact same problems I had remembered during my first stint there….similar to the problems I worked to address in Salem and Northborough-Southborough….only on a larger, more expensive scale. As I walked in the door, there was a $5 million Oracle implementation that was floundering, a boom-bust cycle of only investing in technology hardware and infrastructure as part of school capital renovation projects, and struggling, inconsistent levels of technology integration into instruction from building to building.
I worked with my staff to create a vision for technology in Arlington, reorganized the department to best accomplish the work of that vision, released staff who needed to move on and hired new staff with the necessary skills to get the work done. Together we quickly addressed the technical issues and challenges of the district…not all at once…but as part of an ongoing process to correct problems where we found them while building district-wide capacity for ed tech moving forward. Oracle became the core of our data system, with our student information system and district systems wrapped around it. My management team and I worked to each achieve at least the foundations certification of ITIL (the Information Technology Infrastructure Library) so that we had a strong project management culture in which to continue our work. These were the things I was able to move forward.
But there were larger cultural and organizational issues with which I struggled:
In fact, while Arlington was doing it bigger and more costly, I can honestly say I saw evidence of more innovative, effective examples of technology integration and fluency in Salem and Northborough-Southborough classrooms and offices. How is this possible? Here is what I now understand and believe….and what I want to share with you:
You may have other experiences and observations to add to mine. I welcome them.
My point is this: the assumptions and beliefs I held about improving education turned out not to be based in fact. The real challenges in making a difference in public education are much more deep-seated and systemic than what I was able to see at the time. But with experience comes perspective, and I now see the larger themes and issues holding education back.
What are your assumptions and beliefs? Are some of them similar to what I have described? If you step back and compare your experiences to mine, is their evidence staring you in the face that you may need to re-examine your beliefs as an educator and look for new answers on how to transform education? And if the answer is yes, what are you waiting for? We need you…now!
Let’s face it, in the last three months enough has happened to add an entirely new verse to Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire!” There’s a lot going on out there, and educators are smack-dab in the middle of it. Hop on any social media feed these days and we are discussing a range of topics, with a range of views that cross political and philosophical spectra. And while it is important for everyone to be heard, and we are all entitled to our opinion, the profession is in such flux that we are all over the place. What public education needs is focus.
So if one person’s opinion is as good as another, and our diversity of opinion is our strength, how does one find focus across an entire profession? School library media specialists can show the rest of us how it’s done. They display a camaraderie and common sense of purpose that would serve the rest of us well. And we’re not talking about the school library of your childhood. Today’s library media specialist embraces the Information Age as an agent of change, seeking to model the connected, collaborative, client-centered skills that twenty-first century students need to learn.
Consider Buffy Gunter Hamilton, the Media Specialist and Teacher-Librarian at Creekview High School in Canton, Georgia. The Unquiet Library is a testament to her ideal of shaking things up as the hub of her school. Buffy’s open acceptance of technology and social media opens up a world of possibilities for colleagues and students alike. Her Research Pathfinders 2.0 program and Media 21 Learning Model are two of the initiatives she will showcase at her open house the end of next month. While Buffy is painfully aware of the many challenges facing public education in Georgia and around the world, her passion for media and information literacy consumes her and spreads like wildfire among all who know her and her work.
Like Buffy, Sara Kelley-Mudie, the Director of Library Services and Research Instruction at the Forman School on Litchfield, Connecticut, believes strongly in research-based student work and the use of formative assessments to guide successful teaching and learning. Sara is a strong believer in student risk-taking, making mistakes and learning from them. After all, much like life itself, learning is a messy business! What also jumps out in examining Sara’s work is her emphasis on empathy; not providing answers and options but being a constant support for students as they make the journey to understanding for themselves. Empathy, an important twenty-first century skill, is valued and practiced at the Forman School.
Then there is Jennifer LaGarde, the Lead Media Specialist and School Librarian at Myrtle Grove Middle School in Wilmington, North Carolina. AKA “Library Girl,” Jennifer is yet another strong proponent of using technology tools to immerse students in a rich mixture of “literature, ideas and information” that inspire, including social media, QR codes and the 365 Photo-A-Day Project. Her Project Nook engages students as open choice readers, going beyond the library and impacting reading and learning in the classroom. And based on the success of her own professional learning network, she is now planning a Long Distance Collaborative Book Club.
Finally, I want to commend to you Andy Plemmons, the Media Specialist at the David C. Barrow Elementary School Media Center in Athens, Georgia. Like his aforementioned colleagues, Andy is a strong voice for inviting students to participate in their learning. Successfully putting together funding, Andy created the Student Voice, Student Choice program to involve students in book selection for the library and build a collection of high-interest reading. In the process, Andy discovered that collaborating with students helped him more effectively accommodate students and their reading interests and levels. Andy’s use of literature, technology and social media involves parents, students and stakeholders at all levels.
Buffy, Sara, Jennifer and Andy are inspiring reminders of why we all chose education as a profession: to make a difference in preparing our next generation for their future. While they share all the everyday concerns the rest of us have as educators, they are sharply focused on their work - their vocation - to affect change and transform their role in education.
Want to learn from these outstanding educators? I provide their links below. As you peruse their blogs and sites, ask yourself how your progress compares to theirs in working to transform your role in education:
Buffy Gunter Hamilton
Media Specialist and Teacher-Librarian
Creekview High School
Director of Library Services and Research Instruction
The Forman School
Lead Media Specialist, New Hanover County Schools
School Librarian, Myrtle Grove Middle School
Wilmington, North Carolina
David C. Barrow Elementary School Media Center
Optimizing Our Potential: View the televised panel discussion from Mind & its Potential conference in Sydney
30 Nov 2010,
What are the links between wellbeing and learning? How important are teacher-student relationships to optimizing student learning? What are the obstacles to implementing brain-friendly learning strategies in schools?
A panel of experts, ranging from teaching authorities to neurology specialists, discuss tools to improve education and the situation of our current institutions.
At the Mind & its Potential conference in Sydney, a group of scientists, psychologists and philosophers came together to provide greater insight into the human mind and how to optimize its ability.
The speakers explore teaching and learning and explain the path toward improving the educational process and the troubles that face the teachers of tomorrow. They include the UK's Phillip Heath, neurologist Judy Willis, psychologist and academic Toni Noble and ex-NASA educator Arthur L Costa. ABC Radio National's Richard Aedy is moderator.
Dr Judy Willis worked as a Neurologist for fifteen years before moving into teaching. She now travels the globe to give lectures and host workshops about how the brain brain and about teaching strategies derived from neuroscience.
Philosophy of Education
As educators we should help facilitate goals and help cast a vision for students that will, not only, stretch their imaginations, but also their beliefs regarding what is possible. In order to accomplish this, we need to become and remain culturally aware regarding the diverse student populations we will interact with on our chosen playing field. We are not just "teachers", we are "coaches":
There is a distinct difference between the simple memorization of information and the true acquisition of knowledge that can be implemented outside of the learning arena. We should be facilitators of this acquisition process (Januszewski & Molenda, 2008, p.10). Only then will true and actionable learning take place; memorizing eventually leads to "data-dumping".
I have always had some kind of role as an "educator" since I was younger. I have been teaching martial arts since about the age of 17. My students have ranged in age from 4 to over 60 years old.
I served 8yrs in the United States Navy. While in San Diego, one of my collateral duties was Training Petty Officer (TPO). As the TPO, I was responsible for developing, conducting, scheduling, and/or maintaining training modules/records/requirements. I started off in communications as a Radioman (RM) and spent 4 years in sunny San Diego, CA aboard a Submarine Tender (surface ship) at Point Loma Sub Base.
Eventually, my career field merged with the computer "geeks", and I embraced "geekdom" wholeheartedly. The new career field was renamed to Information Technology (IT) specialists in order to more accurately reflect the nature of our duties. After San Diego, I was stationed at the Office of Naval Intelligence in Suitland, MD. This is where I "cut my teeth" in IT Security. I continued providing OJT (on the job) training to, both, junior sailors and civilians.
After leaving active duty, my professional background continued in IT Security. In my professional career I have also had the same training/education requirements. I have always been complemented on my ability to present seemingly complex topics in a manner that is easier for an audience to grasp, learn and apply.
As far as a more "traditional" form of teaching experience, my two youngest daughters (12yrs / 9yrs) are currently home-schooled. They are in 7th & 5th grade, respectively. I teach their Math & Social Studies classes using the BJU Press curriculum. I teach them basic Computer/Technology classes utilizing an "active use" approach based on my professional experiences. I also co-teach their Spanish class (alternating with my wife) utilizing Hayes School Publishing materials along with our backgrounds as native Spanish-speakers.
Although I am relatively comfortable with technology, I am always in a learning mode. I am looking forward to being able to fuse my experiences with the current growth taking place in educational and instructional technology.
Goals for Integrating Technology
My desire is for this degree to assist me in making a successful transition from my IT-Security background into the Education arena.
Technology is something that should be embraced and respected, but not feared. Though I have not, personally, taught in a traditional school setting, as of yet, my wife has been a first and second grade teacher, a Spanish teacher at a special needs high school, and she has worked as a substitute teacher in every grade from kindergarten through 8th grade. I only mention this, because I helped her to semi-automate some of her more repetitive tasks.
We used Microsoft Office products for several things such as:
One of my goals is to continue integrating technology outside of the classroom in order to streamline and improve the efficiency of my own routines and processes. In turn, this will improve my ability to implement technology inside of the classroom.
Successfully integrating technology in the classroom is my second goal. Students have a natural curiosity and desire to learn when it comes to technology. This curiosity and desire can be harnessed and utilized in order to stimulate knowledge acquisition across all subject areas.
All students, regardless of age, want to "enjoy" the learning process. Now that our transition into the Information Age (Digital Age) is well underway, that enjoyment may be stimulated by utilizing modern technology. In addition, advances in static (internet access not required) computer based training (CBT) and online course delivery has made the implementation of differentiated instruction much easier; especially when teachers, schools, and/or school districts have limited funding and/or resources.
"Safety first. Security always" - Navy Radioman Guiding Principle
While it is absolutely true that technology is a wonderful tool with many great benefits, it must also be noted that there are some dangers to consider when integrating technology.
My third goal is to utilize my background and experiences in cyber threat analysis to instill respect and awareness in all of my students, and colleagues, for the potential pit-falls that exist with the use of technology. Like a see-saw, there is a delicate balance between "security" and usability. Generally speaking, the more "secure" you make a specific technology, the less "user-friendly" it becomes; the more "user-friendly" it is, the less "secure" that technology tends to behave.
It’s all about balance, and having the discipline to implement some guidelines such as:
The bottom line is that awareness is the key.
Remember, technology is something that should be embraced and respected, but not feared.
I recently led a series of staff development sessions titled “Teachers as Leaders” in Virginia. I learned much more than the participants did, as I listened to their conversations, fielded their questions, and thought along with them about their challenges. Some of the participants were instructional coaches, who have full-time positions dedicated to supporting their colleagues. Others are team leaders, department chairs, and specialists of various kinds who have full or nearly full teaching loads, but who have also accepted leadership assignments within their faculties, coaching and mentoring other teachers.
Whether they are teaching with additional responsibilities or focusing full-time on coaching, these folks are in unique and challenging roles. They are tightrope acrobats, keeping their balance and juggling their roles. First, coaches must build and maintain strong, collegial relationships with teachers. Any work they might do together is dependent on and framed by this relationship. Coaches encourage and support teachers while at the same time pushing them to learn new skills. This balance of pressure and support is a delicate one, and managing it well is critical to success.
Second, coaches succeed only when principals provide effective support and pave the way for them. But both teacher leaders and principals in my sessions acknowledged that many principals are ill-prepared to deliver this support. Principals working with instructional coaches for the first time may not be entirely clear themselves on what good coaching looks like. Some principals see coaches as resources that are there to take something off their plates, not put something on. They are grateful for the help with instructional leadership but are relying on the coach to “go it alone and figure it out”, as one of my workshop participants put it. There may even be issues of trust or confidence between coach and principal that adversely affect their ability to work as a team.
Many coaches, principals and teachers navigate these challenges successfully, which sets the stage for powerful, job-embedded professional learning. I was inspired in my recent sessions to hear about the amazing work that is being facilitated by teacher leaders in partnership with classroom teachers and administrators. I was also captivated by some of the questions that came up, and will raise a few of those in later posts. Hope some of you will chime in- I know you have a lot to share.
The Motivated Student Chat, Part V
bob: Hi, everyone. Lots to discuss tonight, including how we can keep things going and
tell our colleagues about internal motivation and how to engage kids to be successful in
Steve G.: hi Bob
Nat: Good evening everyone
bob: Most people think that we act ant THEN we feel...or we feel and THEN we act.
This is about how the components work together.
Steve G.: It seems like a lot of this is related to brain research, no? That kids who know
something about their brains are better able to control their feelings?
bob: absolutely. i'd just add that it applies equally to adults.
bob: most adults think their feelings "happen" to them. they'll say things like "i can't
choose how to feel but i can choose how to act."
bob: in truth, we have much more control over how we feel as well as our physiology
than people believe.
Steve G.: I think the question I had with the chapter and the area was how do you
find time -- to go through this self-reflective exercise?
Steve G.: There's hardly any time in the day.
bob: it gets into the whole area of responsibility. most of us don't want to be
responsible for our anger or any other uncomfortable emotional state, but the
concept of total behavior informs us that we have considerable control
bob: help me, steve. what part seems time-intensive to you? doing the total behavior
chart with students?
Steve G.: Yes, I mean between the standards we have to teach to, it seems like I'm
always struggling to find "time"
bob: i think it gets into how we "invest" time, spending it on this exercise i believe will
both buy you time and lead to greater achievement.
Nat: Can this be an activity done with the students, making them apart of it all?
Steve G.: You're right. Better to start thinking of this as one thing, rather than
bob: the other thing your comment brings up, steve, relates to the topic of the next
chapter. i think we spread ourselves too thin with such a broad curriculum. it leads to
the exact comment you made: where's the time???
Nat: focusing on power standards, indicators - whatever you want to call them - we
need to identify the essential standards, the others fall within the essential
Steve G.: The big word at our school is always capacity.
bob: yes, nat. in fact, in chapter 12 i have the scenario of an elementary teacher
doing this with a class. it doesn't need to take more then 10-15 minutes and sets the
foundation for a successful unit.
Nat: That is exactly how we function in my district - from my personal experience it
has definately lightened the load
bob: i think it's "essential to identify what's essential"!
Nat: It gives you a focus, a goal to work towards with your students
bob: i'm not trying to be negative, but most of the content we teach kids is not
crucial! much of what we teach will be outdated in just a few years...but...the
process of how we learn and certain facts, content are all essential.
bob: and by "lighening the load," you'll provide time for your kids to reflect, process,
make meaning and deepen their learning.
Nat: I agree, when we identified power standards for 8th grade social studies we
found that really there were less than 15 essential standards, the rest were
extensions of the 15
bob: too much of what we do is done on a surface level because as steve says
"where's the time." by narrowing what we teach, we can teach deeply.
Nat: As Larry Ainsworth told me, think of it as a fence the post are the essential
(power standards) and the rungs are the other standards. go deeper not wider.
Steve G.: When we talk about narrowing of curriculum, do you find it's best done
within small committees who write it and agree? Is it a go-it-alone thing?
Marcy: I would just like to add while you are talking about K-12 - I have student
interns who are struggling with feeling powerless and it is not just about Standards
Nat: Absolutely - it was time consuming at first, but now in our 3rd year it is definately
bob: hi marcy!
bob: steve, i think it needs to be done in a collaborative way. what do others think?
bob: how did you do it in your school nat?
Marcy: Hi, Bob. I think i am following this but it is still driving me crazy. I types up
answers to yiour question because I thought I might be able to cut and paste - NOT
Nat: we incorporated it as a distrct through our data team process
bob: and who was involved? teachers?
bob: i guess i have difficulty with things "imposed" from above, even if they are good!
involving teachers in a meaningful way leads to more ownership.
Steve G.: So content-specific specialists in each subject area?
Marcy: Nat, how big is your district and how do you know what you have dopne is
bob: nat, can you offer a synopsis of the process so others can get a feel for it?
Nat: yes by grade level dept
Marcy: How do you know what you are doing is making a difference?
Carolyn, ASCD Moderator: @Guests, you can change your nickname by clicking 'edit
nickname" in the lower left corner of the chat window.
Nat: You look for what is a standard has longevity, needed for the next grade level,
and what was needed past high school
Steve G.: And has everyone agreed that narrowing is better? I tend to think it is, but
also know people think we should cover everything!
bob: great question, marcy. and not as "simple" as it seems. scores going up is good
data. but...teachers feeling more involved and valued and staff morale improving
may be as important.
Marcy: Yes, that is what i was wonderinh - How are they collecting that information?
Nat: Teachers need to use the data to help them guide how they teach and develop
their instruction around what they are learning about their students
bob: steve, are these people comfortable with sacrificing depth in an effort to offer a
wider curriculum? (There may be times when i agree, by the way. there's nothing
wrong with survey courses.)
bob: so nat, is the instruction in your district really data driven? if so, it sounds
Marcy: NAT, if you have time to respond, in what ways are the teachers collecting
Steve G.: Yeah, I think covering "more" of something, say, the details of the
American revolution, is always looked at more favorably.
Nat: yes at least for my data team - I can't speak for all - it is the goal for all
bob: and, nat, what about marcy's question? how is data collected. operating on data
sounds great but it needs to be valid, useful data or it's a house of cards.
Nat: forative assessment, pre/post, things like that
Marcy: I am not asking any more questions of poor Nat!
Nat: I meant formative sorry
bob: i'm loving this! this is what i wanted: people sharing what they have tried, etc...
Marcy: Do students complete a performance assessment (as in UbD?
Nat: yes they do
Marcy: Do you look at then across your grade level team?
Nat: we are a dept, we are not in teams
Marcy: OK. I missed that - waht is your dept?
Nat: 8th grade social studies
bob: nat, i'm curious. clearly you are enthusiastic about this. it represents a new way
of conceptualizing teaching. are your colleagues equally enthusiastic?
Nat: honestly not really, but I spent a year studying data teams and this process for
my dissertation...and brought my team to exemplary status
bob: see, the people in this chat represent a minority. my goal is to discover ways to
help others become equally engaged, enthusiastic, and willing to try new things to
bob: this is really interesting, nat. i'm "hearing" you say that you were able to achieve
real success even without complete enthusiasm/support.
Nat: a few teams with my help are moving in that direction
bob: i'm convinced that once people see success, they are more willing to get
involved. it's getting the momentum going that's the key component.
Nat: yes my team has a well at least 1 in every building in our district. It is a slow
process usually takes 5 years to really see the benefit of data, powerstandards, and
bob: any other comments about "teaching less...teaching deeply" before we move
Nat: Definately Bob, I have many request to sit in and help other teams move
towards what my colleagues and I have discovered - we have taken it to extremes
we team teach all 90 of our students 3 to 4 times a week
bob: the other issue i'd like to chat about relates to the final chapter of "The
Motivated Student." creating your own professional identity.
bob: congratulations on your success nat! stories like these are very helpful for me to
Nat: I love to tell them, good and bad
bob: so here's the "heavy" part of the discussion. the philosophical part. what exactly
do you want from yourself as an educator?
Steve G.: I'd like to know I'm making a difference.
Steve G.: Sometimes I wonder
Nat: me too
bob: i was reading an article today that suggested adults work primarily for money. i
think we work to satisfy other needs....like making a difference.
Nat: I believe we are steve, we just don't always see it right away
Nat: I agree Bob, i changed careers to go into education - I was making more money
in business but I wasn't happy - something was missing
bob: i have a great story about how we are sometimes clueless about the difference
we make. it's from my book "The Inspiring Teacher." I'll put it on the "Inspiring
Student Motivation" wall later tonight or tomorrow.
Steve G.: Yes, I was going to say, I don't make enough money to be moved by it. ;-)
bob: i think all teachers want to make a difference. do you agree?
bob: as steve says, we don't make enough to be doing it solely for the money.
Nat: yes, but sometimes they loose sight of it due to life.
Steve G.: I know some people who do it frankly, because they didn't what else to do.
Sorry to say that. Know it's not PC
Carolyn, ASCD Moderator: @Sarah, Guests, what say you?
bob: so here's the question: how do we keep ourselves focused on how important our
jobs really are? how do we not get stuck in the "how do I survive 6th period?"
Steve G.: Maybe it's bad, but I try to focus on that one child that I can move at a
Steve G.: If I can help one kid at a time learn something a little more.
bob: steve, i'd love to disagree with you, but i suspect you are right. but even those
teachers still want to feel good about themselves. as dan pink says in "Drive," we all
seek a sense of purpose. (I relate it to the need for power/competence.)
Steve G.: Don't get me wrong. I teach the whole class.
Nat: We celebrate the little things, the kid who moved from an F to a D, stuff like that
Steve G.: Exactly nat.
Nat: We had a round of applauce today for the student who finally passed a test this
bob: are there other areas that are important to you all, separate from academic
Marcy: I have been teaching a long time and iI think that our successes go beyond
Steve G.: I think I also tend to learn new things each year. Because I go back and
don't do the same thing every year
Nat: Learning - I love to learn new ways to teach and then try them out on my
students, get their feelings and either keep or toss it depending on the overall
bob: i do a number of parent workshops and i'm the parent of three. i wanted my kids
to be successful in school but academic success was never the most important thing
Steve G.: At the end of the day, we really don't do enough to teach kids how to be
citizens. That's important too
bob: all of your comments support my belief that we are internally motivated. you
could take out the same lessons from last year. but we are driven to create, to
improve what's already good.
Marcy: In my life as at teacher, I cherish the times when my students have said _ i
want to be atecaher like you.
bob: as an educator, i was always more concerned about helping children learn to be
good people (with a good education) - than in just getting the highest test score.
Nat: Marcy I enjoy when they come back to me and thank me for not letting them
slack or get away with not working...they tend to appreciate my style after the fact
bob: as i said to my own kids on numerous occasions, "When i was dating your
mother, i never once asked to see her transcript."
Steve G.: It's like sports. Teach them how to win, fine. But teach them
sportsmanship. that's more important
Marcy: What keeps me teaching? It is not the test scores (but I am in Canada)
Steve G.: It has to be better than the U.S. Marcy!
bob: nat, your "after the fact" comment is so important. it's naive to think that kids
will necessarily have the capacity (that word again, steve!) to see the value of what
you are doing at that moment.
Marcy: Nat, yes. I love when they come back to visit. in fact my own child siad the
same thing to me about 'not letting her slack off''
Nat: test scores only provide me with data that helps me guide my instruction to
assure my students are getting the best education possible
Marcy: Steve, yes it is - i have taught in both worlds!
Nat: as well as the areas they might need more instruction on
bob: so "the best education possible" can't be neatly encapsulated in a test score!
that's why i am such an advocate for the ASCD whole child initiative.
Marcy: Nat, yes. I use scores, but they do not 'drive' my teaching - maybe guide it
bob: it's crucial to understand that academics are the foundation. but we're helping to
build a whole child and i want to go well beyond the foundation
Steve G.: Bob, I'm curious, when you were an administrator, what was the biggest
challenge facing the school?
Nat: I agree Bob
Steve G.: I guess, what was the situation etc.
Marcy: I also love the Whole Child initiative - you can't learn much when you are
hungry and scared. School does offer shelter
bob: i think our school/district was too complacent. we weren't "bad." but i never felt
a sense of urgency in getting a whole lot better.
Steve G.: Was it a poor neighborhood, etc.? Suburb?
bob: it's why i love doing what i do now: staff development. my identified role is to
bring these ideas up for discussion and help teachers/schools move forward and
become better than we are.
Steve G.: How do you get a school to get that drive to be better when things what
one my colleagues called "good enough"?
bob: i worked in plymouth, masss (home of the pilgrims) for my whole career.
bob: i think it's like what nat has done. start slowly. have some success with a small
group. let the momentum build. and be patient because things of value take time and
are worth pursuing.
Steve G.: I know we talked about this before but about getting people on board for
change. That seems the toughest part.
Nat: They do change, I am currently working with 3 other teams in my building, I have
helped our science teams identify their power standards, and I am a trainer for
identifying power standards an creating formative assessments for my district
bob: I hope those who participated in this chat will keep things going. Any interest in
starting a book study in your school? Other ideas to help our colleagues learn?
bob: Iím planning on getting a blog up and running soon. If you get me your e-mail
info, Iíll be certain to let you know when I get it started. You can contact me through
my website: internalmotivation.net
Nat: Steve it is, I will not lie to you and there are days when I just want to throw in
the towel, then I look at my students and see what my colleagues and I have done
and I am back in business
Steve G.: I'm definitely going to reach out to colleagues to discuss some of this stuff
bob: I also wanted to let you know that I have a FREE quarterly newsletter. Next one
due in June. Contact me at internalmotivation.net and ask to be put on the mailing
list. You can then print & share articles. Together we can make a difference!
Nat: I already share with my colleagues - many just blow me off - they think I am
crazy to still be teaching in a middle school after getting my Ed. D degree this past
bob: it's so easy to get discouraged. that's why i think it's important to support each
other and find others who agree with what we have been talking about.
Marcy: Now, Nat, just don't listen to them. I love coaching in middle school - they are
crazy but wonderful!
Steve G.: Marcy, i have a question for you. Do you find teachers are more valued in
Canada than here?
Steve G.: in the U.S., I mean.
Steve G.: I don't know if you're in Candada
bob: i've read before that teachers reflect the developmental level of the kids they
teach. so ms teachers are like ms kids!
bob: yes, what? marcy. more valued in canada???
Nat: I agree for many of my colleagues - for myself I am that geek in the corner.
Marcy: To clarify - My husband and I immigrated to Canada - iIam teaching here both
at the university and coaching in schools - (writing)
Steve G.: I read a story the other day about a chinese teacher here in the U.S. She
talked about how the Chinese value teachers more.
bob: sure, but the geek inthe corner is often interesting. a bit scary because he's
different. so we'll pretend to dismiss him. but privately, he gets us thinking.
Steve G.: But once taught in Asia a long time ago.
Nat: Bob I hope so.
Steve G.: And the truth is,they pay lip service to it, but it's not really respect. The
kids still mock the teacher etc.
Steve G.: Parents still curse them out.
Marcy: This is such a funny conversation - never having done this bvefore and as a
writing teacher, I think it is funny how our conversations weave back and forth.
Nat: I have never had a parent curse me out, I don't know how I woudl handle that
bob: i wonder if teachers in the US feel less valued because of the "grass is always
greener" thing. or is it cultural in the fact that americans are very comfortable
expressing displeasure. other cultures are less likely to do that.
Marcy: good poin t Bob
Nat: Bob, I think you have a point, isn't human nature to think that it is better
Steve G.: Yeah, Nat, I've seen it.
bob: don't know if it's "human nature" or "human nurture" but it's pretty common.
Steve G.: Of course, I've seen it here too.
Marcy: Nat, yes, but culture are different in Canada - people do have a high respect
bob: my daughter lives in australia. her boyfriend is a high school history teacher. he
can complain about the lack of respect he sometimes feels. so i think it crosses
Nat: Well everyone I have to go, I have definately enjoyed chatting and hope to
correspond with all of you again. Take care.
Steve G.: Bye Nat
bob: this reminds me of a quote i have from "Activating the Desire to Learn." In fact i
think i put it on my website this morning....
Marcy: I teach in a rural area. all I am saying is may be cultural too
Steve G.: Marcy, honestly, I was just curious.
bob: it's about deciding to be a respectful person because that's who you want to be,
rather than being respectful to those who "deserve" it or "earn" it...
bob: take care nat. thanks for your thoughtful comments!
bob: it's so easy to choose anger and frustration if we are not respected. i decided a
long timer ago that i will act the ay i want to be regardless of how i am treated. it
keeps me from being a victim.
bob: Thanks to Carolyn and Tim at ASCD for all the time and effort they put into this
and for giving us an opportunity to share and discuss how to engage and inspire
student motivation. Without their support, this wouldnít have been possible. Thanks
Tim: Great job Bob. Thanks for joining eeryone.
Marcy: I am going to dinner, Bob and colleagues. it was fun rambling with you.
bob: good night everyone and thanks again for all of your comments and
participation. I've enjoyed it!
Carolyn, ASCD Moderator: Thanks to everyone who followed the chat every week!
Steve G.: Bye Marcy
Steve G.: thanks Bob
America’s middle and high school reading classes offer “placebo”
to older struggling readers, parents
In response to federally funded mandates, school districts have implemented stringent comprehensive reading plans for students K-12. Differentiated instruction, technology-based curricula, progress monitoring, and newly trained reading teachers will help many students improve their reading comprehension skills.
However, for the large number of middle and high school students who read below their current grade placements, the prescribed curricula and pedagogy may have little more than a placebo effect.
The redesigned reading courses may make students and parents feel better, but if a student’s reading skills remain below level after a year of remedial instruction, the prescribed methods are ineffective. In the absence of certain mental or physical impairments, a student can be brought up to grade level in reading ability in a matter of months. It is not true that reading remediation requires a long, drawn out process.
With the right learning conditions, it is possible to produce very large effects on the reading skills of children who have experienced several years of reading failure as a result of severe reading disabilities (Torgesen et al., 2001).
The prescription for older struggling readers must be changed. Assuredly, providing ineffective reading remediation is not intentional; school districts are following prescribed guidelines. There is simply an absence of research and a plethora of misinformation regarding what works for older struggling readers. Researchers are researching, vendors are vending, and teachers are teaching, yet student progress is minimal because the focus is off-center, focusing on comprehension rather than on the improvement of the actual act of reading.
Student performance on state accountability measures in reading and on the reading portion of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)…assess the student’s ability to understand and think productively about the meaning of expository text and literature (Torgesen et al, 2007). There you have it: the nation’s focus is on increasing students’ ability to understand and think rather than on addressing their reading skill deficiencies. It is for this reason that the nation’s progress reports do not show meaningful gains in reading.
One reason for the faulty pedagogy secondary schools use to address the needs of older struggling readers is that it is designed by elementary education specialists who favor developmental approaches that are mismatched to the mental ages and capabilities
of adolescents; by English/language arts teachers who, because they teach reading in their content area, believe the same curricula and approaches will relieve all reading ills; and by reading researchers who continue to focus on students in the elementary grades and admit they are still seeking what works with adolescents.
Reading specialists who have experience both inside and outside the classroom can confirm that when older struggling readers receive appropriate remediation, progress is fast----even miraculous.
Many adolescents with poor reading skills are bright, talented, and so studious they manage to make decent grades, but their weak reading skills will eventually limit their abilities to pass statewide assessments and their opportunities to attend college and/or reach their career goals.
Because teachers and researchers do not normally have the opportunity to experience the momentum borne out of intensive, one-on-one skill training, they naturally lean toward whole class instruction. Yet, research tells us that one hour of one-on-one instruction is better than six hours of classroom teaching (Eckwall & Shanker, 1988). So why are we serving these students in reading classes and even extending time in these classes to 90 minutes a day?
Requiring older struggling readers to spend more time in a reading course (sometimes for two class periods) is “bad medicine.” It can even be lethal.
It is the intensity of the instruction---not the amount of time in class--- that determines the rate of improvement. In a small group or class, the intensity of instruction is diluted, resulting in a less than desirable rate of improvement. High schoolers who need to improve by four or five reading levels have no time to waste.
It is possible to delay or deny students' reading success with mismatched methods.
To the wonderfully designed reading courses in which poor readers are currently enrolled, we must add a refined method of reading remediation, delivered by certified reading trainers: trained paraprofessionals who know what to do and how to deliver rigorous reading training that produces results. We must be willing to take bold steps to benefit students, families, and our community.
Here’s what reading specialists who have experienced great success working
one-on-one with older struggling readers want parents, politicians, and program planners to know:
1. Requiring students to take a remedial reading class in middle or high school
stigmatizes and humiliates students, thereby undercutting the motivation which research shows is critical to achievement. Some will simply drop out of school.
Remedy: Pull each student from this required class once a week to receive reading remediation in a private, 30-minute session. (This is the model speech pathologists have been using in our schools for decades.)
2. Teaching poor readers in a class is not intense enough to accelerate growth in
the least amount of time.
Remedy: The most effective teaching model for reading remediation is
that of a personal reading trainer who provides potent, one-on-one instruction during which the student is totally engaged and the teacher is totally attending.
3. Reading curricula that looks like English/language arts curricula IS. In newly
designed reading courses in many middle and high schools, impressive comprehension
strategies such as KWL charts, graphic organizers, think-alouds, writing assignments, research projects, and statewide assessment practice supersede intensive reading instruction.
Remedy: Intensive reading training does not include comprehension and writing
activities that are provided in the intensive reading and English/language arts classes, as well as in other content areas. Focus instruction exclusively on fundamental reading skill training (decoding, phonemic awareness, and vocabulary) and reading practice (speed and fluency).
Students cannot write summaries, draw a Venn diagram, or answer
comprehension questions about passages they cannot read; regardless of countless hours spent on comprehension strategies (main idea, fact and opinion, compare and contrast, details, conclusions, inferences, etc.,), students will not pass the statewide assessment if they cannot read it.
It is not surprising that the national obsession with reading (comprehension) in all content areas does not produce improvement in statewide assessment scores; assessment scores will only increase as students’ reading skills are strengthened.
Additionally, reading practice with companion writing assignments or comprehension assessments strip students of the joy of reading for pure pleasure. To foster a love of reading, students must be allowed to choose their own leisure reading materials and read without the dread of a follow-up assessment or a writing assignment. Let students read with no strings attached!
4. Technology-based reading programs are valuable tools for practice and
enrichment but should not supplant a highly-qualified teacher.
Remedy: Observation, guidance, correction, modeling, and praise are best received first-hand from a warm, highly qualified human being.
5. Frequent assessment causes teachers and students to focus more on
testing than on learning; test apprehension (common to poor readers) fractures the learning environment.
Remedy: Because reading remediation requires building skills rather than learning course content, reading trainers would minimize testing and grading. Progress is best monitored by observing the student in the actual act of reading.
Reading specialists, who know that one-on-one private instruction is akin to a silver bullet against reading disabilities, consider it immoral to attempt reading remediation in the classroom.
When our secondary and post-secondary schools provide properly prescribed remedial reading instruction, older struggling readers will improve rapidly. Their assessment scores and their academic performance in all content areas will simultaneously improve as they become proficient readers of their textbooks and become independent learners----forevermore!
That’s good medicine.
Kay Kincl has been an independent reading specialist to students in grades 3-12 for the past 18 years and specializes in successful methods for addressing the reading needs of adolescents.
Eckwall, Eldon E., & Shanker, James L. (1988). Diagnosis and remediation of the disabled reader (3rd ed.). Needham Heights, MA: Allyn and Bacon, Inc.
Torgesen, J. K., Houston, D.D., Rissman, L. M., Decker, S. M., Roberts, G., Vaughn, S., Wexler, J., Francis, D. J., Rivera, M. O., Lesaux, N. (2007). Academic literacy instruction for adolescents: A guidance document from the Center on Instruction. Portsmouth, NH: RMC Research Corporation, Center on Instruction.
Torgesen, J. K., Alexander, A. W., Wagner, R. K., Rashotte, C. A., Voeller, K. K. S., & Conway, T. (2001) Intensive remedial instruction for children with severe reading disabilities: Immediate and long-term outcomes from two instructional approaches. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 34(1), 34.