Saturday, December 21, 2013

Favorite comments of 2013, part I! Jen, Shannon Severance, and momof4

on Educational malpractice for the sake of Reform Math

Jen said...

I'd argue that the constructivist approach is MOST harmful to the lowest quartile of students. Those are the students who need the most explicit instruction, the most guided practice and the most repetition. High performing kids often do okay with the more constructivist approach because they *can* pick up a concept that was only mentioned once or only mentioned in passing. Two or three repetitions of practice may be enough for the very brightest and most motivated students. And, kids who have involved parents, likely to be your average or above scorers, are also most likely to be taught at home as needed or to get tutoring. Taking students who come to school behind their peers and providing little to no real instruction and assuming that the activities they do in class will somehow coalesce in their heads without any sort of road map is the real horror. These are kids who are behind at the start and are never given the type of instruction which would catch them up. That's not to say that this is the best way to teach the highest scorers, just that they are the ones most likely to be successful.

Shannon Severance said...
In almost all cases doing okay will be well short of their potential.
momof4 said...
I can see a HS-level discovery/seminar class working, IF and ONLY IF the kids have really solid background knowledge in the field AND are willing and able to work independently, outside of class, on preparation and the written report of the content discovered. In other words, only a small fraction of the American school population. In most cases, particularly in ES, it amounts to the kids pooling their ignorance, and should therefore be avoided.

Particularly when working with disadvantaged kids, who enter school significantly behind their advantaged agemates, the educational priority should be EFFICIENCY. Time is precious and should never be wasted. Of course, I'd like to see the elimination of advantaged third-graders (only the girls) spending 45"(each) on acting out a scene from a book (with friends and costumes); just write the book report, already! Down with dioramas! 
(It's a wonder the kids and I don't panic at the sight of a shoebox.)

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