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Tag: ascd

My Head Hurts

Today I received an ad for a new book titled “How to Teach So Students Remember”. I get lots of similar promotions but there was something about this one that caught my eye. And made my head hurt.

The first line of the description of the publications makes this declaration:

Ensuring that the knowledge teachers impart is appropriately stored in the brain and easily retrieved when necessary is a vital component of instruction.

The copy goes on to promise that the author will provided you with “a proven, research-based, easy-to-follow framework for doing just that”.

There is just so much wrong with everything in the space of one small email, it’s hard to know where to start.

How about the apparent core idea that the goal of good teaching is to have students “remember” all that we “impart” to them? Reflecting the traditional role of the teacher as someone who transfers information in carefully measured clumps from their tightly managed repository to the vessels sitting in the classroom.

And, in the same sentence, is the implication that success is derived from knowledge being “appropriately stored in the brain” and “easily retrieved when necessary”. I can only assume that the most important “necessary” time is the spring standardized tests.

Ok, all that snark is only based on a couple of paragraphs in an email. I haven’t read the actual book, although I did read through the first chapter posted on the web. And just that part certainly lives up to the promotion. Research-based pedagogy right out of a 50’s-era manual for running a traditional teacher-directed classroom.

I just couldn’t believe this is being peddled as a guide for modern teaching by one of the largest professional organizations for educators, the Association for Supervision and Curriculum (ASCD).


An image similar to the one at the top just stuck in my head from the minute I read the ad copy. The picture, taken in 1943, is of a classroom in a UK Catholic school and is used under license from the Wikimedia Commons

Speaking of Math and Science…

In the current issue of ASCD Express, their online newsletter, a math teacher writes that it’s time for change in mathematics education.

He notes that we are still teaching “manipulative” math to students when both inexpensive technology and the internet make it possible to emphasize thinking skills instead of continuing to “focus our curricula on skills that we no longer need”.

We still need “pure” mathematics courses to prepare future mathematicians, engineers, and scientists, but for 90 percent of the population, we need to teach proper data mining and how to use that data to solve problems. We can’t quantify the skills we require from the next generation, and we can’t measure them by standardized tests, paper-and-pencil tests, or even “practicals”: we can only measure them by outcomes, which may be several years in the future.

However, it’s his closer that drives home an excellent point about more than just math.

We need to completely discard our perception of K—12 education and start fresh. If we are to remain a highly educated society, we must design the new curricula that will prepare our children with the critical-thinking skills necessary to solve not only our current problems, but also the ones yet to come.

Take a couple of minutes to read the whole thing.

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