kitchen table math, the sequel: Educating Teachers: Science or Belief?

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Educating Teachers: Science or Belief?

This is from Children of the Code (I've added some paragraphing)-- the whole interview is called "How Reading Works and What It Does for the Mind".

David Boulton: In particular, what I'm referring to is the way that we educate teachers. We don't take them into a first-person, grounded understanding of this challenge from which to become scientist-learners in their own right, in their practice of it, and they end up subscribing to belief mechanisms.

Dr. Keith Stanovich: Yes.

David Boulton: And in that sense, it's like competing religions.

Dr. Keith Stanovich: Yes, very much so. They respond to the charismatic people they had in teacher education school and they're not given what I would call discipline-based knowledge.

Actually it's not just reading I have an interest in, my other research area is critical thinking. Similar things go on there.

You have teachers picking up knowledge from in-service gurus and teaching reading without a knowledge of phonology or orthography or the history of linguistic change, which I see is one of your interests, and what I would call information processing, cognitive psychology, for that matter, relevant issues and cognitive development. This is what I call the discipline-based knowledge that surrounds reading. Very little of it penetrates into reading education.

The point I make is that this is an unfortunately replicable phenomena. It happens in the area of critical thinking as well. Schools have programs they get, again, from commercial packages, in-service gurus, with no grounding in discipline-based knowledge in thinking and reasoning; and I mean discipline-based knowledge in philosophy, decision science, decision theory, cognitive science - where principles of rational thought are being studied empirically and theoretically by philosophers. None of this penetrates education. So, I think it's a recurring problem.

David Boulton: And the biggest danger that I see as I bump into what you're talking about is that teachers are trained out of being learners. There’s such a difference between belief based on somebody else's knowledge...

Dr. Keith Stanovich: Right.

David Boulton: And actually having an appetite to understand something for yourself, striving into your own learning, and then having access to the kind of resources that will support your learning and keeping it going right through your practice in school with kids.

Dr. Keith Stanovich: Well said. Every component of what you've listed is missing from the educational culture. I couldn't agree more.

Go read the whole interview.

Stanovich's home page


vlorbik said...

these are *rituals of submission*.
that's what schools are *for*.
(so we'd better teach 'em right...)

palisadesk said...

Everyone with a serious interest in reading instruction should get Stanovich's book Progress in Understanding Reading. It's expensive to buy, but you may be able to get it from a library, or cheaply from a used-book site.

It's a collection of essays, so can be "read around" in, but some of the don't-miss ones include two essays on the "Matthew Effects in Reading," four on the "Cognitive COnsequences of Literacy"(interesting one on print exposure and another on the development of verbal intelligence), one entitled "Discrepancy Definistions of Reading Disability: Has Intelligence Led Us Astray?," a great essay on "Putting Children First by Putting Science First" and a concluding wrap-up, "25 Years of Research on the Reading Process: the Grand Synthesis and What It Means for Our Field." He is optimistic but not complacent.

His elaboration on meme theory was a Eureka! moment as he explained why certain belief systems are so entrenched in the education world.

Stanovich's book, How to Think Straight About Psychology is also a great read for the non-psychologist and (thankfully) much cheaper and usually available in libraries.

Liz Ditz said...

I bought the paperback edition used for $18.00.

mazenko said...

I highly recommend "I Read It, But I Don't Get It" by Cris Tovani, a Denver area teacher researcher. I was literally re-born as an English teacher after reading it, and I moved from assigning reading to teaching it, at all levels. Tovani also wrote "You Mean I Have to Teach Reading" about reading in the content areas. Sadly, too many teachers often think "reading" and "literacy" is an English skill, not a learning skill, and they are not equipped to teach students to handle the qualities of their content area text. All teachers need to teach reading at all levels.

Another recommended book is Ellin Keene's "Mosaics of Thought." Keene is a contemporary of Tovani's, and their organization PEBC is on the cutting edge of literacy instruction at all levels.

Catherine Johnson said...

they're not given what I would call discipline-based knowledge

you can say that again!

I hadn't heard of the Stanovich book -- (haven't read Wolf's yet) & loved every word of McGuinness on Early Reading Instruction. Plan to read the companion volume yet.

I think Mosaic of Thought is on my shelves ---- hmm.

Paul B said...

Here's one for laughs. I teach math so vocabulury is huge. My principal was recently on my case because she says I have too many words on my word walls. "Too confusing for the children!". Concurrently, our literacy coaches are on a crusade to, "immerse children in words", on the belief that they need to see and hear as many as possible, all the time.

A district consultant hired because we are 'failing' tells me that I spend too much effort preloading vocabulary, seeding the words before they come up in the text book. My masters course tells me that preloading words is essential if kids are to retain them.

I've reached a point where I basically don't give a rip what I'm told by experts anymore. My wife says an ex is a has been and spurt is a drip under pressure. I'm goin' with her for now. She's older than me after all, and therfore wiser (I've got 7 months on her :>} )

Paul B said...

Therfore is actually spelled therefore unless you mean to count the wheels on your car, in which case therfour.

Paul B said...

The best part....

I recently suffered a "Focus Walk" (for which I had prepared by taking my principal's advice) and it was duly noted that I didn't seem to have an effective word wall.

Silly me, I replaced a word wall section with a treatment of linear equations showing slopes tables, graphs, points of intesection, etc. Who'd a thunk to find such a thing in a math classroom, egads!

When they come by in the 'Rover' on a photo shoot, it's critically important to have the right scenic backdrops in place. Can't be out of step with the latest gizmos lest you be seen as a mere prey animal.

Paul B said...

I must be catching up to my wife...

Though you may think intesection is a typo, it's not. I live close enough to Boston to claim that as the correct spelling based on pronunciation.