kitchen table math, the sequel: a definition of explicit instruction

Friday, June 26, 2009

a definition of explicit instruction

Explicit instruction is instruction that does not leave anything to chance, and it does not make assumptions about skills and knowledge that children will acquire “on their own.”

For example, explicit instruction requires teachers to directly make connections between the letters in print and the sounds in words, and it requires that these relationships be taught in a comprehensive fashion. It also requires that the meanings of words be directly taught and be explicitly practiced so that they are accessible when children are reading text. Finally, it requires not only direct practice to build fluency, but also careful, sequential instruction and practice in the use of comprehension strategies to help construct meaning.

Using Common Science and Common Sense to Teach All Children to Read by Holly B. Lane, Ph.D. University of Florida (pdf file of ppt presentation)


Obi-Wandreas, The Funky Viking said...

Personally, I find the whole thing deeply insulting.

For all the thousands of years of human existence, teaching has meant one thing, and one thing alone.

For a few years, a bunch of hippies told us that "teaching" meant the exact opposite of that, and that we couldn't do that thing that used to be called teaching. We went through the motions of their BS while they were looking, and taught our kids the right way when they weren't.

Now, they've rediscovered teaching, think they need a new term for it, and my district thinks I need to attend a week's worth of in-services to know how to do it.

I've got two words for the whole educational theory crowd, and they ain't gonna like the first one.

SteveH said...

If you read the whole thing there is a big "duh" factor to it all. It's one thing for parents to complain about a big lack of phonics (our schools still uses it as a remedial last resort), but I find it annoying to read about it as some new educational discovery with science and urgency to back it up.

"Increasing demands for higher levels of literacy in the workforce require that we do better than we have ever done before in teaching all children to read well."

So the crap they had before was OK, but now it isn't. I'm glad that there is a push for direct instruction of phonics, but don't expect me to oooh and aaaah.

But it makes me wonder about the world of education and how changes are made, no matter what the program. Is everything brought in from the outside and controlled by just a vew people? Are all of these programs pre-packaged with the concomitant hype and outside experts providing expensive training programs?

Is this the norm now, buying educational solutions? Are these solutions fundamentally flawed by the desire to make money and lack of commitment by the school. Can you really buy a solution? It seems like a cop-out to me; like they really aren't serious.

Anonymous said...

I was looking at our state's Response to Intervention plan after this week's Forest Grove decision and it states expressly that we don't "know what type of instruction works best".

But we do know!

Project Follow Through told us.

Jeanne Chall told us.

Marilyn Jager Adams told us.

The Access Center told us.

The National Reading Panel and NMAP told us.

Now the IES practice guides are telling us as well.

Many kids are at risk for learning disabilities in reading and math without explicit instruction and yet too many administrators are unfamiliar with any of these relevant national studies.

I am so tired of educators in a position of power making erroneous statements on topics that are in their area of "expertise" and matter so much-both to individual students and our nation as a whole.

I think explicit instruction is so controversial for 2 primary reasons:

It requires subject matter knowledge in each teacher; and

Kids from different backgrounds need varying amounts of explicit instruction to get to the same point and somehow that's not democratic.

Thanks though to Catherine and Holly Lane for a definition one can put in a letter, an IEP, or a legal brief. It deserves to be cited often.

Anonymous said...

Steve H-

I read your comment after I wrote mine.

Ineffective instruction grows the amount of resources taxpayers must devote to education.

It's hard to read my state's RtI plan and not appreciate that the different tiers are merely a plan to throw more people at a problem and keep trying different things until something works or not.

It may not be an effective way to deal with learning issues but it's a very efficient mechanism to grow the public payroll.

We may not think EM is much a math curriculum but its use of disposable workbooks makes it a cash cow to its publisher and affiliated parties. Compare that with a Dolciani Algebra book that can be used alone until it needs to be rebound.

SteveH said...

we don't "know what type of instruction works best".

Is it because they haven't found it or they are incapable of knowing it when they see it? Perhaps they just don't like what they see.

Our town is now big into Rigor and Relevence as defined by The International Center for Leadership in Education. If you look under their section of Rigor and Relevance, you will see their "Knowledge Taxonomy" which is based on Bloom's Taxonomy. Impressive! But then if you go to their "Sample Gold Seal Lessons" and look at their Math 8-9 lesson on "Opening an Internet Business", all you see are low expectations. The goal is to learn about markups and discounts. Presumably, this is done in class and wastes I don't know how many days.

After all of the years I've been dealing with my son's schools, there has always been an underlying tension over what education is all about. The school just bubbles about Rigor and Relevence, but how do you tell them that they aren't even wrong? There is a disconnect. It's not about two different ways to get to the same point. It's about low expectations versus high expectations. Our schools are not interested in rigor. They're interested in fun things to do in class. How do you tell them that they don't know what rigor is?

Anonymous said...

I think ultimately we need to decide what the primary purpose of education funding is.

Are education dollars trying to meet the future learning needs of students or the employment needs of adults? The rhetoric is about the student's needs but the reality is not.

Why don't they know what works best?

The NCTQ survey says our ed schools don't teach it.

Too many believe that an ed degree gives them a monopoly on knowledge about education when it might give them little relevant knowledge at all.

Some school districts and even states have received grants to push inquiry learning in reading and math that appear to create conflicts of interest between what will work best for the student and what will bring in more revenue to the public entity.

When it comes to education, I'm not sure there is a good control to protect the interests of taxpayers or students.

SteveH said...

"...monopoly on knowledge about education ..."

I think this has bothered me the most over all these years. It's the attitude. It would be one thing for schools to say that they know that some might not like their assumptions about education, but that they think their choices work best for most students. That's not the case. They claim ownership of "best practices". They push for full-inclusion and very mixed ability classes, add in spiraling curricula that don't enforce year-to-year goals, and then claim that this somehow is better.

Our school is supposed to have a curriculum committee made up of parents and others from the town. It never happened. The school committee leaves all of these decisions up to the school. There is a fundamental difference of opinion over what constitutes a proper education. It's not just about how or even what to teach. It's about expectations. How do you tell people that their expectations are low? How do I explain to those with a degree in education (and no experience in the "real world") what is required to get a degree in engineering from a major university and then have a successful career? How do I explain that they have mathematical understanding and critical thinking all wrong?

I still remember the math open house our school had when my son was in first grade. We (professional parents) sat in little chairs and listened to the teacher talk about the wonders of MathLand and having our kids explain why 5 + 5 = 10. The teacher used her teacher voice and had absolutely no embarrassment.

They don't even know enough to be embarrassed about how much they don't know. They put walls up around their critical thinking abilities. That seems ironically clear based on their rote training in education. Schools of education have put them in a box and their brains have no way to escape.

RMD said...

From their presentation:

"Many children must be taught explicitly and directly how to “think” about what they are reading to improve comprehension"

According to Daniel Willingham's latest book, this just isn't true!

They need to be taught facts so that they can interpret what they read.

As the other commenters have said, it's annoying how conclusions that have been supported by evidence for decades always seem "new" to the educational establishment.

VickyS said...

The "duh" factor. What a great way to put it. It's everywhere in education.

Recently I read (now I can't remember where, darn it! maybe it was here!) that remediation is being required for ELL kids using Everyday Math or TERC--because their literacy skills aren't advanced enough to succeed. Well duh! What did they expect when they made math more about reading than math?

Or how about this recent Education Week article talking about how RtI isn't working as well in math as it is in reading. It cites a recent WWC federal guide that recommends that remediation for students in grades K-5 should focus on (hold onto your hats) the properties of whole numbers, like counting, addition, and subtraction. Older students, up to 8th grade, should learn rational numbers in depth, including the meanings of ratios, decimals, and percentages. Well duh.

Plus, our schools have created these problems by choosing reform curricula for elementary and middle school education, which goes to the basic thrust of this thread--the more they fail, the more problems the schools and the outside consultants and the textbook companies create, the more they can justify their demands for more and more monetary and human resources. And all at the expense of the least privileged students I might add--precisely the ones they claim to be serving.

What percentage of identified learning disabilities do you suppose is inadvertantly *caused* by our schools, their teaching methods, and curricula?

VickyS said...

And the education monopoly never ceases to amaze me. A PhD in biochemistry who's done post-doctoral work is qualified to teach in a community college or a research univeristy, but can't teach high school biology.


And the ed schools, which exist within major universities founded upon free and open debate, all crank out the same kool-aid.

I just can't figure it out.

Catherine Johnson said...

I find it annoying to read about it as some new educational discovery with science and urgency to back it up

I would imagine that's not what was going on in this presentation, which is part of the Reading First web site for NY state.

My guess is that this presenter isn't 'selling' phonics as new but trying to persuade as much as explain.

Catherine Johnson said...

I question the idea that our only literacy problem is that we now need more people to read well.

I should find whatever study she's referring to.

palisadesk said...

What percentage of identified learning disabilities do you suppose is inadvertantly *caused* by our schools, their teaching methods, and curricula?

My estimate is 75%.
And in many of the other 25%, the difficulties are exacerbated and made much more severe than they need to have been.

Anonymous said...

Public education is in an advanced state of self induced crisis. I claim it to be self induced since it wasn’t really broken 40 years ago when we began to tinker with it and nothing external has happened in the interim to cause it to fall apart. We don’t have very much that’s new in the way of knowledge that’s been added to the mix either, at least for the domain of k-12.
So why is it so hard to fix? Well, at the highest levels the repairs are in the hands of politicians. Unlike engineers who strive to strip away at a problem, reducing it to its most essential factors, politicians are far more inclined to pile on more repairs to a creaking policy corpse because each repair can be used as pander bait to some new constituency. For a politician, it makes little sense to strip things down to essentials as this equates to throwing out existing constituencies. When’s the last time you heard a campaign promise to remove policies that are no longer working?
The way our politicians go about solving this man-caused disaster reminds me of my first tree house. It was a bit too high for comfort so extra nails were always in demand. Nailing, after all was a primary purpose of tree house building anyway. The problem with fear driven nailing is that eventually the nails themselves become the hazard. They so weaken the wood that it fractures and rips, leaving the damn nails in the tree and dumping you on the ground.
Public education is like my tree house. Every repair is another damaging nail and no one ever asks if pulling a few nails might improve the chances of keeping the thing up. Here are six nails that I would like to see removed. Perhaps you have some of your own.
1. Pull the regulation of seat time and replace it with the requirement for learning objectives.
2. Replace grade level placement with ZPD placement.
3. Replace grades with mastery inventories.
4. Define curriculum goals with objective measures instead of subjective standards.
5. Break the connection between public funding and public administration of schooling.
6. Fund children not systems.
7. Make parents responsible for a child’s school placement not administrators.
For me, these are so fundamental that, unaddressed, they tear at the very fabric of any other attempted repairs. Yet, you’ll never hear the politicians talk about these things. Maybe they don’t think these things are issues, or maybe they’re just holding up the fig leaves that provide cover for their lack of clothes.