kitchen table math, the sequel: Power Teaching Revisited, now Whole Brain Teaching

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Power Teaching Revisited, now Whole Brain Teaching

The other day I was over at Tahirih Bushey's excellent site, Autism Games. She had posted Power Teaching and Followup to Whole Brain Teaching.

The name "Whole Brain Teaching" set my skeptical sense tingling -- there is so much "brain" ... (searching for polite word) bushwa... out there, especially in professional development for teachers.

But I thought I'd go look.

Power Teaching was the brainchild of three instructors, Chris Biffle (college), Jay Vanderfin (kindergarten) and Chris Rekstad (4th grade). They called it Power Teaching until sometime last year, when they reorganized into Whole Brain Teaching. They are using the power of YouTube to spread their ideas.

Here's a kindergarten lesson (the video is about 7 minutes). I'm impressed by the engagement of the students, the explicitness of the teacher's presentation, and the number of repetitions she gets in.

The website http://wholebrainteaching.com/ has a lot of resources, and Chris Biffle has posted a lot of video clips showing examples of Whole Brain Teaching at various grade levels and subjects.

I haven't poked around the site enough to know if it is truly congruent with Direct Instruction. I'd like to hear what you think.

Previously, here:

Exo on Power Teaching

Power Teaching from redkudu

99 comments:

Redkudu said...

I've been watching the Power Teaching folks since they began to emerge. I've used a few strategies and gotten positive results.

The "Teacher vs. Students" game seems to work particularly well - teacher gets a point when class is misbehaving, students get a point when they do something well. The game is supposed to reward behavior with an incentive. I actually don't even promise rewards (and certainly don't provide any punishment) - and I've been pleased at how the students responded. Apparently, high school students in my school are motivated just by "beating" the teacher in "happiness" points. I give them praise when they win, that's it. I don't use it every day. I introduce it to them in the beginning, then use it whenever I feel the class has too much energy to burn and is distracted. They always focus when I put the little T-chart on the board.

I'm not a naturally demonstrative person - I prefer my classes to be calm but focused and my teaching style is calm - so a lot of the over-exaggerated Mighty Groan! Oh Yeah! yelling probably isn't going to make it into my classroom. For high school students, much of this has to be slightly more subtle, because they don't often buy into it either.

However, a good friend of mine is thrilled that her high school daughter is truly learning science for the first time because her teacher is using Power Teaching in the classroom.

I think Exo's comments on it are the most spot-on for its strengths and weaknesses.

Exo said...

Interestingly, I don't use it anymore. I work in a school now where the discipline is handled pretty well (Fooling around? Not happy in our school? Go back to your district!). So I can absolutely calmly lecture and kids are quiet and attentive.
I terms of participation... I still randomly question, and sometimes ask them to respond "all together".

Beth said...

OK, at the risk of getting flamed, I was horrified by this video. I would never send my kids to a kindergarten like this. These kids are being trained in total passivity. Spending 6 hours a day obeying directions quickly leaves no room for a child to develop as a human being.

Tracy W said...

Beth, is there any evidence that could convince you that spending 6 hours a day obeying directions quickly is entirely compatible with a child developing as a human being?

Beth said...

Tracy, I doubt it. I think we're looking at fundamental philosophical differences here. If you watched that video and thought, "That's where I want to send my kids!" we're pretty much living on different planets.

I want my kids to develop their own ideas and interests. At the kindergarten level, I'm not all that interested in academics. I'd rather have my kids learn how to socialize, how to get along with others, how to express themselves, who they are and what they care about. Phonics can come later. And when they get to phonics, I'd rather let them learn at their own pace, so if they understood that "p" stands for "pah" after the second repetition, they don't have to repeat it another 30 times.

And the specter of kids repeating the rules en masse 5 times a day just creeps me out.

Redkudu said...

Beth,

I think your comment is an important one. I didn't watch the video until after I'd posted, and I was a little dismayed as well. The teacher responds and calls like a bored Disney river-ride guide. She definitely has the script, but doesn't appear to be "performing" it. Personally, I'd like to see some pause time happening between activities and teacher interaction on a personal level.

However, I also tried to think in terms of what we're seeing - it's a 7 minute clip that is cut in places, so possibly the entire process took 30 minutes? I don't know what happened after that time, once the kids went to their learning stations. I would be very interested in seeing more. I'm worried that this clip might be representative of why direct instruction is often criticized - it shows a brief moment of call and answer used to direct the class, but doesn't show what happens afterward.

Also, though I haven't worked in elementary school, I do know that in areas where the majority of students are from a low socio-economic background, routine is the most important thing to establish early on, and for kids from households that are not literacy rich the repetition is absolutely necessary because they will not get that reinforcement anywhere else.

I think your children are lucky to have a parent who has such concrete ideas of their developmental progress, and I can see why you might be alarmed. However, when considering children from homes with no structure, no guidance, and (as often happens where I work) no interest in them, this level of organization and easy response may represent safety, solidity, and small, attainable tasks that represent success to them.

Your thoughts?

Sr. Mendez said...

Do you think such a technique is appropriate in a college level class? It is being used there and you can see a demonstration of it if you go to YouTube

.

Linda said...

I'm with Beth. I've taught both elementary and middle school and I do direct instruction, but I prefer a more authentic relationship with my students. I really looked over the Power Teaching website, and although I can see some of the strategies being useful at times for certain situations and lessons, to do this all the time would be tedious for me and I think for the students, as well. If you read their stuff carefully you also see they have strategies for the more difficult kids who don't buy in, which means this isn't the panacea that it originally implies. You can set up routines and structure without going to this level.

Amy P said...

I think it would be oppressive if the classroom operated like the video clips all day (even just the noise level would be unpleasant), but we have no reason to think that it does. The kids are on task and they look fresh and engaged. Beyond low socioeconomic kids, I think these methods could have a lot of potential for kids with attention problems, because the pedagogy engages the entire body and gives kids something to do with restless hands and feet.

Exo said...

I think I mentioned it before... When I used "modified" Power Teaching with 3 Honors Bio and 1 general science class in middle school, the kids' reactions were not all the same: 1) insulted by "dog training" - the highest level kids who were doing fine just listening to lectures, taking notes, and studying from the book; 2) happy to do some "noisy" things - most of the students, who could adectvately work with lectures, too but had issues with self-motivation; 3)those who didn't care anyway (point-loosers).

C T said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
C T said...

Correction: "p" does not stand for "pah". It stands for "p" (no vowel included). Just a little peeve of mine, so I had to chime in.

Lisa said...

I tend to agree with Beth, but my big concern is how bored my kindergartners would have been here. They were reading before k (them, not me). Spending time repeating rules they got the first day and learning letter sounds would have made them behavior problems out of sheer boredom. I'll have to investigate this method to see if there's an 'out' for kids.

lgm said...

I could see many of these ideas working with children who have not been to preschool or daycare. Fingerplays, songs with movement and such are all fun and appropriate for preschool as are learning the customs for paying attention and getting along in a group when an adult is talking.

The 'tell you partner' business is interesting. In my district, 'think' is used..the teacher gives a few minutes to quietly reflect and put what they learned in their head. This works well for visual children who view talking as too much sensory overload. Both methods unfortunately give the student who didn't understand a way to hide.

I cannot see this method working easily in the fully included classroom. Even some of the children who are not classified will be unevenly developed and have trouble with the speed of the responses and the crossing-the-midline type of body moves. The rest of it would give some children (auditory) sensory overload as there is no quiet time and the noise level is too high.The OSHA rule on noise, BTW, is that it's too loud if you cannot hear the guy next to you when they are talking without raising their voice. The limit is 30 min exposure at that level without hearing damage. Can't see that classroom being in compliance if this technique is used all day.

Is the person in the video a teacher or an aide? The attire and lack of enthusiasm make me think the person is an aide. That would cut costs and make sense, since the material isn't something a specialist is needed to teach.

Silly Old Mom said...

lgm,

By OSHA's definition, my husband and I are in danger of going deaf simply by sitting at the dinner table every night.

Beth said...

For those of you who want to believe that the completely scripted call-and-response on the video is only a small part of Whole Brain Teaching, take a look at their website. They really do propose doing what you see on the video all day.

One of my many objections to this system is what we might call "high overhead". A huge amount of energy goes into the rules of doing school, rather than actual content. Kids rehearse the class rules at least 5 times a day, and perform "Class -- Yes" up to 30 times an hour.

They also recommend pairing the top students with the bottom students. Parents of gifted kids will recognize this one -- our kids wind up being employed as deputy teachers instead of being challenged and engaged by the company of their intellectual peers.

Amy P said...

I wouldn't want to see kids doing the full-class stuff all day, but I think a big dose of it would be fantastic for demanding, high-energy, distractible, impulsive little kids who have trouble staying on track. I especially liked the way the kids were repeating to themselves the teacher's directions on the way to their desks. I have at least one child who could easily forget what they were supposed to be doing at that point.

Of course, if a child does know how to read, she ought to be reading. For math and reading (at a minimum), a child should be grouped with other students who are working at the same level.

Tracy W said...

Beth, there's a reason why I asked you if any evidence could convince you.

You say:I want my kids to develop their own ideas and interests. At the kindergarten level, I'm not all that interested in academics.

I take it from this that you place intrinsic value on the idea of kids developing their own ideas and interests - which is fine, this is a bit like valuing the journey more than wherever you arrive, which is a fine way to travel.

But the next question is what sort of education will support kids in developing their own interests and ideas? Presumably you agree that the ideas and interests your kids develop will be affected by the culture they live in (for example, a kid could hardly develop an obsessive interest in computers in a hunter-gatherer society as those societies have no access to the iron that's a necessary starting point for building computers).

So is there any evidence that could convince you that spending 6 hours a day obeying directions is entirely compatible with developing a kids' own ideas and interests?

If there is no evidence that could convince you that you are wrong, how do you know that however you are raising kids does in fact support the goal of developing their own ideas and interests?

For example, you say that you are opposed to academics at the kindergarten level. But when I learnt to read at age 5 (first year of school in NZ) this opened up a new area of passionate interest to me, I adore reading, and the new worlds that books can open up to me. Now perhaps if my parents had raised me a country where school started at age 7, I would have found some even greater own-interest and ideas, but perhaps not. Your hypothesis that your kids should not be learning academics does not follow necessarily from your goal (if that is your goal, I am guessing here).

Of course we never have perfect information about anything, we are always making decisions under conditions of uncertainty. I am not criticising your decision to favour no academics per se, but I do think that it is good to keep an open mind, to consider that you might be wrong in your belief that academics is bad for kindergarten aged kids, and that you might be wrong in your belief that following directions is a bad thing for 6 hours a day. If there is no evidence that could convince you otherwise, then you've gone beyond making decisions with insufficient knowledge into dogmatism. And I don't see why you should expect anyone else to place any weight on your opinion when it's just a dogmatic one.

And when they get to phonics, I'd rather let them learn at their own pace, so if they understood that "p" stands for "pah" after the second repetition, they don't have to repeat it another 30 times.

But what if your kids are the type of kids who need 30 repetitions to remember that "p" stands for "pah"? Understanding is good, but it's only momentary. In my work I often spend hours trying to understand a problem, and then finally getting the flash of insight. And I've learnt that when the flash of insight comes I need to write it down and store it somewhere I can find it again, because otherwise I forget.

Beth said...

Tracy, do you have kids?

I have two daughters.

DD #1 is a dreamy introvert, prone to anxiety and depression. After a day in Whole Brain Kindergarten, she would be an emotional wreck from the constant demands. She needs privacy and space to think her own thoughts and do her own thing.

DD #2 is a rammy hell-raiser. After a day in Whole Brain Kindergarten, she would take the school apart (if she hadn't already done this), or come home and take the house apart. She needs a chance to work off her energy
the way she wants.

That's just my kids, but I really don't see any kids benefiting from having every moment scripted for 6 hours a day. The occasional dance and move to the alphabet is fine, but kids also need a certain amount of freedom in their lives. For kindergarten, learning how to get along with other kids was actually a more difficult (and important) subject for both my daughters than learning their letters, although they did that too.

My objection to this Whole Brain video isn't really about the academics, although I stand by what I said before, that I'm not that concerned about academics at the kindergarten level.

My main objection is that these kids are spending 6 hours a day being completely passive. Every moment they're being told what to do, down to the gesture. It's mind-numbing instead of mind-expanding.

Tracy W said...

Beth, so if your daughters tried a school operating according to obeying instructions 6 hours a day, and daughter #1 came home not emotionally-wrecked, and daughter =2 came home and didn't take the house apart (and hadn't taken the school apart), this is the evidence that would convince you that "spending 6 hours a day obeying directions quickly leaves room for a child to develop as a human being"?

I'm not saying that the teaching method in question would definitely have these effects, it may have exactly the effects you outline, I'm just trying to get to a non-dogmatic point for the conversation.

Every moment they're being told what to do, down to the gesture. It's mind-numbing instead of mind-expanding.

And is there any evidence that could convince you that the teaching method is mind-expanding rather than mind-numbing?

kcab said...

I'm with Beth on this. I think Exo's student's classification of these techniques as "dog training" is accurate and I too would find it demeaning. Maybe it works in some situations, but works at what, and at what cost? The recommendation to pair top kids and bottom is another deal breaker for me. I would pull my kids from that class within a week.

I can see how modifying techniques, using them some of the time, or otherwise learning what you can from this and discarding the rest could be useful. But that video makes me sick to my stomach.

Allison said...

Again, Kcab and Beth you are making decisions based on feelings.

You are entitled to them, and you as a parent as best able to judge what works for your child, but your feelings are nonrational. If rational evidence demonstrated that *this* technique that makes you feel yucky worked at teaching reading to a subset of children (say, at risk ones), would you get over your feelings and accept it or not? As long as you say "no, my feelings trump everything" then okay, but there's no real point in discussing what works then is there?

Beth said...

Allison, suppose I developed a fabulous new method of teaching phonics where I smack the kids every time they fail to produce the correct sound to go with the letter of the alphabet. Let's call it "Whole Bum". Then I demonstrated that I got wonderful results and the kids all learned their phonics. Would you say, "Wow, that's effective! Let's use that system!" or would you say, "It's not worth it because it's not OK to smack little kids."

I presume you would say the Whole Bum method isn't worth it because it's not OK to smack little kids all day long.

That's what I'm saying about this Whole Brain technique. It's not okay to treat little kids like trained seals all day long. I don't care what the results are. Find another technique.

And if it's not OK for our middle-class kids, why is it OK for somebody else's kids? Maybe their mothers are just as appalled as I am. Do their feelings matter? Or do we ignore them because they're from a lower SES group?

lgm said...

>>And is there any evidence that could convince you that the teaching method is mind-expanding rather than mind-numbing?

Yes, evidence that thinking and reasoning ability had developed.
Are these the techniques currently used for developmentally delayed children with memory weakness and now being exported to full inclusion Kindy?

It reminds me of the case of "The Girl in the Window"..but I beleive the techniques used in her case were more personal and humane.

In any case, no matter what technique is used for the included, the rest of the class should be learning content and developing thinking and reasoning skills as well. Otherwise, there is no point in going to school.

kcab said...

Allison - True, there are times I make decisions on values other than what is most effective. Respect for other human beings is one of those values, an aspect of that is treating humans as humans.

There may be parts of this classroom technique that are good, gestures comes to mind as an example, but I'd like to see those parts identified. Is there a study comparing this method to others, where is it, what were the conditions under which it was run, and what were the measures used? What about breaking it down and determining which parts had an effect and which did not? I'm not asking these questions rhetorically, just assuming that you must have this information somewhere.

Allison said...

sorry, but that's a straw man. I didn't equate hitting a child with this teaching method. You really want to do that? Do you not see how that's problematic?

So is poking my son with a sharp object wrong because your feelings tell you that? You value and respect treating him like a human being, so therefore, my poking him is inhumane?

Context matters. Sticking an IV in my kid's hand makes my stomach turn, but sometimes it's the best way to deliver medicine.

you need to separate out the actual behavior you are objecting to from the feelings that you are objecting to.

Since you've already said that no evidence that this helps could make you decide this is an okay method because you're predetermined it's as morally bad as violence, I'm willing to stop here.

Beth said...

Allison -- I don't know if I've predetermined that the Whole Brain technique is "as morally bad as violence." In some ways I think Whole Brain is worse than violence. It's more insidious, and more insulting. What message do these kids get about who they are and what their place is in the world?

Beth said...

Some more thoughts about this horrifying video and comments.

It's interesting to me that no-one has said in a comment, "this is the kind of school I want to send my kids to."

Instead, we get "this is the school I want to send somebody else's kids to" (those low SES kids who need structure.) Or, we get "I'm a teacher and I want to have this kind of control over my classroom."

But we haven't heard from one parent who wants this for her kids.

If you look at the Whole Brain website, you'll see they brag about all the support they've gotten ... from teachers! Nobody asks the parents what they want, or asks the kids what they think about school.

Isn't that one of the objections folks have to constructivist math, that nobody asked the parents what they want?

Amy P said...

"But we haven't heard from one parent who wants this for her kids."

I would want some (but not all) of it for my wiggly, has-hard-time-paying-attention child, but not for my conscientious, worried child. Actually, the second child would benefit too, just from an even smaller dose.

Tracy W said...

Beth - but your analogy with a teaching method involving smacking doesn't hold, as smacking hurts kids in the sense of causing physical pain. "Treating kids like trained seals all day long" doesn't strike me as causing physical pain per se. It might be bad for other reasons, but that remains to be established. If treating kids like trained seals is bad per se, then we would have to conclude that feeding kids is bad, as trained seals are also fed.

And if it's not OK for our middle-class kids, why is it OK for somebody else's kids?

This begs the question of whether it is not ok for middle-class kids.

Do their feelings matter? Or do we ignore them because they're from a lower SES group?

Okay, no one on this thread has said anything that sounds remotely to me like they believe that we should ignore the feelings of the mothers from low-SES groups. So why have you suddenly started asking this rhetorical question? Do you really think that just because we disagree with you that we are immoral people? Or are you just trying to smear the whole concept of the teaching method and you don't care how dishonest you are in doing so?

lgm: Yes, evidence that thinking and reasoning ability had developed.

And what evidence would count as thinking and reasoning ability had developed? Sorry to follow up your question with another one, but specificity is nice.

Tracy W said...

In some ways I think Whole Brain is worse than violence. It's more insidious, and more insulting.

Huh? What do you think of people who let their kids perform in choirs and orchestras?

What message do these kids get about who they are and what their place is in the world?

That they're kids, and their job at the moment is to learn certain things from the teacher. What's the problem with that? Kids are always getting the message that their role in life is diferent to what they will be doing as adults. Very few parents let their six year olds do things like drive, date, or head out whenever they want, but that's what most adults do at at least some points in their lives. Including middle-class high SES parents. Kids are quite capable of absorbing the message that kids are in a different category to adults.

Anonymous said...

Worse than violence? The kids in the video don't look miserable to me.

I couldn't necessarily see using it all day or even for one whole class period, but I'd be curious to see the results. Children need to learn a lot of content. If this helps certain kids to do it and they enjoy it (Sorry, Beth, I don't see them cowering in the corner) , then I don't see what's so evil.

And as an actual mother of a special ed kid, I think combining the physical moves with words and then having them repeat to a partner could possible be very helpful to ADHD kids or ones with verbal learning problems

SusanS

Beth said...

Tracy, my kids perform in choirs and orchestras. There is absolutely no comparison between choir and what's going on in this video. The kids in the video aren't making music, they're making noise. And most of the noise they make has the sole purpose of demonstrating constant obedience. That's the "high overhead" I mentioned earlier.

Some commenters have mentioned special ed. If you look at the Whole Brain website, they don't mention special ed at all. They talk about "challenging students", but they seem to mean discipline problems, not kids with learning differences.

Can you imagine a gifted child stuck in this classroom? Ouch. Tracy, you say you were an early reader. If you were in this Whole Brain classroom, they would have paired you up with one of the slowest kids so you could teach him the phonics that you already knew.

Whole Brain, like many other teaching strategies, is really about classroom management. It's about keeping the kids so caught up in making the correct gesture at every moment that they can't think an independent thought that might cause trouble. In their own words, "students don't have any mental area left over to create challenging behavior!"

And we still haven't found a parent who wants to send their kid to this school. "Some of the techniques might be helpful occasionally with a certain type of kid" is not the buy-in that Whole Brain is looking for. And I'm willing to concede that point. Sure, the occasional call-and-response with gestures might be helpful for some kids to learn certain types of material. But that's a far cry from a child spending his day as a puppet on a string, as shown in the video.

lgm said...

>>And what evidence would count as thinking and reasoning ability had developed? Sorry to follow up your question with another one, but specificity is nice.

The COGAT or whatever is normed for their age group and not considered biased against their culture is fine with me. I am not a parent of a sped student or a pysch, so I don't have at hand a developmental gauge for thinking/reasoning but I know from discussion with the school pysch that they exist.

>In their own words, "students don't have any mental area left over to create challenging behavior!"

And that is why it won't work with students who are developmentally ahead of those whose minds are filled. They do have room in their minds and they will be using their brains to do things outside the script while one part of their mind is directing the mindless rote responses. Go to any fully included class and you can observe this. My son's first grade teacher handled it with a wink and the re-direction of 'it's ok to think' ... while the rest of the class is figuring out the preK portion of the differentiated included whole class math lesson. She would then use her small group time to do the differentiation for the top acheivers, as the whole class could not be courteous for their part of the lesson. (which was understable, as the grade spread is about 8 years in a fully included classroom)

kcab said...

Susan - the kids in the video are aware of the camera, there are a few places where that is clear. I'm not sure it's possible to judge how kids feel about the techniques from this video.

So, what behaviors do I object to in this video:
1) teacher tone of voice - saccharine, drawn out, rising (worst case is "claaass"). To me this tone indicates displeasure, impending consequence, and that speaker considers the listeners to be inferior (that's the saccharine part).
2. Required participation and invoking peer pressure to participate.
3. Excessive verbal repetition by teacher and class.

To me, it echoes of basic training, probably intentionally. The goal is apparently discipline first, learning secondary. A reasonable level of discipline does help everyone to be able to learn. However, this method as presented speaks primarily to discipline. All that is shown is whole class, when it is certain that the whole class does not need to be learning the same thing.

Would I go along with it, were I a child in that K? Probably, and then I'd go home and kick the dog or my sister. I probably would have no idea why I kicked the dog or my sister. Would I learn anything? Well, I wouldn't have learned anything in K from the activities in the video except that other people are idiots.

I think it is quite likely that the things to which I object are seen as positives by some others. Some people do believe that discipline and control are the most important objectives, that children are inferior beings, that making everyone do everything the same way is good. I'm willing to believe that the verbal repetition, gestures, practicing the letter/sound combination could be useful. However, the main ideas that are communicated to me by the video are that this teaching technique places emphasis on control and uniformity.

Beth said...

kcab -- I showed this video to my husband and his immediate response was that the kids were likely to have anger problems from being treated in such an authoritarian way. He would definitely agree with you about going home and kicking the dog.

Tracy -- I didn't invent the low-SES question. Redkudu said quite explicitly that while my middle-class kids likely don't need this approach, it could be useful for low SES kids who need structure. Allison mentioned "at risk" kids who might benefit from this method.

Of course, kids are different from adults. But what's going on in the video is way beyond that. First of all, in the video there's no room for kids to be different from each other. There's no distinction between the kid who understood phonics last year and the kid who still doesn't get it. There's no room for the kid who might be upset about something going on at home, or the kid who isn't feeling well that day. There's no room for kids as individual, autonomous human beings at all. That's why I call it insidious and insulting.

Tracy W said...

There is absolutely no comparison between choir and what's going on in this video.

Actually, yes there is. The comparison is that in a choir the performers are expected to act in unison with the other members of the choir, in response to the conductor. In this video, the children are expected to act in unison with the other members of their class, in response to the teacher.

The kids in the video aren't making music, they're making noise.

Beth - did you watch the video? The kids aren't just making noise, they are making meaningful sounds about academic material. And quite frankly, I don't understand how you can happily let your children perform in choirs and orchestras and also be so horrified about this classroom. Nor did I see most of the noise they were making had the sole purpose of demonstrating constant obedience. Some of the noise yes, but quite frankly it seems more sensible for me with young kids to expect them to make noise rather than to keep quiet while obeying instructions.

If you were in this Whole Brain classroom, they would have paired you up with one of the slowest kids so you could teach him the phonics that you already knew.

This happened to me without Whole Brain Teaching. Anyway, the correct solution to kids who already know the material is to put them in a class that's covering new material.

Whole Brain, like many other teaching strategies, is really about classroom management. It's about keeping the kids so caught up in making the correct gesture at every moment that they can't think an independent thought that might cause trouble.

As someone who saw a lot of bullying at school, and had to put a fair bit of effort into ensuring that no one ever tried to bully me twice, this sounds good to me.

There's no room for the kid who might be upset about something going on at home, or the kid who isn't feeling well that day.

And why should there be? The kid who is upset about something going on at home, and the kid who isn't feeling well that day, but is still well enough to come to school, should be learning something. Some kids have really rotten home lives for their whole childhood, some kids get ill regularly, but hopefully even those kids will survive to adulthood, and I can't see how as adults they will be any better off if they spent their time at school not learning reading and mathematics. School is for learning.
Of course, kids who are really sick shouldn't be at school, and some homes are so terrible that the kids are better off in foster care, and sometimes teachers have moral obligations around those matters, I am merely talking about what should happen at school.

There's no room for kids as individual, autonomous human beings at all. That's why I call it insidious and insulting.

And yet you let your kids join a choir. I just really really don't get your moral problem with this, let alone why you expect anyone else to.

Tracy W said...

kcab: Required participation and invoking peer pressure to participate. Excessive verbal repetition by teacher and class.

Huh? For something to go into long-term memory it needs to be repeated a lot.

Some people do believe that discipline and control are the most important objectives, that children are inferior beings, that making everyone do everything the same way is good.

And some people think that the most important objective of a school system is to teach as many students as possible how to read, write, and do basic mathematics and if discipline and control helps in this, then that's fine.

And some people think that anyone who disagrees with them is not merely wrong, but immoral. Take for example Beth, who suddenly starts implying that people who favour whole-brain-teaching are snobs who think that the feelings of lower-SES group mothers don't matter, never mind that no one said anything that would imply this. Or take kcab, who only mentions the possible negative objectives of why someone might differ about the value of whole-brain-teaching.

Well, I wouldn't have learned anything in K from the activities in the video except that other people are idiots.

As it was, without whole-brain-teaching, you appear to have learnt that any other people who disagree with you is not merely an idiot but immoral.
However, judging by the video, wouldn't you have learnt what sounds are associated with what letters?
Now yes, if you had already known that, that wouldn't have helped you in that class. But the solution to differing starting levels of knowledge is to put kids in a class where they don't already know the material.

However, the main ideas that are communicated to me by the video are that this teaching technique places emphasis on control and uniformity.

Is there anything that could convince you that those were not the main ideas that the inventors of the Whole Brain Technique intended you to learn?

Tracy W said...

lgm - thanks. I'll look out for such evidence.

My own opinion is that the best thing to do with kids who already know the material is to put them in a class where they don't already know the material. I don't think a teacher without superpowers can effectively teach a classroom with very widely-ranging experience.

Tracy W said...

You know, I wonder if the difference underlying this debate here is in terms of expectations about how we treat kids now will affect how they develop in the future?

Firstly, I think that small kids should have only limited autonomy, at best. I don't think small kids have a right to chose their medical care, or when their bed time is, or their own table manners, or whether or not to learn reading, writing and arithmetic. For a lot of matters, I think parents do know better than small kids. More automony makes sense as the kids get older.

Secondly, as an empirical matter, I've never seen much evidence that suggests that requiring discipline at school results in brainwashed adults. For example, Communist teaching methods used a lot of brainwashing, but Communism itself fell apart when the people in power were no longer willing to use the military to shoot everyone who disagreed (and shooting everyone who disagreed was quite effective in maintaining the Khmer Rouge in power in Cambodia even though they were not in power long enough to for the adult population to change over, what cost the Khmer Rouge their power was attacking Vietnam). Another example, the boarding schools that the British aristocracy sent their sons to in the 19th and early 20th centuries were big on discipline, despite the fact that their parents expected that their sons would go on to become leaders of the state, and that they often did. I am not saying that the teaching at the boarding schools caused the sons to become leaders of the state - the important link between the school and adult success was I strongly suspect "The Old Boys Network" but discipline didn't stop those sons from becoming leaders. (In the past when I have used this example this has led to some commentators assuming that I want to bring back the British Empire, or at least its education system, I do not, the conclusion I draw from the British boarding schools is a purely descriptive one, not a prescriptive one).

lgm said...

To me the video is a horror show. Repulsive, but interesting. Repulsive b/c the children are not treated as human - there is no individualization, no warmth, no meaningful positive relationships with others, no thinking, and deliberate intent to not allow the occurance of such.

Interesting because of the thought of the minds who created this. The objectives are all 3 yr old preK objectives - listening to the speaker attentively, learning to behave appropriately in a group, not destroying classroom, following a single step direction without forgetting the direction, fingerplays, etc. Why not use the nursery school techniques? Why be so unhuman?

Tracy W said...

Lgm - I'm puzzled. I'll ask you the same question I asked Beth - are you repulsed by choirs and orchestras? Do you think they are unhuman?

And furthermore, no meaningful positive relationships? The teacher is in there praising the kids and teaching them necessary skills for reading. How is that *not* an example of a meaingful positive relationship?

Tracy W said...

Oh, I forgot to include this in my reponse to Beth, and I should have because I think smearing the motives of people you disagree with is very poisonous behaviour:
Tracy -- I didn't invent the low-SES question. Redkudu said quite explicitly that while my middle-class kids likely don't need this approach, it could be useful for low SES kids who need structure. Allison mentioned "at risk" kids who might benefit from this method.

Beth, you did indeed invent the low-SES questions I quoted. You asked: "Do their feelings matter? Or do we ignore them because they're from a lower SES group?". Nothing in what Redkudu said or Allison said included anything about ignoring mothers' feelings because they were from a low-SES group. To repeat my earlier questions in response to your own: do you really think that just because we disagree with you that we are immoral people? Or are you just trying to smear the whole concept of the teaching method and you don't care how dishonest you are in doing so?

Beth said...

Tracy -- here's what bothers me about you and Allison. I, and others, watched the video and found it horrifying. We would never send our kids to a school like this. We believe the emphasis on total control and conformity is harmful to children, and in general no way to treat a roomful of human beings.

Neither you nor Allison has any direct response to that. You don't respond to our observations except to say they're not rational. Then you try to smear me as "dishonest".

You are correct that neither Redkudu nor Allison said anything about the mothers of low SES kids. That was my point. If many middle-class mothers are appalled by this approach, it's quite likely that many low-SES mothers are likewise appalled. But nobody asked them for their opinion.

Tracy, I'm sorry you were bullied in school. Bullying is absolutely not OK. But you have to understand that students are not the only bullies. I had to remove my daughter from the public schools after she was bullied by a teacher.

There's got to be a middle ground between leaving children so unsupervised that they bully each other, and enforcing draconian mind-control every minute. There's got to be some room between Lord of the Flies and the Hitler Youth. That's the room I'm trying to occupy.

I know you're going to object to my comparison of Whole Brain with the Hitler Youth, so I'll direct you to the Whole Brain webpage. On the Whole Brain webpage, they give as the last of their 5 rules:

"Keep your dear teacher happy!"

Does that remind you of anything?

lgm said...

>>Lgm - I'm puzzled. I'll ask you the same question I asked Beth - are you repulsed by choirs and orchestras? Do you think they are unhuman?

Not at all. Choir and orchestra as I know them have individualization, warmth, human feeling, positive relationships with others, and encourage thought. There is no deliberate intent to engage the entire brain and body so that no other thoughts are allowed. The experience is definitely not scripted. Addditionally, participation is optional.

My children feel that band is one of the most creative classes they have. As they become more proficient on their instruments, they can create and express more human feeling. Their directors do choose peices that feature soloists, sections, and their interpretation of the piece. The musicians also have the opportunity to be in performing groups where they can improvise - both in practice and in concert.

Scripted praise is not positive. Go to a fully included classroom and observe long term. The kids know the difference. By third grade, the typically developing kids in the fully included classroom are aware of how manipulation works and can tell you how the behavior intervention plans are set up and whether they are working or not. The teacher's acting skills are not up to the grind. I would rather see preschool techniques used to teach preschool skills.

Beth said...

OK, I had to respond to this:

***
...quite frankly it seems more sensible for me with young kids to expect them to make noise rather than to keep quiet while obeying instructions.
***

"Obeying instructions quietly" and "obeying instructions noisily" are not the only alternatives in the world, which is really my point. Kids should not spend their entire school day obeying instructions. Kids need freedom, they need independence, they need autonomy. They need these things because they are human beings.

SteveH said...

I looked at the high school algebra video.

Yuk. I suppose it's better than what they might have had, but I'm not looking for their bandwagon.


"Teaching Challenging Students"

Are these "challenging" students selected on an individual basis or on a statistical basis? Do parents have a choice?

Is their goal to wean the kids off of this method as soon as possible, or is it the only choice for kids who aren't naturally smart or have affluent parents? It sounds like their goal is to define this as some sort of complete K-12 style of teaching. ($$$$$) Once you are defined as a challenging student, are you always a challenging student?

Actually, this doesn't seem like a method for challenging students. I would wager that only a few kids (especially the younger ones) are truly challenging. It's seems more like a method of classroom control.

"Don't let great be the enemy of good?"

Then again, don't confuse good with great and don't assume that all good paths lead to great, but that's the parents decision.

Allison said...

Beth,

The straw men and ad hominem attacks are not helping your side any.

"here's what bothers me about you and Allison. I, and others, watched the video and found it horrifying....Neither you nor Allison has any direct response to that. You don't respond to our observations except to say they're not rational. Then you try to smear me as "dishonest"."

I never smeared you. I never said you were dishonest. I didn't call you irrational. I said your use of feelings was non rational.

And yes, I stand by my statement that your complaints are non rational.

I did not have a direct response because my issue was not with the merits or demerits of system. It was with your conflation of values and feelings.

Once you'd gone non linear and claimed this system was worse than violence, there is nothing more productive you and I have to debate.

but don't malign me for things I didn't do and didn't say, assuming you know how *I think* based on your judgments of how *I seemingly don't feel* the way you do.

Beth said...

Allison -- okay, I'll clarify. You didn't call me "dishonest", Tracy did.

I used the term "not rational", and you corrected that to "non rational". OK. Not a big difference to me, but we can go with "non rational".

And I'm still looking for a direct response.

Yes, this video offends my values and feelings. The issues I have with this method of classroom management goes beyond whether the kids learned their phonics or not. I am not the only person who feels this way.

Now, if these methods were only to be used in private schools, that would be a different issue. Start your school, advertise your methods, and see how many parents sign up. But if these methods are being used in a public school, the fact that many parents find them offensive cannot reasonably be ignored.

Beth said...

Allison, my "Whole Bum" thought experiment was absolutely not a straw man. I was trying to explain that I am just as horrified by the totalitarian mind control in Whole Brain as you would be by constant violence. That's not a straw man. It's a true statement.

Allison said...

Beth, Your clarifications are poor excuses for apologies.

Tracy W said...

Neither you nor Allison has any direct response to that. You don't respond to our observations except to say they're not rational.

Beth, I think you should have your memory checked. Earlier in the thread I responded to your observation:
"In some ways I think Whole Brain is worse than violence. It's more insidious, and more insulting."

I said:
"Huh? What do you think of people who let their kids perform in choirs and orchestras?"

You then responded:
"There is absolutely no comparison between choir and what's going on in this video."

I then responded by pointing out the similiarity between choir and what is going on in this video.

And now you are ignoring this and saying that I don't respond to your observations except to say that they're not rational? You could have just read up the thread and seen my responses.

Then you try to smear me as "dishonest".

Either that or crazy. I don't know what to make of someone who can after several iterations back and forth, forget, or pretend to forget, all about it and claim that I didn't make responses that you yourself counter-responded to.

You are correct that neither Redkudu nor Allison said anything about the mothers of low SES kids. That was my point.

Then you suck at writing. Because you implied that Redkudu and Allison were planning on ignoring the feelings of lower SES groups. It was a "when did you stop beating your wife?" type-question. If you merely meant to mention that the feelings of lower-SES mothers should be taken into account, you could have just said that openly, rather than implying that "we" were purposively ignoring their feelings. For example a question like "Have the mothers of the low-SES students had a chance to give their opinion?" doesn't have the nasty undertones of "Do their feelings matter? Or do we ignore them because they're from a lower SES group?"

As for the remainder of your statements, clearly you are going to "forget" about any counter-arguments that cause you problems, so what's the point in me saying anything?

Katharine Beals said...

Can we change the topic a bit? I'd like to go back to the question Tracy originally asked Beth: "is there any evidence that could convince you that spending 6 hours a day obeying directions quickly is entirely compatible with a child developing as a human being?"

The question this raises for me is: is there any point at which people might reasonably draw the line. That is, is there any point at which it's reasonable to let feelings trump evidence?

Suppose some unequivocal, irrefutable evidence emerges that, for example, that inflicting regular doses of transient pain on children (say via a ruler on knuckles) accelerates learning for 100% of students. Say it accelerates not just rote learning, but also enhances higher level thinking (true higher level thinking; not the "higher level thinking" of ed schools). Suppose that the unequivocal, irrefutable evidence shows that administering regular doses of transient pain to children even results in unequivically better "character development" than not inflicting such doses does (I'm presupposing, of course, that one can measure character development; let's also grant this, for the purpose of my hypothetical).

Then here's my question: who among you would sign your child up for a school that follows this regimen?

Direct answers appreciated! (I'll let you guess what my answer is, but am happy to spell it out if anyone is in doubt).

Beth said...

Allison, your demand for an apology is pretty rich coming from the only person in the world who has accused me of being a Marxist or fellow traveler. I'd like an apology too.

However, I'm sorry that I didn't write my statement clearly to show that it was Tracy, not you, who called my "dishonest". You just called me "non rational".

And Tracy, I'm still waiting for a direct response to the fact that many parents are horrified by what they see in this video. What do you make of that?

Katherine, your hypothesis is a lot like my "Whole Bum" hypothesis. I'm curious to see the responses.

Barry Garelick said...

I looked at the college level class that Sr. Mendez linked to above. I'm not impressed, nor am I impressed with the pre-K and K classes. For what it's worth,I wouldn't want my child or any child in such a program even if you produced statistics showing results are great.

Cranberry said...

I would ask, reasonably, "what evidence is there that these students are learning?" I can't find any basic studies of its effectiveness. The page labeled "research" on the website does not list any reliable studies, rather assertions and marketing assumptions.

I'll add my name to the list of appalled parents. Appalled, and disgusted. I would not send my child to a school using these methods. Reading between the lines on the website, it seems to be marketed as a classroom-control method for dealing with very difficult students.

I agree with Beth that the methods shown waste time. Teacher says something -- students repeat, mostly word-for-word, twice! -- teacher says another thing--repeat, repeat, repeat. Regurgitate memorized texts.

In all the middle-class classrooms I've observed, the children internalize the expected behavior quickly. They do not waste class time on mass recitations. They can be trusted to use their time well. If a child misbehaves, the teacher does not call for public humiliation of the offender.

Forcing children to repeat phrases and sentences in unison does not necessarily lead to learning. I am not convinced that all those kindergarten students could define "respect," or "honesty," for example.
I've sampled other YouTube videos. The third graders, reading. Hmm. They aren't reading particularly fluently, and the text they are reading is very simple. The fourth grade "critical thinking" demonstration? Well, it's at least more time efficient, in that the students simultaneously "explain" to each other.

The "college class" demonstration. That did not resemble any college class I ever attended, it was much too low level. It expended time on points which college-level students should have mastered in the readings before class. Perhaps it would be useful to try to make below-average IQ high school students repeat a list of points by rote.

The "brain science" connection? Please. There is no "brain science" connection. That's a marketing gimmick. On one level, everything we do is governed by the brain. "Now, I will (verb). That action is governed by the (part of brain). Brain science has shown that (part of brain) is very important for (education goal)."

Cranberry said...

Katharine, is there any evidence that assembly-line work in factories improves an individual's education? After putting together toy cars, are the factory workers better able to understand Kant?

Do you have any evidence that corporal punishment improves educational outcomes? From a quick glance of NAEP results, I don't see any correlation between states in which corporal punishment in schools is legal and scoring well on NAEP. If anything, rather the opposite.

The Judge Rotenberg Center, in Massachusetts, is a school for the autistic which administers electric shocks. This practice is highly controversial, and the state is trying to shut them down.

I would not turn to a school which uses corporal punishment for my children. I also have deep reservations about rewarding good behavior with treats, which I know some schools practice.

SteveH said...

"who among you would sign your child up for a school that follows this regimen?"

My son would be gone in an instant. It doesn't even seem to be a "good" means to a "great" end. It's an end in itself.

I would reserve the word "horrified" for seeing this still go on in middle school and high school. For the earliest grades, it just make me sad that they have to resort to those techniques.

Katharine Beals said...

Cranberry, Do you have any evidence that my questions are anything other than hypothetical?

Or that they aren't directed at those who are sympathetic towards the Whole Brain video?

Beth said...

To the apologists for this video, I think the bottom line is that many parents are horrified by what they see here and would never knowingly send their child to a school like this. Whether you agree with our reasons or not, you should at least understand the point that this cannot be suitable for a public school if many parents are deeply offended by it.

If you want to start a private school using these techniques, be my guest. Don't bother sending me a prospectus.

ChemProf said...

OK, Beth, but will you agree that no public school should ever follow a progressive curriculum because many parents are deeply offended by it? I would never send my child to a progressive school, and since most publics in my area are at least semi-progressive in their approach, I am required by law to pay taxes to support a program I strongly disapprove of?

Every time we get into one of these discussions, I wind up with SteveH -- the only solution here is school choice. As Allison will note, it isn't a perfect solution, but I don't see another one. Frankly, we are planning to opt out of the whole mess and homeschool.

Beth said...

ChemProf, that is a serious and complex question that I certainly don't have a simple answer to.

As a parent, it is very frustrating to me to see how little influence I have over our local public schools, which I pay plenty of bucks to help run. How can they be called "public" when the public has no voice?

In our case, we wound up pulling DD#1 out of the public schools after a truly horrific 5th grade year, which I was unable to fix for her. We now spend the big bucks to send both DDs to private schools.

If somebody floated a referendum to dismantle the public schools in our wealthy district, I'd vote for it. Give everybody their tax dollars back and let them make their own decisions.

On the other hand, there are districts where the parents really don't have the money to make those decisions. What do we do about them?

Beth said...

Tracy, I thought lgm gave a very good presentation of why the video is not comparable to choir practice. I don't have much to add to that.

Look, nothing you can say will convince me that what's going on in the Whole Brain video is okay. It is offensive to my very deeply held beliefs about how human beings should be treated and what education means.

SteveH said...

"...the only solution here is school choice."

I've pushed this for ages. It makes a lot of issues of opinion go away. The public might have to pay for schooling that many don't like, but that's happening already. Perhaps it's a control issue; those who think that things will be better if parents have choice, and those who think that some other group of people have some sort of knowledge to decide what's best. Isn't that the problem we have now? Education is driven by statistics, not individuals.

I'll place my bet on parents.

If someone wants their kids to go to a Whole Brain Teaching school, I will be the first to ask them how it's going?

There is also the issue of supply and demand, but with so much money per student floating around, it's hard to imagine that the money will become less efficient. However, it will have to include parents in the loop.

CassyT said...

I think Allison wrote: Context matters. From the New Horizons which is "receiving around 8 million hits a month from teachers, school administrators, professors and students of education, parents, policy-makers, and others interested in learning. "

Example Direct Instruction Lesson

A typical DI lesson includes explicit and carefully sequenced instruction provided by the teacher (model) along with frequent opportunities for students to practice their skills (independent practice) over time (review). For example, if the sound /m/ appeared for the first time, the teacher might say, "You're going to learn a new sound. My turn to say it. When I move under the letter, I'll say the sound. I'll keep on saying it as long as I touch under it. Get ready. mmm" (model). "My turn again. Get ready. mmm" (model). "Your turn. When I move under the letter, you say the sound. Keep on saying it as long as I touch under it. Get ready." (independent practice). "Again. Get ready." (independent practice). If an error occurs during instruction, the teacher would model the sound ("My turn. mmm"), use guided practice ("Say it with me. Get ready. mmm"), and have students practice independently ("Your turn. Get ready"). A "starting over" would be conducted based on this error; this might include starting over at the top of a column or row of sounds so that students get increased practice on the /m/ sound. The /m/ would appear throughout the lesson and in subsequent lessons to ensure skill mastery (firm responding) over time (see Reading Mastery Plus Series Guide, 2002, for further details).

CassyT said...

FYI- I have used the "Class"- "Yes!" & Hands & Eyes" call & response to get elementary students' attention when I teach a model lesson. Students like it because it is typically different from what their teacher uses.

Someone said a kid in this classroom probably would go home & kick the dog or hit their sister, but what about the teacher?

I think I would be exhausted trying to do Whole Brain Teaching.

C T said...

I don't have a conclusion on this teaching style (since I mostly homeschool, I don't care much about it), but I do have an insight which will hopefully enrich discussion about it.
Last night I finished reading a fascinating book, NurtureShock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman. It discusses several ideas currently in vogue in child rearing and how research disproves them. In the final chapter, the authors discuss two main common assumptions about child development that they found to be false. The first they call the "Fallacy of Similar Effect": the assumption that things work in children the way they work in adults. One example is their finding that praise undermines children's intrinsic motivations, which one wouldn't expect since praise of adults tends to have the opposite effect. We can't just watch the video above and put ourselves into the children's shoes; they're children and their brains don't work like adults' brains yet. Something that we might find incredibly boring, they might find wonderful and fascinating (like my nephew's obsession with Transformers...boring...). "What does the research show about actual cognitive/social/academic outcomes from this teaching style for this age group?" is a more helpful question than whether I as an adult would like this style or run screaming from the classroom.

palisadesk said...

(Part 1)Coming back to Liz's question at the end of her post, How congruent is this with Direct Instruction, I would have to answer: Not.
The WBT people have adapted some ideas from DI and other sources (Peer-Assisted Learning, Kagan's Cooperative Learning, Fred Jones' Positive Classroom Instruction, Precision Teaching and still more). However, they have put their own spin on all of these so their variants differ in essence as well as in details from the originals.

Take unison responding -- something that is a prominent feature of DI programs at all levels. It is never used in DI as a "management" tool, nor as a rah-rah way to "pump up" the kids or manipulate them. The script, with its unison responses, is carefully researched to ensure clear presentation -- the exact wording, examples and non-examples to ensure than 95% of students will grasp the concept or skill being taught the first time, with practice to mastery built in over a spaced continuum of lessons. Unison responses are am empirically validated way of ensuring participation of all students, instant feedback to the teacher as to hope well the students understand or remember the presentation (if there are errors it is the teacher's responsibility to loop back and re-teach an item until all students can respond correctly. Individuals who make an error are not singled out, but are monitored closely and if additional practice is required for one or two, that is arranged separately so that the dignity of the student is always preserved.


This I found an important distinction between true DI and WBT -- Engelmann (in his writings, his presentations, and his videoed interactions with children in all settings) is extremely respectful of the dignity of the learner. While he can be funny and show a humorous side (mostly at his own expense), I cannot imagine him ever presenting a task to students and then (as in the 4th grade critical thinking video) asking them to "beg me to let you do it." Even if in jest or in a good-hearted spirit, I found asking students to plead and beg en masse to be disturbing and degrading, however well-intentioned. The kids seemed to go along with it, which even more disturbing. Why should children have to beg their teacher to engage in a valuable learning activity?

palisadesk said...

(Part 2)

Another fundamental difference between DI and WBT is the principle of parsimony. Engelmann is very explicit in emphasizing the need for instruction to be parsimonious--- to contain nothing extraneous, to include the minimum verbiage needed for clear communication, to require only the amount of practice needed to mastery -- no more and no less. Extraneous yakkety-yak, whether by teacher or students, is a no-go.

It would be completely alien to DI to have the teacher explain a new concept to the class, then ask the STUDENTS to explain it to each other. It's the teacher's responsibility to ensure the students grasp it, not the responsibility of the student's partner. All the scripted cheers and call-and-response stuff in WBT is totally foreign to the DI principle of parsimony, and to the concept of respect for the learner as well.

Only the instructional language in DI is scripted; the teacher is trained to give lots of positive feedback (at a ratio of 5:1 or better), and to teach in an animated and engaging manner, but how he or she does so is an individual matter. This means the teacher can adapt praise and encouragement to his/her own style and the culture of the community or classroom.

Also, DI has the scripted unison-response component to every lessons, but that is only a part of the lesson. All lessons also include individual work, sometimes partner work, sometimes small-group work, so children are not being overwhelmed by all the noise and demands to produce a response. DI makes tracking points an optional feature, but does not suggest extrinsic rewards for these (it suggests they could be tied into normal student evaluation), although teachers may use them in this way if they feel it is necessary, as is sometimes the case.

Finally, DI fundamentally differs from the example of WBT that I saw in several videos, in that it regularly monitors progress in an empirical manner so that the teacher knows what every child is learning, and ensures mastery through a research-based set of criteria at multiple points.

Although the program itself is very tightly crafted and leaves no room for "creativity," the teacher's creativity can blossom in its application and in response to the needs of the individual learners as the program moves along. In fact, it frees the teacher to be more attentive to kids' responses and to devise ways to help them overcome whatever hurdles present in their path. Not needing to re-invent the wheel in every lesson, the teacher can truly engage with and pay attention to each individual student s/he teaches.

palisadesk said...

(part 3)To be fair to WBT, some of the videoed activities I saw were pretty well done and are based on sound precedents. The one on the Speed Read 100 or something was a good example of peer-assisted learning under a teacher's direction, with children encouraged to help each other (within a pre-trained format), to aspire to beating their own record and to celebrate small steps forward.

If it weren't for the other accoutrements, I would have given this activity two thumbs up, but it was pretty good. I would recommend Peer-Assisted Learning Strategies (see Sopris West for some examples for the primary classroom)as it has a positive effect in several areas, including achievement, student motivation, building classroom community, student self-confidence, and so forth. Similarly, some of the Kagan strategies, such as Think-Pair-Share and Turn and Talk are also well-validated empirically but do not need to be carried out in the chaotic manner we saw in the videos.

Another point: attention signals, such as Class-Yes! are a valuable tool in any classroom. What bothered me was not that they used it, but how it was used -- in a theatrical, almost buffoonish, hyperdramatic way. Learning can be fun and engaging, but it shouldn't be a joke, a circus or a day at the football stadium.

For primary kids, a good attention signal is (teacher says, in calm rhythmic voice) "1,2,3, eyes on me!" Children stop where they are, turn and face the teacher and clap. "1,2, eyes on you!" This is used in a purposeful manner, when something needs to be said to the whole group but it is not necessary for everyone to go back to their seat as if for a lesson. There's nothing manipulative about it, either. Class-Yes! in a straightforward way would be fine for older students, I think. I myself would not allow yelling and silliness to accompany it. We want to keep the focus on learning.

To that end, gestures can be very useful. A popular and effective program for K in the UK, Jolly Phonics, uses hand signals (called "actions") to teach the letter-sound correspondences. I can imagine similar applications at other levels. These have at least two positive benefits: they give the wiggly, energetic student an opportunity to engage in a physically active way, and they provide the teacher with instant formative assessment data on how well the lesson is progressing.

kcab said...

Katharine - No, I wouldn't send my kid to the school you describe above.

TracyW -
"As it was, without whole-brain-teaching, you appear to have learnt that any other people who disagree with you is not merely an idiot but immoral."

I'm sorry, I certainly didn't mean to imply that you or anyone else here was either an idiot or immoral. My comment was meant instead about the opinion I think I would form of the other kids in the classroom and of the teacher. Of the teacher because she had such a low opinion of me that she's teaching me baby stuff and talking to me as if I am dumb. Of the other students because the teacher thought they needed this lesson.

Also, who says the teaching I had was all that different from this? I seem to recall a lot of similarity, especially with that miserable K year.

"However, judging by the video, wouldn't you have learnt what sounds are associated with what letters?
Now yes, if you had already known that, that wouldn't have helped you in that class. But the solution to differing starting levels of knowledge is to put kids in a class where they don't already know the material."

I agree with this. Is this a recommendation of that technique? If so, I missed it, which is quite possible.

Look, I still haven't seen anyone address the question of evidence that this is effective at teaching content. I would preferably want evidence that showed the content was retained long-term and was able to be applied in other contexts. Or, you know, maybe long-term outcome studies - what happens to students who have had a steady diet of this technique? I don't know - what evidence have you got? Even if I weren't going to sign up for it, I'd still like to know.

Cranberry said...

Katharine Beals, I understood your question to be hypothetical. Let me quote part of your question in my response, as this is such a long thread.

The question this raises for me is: is there any point at which people might reasonably draw the line. That is, is there any point at which it's reasonable to let feelings trump evidence?

Suppose some unequivocal, irrefutable evidence emerges that, for example, that inflicting regular doses of transient pain on children (say via a ruler on knuckles) accelerates learning for 100% of students. Say it accelerates not just rote learning, but also enhances higher level thinking (true higher level thinking; not the "higher level thinking" of ed schools). Suppose that the unequivocal, irrefutable evidence shows that administering regular doses of transient pain to children even results in unequivically better "character development" than not inflicting such doses does (I'm presupposing, of course, that one can measure character development; let's also grant this, for the purpose of my hypothetical).


As I remember from Intro to Psychology, and recent brain research, emotions are critical for decision making for humans. People who have had the section of their brains responsible for emotions damaged have great difficulty making decisions. (See http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/exchange/node/1963, and Google "Damasio"). Feelings may trump reason. In some way, we may seek reasons to support our feelings, even if we're not aware of it.

Your question is hypothetical, but I would argue that, for most children, their parents have already answered, "yes." For most children, school itself delivers "regular doses of transient pain." You can't do what you want, when you want. You must follow the classroom rules. It may be uncomfortable to be in the classroom, for physical or social reasons, but you are not permitted to leave. Your appetites, and even bodily functions, must conform to the school's schedule and practices. This is school. We believe that it improves learning, and changes our characters for the better.

The question is, perhaps, does increasing the level of discomfort have a purpose? Before I say, yes, there is some discomfort to which I'd subject my child, to further his education and character, I'd need some standard to judge the supposed improvement.

I have a friend whose children have great difficulty in loud classrooms. WBT would be a disaster for them. The old expression of loud environments, "can't hear myself think" applies to these classrooms. Thinking does not seem to be highly valued. Rote learning and absolute power vested in the teacher are highly valued. For myself, a classroom in which a child cannot ask a question, nor challenge a teacher's assertion, is a non-starter.

On another front, consider the parents who frequent this site. Many of us find some progressive education practices to be misguided. As a whole, we do value phonics, mathematical algorithms, history and geography. We do not object to the teaching of facts. And yet, these videos touch a nerve, in this group of parents who lean towards a more traditional classroom. These are visceral parental reactions. That isn't a small point.

A local preschool tried to teach children to read using Direct Instruction ( Engelmann's type.) I observed a lesson, as we were interested in the preschool. The children were happy, and engaged in the lesson. They were treated respectfully. I would have sent my child to that school. The preschool soon dropped the program, though. I suspect that many parents did not like the style of lesson. Most of the preschools in the area are progressive, which probably reflects parental preferences.

Beth said...

Cranberry said:

*******
On another front, consider the parents who frequent this site. Many of us find some progressive education practices to be misguided. As a whole, we do value phonics, mathematical algorithms, history and geography. We do not object to the teaching of facts. And yet, these videos touch a nerve, in this group of parents who lean towards a more traditional classroom. These are visceral parental reactions. That isn't a small point.
*******

Thank you! This is where I'm trying to go. I have learned a lot from ktm about the weaknesses of constructivist curricula. I agree that we need to ensure that content is not watered down. I am using some of the materials that I learned about on this site (Singapore Math, Classical Roots) with my own daughter to improve her education.

BUT I also agree with the progressives in many ways about how children should be treated and the importance of intrinsic motivation. I agree with the premise that a child who has lost the desire to learn is not well-educated. I believe the first goal of a classroom should be learning, not discipline.

My ideal school would combine rigorous content with real respect for the children as individuals. The closest I have found to this is Montessori (which in our area is only available in elementary school), and for the older grades, Quaker schools, which I may have to supplement for solid content.

Palisadesk, I am interested in your compare-and-contrast between DI and WBT. Can you post a video that would show a clear contrast? Thank you.

Cranberry, you say your local preschools dropped DI because of parental preference. I would probably agree with the other parents in this case. My kids were not ready for academics at the preschool age.

Now, some kids happen to be early readers. Tracy says she learned to read at 5, and I have a friend whose daughter was reading at 4, more or less self-taught. That's fine. Kids who are ready to read early should absolutely be supported and encouraged.

On the other hand, I feel strongly that kids who are not ready for reading instruction at an early age (like my own kids) should not be pushed. So I would likely walk away from a preschool using DI.

Changing topics, the school my kids attend this year has a silent attention signal. The teacher holds up her hand in a Star-Trek like gesture (I think they call it "quiet coyote"). The kids see she is doing this and silently do the same. Pretty soon, the whole class is silent, holding up their hands, and looking at the teacher. It seems to work for them.

palisadesk said...

@Beth (1 of 2)Beth, I'm not sure just what you're looking for, but I doubt there are any videos out there that show DI and WBT and contrast the differences. WBT is a recent development and that explains why (in answer to someone's -- your? -- question) there isn't any longitudinal data on how effective it is in ensuring student learning. As for videos exhibiting DI, most that I have seen consist exclusively of video of the teacher presentation( the scripted part) since that is the most difficult to learn to do well. Signaling, pacing and knowing when to loop back and review are the hardest elements to master. I am not that familiar with the DI videos out there, as I have dial-up and can only view videos at work (or rather, at the end of the workday). So I’m not sure that there's anything out there that would fulfill your request.

Since basic differences between the two lie in underlying philosophy and curriculum design, those wouldn't be apparent anyway. However, I did note that none of the WBT videos I saw consisted of a teacher presentation that appeared "scripted," i.e. specific language from the teacher, requiring a specific instruction-related response from students, over a period of several minutes. The "scripting" in the WBT videos consisted of management call-and-response practices,. not scripted presentation of concepts and content.

Also, I don't know of any DI videos that include the whole lesson -- the non-teacher-directed parts. They don't depict the independent work period, student partner work, or small group/team work. These are an essential element of every lesson, as is the "work check:" students and teacher review and correct the independent work at the end of the lesson, to ensure students can clarify any misunderstanding before going on to the next step.

As for preschool, DI does offer specific programs for that level, most notably in language skills and verbal reasoning. They don't recommend moving on to reading instruction until children are proficient in the language skills, which include making comparisons, understanding and using if/then statements, applying a rule (if all birds have feathers, and Paco is a bird, what else do we know about Paco?).

palisadesk said...

(2 of 2)The early phases of the reading program for this level teach a lot of the phonological processing skills (blending and segmenting sounds, sequencing,left-right progression) needed for successful reading later on, and introduce only very regular grapheme/phoneme correspondences, in a special orthography modified to be less confusing to very young children whose visual perception and visual efficiency skills are less well-developed.

The letters are darker, bigger and "fatter," with distinct differences between the u and n, the p and q, the b and d, so as to prevent children's confusing them. Visually similar letters are not taught together, but presented one at a time, and when one of the pair is introduced, it is taught to mastery before the other is introduced. The program for 4-year-olds moves quite slowly, and many elements are taught in a playful or gamelike way, with lessons expected to take only about 15 minutes. So it is unlikely a child would be "unready" (after completing the language sequence), and s/he would not be pressured to move too fast.

There is very little written component at this stage; the seatwork consists often of coloring, tracing or making discriminations, such as crossing out an item that doesn't belong. These provide short, frequent opportunities to develop graphomotor skills, but not to the point of frustration.

DI is most valuable at the preschool level for children with a less-advantaged language background, though in Engelmann's early work his comparison group of "middle class" kids took off like a rocket with DI and were able to do very advanced work in reading and math by age 6, as well as verbal reasoning skills that Piaget thought impossible before age 11 or 12. He talks about that in one of his books; I'll see about finding an appropriate link. Sorry about being no help with the videos.

Beth said...

Palisadesk, no problem about the videos. I just thought it would make for an interesting comparison.

In my experience, teaching methods are effective or not depending on personality types as much as prior knowledge. Do you think DI would work for a creative/quirky/individualist type kid? How about a full-of-vinegar/stubborn type kid?

I don't know much about DI but your compare-and-contrast with WBT has been very helpful. Thank you!

Tracy W said...

Beth:
However, I'm sorry that I didn't write my statement clearly to show that it was Tracy, not you, who called my "dishonest".

Actually, I asked whether you were intellectually dishonest or really did think that anyone who disagrees with you is an immoral person. You still haven't explained which, or if there was some third motive I haven't thought of that led you to make up those leading questions about ignoring the feelings of low-income SES mothers.

I'm still waiting for a direct response to the fact that many parents are horrified by what they see in this video. What do you make of that?

Exactly what I said the first time, and what I replied to you when you claimed that I hadn't making any response to your observations except to say that they're not rational. I will repeat myself, yet again:
I said:
"Huh? What do you think of people who let their kids perform in choirs and orchestras?"

That's my direct response. To me, hearing that people think that this sort of classroom is inhumane, or repulsive, and in your case, calling it worse than physical abuse and worse than Hitler, is as surprising as if some people said that choir, or orchestra, are repulsive or inhumane. I can understand not liking this classroom style, or not liking choir or orchestras, but the reaction I am seeing here I find totally bizarre. I have engaged in activities in the past that have engaged the entire mind and body, such as skiing, windsurfing, dance classes, and some classes that have engaged the entire brain, if not body. I didn't find them inhumane and I didn't think that anyone else would as no one else had ever claimed that things like skiing, dancing, choir, etc are inhumane. That's my direct response.

I agree that a society that required total engagement of mind and body for all the time would be engaged in totalitarian mind control, but that's not happening in these schools (the kids aren't at school all day), so this doesn't strike me as relevant - there's a big difference between full-time and sometimes.

You may not find my direct response enough to change your mind, but I most certainly did make it. We may disagree fundamentally about many things, but please stop claiming that I didn't respond.

I thought lgm gave a very good presentation of why the video is not comparable to choir practice. I don't have much to add to that.

Sorry, I forgot to post my response to that. I would say that I see warmth, human feelings (what non-human feelings could we have?), positive relationships with others in that video, I described earlier why I thought that teaching is a positive meaningful relationship. I would note that as a student becomes more proficient at writing they can also create more personal writings, like with music. I disagree with lgm's claim that scripted praise is not positive, I think it depends on the quality of the scripting - if it's honest praise then it's positive - people will play computer games for the pleasure of racking up high scores even though those are scripted.

Look, nothing you can say will convince me that what's going on in the Whole Brain video is okay. It is offensive to my very deeply held beliefs about how human beings should be treated and what education means.

And I find your attitude of "nothing could convince me" offensive to my deeply held beliefs about the importance of being aware that we could be wrong. I also find it offensive that you would insinuate that those of us who didn't react your way therefore don't care about the thoughts or feelings of low-SES mothers. If you expect me to be influenced by what you find offensive, are you willing to be influenced in your turn?

Tracy W said...

Katherine Beals - in your hypothetical example, I guess that I'd put my kids through it, assuming that there isn't a pain-free learning approach that's about as good. For what it's worth, my parents never used corporal punishment on us, I went through a fair amount of pain for part of my childhood for medical reasons, and I've done things to myself that were both painful, eg walking on badly-blistered feet, and not necessary in any ordinary meaning of the word "necessary". However, in this case, I can easily imagine why some parents would refuse to send their kids there, while I don't understand where Beth and lgm are coming from in calling the classroom behaviour in the videos inhumane.

That is, is there any point at which it's reasonable to let feelings trump evidence?

I don't think that's a useful question, in that it doesn't illuminate what's going on. Our feelings and evidence are always interconnected. Evidence can't tell us what to do, but evidence can change our feelings about what we should do.

Beth said...

Tracy says:

***
Actually, I asked whether you were intellectually dishonest or really did think that anyone who disagrees with you is an immoral person.
***

And you accuse *me* of asking leading questions? I was making a serious point. If middle-class parents don't want this for their kids, low-SES parents might not want it for their kids, either. People shouldn't promote teaching or classroom-management methods without consulting the parents involved. Isn't that a basic premise of this blog?

I never said WBT was "worse than Hitler", I compared it to the Hitler Youth, and I stand by that. The conformity, obedience, and worship of the authority figure ("keep your dear teacher happy!") are all similar.

I said that I was looking for a middle ground between Lord of the Flies and the Hitler Youth, and I stand by that too. I would like to add that these two extremes are not necessarily opposed. You can have both at the same time. Military schools, for instance, are famous for strict discipline, and also for bullying (aka "hazing").

Tracy, I say that no evidence can convince me that what is going on in this video is OK.

My question for you is -- is there any evidence that can convince that WBT is not OK? For instance, if someone did a study that showed significantly higher rates of anger problems in the WBT kids, would that sway you? How about a study that showed WBT kids had less interest in learning and less ability to sustain self-directed activity?

Tracy W said...

And you accuse *me* of asking leading questions? I was making a serious point.

Remember what you asked: "Do their feelings matter? Or do we ignore them because they're from a lower SES group?"
No one had said anything about the feelings of low-SES mothers not mattering. Your form of question implied that those arguing for WBT did favour ignoring the feelings of low-SES mothers.

I never said WBT was "worse than Hitler", I compared it to the Hitler Youth,

You are right, my mistake, my apologies on that point.

The conformity, obedience, and worship of the authority figure ("keep your dear teacher happy!") are all similar.

As I said before, I do not see any evidence that conformity during education results in brainwashed adults. And I do not see that "Hitler did it" is by itself sufficient reason to disfavour anything, famously the Nazis were opposed to smoking because of the bad health effects, but I have no intention of taking up smoking.

Tracy, I say that no evidence can convince me that what is going on in this video is OK.

And I think you are wrong to be so confident in your assessment of what is good and bad. I have been wrong so many times in my life about things that I thought were obvious, and I have seen so many other people be wrong, that I think that we should all have more awareness of our own ability to make mistakes, particularly when we are convinced that we are right. For example, as a left-hander myself I know that for generations left-handed children were forced to write with their right hand, leading to speech disabilities and bad emotional distress in many cases, and this was mostly by teachers and parents who did think they were doing the right things for their kids. Or, if we wish to focus on avoiding things that we perceive as bad, how about those Victorian doctors who, apparently honestly, believed that a woman's health would suffer if she was to study difficult subjects like classical Greek or mathematics? I look at all this history and I do my best to keep in mind that I can be wrong.

I am not saying that you are definitely wrong about WBT. All my argument here is in favour of more humility in our own beliefs. You find WBT teaching offensive, I find your certainty offensive.

And on a practical matter, I find it bizarre. Your claim that WBT is repulsive is very incongruent with my memories.

As for what evidence I would need to convince me that WBT was not OK, let's see, kids crying and trying to refuse to go to school, in a way that's consistently associated with WBT but not with other teaching styles. (Ie a class switches to WBT and this starts happening, or it's happening and switching away stops it). I'm trying here to get around the issue of bullying, either by some classmates or the teacher which can easily make a kid not wanting to go to school no matter what the teaching methods are. I agree also with your suggestion about a study showing that WBT kids had less interest in learning and less ability to sustain self-directed activity (with the use of a proper control group of course).

Anonymous said...

Because I am in a contrarian mood, I'll point out that Maria Montessori was Superintendent of Schools for Italy under Mussolini, who put all Italian schools under the Montessori system and made her an honorary member of the Fascist Party.

Catherine Johnson said...

Haven't read the threat yet (in Evanston for a week, then in bed with stomach flu for 2 days....), ....

redkudu said:

I didn't watch the video until after I'd posted, and I was a little dismayed as well. The teacher responds and calls like a bored Disney river-ride guide. She definitely has the script, but doesn't appear to be "performing" it. Personally, I'd like to see some pause time happening between activities and teacher interaction on a personal level.

Ironically, it seems to me as if 'bad scripting' is a major problem with balanced literacy. Remember Miss Brave Teaches NYC?

I also observed a classroom lesson that opened with a 'mini-lesson' that was highly scripted - and highly unresponsive to the students, a number of whom weren't following the teacher's point.

Catherine Johnson said...

By OSHA's definition, my husband and I are in danger of going deaf simply by sitting at the dinner table every night.

ditto that!

Catherine Johnson said...

except for us, it's the chanting in the middle of the night...

Beth said...

To Anonymous, Montessori did work for the Mussolini government for a number of years. But she left Italy in 1934 after Mussolini demanded that all her students be drafted into the Young Fascists. Mussolini then closed all the Montessori schools in Italy. Apparently the Nazis had already closed the Montessori schools in Germany in 1933.

Montessori spent the war years in India, and wound up in the Netherlands.

palisadesk said...

A propos of Balanced Literacy, Lucy Calkins has some "scripted" programs.

Of course the script has not been subjected to field testing for efficacy the way DI scripts are tested.

Catherine Johnson said...

hmmm....

Well, I've just watched the whole video and...I'm of two minds.

The fact is, I don't like what I see -- and when I say I don't like what I see, I mean that I don't like it emotionally.

At the same time, I believe we have evidence that a number of the elements work: primarily call and response, whole-group instruction, & possibly the use of gesture.

So: I like (some of) the elements but don't like what they add up to. (I should probably stop writing & go read palisadesk's comments - )

I'm not sure what I find so off-putting about this video.

My first thought: I vote for Jolly Phonics, which also uses gestures to teach phonics. (I don't know whether gestures make a phonics program more successful, but if you're going to teach phonics using gestures, I vote for Jolly Phonics.)

My second thought: the teacher seemed condescending to the kids. I didn't see the kids as unhappy (though whether they're stressed isn't something I can see in a 7-minute video).

Catherine Johnson said...

ok, I should have read palisadesk first.

what she said....

Take unison responding -- something that is a prominent feature of DI programs at all levels. It is never used in DI as a "management" tool, nor as a rah-rah way to "pump up" the kids or manipulate them. The script, with its unison responses, is carefully researched to ensure clear presentation -- the exact wording, examples and non-examples to ensure than 95% of students will grasp the concept or skill being taught the first time, with practice to mastery built in over a spaced continuum of lessons.

I think this may be what I experienced as 'condescension.'

Catherine Johnson said...

is there any point at which it's reasonable to let feelings trump evidence?

Here's a brain-based moment!

Inside the brain, reason is never separate from emotion. At least, that's what Damasio's work on Phineas Gage tells us.

I think it's John Bargh who found that, in the realm of perception, all stimuli provoke an emotional response, including nonsense syllables. When we read a nonsense syllable, our brains mark it as 'good' or 'bad.'

That said, emotions can change (I think!)

e.g.: Things I once thought were bad (vouchers) I now think are good.

And vice versa.

Catherine Johnson said...

chemprof wrote:

Frankly, we are planning to opt out of the whole mess and homeschool.

That's the right decision. Watching my own district be swallowed up by ed schoolery & vendors, my feeling is that it's going to get worse before it gets better.

A big part of the problem is that the constructivists who were being minted in the 1980s are now in charge, and they are doing the hiring.

It will be 30 years before these people retire.

We now have legacy constructivism in the public schools.

Catherine Johnson said...

Speaking of districts in decline, our new Interim Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum, Instruction, and Technology delivered a statement on reading at the last board meeting, which began with the words, "I was a catatonic reader."

So I guess we're not going to be getting a synthetic phonics program any time soon.

palisadesk said...

I think this may be what I experienced as 'condescension

Ulp, Catherine, what you observed was NOT what I described here:

"The script, with its unison responses, is carefully researched to ensure clear presentation -- the exact wording, examples and non-examples to ensure than 95% of students will grasp the concept or skill being taught the first time, with practice to mastery built in over a spaced continuum of lessons."

I was referring to *DI* in that passage. The video of WBT that we're talking about did *not* have any elements of a DI script that were apparent, and the information on their website (I read multiple documents) does not suggest they have developed any particular content or subject "scripts," effective or otherwise.

I also found the presenter in that video to be somewhat condescending. That is NOT a feature of Direct Instruction. Since the students are grouped according to level of mastery, the presentation is precisely calibrated to their instructional need at any given point in time. You can't guarantee against individuals presenting a lesson in a "condescending" way but it must be made clear that this video does NOT show DI!!

Just so nobody walks away with the impression that what they watched was a "DI" video!

Catherine Johnson said...

hmmm....did I mis-write?

probably

oh---I just looked back --- yup, I mis-wrote.

What I meant was that the Whole Brain Teaching teacher seemed condescending.

That was the adjective that came to mind while I was watching, but I couldn't explain why I felt that way. Your explanation of DI - the care given to clear expression so students learn - explained my feeling that the teacher (or the teaching method) was condescending.

Cranberry said...

What in the world is a "catatonic reader?" Expressionless?

Anonymous said...

Oh, my. I would have run into the corner and hidden under a table. Could it be more condescending and extraneous?

Blech.

Anonymous said...

>And when they get to phonics, I'd rather let them learn at their own pace, so if they understood that "p" stands for "pah" after the second repetition, they don't have to repeat it another 30 times.

EXACTLY!

>They also recommend pairing the top students with the bottom students. Parents of gifted kids will recognize this one -- our kids wind up being employed as deputy teachers instead of being challenged and engaged by the company of their intellectual peers.

That is educational abuse, plain and simple. The frou-frou nonsense surrounding every activity, the complete disrespect for any display of individuality or any individual ability, the sheer level of nonsense and the focus on conformity over content--and what content there is is dressed up in a pink tutu to make it seem "fun"--all this is intolerable to me.

No, my child would NEVER go to such a school. NEVER, in a thousand years.

The teacher showed no awareness of her students as individual learners. It was call, response, smile. There was no making sure that Johnny got it, too. She just repeated everything so many times that Johnny's bound to get it, and Sarah, who had it in the first place, must sit through it all. And if Johnny didn't understand, still, then too bad.

I would have told the professor in the link to take a long walk off a short pier. That is the STUPIDEST explanation of Aristotelian causes I've EVER heard. It's painfully condescending, it's made cartoonishly, ridiculously overly simple, and it's sheer memorization without any understanding. It's parroting. It's not comprehension, and the repetition is agony.

Compare College-For-Morons here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x6rOIOW2Jf0&feature=related

with College-for-People-with-a-shred-of-self-respect here:
http://faculty.washington.edu/smcohen/320/4causes.htm

Which person would you want to have a conversation with? The one who got a Mr. Biffle version of Aristotle or the lecture outline I linked to?

Mr. Biffle's method is animal training, not teaching, and the only human element seems wholly aimed at frank manipulation and group coercion. My husband's childhood schools in China were shining examples of individuality and exuberance next to this. What a nightmare!

If I had a choice between this and one where my kids got whacked by rulers when they got a question wrong but real thought was demanded, I'd take the rulers. In a nanosecond. Heck, I'd BUY the rulers for the school.

Anonymous said...

(I mean, if I had no choice than teachers-with-rulers or "WBT"--what a laugh!--I'd be so far on the side of the rulers that I'd buy them if that's what it took to stay OUT of the WBT.)

Softmod Wii said...

OK, at the risk of getting flamed, I was horrified by this video. I would never send my kids to a kindergarten like this. These kids are being trained in total passivity. Spending 6 hours a day obeying directions quickly leaves no room for a child to develop as a human being.

Eva said...

I am a parent of 3 gifted children, NUMATS verified, and also an educator. I would have had my children attend in that classroom if it had been available to them at that age. All of my children were able to read before going to school. They were also frustrated by the fact that the other children misbehaved so much that the classroom's learning time was cut short. They were paired with less cabable students and they have peer tutored and taught. Doesn't matter what management method is being used. Peer tutoring happens. By the way, peer teaching reinforces learning in the high ability students and it also forces them to think about how they learned the concept which increases their comprehension of the topic. My sophomore daughter frequently talks about how teaching trigonometry concepts to her fellow senior classmates reinforces her learning on a regular basis.

The video demonstrates less than 8 minutes of classroom management skills. Since I have taught at that age level, I have to say the management skills used in the classroom showed the structured learning environment most every parent desires for their child, despite what some parents said in their comments. Not every minute of the 8 hour day in a classroom is like that. Just the structured teaching time. You too would appreciate a well ordered engaged class if you experienced some of the situations teachers face everyday. I have had 1st grade students tell me that "It is a free country, so they do not have to follow classroom rules and do assignents." You know that they learned that attitude at home. The parents that were horrified have obviously not paid attention to the management skills used in their own children's classrooms. Every kindergarten classroom I have ever visited is loud during portions of the day. I noticed in the video that the children adjusted their volume based on the teacher's. During the first few weeks of school every classroom repeats rules several times a day. Obviously this program desires that the rules are repeated more frequently, but it is up to the teacher to decide if their students demonstrate enough understanding to slowly fade them out and then just do them as reminders.

This is a video. The children knew they were being taped. They acted accordingly. They also were most likely rewarded for their awesome behavior. Believe it or not every teacher out there does have classroom rules that they want children to follow! These kids just enjoy the ability to move and talk without getting into trouble for it.

I noticed in the video that the children were all engaged and focused on the teacher. I also noticed that the children used hand gestures that reinforce learning. Kinesthetic reinforcment is an exceptional tool that not all teachers use to help children learn.
As far as the complaints, about the repetitiveness during the phonics lesson, I was surprised by the parent responses. Did these parents never watch Blues Clues with their children? Children learn from repetition. In fact some children revel in it. They like knowing that the answer is always going to be the same, because in other areas of their lives that does not hold true. Yes, as adults, we get the phonics after the first bit, but not all young children do. Most phonics programs use repetition.

No, I am not a WBT teacher. I am a regular substitute in regular education classrooms K-12. I have a BA in Education with certification in learning disabilities and I would like to see some of the kinestheic hand gestures used in the video added to more classrooms to reinforce the learning concepts being taught to students. Motion helps to actively engage students while reinforcing learning.