kitchen table math, the sequel: warm/strict

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

warm/strict

from Teach Like a Champion: 49 Techniques that Put Students on the Path to College:
We're socialized to believe that warmth and strictness are opposites: if you're more of one, it means being less of the other. I don't know where this false conception comes from, but if you choose to believe in it, it will undercut your teaching. The fact is that the degree to which you are warm has no bearing on the degree to which you are strict, and vice versa. Just as you can be neither warm nor strict (you may teach the children of parents who are this way and see for yourself the cost), you can also be warm and strict. In fact, as this Warm/Strict technique shows, you must be both: caring, funny, warm, concerned, and nurturing -- and also strict, by the book, relentless, and sometimes inflexible. It's not, "I care about you, but you still must serve the consequence for being late," but, "Because I care about you, you must serve the consequence for being late."

...Not only should you seek to be both: you should often seek to be both at exactly the same time. When you are clear, consistent, firm, and unrelenting and at the same time positive, enthusiastic, caring, and thoughtful, you start to send the message to students that having high expectations is part of caring for and respecting someone. This is a very powerful message.

page 213
Doug Lemov is describing the approach used by authoritative parents, whose children fare better academically and socially than those of permissive, authoritarian, and neglectful parents.

A good teacher is like a good parent.

64 comments:

Catherine Johnson said...

Hogwarts is warm/strict.

They're so warm and so strict that their detentions, which they call "JUG," for Justice Under God, are fun. Even the name is fun.

I call it "high joy/high discipline."

Ben Calvin said...

I like it.

Catherine Johnson said...

Isn't it great!

I SO love that Lemov named this principle -- because it's hard to talk about it.

Recently, when I told a private college advisor here that C. is attending Hogwarts, a dark look crossed her face & she said, "It's very rigid." Now this woman is a fantastic person dedicated to academic achievement and helping kids get into good colleges (also helping struggling kids find K-12 schools that will work for them). I don't want her to think ill of Hogwarts, and I know she wouldn't think ill of Hogwarts if she spent some time there.

But it's hard to describe the atmosphere inside the school.

Sometimes I use the word "magic," which is actually a pretty good description of the way the place feels to an occasional visitor like me.

There's a high-energy, high-joy, high-discipline feel about the place.

I hope Lemov's book gets read by everyone.

Catherine Johnson said...

btw, one of my hypotheses for why boys are doing so badly in public schools, apart from balanced literacy, is that boys especially need warm/strict.

Girls thrive on it, too --- but I think boys are more damaged by its absence.

That's my hypothesis, anyway.

Catherine Johnson said...

When C. was first at Hogwarts, he would come home and tell us legends about Hogwarts justice. One story we heard often: sometimes, in the winter, if a kid had JUG, the Dean of students would make him go outside and run around the track while the dean pelted him with snowballs.

If the Dean hit him, his JUG was over.

Now this is the kind of story that tends to cause 'outsiders' to blanche.

But I feel I know exactly why pelting a kid with snowballs during JUG works -- and how it creates a school culture that is exciting, happy, and just a tiny bit dangerous.

(I bet that snowball story happened once & never again.)

SteveH said...

Indulgent is to progressive education, as authoritative is to traditional education.

To paraphrase his definition of indulgent.

Indulgent curricula (also referred to as progressive) are more responsive than they are demanding. They are nontraditional and lenient, do not require mature behavior, allow considerable self-regulation, and avoid confrontation.


Is it possible to have a progressive curriculum with athoritative teachers?

Allison said...

--Is it possible to have a progressive curriculum with authoritative teachers?

Yes it is.

But it's not common. One reason is because being steeped in ed theory before you start teaching, and especially if you are young and you have not yet started a family, you probably don't have a lot of sense about what authoritative adult interactions with kids look like at all.

We've had at least two generations of parenting in a culture that has told us authoritative parenting is wrong.

But the main reason is the same reason that the number of conservative hipsters who listen to The Postal Service is vanishingly small: because given today's culture, how would you end up philosophically somewhere different than the common culture you're stewed in?

And then, if you differ on the authoritative teaching side, you might also question the extent to which you wish to have a progressive curriculum. Few people are going to see a path to make both work--and probably, few are going to have enough contol of their classroom to make it work.

Laura M. said...

Is it possible to have a progressive curriculum with authoritative teachers?

I've spoken online with parents who are very happy with their small, independent progressive school or magnet/charter progressive school, because the teachers are excellent and there is a huge amount of follow-up to make sure no kid is falling through the cracks.

So, I think it's possible, but very costly, hard to scale up, and even under ideal conditions likely to leave kids with sizable knowledge gaps.

ChemProf said...

A couple of years ago, I was part of a panel for new faculty orientation, talking about how to get off to a good start in the college classroom. We came from three different disciplines (chem, film, and sociology), but all agreed you had to be tough the first day, and could relax as time went on. The goal was to be tough but supportive. Warm/strict is really the way to go, and I think we know that at the college level, but at lower grades, they over-emphasize warm.

Catherine Johnson said...

So, I think it's possible, but very costly, hard to scale up, and even under ideal conditions likely to leave kids with sizable knowledge gaps.

That's interesting.

Do you think small class size is essential to progressive education (to a good progressive education, I mean)?

Catherine Johnson said...

Warm/strict is really the way to go, and I think we know that at the college level, but at lower grades, they over-emphasize warm.

You know... that's interesting, too. I've done most of my teaching at the college level (freshman rhetoric) - and it was 'natural' to use warm/strict there.

I think the reason for that can also be the opposite of what chemprof just said. College students are close to being adults and they generally manage their own behavior in the classroom. You don't have to be punitive & you aren't tempted to be punitive. "Warmth" doesn't act as a "releaser" of bad classroom behavior (though it can act as a releaser of not-getting-papers-done-on-time!)

Laura said...

Do you think small class size is essential to progressive education

Not necessarily small class size, but maybe small school size, to allow for extraordinarily high quality control.

I'm not sure, really, though. I think what I meant is that the people who I know who promote their version of progressive education have a very hard time explaining what specifically goes on, which is one of the reasons I've never found it useful as a model.

ChemProf said...

"You don't have to be punitive & you aren't tempted to be punitive."

There's definitely some truth to that. I gave a talk to middle schoolers a couple of years ago, and getting them to settle down was ridiculous -- the women in charge had absolutely no authority! So I can see how you can get punitive, but it doesn't work in the long run. (For the record, I dug out my elementary school skills, and clapped a pattern. Half of them clapped back. I did it again, and now all of them clapped. Then I said since they were acting like little kids, I'd have to treat them like little kids. They looked shame-faced and settled down, and behaved for the rest of my talk.)

What I find about warm/strict is that it lets me push the class. I can ask harder questions, because they trust that I've given them the skills to figure it out. And, as Catherine noted, I have fewer problems than my colleagues with late work!

Anonymous said...

Marzano favors the warm-strict approach. In Classroom Management that Works (see google books, starting on page 42) he describes the work of Wubbels, who represents student-teacher interaction as a coordinate plane. The y-axis is dominance vs. submission; the x-axis is cooperation vs. opposition. Marzano indicates that competent teachers are dominant (provide "clarity of purpose and strong guidance") and cooperative (show interest in the students as individuals, are friendly and helpful).

jtidwell said...

"Is it possible to have a progressive curriculum with authoritative teachers?"

Absolutely. A good friend of mine pulled her kids from the public elementary, where kids were running wild in traditional classrooms, and she put them in a well-regarded progressive private school. She said the difference was like night and day. The kids were much better regulated in the progressive classrooms, where they could focus and learn without a teacher constantly telling kids to "Sit down and be quiet!"

Especially the boys, she said.

She told me she'd never seen elementary-aged boys so focused and attentive. They had the freedom to walk around and move their bodies when they needed to, but only within limits, I guess. Whatever they're doing, it works for the boys.

(Self-selection bias notwithstanding, of course.)

verso said...

"Is it possible to have a progressive curriculum with authoritative teachers?"

I agree with Jtidwell. Many private schools in our area are very effective, and progressive.

Small schools. Selective admissions. The management team has the power to hire and fire teachers at will, and to expel disruptive students--or to not renew their contract. The head can hire whomever he wants--he is not required to hire ed school graduates, although he could.

For a progressive school to really work, one needs an effective team working together behind the scenes.

Many public schools could do well with a progressive curriculum, if they were willing to implement tracking. Every school system has children who could learn more, and who would do better if the adults in the system trusted them. Mainstreaming and the wide range of abilities in untracked classrooms make it impossible to go with the flow.

Allison said...

Wait..small schools with selection admission and the power to hire and fire teachers at will are what it takes to make a progressive curriculum work with authoritative teachers?

And then you say public schools could do well with such????

But they aren't small, don't have select admissions, and don't have the power to hire and fire. How again does it map?

For those who say the progressive private schools are very effective, effective AT WHAT?

Specifically, can you find me a private school with excellent achievement in math using TERC? Everyday Math? Any other progressive curriculum of your choice?

And even larger, how do you create a progressive curriculum that works in the middle school/junior high years, when we've past the exploratory phase of math and literature?

Cranberry said...

Sorry, I'm verso. I was posting before coffee.

Here's a private school with excellent achievement. It is avowedly progressive. http://www.pikeschool.org/home.

The Pike School MATHCOUNTS Team--(8 Names--named on original web page)--recently won the MATHCOUNTS regional competition. XXXXX came in sixth overall. XXXX started in fifth place and moved up to third after the head-to-head competition of the "Countdown Round." XXXXX started in third place and moved up into the lead after the "Countdown Round", and XXXX came in first in the standard rounds of the competition, so he finished second overall after the "Countdown Round." The top four Pike boys will compete in the state competition on Saturday, March 6, at Wentworth Institute of Technology.

Here's their description of their curriculum: The math curriculum is designed to teach students to be mathematically literate in a world dependent on creative thought and technology to solve today’s problems. Students work individually and in groups placing emphasis on problem solving, reasoning and communication skills. Math skills are expanded to real world situations with the expectation that students will be able to think beyond a given problem and make mathematics a useful tool in their lives. Topics move from concrete number facts to abstract algebraic theories and applications. The graphing calculator is introduced in 7th grade and used regularly as a teaching tool.

Pike is thought to be a feeder school to Phillips Andover Academy.

IF public schools would track students by attitude, they have more than enough students who would flourish in a progressive classroom. Many principals and superintendents have more power to hire and fire than they exercise. Hiring and firing is very difficult politically, but it could be done.

Any approach, traditional or progressive, can work if implemented well. Any approach can fail miserably, if implemented poorly. It is, in my opinion, much more difficult to implement progressive education well, especially in the public sphere. Too much control is given to people not in the classroom, especially politicians. That doesn't mean that a traditional classroom is automatically better. Making either model function takes a great deal of work, much of it done by administrators.

One large problem is that hiring committees composed of parents (i.e., school board members) like the idea of warm school employees. Many are not thrilled by the thought of strict school employees.

Catherine Johnson said...

What **does** happen in a good progressive classroom? I've had the same experience as Laura; I'm not clear on what is being done.

I agree, though, that private progressive schools seem to be very good & to produce high achievement. (I don't know that, but I don't gainsay the testimony of parents.)

We toured Dalton School when we were looking at private schools. The CFO is an old colleague of Ed's, so we spent a long time there. Dalton is a progressive school with high achievement.

I didn't see what made the school progressive as opposed to traditional -- this isn't a criticism, just a description of my experience. The academics were intense and the teachers all seemed to be instructivists.

Dalton 'read' as an elite private school: tiny class size, teachers with Ph.D.s in their fields, huge attention paid to each student's work and progress.

The amount of time and energy English teachers put into responding to student writing one-on-one couldn't possibly be matched by a public or parochial school.

Catherine Johnson said...

Dalton had a major emphasis on the arts, which made me want to take up woodworking right away. Again: not a joke. It was amazing.

Catherine Johnson said...

This is annoying.

Blogger just ate my comment.

I'm going to take that as a sign I should be doing something else.

Catherine Johnson said...

IF public schools would track students by attitude, they have more than enough students who would flourish in a progressive classroom.

I think there's a lot to that.

When I first started talking to parents here about having a traditional "school within a school" I was surprised to have parents say to me, "I have one kid who thrives in hands-on groups, but my other kid needs the structure."

I hadn't thought about the idea of different students being better suited to one or the other approach---

(I'd been thinking more about 'family compatibility.')

momof4 said...

In my view, there is no one best school, so the one-size-fits-all public school model is bound to fail a number of kids. I've known a many families who have had kids in different schools: any combination of public and private, big and small, structured and unstructured, etc. Of course, there are also magnets and other special-purpose schools, but none of these choices are best for everyone.


I also think that tracking by some combination of attitude and ability would allow larger classes for the upper end of the spectrum. My kids' outstanding AP sciences all had 36 kids (only 18 lab stations) and there were no problems. In writing-intensive classes (which should include history), going that high isn't feasible without extra teacher support for grading papers and foreign languages need both plenty of time for each kid to speak and also increasing levels of written work. I'm sure that there are many families who would be willing to have larger classes if they were homogeneous and didn't have to deal with bad attitudes.

momof4 said...

I'd still prefer a structured classroom and so would my kids, but what you proposed would be better than the mess we now have.

Allison said...

Cranberry,

We see all the time that schools take credit for the parents' and tutors' outside achievements. How do we know that's not the case at Pike?

I know that there's a school here in the twin cities that is considered a feeder to philips exeter--but it turns out to be because of an afterschool program that trains for the MATHCOUNTS competition. How can we tell that this success isn't just due to the MATHCOUNTS teacher training the kids?

I don't consider peak performance to be the way to tell--they could attract outliers who are mathematically talented from their math competition program in the first place, and it might be that the school succeeds IN SPITE OF the curriculum. Who gets into Philips Andover? Everyone, or just the MATHCOUNTS team?

Also, the verbiage you gave is broad--really broad. "Topics move from concrete number facts to abstract algebraic theories and applications." That's singapore math's overarching theme too. The others words sound more progressive, but I know schools here who use Singapore Math and ability group and still claim their equivalent of "Students work individually and in groups placing emphasis on problem solving, reasoning and communication skills" because that's what you have to say nowadays.

What actually happens inside, and what do they use for texts? They admit to using TERC. But for upper school, they don't. Is that because they roll their own--and is that because they needed to do something to STEP IT UP to hit the 9th grade elsewhere successfully?

Cranberry said...

momof4, I agree. The upper third of a good high school could do well in much larger classes. If I had to choose easy access to AP classes of 36 to 40 for a bright child, compared to limited access to APs, and class sizes of 20 and under, I would choose larger and more interesting classes.

The terms "traditional" and "progressive" mean different things to different people. There is no perfect implementation of either. The usual description of a traditional classroom by those who want to sell something else is a joke.

Catherine, a few threads back you stated that if you want content knowledge, you must do worksheets. That's not necessarily so. You could teach middle schoolers how to make their own flashcards. You could teach them how to quiz themselves on information they need to learn. You could teach them how to create their own mnemonic strategies. You could create a structured curriculum which teaches them, gradually, over years, how to organize their scholarly life. You could teach them to call classmates for assignments if they need them. When they find it difficult, you can discuss how they can do better. It is anything but punishing kids because they couldn't comply with the adults' system.

When you see a school like this work, it seems wonderful. I think many people take the best private schools as examples of how all schools should work. That ignores the highly structured nature of a successful school. it is anything but setting up a system which sorts out the organized from the disorganized.

I think the progressive model, when well implemented, is great for many gifted kids. These are kids who come into the classroom with a great deal of knowledge about the world. These are often kids who are bored and disruptive in classrooms which aren't teaching them anything new. It is possibly a terrible model, especially when badly implemented, for kids who come into the classroom with little knowledge of the world, and no support at home. It's like throwing someone into the middle of the Atlantic without a map.

Cranberry said...

Allison, if it's anything like the schools I know, the parents are likely to be required to send their children for tutoring at the school if needed. I much prefer the open acknowledgement that some tutoring will be needed for some students to succeed to the don't ask, don't tell model presently implemented in the suburban public schools.

Not my school, but they are competing in a very competitive league. A neighboring public school system drills their math team before and after school. Many of the kids in the private school are busy with outside commitments, though, and there is likely to be a very heavy homework load. If they're aiming at Andover, I'd bet that the homework and sports commitments preclude heavy-duty math team practices.

The whole area is thrown off by the existence of the Russian School of Mathematics. It's in Newton. http://www.russianschool.com/ Oh, I see they've just opened a branch in Andover and others. Fascinating. RSM-Newton - Main Location

RSM-Marblehead - branch (MA)
RSM-Acton - branch (MA)
RSM-Lexington - branch (MA)
RSM-Andover - branch (MA)
RSM-San Jose - branch (CA)
MWSM-Framingham - affiliate (MA)
RSM-Louisville - branch (KY)

At any rate, the entire area the competition draws from is heavy in math talent, and many of the competitors will have taken after school math classes. It isn't the case that they're stealing a march on the competitors by having extra practices. The competition is already practicing.

They may very well create their own curriculum. They probably have an accelerated math track, for the kids who are really adept at math.

When I think of it, is TERC really progressive? In spirit? How can a set curriculum be adapted to a curriculum which rises from the students' interests? If the school uses materials from a variety of sources, and add in some projects based on what the teachers think the children need, how is that defined? If they use materials from, hypothetically, TERC and Saxon at the same time, are they traditional? are they progressive? Or are they none of the above?

momof4 said...

Allison: The Twin Cities has a lot of good hockey players and I know that Phillips Exeter recruits out of state for their team. A relative's son fell into that category. He was a good-but-not-outstanding student with a good work ethic, but hockey was what got him in the door. Maybe they pick both from the math team and the hockey team, but I'm guessing there's not a lot of overlap between the two. There's probably not enough time. Yes, I'm being somewhat facetious, but I wouldn't be at all surprised if they did recruit hockey players from the Cities and that could contribute to a local school's rep as a feeder.

Allison said...

Ah, hockey. I didn't know Phillips Exeter cared about hockey. I may be the world's first hockey math competition mom, we'll see.

Cranberry, you tell me what you mean by progressive. Then tell me what progressive middle school math looks like for the kid who isn't the top of the heap. This isn't a gotcha--I'm seriously trying to see what it would look like.

Allison said...

Cranberry, you're thrown off not just by the russian math program; the 128-belt suburbs are home to all of the profs and researchers at MIT, Lincoln Labs, Draper Labs, Harvard, BC, BU, Wellesley, etc. etc. etc. Of course those schools look excellent--their cadre of students to choose from is already excellent. Because their parents are excellent.

But where I live, the private schools have progressive written all over them, and their education is a joke at 30k a pop. YES, some of the kids get into the Ivies--but it's the top 4 students, not the top 40. And in the end, they aren't WELL EDUCATED. After 12 years, they know a great deal about post modern gender themes in literature or social justice in the 3rd world. But they still don't know any history or physics, and their math is weak. Maybe your schools are better because your talent pool is better.

Are the privates really FORMING anyone here, or just making it based on what was present in the first place? And then, I ask you: are your privates really FORMING anyone there, or did they come that way already?

momof4 said...

I'd like to see a good survey of parents from successful public schools, especially in the leafy suburbs, on the kinds and extent of tutoring and for what purpose.

It's beyond ridiculous that normal kids from affluent and college or grad school-educated parents who attend "highly ranked" schools should NEED regular tutoring IF the schools are doing their jobs. Scarsdale definitely fits this definition and I was recently told that over 50% of the kids in first grade are being tutored. I'm sure some of that is the type-A, must-get-ahead story, but 50%?

Join the PTA to get the booklet with kids' addresses and send out a survey. If tutoring is to remediate poor curriculum and/or instruction, maybe lots of negative publicity on the topic would push the schools to make changes. I know, but I can hope...

momof4 said...

I don't know how long Phillips Exeter has cared about hockey. The kid I mentioned would have started his freshman year 10 years ago, this fall.

Bostonian said...

I live near Boston, and we have already decided to send our eldest to the Russian School of Math. Several parents of gifted kids have recommended it. In Lexington MA the Math Club prepares students for the Math Olympiad and other competitions. Online courses for strong math students, including preparation for math contests, include Art of Problem Solving and EPGY. The Open Enrollment program of EPGY makes it much more affordable.

Bostonian said...

I live near Boston, and we have already decided to send our eldest to the Russian School of Math. Several parents of gifted kids have recommended it. In Lexington MA the Math Club prepares students for the Math Olympiad and other competitions. Online courses for strong math students, including preparation for math contests, include the Art of Problem Solving and EPGY. The Open Enrollment program of EPGY makes it much more affordable.

cranberry said...

But where I live, the private schools have progressive written all over them, and their education is a joke at 30k a pop. YES, some of the kids get into the Ivies--but it's the top 4 students, not the top 40. And in the end, they aren't WELL EDUCATED. After 12 years, they know a great deal about post modern gender themes in literature or social justice in the 3rd world. But they still don't know any history or physics, and their math is weak. Maybe your schools are better because your talent pool is better.

I make a distinction between progressive educational approaches and left-leaning politics. They aren't the same, even if they often appear together. I could point you to some very expensive private schools which use very traditional methods--but also teach about post modern gender themes in literature or social justice in the 3rd world.

I also don't take admission to the Ivies as proof of an excellent education. It can be proof of affluence.

Allison said...

so, cranberry,

can you define your terms? what's a progressive math curriculum look like in 6th - 12th grade?

What IS proof of or evidence of an excellent education?

you said there are excellent educationally progressive schools. please tell me how you define excellent and how you define progressive from 6th grade up.

lgm said...

>>It's beyond ridiculous that normal kids from affluent and college or grad school-educated parents who attend "highly ranked" schools should NEED regular tutoring IF the schools are doing their jobs.

What educated parents think the schools should be doing can differ greatly from what the school district believes.

One of the nicest instructional changes here that resulted from implementing state testing in Gr. 3-8 is that ALL children have reading instruction daily. Previously, only at-risk did. The top group was only 1-2X/week in Gr 1-5, while no unclassified child had reading instruction in Gr. 6.
Unfortunately the instruction is restricted to grade level, but hey that's better for a wee one than sitting around while the bluebirds meet and wondering why the teacher doesn't like your group so much.

>> recently told that over 50% of the kids in first grade are being tutored. I'm sure some of that is the type-A, must-get-ahead story, but 50%?

50% - most likely means the district is putting it's time and energy into at-risk children and they've pared the whole class instruction way down to the minimum. I've seen parents try to publicize this. They are squelched immediately as 'elitists'. That link to Princeton Charter School's story that was put up recently here is illustrative.

Better to lobby for individual growth models of assessment and flexible grouping by acheivement.

Catherine Johnson said...

It's beyond ridiculous that normal kids from affluent and college or grad school-educated parents who attend "highly ranked" schools should NEED regular tutoring IF the schools are doing their jobs. Scarsdale definitely fits this definition and I was recently told that over 50% of the kids in first grade are being tutored.

We had dinner with friends tonight. The dad said they have "capitulated" and hired a tutor.

We all loved that word.

Capitulated.

The dad said, "You go see the teacher, and then you go see the teacher again, and meanwhile the window is closing."

Catherine Johnson said...

You could teach middle schoolers how to make their own flashcards.

I'll have to dig up the old URL for the post about C.'s 6th grade teacher sending home a list of 23 skills he needed to "brush up on" over the summer.

My question was: how exactly does an 11 year old who can't drive and doesn't have a math textbook (the textbooks had been collected) brush up on skills.

Does he write his own problems?

With the answer sheet so he can check his answers?

Catherine Johnson said...

I've been told the same estimate of Scarsdale kids being tutored.

In fact - and I know I've posted this in comments before - when we went for an interview at Hackley, a private school nearby, the interviewer said she herself had been a tutor for Scarsdale kids. She said Scarsdale keeps lists of tutors to refer parents to.

Long lists, it sounded like.

Cranberry said...

I would consider Phillips Exeter Academy to be excellent. Their approach to math is distinctive, and not traditional. http://www.exeter.edu/academics/84_801.aspx

At Exeter, students learn math by working problems, in a group. There is more information available at the link.

Excellence? The students work. They must pay attention to the subject at hand. Instruction follows the class's interests, and can detour into interesting topics. The class structure is not defined by state tests. Class time is not spent upon test prep.

Students learn to analyze others' arguments. They can argue both sides of an argument. Discussion and dissent are encouraged. Emphasis is placed upon understanding facts in context, rather than upon learning only what's on the state tests.

To me, the trouble in discussing progressive pedagogy is that so often, it's used as an excuse for poor practices. If done well, it calls for more work on the teacher's part, not less. In theory, I suppose one could structure a larger class project around the effects of the Icelandic volcano, studying its effects on Europe, and learning about chemistry, geography, and culture. In practice, the teacher would need to know vulcanology, the history, culture, geography and economic underpinnings of modern Europe in depth. If done well, it would not be, 10 minutes to read a short article in class, 10 minutes to discuss the article in groups, 10 minutes for each group to report to the whole, and 20 minutes for the group to create collages to express the day's themes.

Catherine Johnson said...

You could teach middle schoolers how to make their own flashcards. You could teach them how to quiz themselves on information they need to learn. You could teach them how to create their own mnemonic strategies.

Based in Ericsson's work on deliberate practice and expertise, I would guess that this wouldn't be the best possible approach.

"Deliberate practice" is more than repetition.... and Ericsson found that experts have coaches or trainers or teachers who create a program of deliberate practice for them and give them feedback as they do it. They don't create their own practice routines.

Our tennis instructor always tells us: 'Practice doesn't make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect.' That's what Ericsson found. A novice can't design a program of perfect practice.

I still haven't delved into Ericsson's work as much as I'd like, but given what I know of it, I don't believe a middle school child, no matter how gifted, can create a regimen of deliberate practice for himself.

Also, I'm thinking it wouldn't be a good use of his time to be making his own flash cards, etc. ----

That's something I was wondering about today. I don't reject the idea that there are terrific progressive schools--but I wonder whether a progressive school can ever teach as efficiently as a superb traditional school -- ?

Using time well is a running theme throughout Teach Like a Champion. If the teachers in the book can shave just a few seconds off of a routine, they do it.

Are there 'shortcuts' progressive education takes (or can take) that would make it as efficient as direct instruction?

I can think of one possible source of efficiency, which I learned from Bob & Lynn Koegel at UCSB. Bob & Lynn are the John Dewey of applied behavior analysis; their approach to teaching autistic kids is 'student-centered.' The teacher follows the child around and builds a lesson into whatever the child is doing. (You have to be REALLY good to do this well.)

Lynn also worked miracles with autistic kids not by asking them questions, as direct instruction methods do, but by teaching the autistic child to ask questions. This is painstaking work, because severely autistic children don't ask questions. They use their language to "request and protest." They ask for stuff & say no to stuff.

Bob said that the reason teaching autistic kids to ask questions is so effective is that when the child asks a question, that signals he is prepared to learn that particular piece of information or knowledge at that time. The child's questions are the measure or indicator of where his prior knowledge is - and of his motivation.

When you base your teaching on the child's questions instead of the teacher's questions.... I can imagine that saving time that would otherwise be spent building background knowledge and/or motoring him through content he isn't currently motivated to learn.

(Obviously, the Teach Like a Champion teachers have a gazillion techniques for producing motivation. But that's not typical.)

This is vague, I know, but I think the question is real.

Can good progressive education be as efficient as good traditional education? And, if it can, does it have to do with a very skilled teacher following the child's lead?

Catherine Johnson said...

I think the progressive model, when well implemented, is great for many gifted kids. These are kids who come into the classroom with a great deal of knowledge about the world.

That seems like an important distinction to me. One way of reading Lemov's book is that those teachers are absolutely STUFFING 'background knowledge' into their students. I use the word 'stuffing' positively, just to be clear.

However, a gifted child who is constantly seeking and soaking in knowledge comes to class with a richly furnished mind.

I want to add that Lemov's teachers are constantly pushing toward & engaging their students in critical thinking. His book illustrates the unity of critical thinking and knowledge.

Allison said...

--Students learn to analyze others' arguments. They can argue both sides of an argument. Discussion and dissent are encouraged. Emphasis is placed upon understanding facts in context, rather than upon learning only what's on the state tests.

This is not progressive. It's the defn of a liberal arts education. If you are equating "traditional" to "teaches to the test", I thought we had an older tradition than that--by several hundred years.

And it doesn't describe a math course in any detail. What does a progressive math course look like? I know what a progressive elementary math course looks like--it's highly exploratory. And that's fine for k-3. But I'm asking about grades 6-12.

Allison said...

--I still haven't delved into Ericsson's work as much as I'd like, but given what I know of it, I don't believe a middle school child, no matter how gifted, can create a regimen of deliberate practice for himself.


I would go farther and say gifted children are particularly hamstrung at designing effective deliberate practice, because the places and times they'd have learned to practice *at all* are so limited.

Gifted kids get by without practice in most academic settings; if they are gifted in music or sports, they probably focus on the talent they are best at or like best. In all cases, they see something once, maybe twice, and can put it in place. That analysis and follow through is not practice, and since that innate skill or ability can get them extremely far before they aren't the head of the pack, they have no idea what to do when they *do* need to practice something.

Laura M. said...

When you base your teaching on the child's questions instead of the teacher's questions.... I can imagine that saving time that would otherwise be spent building background knowledge and/or motoring him through content he isn't currently motivated to learn.

Interesting . . . so would it be something like the child's questions, in the hands of a well trained teacher, function to help target where instruction is needed?

This is one of the reasons I'm thinking a head teacher/assistant teacher model would be helpful, with the head teacher floating through more than one class.

since that innate skill or ability can get them extremely far before they aren't the head of the pack, they have no idea what to do when they *do* need to practice something.

I've thought a lot about this, too. It's my concern for letting even unusually bright and focused kids guide too much of their instruction. On the other hand, I worry that using DI past a certain threshold fails to prepare kids for starting, very gradually, to take over responsibility for learning.

momof4 said...

lgm: I don't think that Scarsdale is putting that much focus on at-risk kids because I don't think there are many. I'm not positive, but I'm pretty sure that the schools don't participate in the FARM program because there is no need - you have to be pretty affluent to live there. Catherine undoubtedly is better informed, but that's my impression of the place.

Karen W said...

Catherine--good progressive education has it's own efficiencies (certainly compared to local public schools). Montessori (progressive in classroom design, moving away from Latin/Greek studies, recognizing intellectual capabilities of children that were "too young for school" in her day) teaches skills right the first time and allows children to practice a skill (with control of error to help practice be relatively perfect) as much or as little as they need to achieve mastery without slowing down or being slowed down by classmates so less class time is wasted for each child. It is efficient in the sense that it gives children the opportunity to build skills and vocabulary and other knowledge they will need for further study later (names of geometric solids, names for parts of plants and animals, names of continents). It is efficient in the sense of instilling good habits: self-control, respect for others and the environment, developing longer periods of concentration on work, correcting errors and working to achieve mastery (as opposed to expecting to get it right the first time or I'm just not good at x). The multi-age classrooms mean children don't get moved on based on age without the opportunity to master the curriculum. It is efficient in that children don't lose skills while waiting for others to catch up.

The short cut lies in using the prepared environment, materials with control of error, and Montessori's carefully designed curriculum. You don't reinvent the wheel--you follow the script of three-period lessons and guiding children through the sequence of materials.

Whether this is more efficient than good traditional education, I don't know. But it is a great deal more efficient than the constructivist nonsense at the local public schools. I don't consider the constructivists progressive--I think they are cargo-cultists who are trying to do progressive education without understanding why it works (teachers with content knowledge, guiding children through content rich curriculum with individual/ability grouped direct instruction and practice to mastery).

ChemProf said...

"I would go farther and say gifted children are particularly hamstrung at designing effective deliberate practice, because the places and times they'd have learned to practice *at all* are so limited."

Allison definitely has a point. I had a research student a couple of years ago who was an extraordinarily bright student. We had a good summer, but the data turned out to be tricky to analyze. I found she had NO capacity for frustration. The minute she got frustrated, she would shut down. She had never not gotten something immediately. This is, I think, what teachers try to simulate when they talk about having students struggle with the material. The ability to deal with frustration is good, but if a student is constantly frustrated, that doesn't work either.

There is no way, however, that this student could have come up with her own deliberative practice. In an environment that didn't require mastery, if she didn't get it immediately, she just went on to something she did get. She was a product of progressive education up to age 13, and a really open environment didn't help her develop those skills.

Allison said...

Was I your student? :) That describes my college experience quite well. Even when I tried to create deliberative practice (by doing Schaum's Outlines or all the unassigned problems in a book), the leap from there to what I was being asked to do was too big. I was constantly voicing "*show me* what you want." but it was too late by then.

I worry about that aspect for the high achievers. The progressive-open-ended-create-my-own-questions curriculum is a way to avoid failure.

Failing is good. Failing before you get to college is better. Failing and then succeeding after failure is a real win. Never failing until you're about to fail to graduate from college: not so good.

Laura M. said...

Failing is good. Failing before you get to college is better. Failing and then succeeding after failure is a real win. Never failing until you're about to fail to graduate from college: not so good.

Again, this is my concern w/DI, above a certain threshold.

ChemProf said...

I don't think that this problem is any more systematic with DI than with other systems. In reform math, you never have anything challenging. In progressive education, you can avoid difficult material unless you have an outstanding teacher who pushes all the students. With DI, you may always be working below your ZPD. However, DI has one advantage in that it includes tracking and has the teacher spending time with all the groups (as opposed to most public schools, where often the top reading group or math group is left alone as long as they don't cause trouble).

lgm said...

momof4: at risk also includes limited english proficiency. The term is used by teachers to include learning disability and special education students also.

ime, no at-risk child needs to actually be in the classroom for opportunity to be restricted ..the district bigwigs feel no obligation to teach anyone beyond what an at-risk child could learn and actually prohibits certain topics from being taught. If you look at Scarsdale's state test numbers, you'll notice that they are unable to get everyone to '4' level, despite the wealth and despite the tutoring. I'm conjecturing that the '3's that aren't sped and LD are in classrooms that omit the mat'l necessary to take them to the '4' level. It's a very common story even up here in the Hudson Valley. The staff does not want to let any child 'get ahead' on the public dime.

Laura M. said...

I don't think that this problem is any more systematic with DI than with other systems

I think it is different with DI than with other systems--progressivism can prevent you from experiencing certain kinds of failures by omitting to challenge you, and/or while also exposing you to too much failure too soon.

DI, I think, prevents you from failure by making sure you succeed and, if you are behind in skills, are challenged--which in general, is obviously a good thing, but I'm wondering if there is a danger of it exposing you to slightly too much success too soon.

With DI, you may always be working below your ZPD. Yes in some cases, while others will actually be succeeding in working above their ZPD.

DI has one advantage in that it includes tracking and has the teacher spending time with all the groups

Definitely an advantage that must be matched for a competing public school program to be taken seriously.

Michelle said...

As a first year teacher, I have not yet found how to effectively balance being caring and strict. Instead, I find myself being too nice to my students, at the expense of management. Those who are experienced teachers, can you give some specific examples of how you balance these two traits to effectively manage your classroom?

ChemProf said...

Here's an example, Michelle, although since I don't know what level you teach it may or may not help. In college, a big issue is late work. On my first day, I tell them I do not have to take late work, and lay out the penalty if I choose to accept late work due to extraordinary circumstances. This gives me a little wiggle room, and when (inevitably) someone forgets their homework in a few weeks, I can say "well, this time I'll take it by noon", I am being nice and they are appreciative. If I don't have a policy, then they expect me to take anything whenever, and they don't appreciate it when I do.

The key I've found is to have clear policies that don't put you in the position of breaking your own rules. If you know you'll take late work, have a late policy where they lose some % per day late. If attendance is a problem, set a specific policy including tardiness.

I'm sure the K-12 folks will have more specific things to say.

Laura M. said...

The key, in terms of interacting with students, is decisiveness.

Notice your body language--if you are being decisive, you will be standing straight, shoulders back, arms at your sides (it can help, as you are getting comfortable with this, to put your hands behind your back if you are giving an instruction), calm voice, making eye contact.

Also, (and this is straight from Fred Jones's Tools for Teaching, which I would highly recommend checking out), discipline comes first. No matter what you want to get to (helping another student, getting through your material for the day), if any student isn't sitting up reasonably straight and paying attention or working when they are supposed to, you need to slow everything down and address it (not through nagging, bribing, guilting, yelling, or punishment--by looking them straight in the eye and indicating that the whole class is now waiting for them). You also need back-up measures for students for whom that is not enough, but that's more detail than I can fit in here (again, all from Fred Jones--definitely check it out).

Also, expect to make mistakes, and calm yourself down if you feel yourself getting stressed from making mistakes. Mistakes are part of learning any skill, and this is a skill.

And as you get more comfortable with it, you will increasingly be able to add in more warmth.

Bostonian said...

City Journal has posted online a 1996 article The Invisible Miracle of Catholic Schools that fits with the "warm/strict" theme.

Catherine Johnson said...

Interesting . . . so would it be something like the child's questions, in the hands of a well trained teacher, function to help target where instruction is needed?

Sorry - I'm behind reading (lots going on around here) -- that's what I understood the Koegels to be saying.

The fact that the child had asked the question meant he was specifically **ready** to learn that particular content. Not just motivated, but ready.

I wish I could remember the examples he gave.

I know I wrote about it at the time; I'll have to see if I can track down some of those things.

Lynn's pilot study was quite miraculous. She taught 4 very autistic little children to ask questions --- and all four basically normalized. They lost their autistic symptoms and were fully mainstreamed, on grade level, and had friends.

For years I tried to persuade our various teacher to stop asking the kids questions and teach THEM to ask questions but I never prevailed -- and I haven't managed to do it myself.

Catherine Johnson said...

Now that I've reminded myself of this, I'm going to have guilt.

I need to be doing SOMETHING with Andrew.

Catherine Johnson said...

Instead, I find myself being too nice to my students, at the expense of management.

That's a big problem for me with other people's children.

I'm easily warm/strict with my own kids; it makes sense.

But with other people's children I err on the side of being too nice.

Catherine Johnson said...

btw, as to "deliberate practice" and the gifted...I've been reading about the basal ganglia and associative learning AND skill learning (both cognitive skills like math) and physical skills like riding a bike.

"Basal ganglia" learning is completely different from semantic learning, i.e. learning or memorizing facts, events, people, etc.

I'm not quite sure what 'gifted' would mean with basal ganglia learning ---

Catherine Johnson said...

Bostonian - thanks!

From what I've seen (which is limited, of course) a good Catholic school is warm/strict almost by definition.

Catherine Johnson said...

fyi: The Street Stops Here is supposed to be wonderful.

Another part of my great unread.