kitchen table math, the sequel: 10 faulty notions

Saturday, August 4, 2012

10 faulty notions

William L. Heward's list:
  1. Structured curricula impede true learning.
  2. Teaching discrete skills trivializes education and ignores the whole child.
  3. Drill and practice limits students' deep understanding and dulls their creativity.
  4. Teachers do not need to (and/or cannot,should not) measure student performance.
  5. Students must be internally motivated to really learn.
  6. Building students' self-esteem is a teacher's primary goal.
  7. Teaching students with disabilities requires unending patience.
  8. Every child learns differently.
  9. Eclecticism is good.
  10. A good teacher is a creative teacher.
Ten Faulty Notions About Teaching and Learning That Hinder the Effectiveness of Special Education
For what it's worth, and without having actually read the article (!), I agree strongly with Heward that numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 8, and 9 are myths.

I may agree strongly with numbers 5, 6, 7, and 10, too, once I know how Seward defines terms like "motivation" and "creative."

btw, one of my favorite books about education is Vicky Snyder's Myths and Misconceptions about Teaching: What Really Happens in the Classroom.


Anonymous said...

Structured curricula impede true learning.

check, please. the list has already
shot itself in the foot.

trouble is, the "curricula" are "structured"
by *enemies of learning*: time-serving
(committees of) career-oriented third-raters.

suchlike curricula as we've *actually got*
impede true learning obviously; indeed,
that's their purpose.

yet. the "creative teachers" of #10?
one of the things they... we... are
creative *about* is curriculum.
probably all long-time practictioners
of The Art eventually pick up some
biases about "curriculum": what works,
what obviously *doesn't* work and
what could be done about it if the
money and politics didn't make the
whole job so impossible in the 1st place.

Teaching discrete skills trivializes education and ignores the whole child.

so, you know, forget walking and
toilet training and table manners.
let's just raise up generations
of feral sociopaths and get it
over with. oh wait. that's been
tried. how do you like it so far?

Drill and practice limits students' deep understanding and dulls their creativity.

ask any musician. aw, hell no. we never
*practice*. only people who acutally
want to *learn* something ever *practice*.
(or ask any athlete. they practice
a good deal too. i'm all about the
academics myself though. still:
*any* extra-curricular from chess
to shakespeare will require practice
and this'll be *taken for granted*
on all sides because *everybody knows*
this is how you win.)

in order to take flat-out lies like
"practice is the enemy of understanding"
seriously evidently requires *substantial*

Teachers do not need to (and/or cannot,should not) measure student performance.

we *need* to alright; it's our job.
so we do, however badly.
whether or not we should or can?
deponent sayeth not.

Students must be internally motivated to really learn.

does "motivated to avoid another beating"
count as "internal"? no, i thought not.
but this is how all dumb animals and
most humans learn most of what they know.

Building students' self-esteem is a teacher's primary goal.

some teacher somewhere, i suppose. maybe?

Teaching students with disabilities requires unending patience.

life itself requries unending patience.
nobody succeeds. it's frustrating.
which side is this guy *on*?

Every child learns differently.

not even english.

Eclecticism is good.

yes. and so is tradition.

A good teacher is a creative teacher.


Anonymous said...

i've never heard of this guy
so please don't confuse any
rambling i'm about to do
with his (or anybody else's)
opinion. still, in my mind
there *is* something that
suchlike documents seem to
be gesturing at that i *do*
approve of mightily.

so let's see if i can tease it out.
government schools and most jobs
and, i suppose, many another top-
-down organization less familiar
to me tend strongly to push people
around *on principle* as if this
were a good thing.

and most people, most of the time,
if they know what's good for 'em,
will damn well go along with it.
punishments become increasingly
severe until one understands this.

but punishments are meted out
according to all kinds of unstated

the lucky ones... for instance,
we who had well-educated parents...
escape a lot of the crap because
we're taught from infancy that
following "rules" set down by absent
and indifferent entities is to
*avoided* rather than embraced
and internalized and passed on.

when this was kitchen table *math*,
i could take a great deal more of
this for granted than i can now:
math is the clearest possible example
of a set of "rules" to follow
that do *not* depend on any human
authority. any math teacher worthy
of the name will soon realize...
when it (pretty frequently) happens...
that the student is right and they're
wrong. (no other subject shares this
quality in my experience.)

message: "avoid all authoritarians".

but it's not for nothing that they call
it "government" (or "islam"... "submission"...
truth in advertising since their doctrines
and practices are very nearly identical
to, you know, that *other* world religion
about suffering).

most people *resent* those who are able
to avoid authoritarians. and no damn wonder.

so, sure. any teacher with enough "class"
will make every effort to pass along some
tricks for getting out of the useless-
-busywork that the less fortunate will
nonetheless be made to do.

that's what i call "dodging the draft".

the wise never let their right wing
know what their left wing is doing.
(& this isn't exactly news.)

Catherine Johnson said...

wait! wait!

I may not be skimming correctly, but I think you may be taking the opposite meaning from what he's saying: he's saying that Structured curricula DO produce true learning.

"Structured curricula impede true learning" is a faulty notion.

Jen said...

Yeah, I was having that wait, wait reaction too. But I just stopped reading.

The only quibbles I might have without reading more the definition of "structured" -- not all structured curricula are good curricula. So some structured curricula COULD impede learning. My district's for example.

#6 I have no problem with as a myth. If a teacher is teaching discrete skills, and drilling and practicing well, the child will be learning, will see it in his or her own understanding and will see it in assessments. THAT will be a basis for self-esteem. I worked hard at this and I learned it. << esteem producing.

#10 I agree we need a definition. A teacher needs to be able to look at a child's work and see where the misunderstanding is or in some cases, think enough like a child to recognize what they're missing. Personally, I think that's creative, being able to put oneself back into the mind of a 7 yo or 11 yo and see what's missing.

Being able to find a way to supply that missing piece is also, to me, creative. Choosing the right way to re-teach and the right problems to practice to tease out that skill is also creative to me.

Being able to come up with really cool projects using found objects may be traditionally creative, but much less necessary for a teacher.

Crimson Wife said...

Change "unending" to "major" in #7 and I'd say it's true. It takes a huge amount of patience to be a good teacher/therapist of disabled children.

It is quite humbling to watch my autistic child's therapists (speech, physical, occupational, behavioral, etc.) work with her because they seem to have the patience of a saint every single session, while I'm sitting there observing her struggling and feeling frustrated that it takes so much repetition and little baby steps for her to make any progress.

ChemProf said...

He's calling out something specific in #7 - using "patience" as an excuse for slow presentation and low expectations for SPED.

From the article (which is a pretty interesting read, although I doubt it will change any minds):

Instead of patient teachers, students with disabilities need teachers who are impatient-impatient with instructional methods and materials that do not help their students acquire and subsequently use the knowledge and skills required for successful functioning in school, home, community, and work- place.

Instead of waiting patiently for a student to learn, attributing lack of progress to some inherent attribute or faulty process within the child, a teacher should use direct and frequent measures of the student's performance as the primary guide for modifying instructional methods and materials to improve effectiveness.

Anonymous said...

thanks for clarifying; yes i agree that
this is a list of "myths". wait! wait!
a lot of my reactions are of the
"unask the question" variety: rather
than agree or disagree we should
dodge the strawman and get more
specific... or "read between the lines"
to try to find out what's *really* at
stake (that so many people fight
so hard for). anyhow, sorry for
annoying you and your readers.
probably i'll shut up for another
long while now; this was kind of

Anonymous said...

Re.#6 and Jen's comment: I think what Jen was really talking about was self-confidence; not self-esteem, as the term is currently used. I think of self-confidence as a consequence of personal effort and achievement; it gives kids (anyone)the courage to take on further challenges. I remember when "self-esteem" first came into use and it was definitely of the "you are special and wonderful and everything you do is wonderful" flavor. Telling kids that X assignment was sloppy, incorrect or simply not their best effort became taboo; I even remember reading about schools banning red-pencil corrections, because they would damage kids' self-esteem. The same mindset was applied to behavior; telling Susie to stop X inappropriate behavior immediately OR ELSE likewise became taboo. Self-esteem is expected to wilt under any criticism of work, effort or behavior (or any other obstacle); self-confidence increases when mistakes are corrected and obstacles overcome. As I remember, the whole self-esteem push came from some study that found that high-achieving kids had high self-esteem (probably meaning self-confidence, even then), so there was an immediate leap to assume that high self-esteem caused the high achievement. Most likely, it was the other way around; high achievement led to self-confidence.

Anonymous said...


Those terms got mangled. The whole say nice things all the time thing got started because it was seen as a shortcut to self-esteem. If we tell kids they're great, they'll be great!

But, it turned out that you ended up with kids who thought very highly of themselves for no apparent reasons. And when you looked more closely, they did seem to know on some level.

Regardless of which definition you use, it shouldn't be a teacher's primary goal. Learning should be the primary goal. And when learning is achieved, esteem rises.

While this link is talking about a book, it does list out some of the research:

I saw another version of this back and forth on another blog -- the idea that "cultural relevance" would be the key to a great curriculum.

It was pointed out that if there were an effective curriculum and a separate "culturally relevant" curriculum, that most people would pick effective. If you could have both, well so much the better.

So, self-esteem that has nothing to hang its hat on -- is shakier self-esteem. Self-esteem built on achievement is self-esteem that knows why it's there!