Dr. Doug Green challenges our thinking about school, how we should teach, and the flaws with the testing programs we have in education today.
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Teaching isn't Rocket Science – It's Way More Complex
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Date: April 5, 2018
Vicki: Author Dr. Doug Green @DrDougGreen is with us today, talking about “Teaching Isn’t Rocket Science. It’s Way More Complex.”
Now, Doug, you argue that we’ve kind of gone off track in education.
How have we gone off track?
Doug: Well, there are two problems.
There are two problems with the way we teach today
One is the historical practice of one-size-fits-all teaching that we adopted back in the 1800s sometime.
And even though teachers have tried to differentiate to more personalized instruction, the federal mandated testing has forced teachers to prepare every kid in their cohort for the same tests every year.
So that has led to more one-size-fits-all instruction and testing, and the same target for 99% of the kids, which is really fighting the innovators in our business.
Vicki: So, Doug, you say that we have one-size-fits-all teaching.
But, I mean, isn’t that what standards are about? You think standards have brought us here?
How is standardized teaching different from a one-size-fits-all teaching?
Doug: Well, standards and standardized testing. Who wants to be standard?
If every student learned as fast as they possibly could, they’d all move at different paces, and accomplish things as quickly as they can.
And if that happened, what would happen to the achievement gaps that people are all hot and bothered about is that they’d increase. The only way to close that gaps is just to slow down the fast learners. And that’s what you do when you are preparing every kid for the same test at the same time.
Vicki: And you also argue that there’s really no choice for teachers but to be dishonest?
Doug: No, not at all. What I think teachers and their leaders should do is try to focus on personalizing and self-pacing instruction. And if they still have to give these tests, in May or April or whenever they roll them out. Fine. Give them.
If you provide good, engaging instruction that the students can deal at, at their own pace and their own ability, they’ll probably be doing better on their tests anyway. Even if you don’t do any test prep — which is just usually bad teaching.
Vicki: So what are the solutions?
What do you think? Where do we need to go?
What are the solutions?
Doug: Well, if every kid has their own computer, then they can watch the direct instruction on their own, anytime, anywhere. And then when they’re in class with the teacher, the teacher can work with one student or a group of students or even the whole class — depending upon what they’re trying to get at — to help them better internalize the direct instruction they’ve been watching. You know, go over it from a different direction.
And then, when it comes to testing… students should take tests when they are ready for them.
“I’m ready for the Unit 1Test.”
“Fine. Take it. Did you master it? Great. Go on to Unit 2.
“Did you not master it? Well, let me sit down and see if we can figure out what you need to do to master Unit 1.”
So students can kind of move at their own pace.
It’s a bit like the flipped instruction model…
…if you’re familiar with that, or better yet — flipped mastery.
Vicki: So we need to personalize learning.
Vicki: But you know, everybody in their grade levels.
Vicki: So, you know, I’ve had people on the show who said, “You know, somebody might need to be in 11th-grade Chemistry and 8th grade reading.”
Doug: Yeah. Fine. Why not?
Vicki: So how do we do that?
Doug: Well get rid of grade levels.
I mean, why do we harvest kids like crops?
Agricultural Model: Why do we harvest kids like crops?
We’re still doing some of the things that we were done originally back in the 1800s just because they were convenient for adults.
In Chemistry, I should be able to finish Chemistry in April or next October, depending on how fast I go through it.
And if I’m slower at one thing, give me more time.
And also, you can take failure out of the system, because nobody ever fails anything that they haven’t finished yet.
Vicki: So, for you…
The essential element is one-to-one computing.
So one-to-one computing is the answer?
That can free up the teacher to spend more individual time with students in small groups, facilitating the learning at that level. There’s no point in kids listening to lectures. You can get those online.
Vicki: You can. But you know, I found that I create so many of my videos, my curriculum, everything that I have. I have to create it myself. And it just sounds overwhelming.
Vicki: I mean, I try to personalize as much as I can, but it does sound overwhelming, Doug.
Doug: Well, the people that started this back in about 2007… They just started recording their lessons.
And then the kids who had missed class…. Watched the lessons.
And then an exchange student came in, maybe halfway through the year, and they said, “Oh, Geez…
Let’s start watching the September videos.
And it wasn’t long before they were refining and refining and refining their videos.
And the other thing is
A lot of teachers…
You know, if I taught math, I’d be harvesting videos from the Khan Academy or places like that, rather than creating my own.
I think the kids like it when the teacher does their own. I mean, that’s cool from the kid’s point of view. But they don’t all have to be your own videos.
Vicki: Yeah. I mean, I guess they don’t.
I mean, it’s just so hard to find exactly what is in there that’s you want. There are just so many challenges to this.
So, Doug, have you seen any schools or organizations that are doing this right?
Who is doing this right?
Vicki: Give us some examples.
Doug: Well, the Science Learning Academy in Philadelphia is one where I visited.
Doug: Kids walk in there.They hand them a Mac laptop. There’s a great deal of self-paced learning. You know, a lot of one-to-one time with the teachers, lots of peer instruction, and the kids go at their own pace, and they’re not going to fail. Because they have, you know, chances to retake tests if they don’t master a unit.
The other thing I think we need to look at, you know. We want to prepare kids for careers?
Well, who in a career, when they don’t know something, doesn’t just go online and find it out? Who in a career ever does any computations? We need to teach students WHEN to divide, not how to divide. You know, we’re not giving the kids the tools in school along with opportunities to collaborate, that they need on the job, that the companies are asking for.
Vicki: Yeah, unless you’re an engineer like my husband. He computes all the time. But I guess that it depends on the field, huh?
Doug: But not with paper and pencil, he doesn’t.
Vicki: Ohhhhh… well. (laughs)
We won’t talk about that.
He uses Excel, but he does use paper and pencil a lot, depending on what it is…
So, Science Leadership Academy, of course, Chris Lehmann’s…
Doug: Yes, Chris Lehmann…
Vicki: …who was there for a while, and is now superintendent, I believe.
And so are there some other places that you think are exemplars in this?
Doug: There’s a woman called Starr Sackstein. She has a blog on Education Week.
Doug: She’s doing some amazing things with her kids in Queens. Where the kids.. Ideally…
You’re familiar with Genius Hour?
Vicki: Of course. Yes.
Doug: I mean, you know, the kids are going to do a lot more profound learning if they’re engaged in something they’re interested in.
While you might not be able to do that all the time, but you should be able to do it some of the time.
If they’re not interested in anything, well, then it’s the teacher’s job to try to expose to stuff that might become interested in.
So, teachers, we are talking about the fact that teaching is not rocket science. It’s way more complex. And it is.
And we do have the capability to personalize learning so much more.
There are many great people that we will add to our PLN. We’ll, of course, include this in the Shownotes.
Doug, as we finish up, could you give us a 30-second pep talk about personalizing learning for the students in our classroom today?
So, in summary, why is personalized learning essential?
Doug: Well, letting kids proceed at their own level, and not expecting all at the same place at the same time.
The worst thing you can do is give a kid in the 2-percentile level the same test that everyone else is taking.
You want to make sure that your formative assessments are based on where the student is at, not some kind of standard that every student in your classroom has to jump through.
Instead of raising the bar, we should be giving every student their own bar.
Vicki: Well, this is a challenge for all of us…
Doug: It is…
Vicki: Think about it for Thought Leader Thursday, about how we can personalize learning for our students.
Doug: Thank you!
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Transcribed by Kymberli Mulford email@example.com
Bio as submitted
I have been an educator since 1970. After teaching chemistry, physics, and computer science, I became an administrator for the next 30 years with experience at the secondary, central office, and elementary levels. I have also taught a number of leadership courses for The State University of New York at Cortland and Binghamton University and authored over 300 articles in computer magazines and educational journals. In 2006 I gave up my job as an elementary principal to care for my wife who had Lou Gehrig’s disease. After her death in March of 2009 I decided to see how I could use my expertise to help busy educators and parents hone their skills and knowledge.
DrDougGreen.Com is all about Bite-Sized daily Self-Development. It focuses on book summaries that present the main concepts of important books in about 15 paragraphs. I am active on Twitter, and when I find an interesting link or tweet, I post it in my Dr. Doug Mines the Net section. I post things I find myself, which includes free access to New York Times articles thanks to my subscription. On occasion, I post my own work and ideas and look forward to reader comments. Working educators and parents don’t always have time to read a lot, but I do. So this is my gift to our common mission to help all children learn. If you think I can help you or your district in any specific way please contact me so we can discuss the matter.
|Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a “sponsored podcast episode.” The company who sponsored it compensated me via cash payment, gift, or something else of value to include a reference to their product. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I believe will be good for my readers and are from companies I can recommend. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” This company has no impact on the editorial content of the show.|
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