As I mentioned in a previous blog, CLIME has retired from being an affiliate of NCTM (June 1, 2019). But that doesn’t mean I’ve retired from working towards my vision of math education. My new blog is http://dmcpress.org and it will continue to inform my vision. See SAMR image below.
Reflections on my thinking about school reform came with a request from colleague Richard Elmore who asked me to write a piece about how my ideas have changed over the years. Daily experience in schools as a teacher, administrator, and researcher (and the writing that I did about those experiences) altered key ideas I had about the nature of reform and how reform worked its way into districts, schools, and classrooms.
I used to think that structural reforms (e.g., creating non-graded schools; new district and school site governance structures; novel technologies; small high schools with block schedules, advisories, and student learning communities) would lead to better classroom instruction. And now I think that, at best, such structural reforms may be necessary first steps toward improving instruction but are (and have been) seldom sufficient to alter traditional teaching practices.
“I used to think that the teacher was critical to student and school success. And now, I continue to think the same way. “
So we have come full circle. The focus is once again on the role of the teacher in the classroom in making the significant changes in how students are taught and how they learn.
There is not much one can do about the “Grammar of School” (See Larry Cuban) but there is much that can be done with our lessons in classrooms. At the heart is a synergy between students and teachers. If schools are to make a difference in what students learn, classroom routine needs a transformation. A renewal of spirit. My mantra for how to structure lessons is:
1. Set the stage with an engaging introduction to the activity that follows.
2. Do the activity. It should be done collaboratively in groups. It should use technology effectively.
3. Debrief. Students share what they learned from the activity phase.
Note: We should not mistake engagement with entertainment.
Entertainment is an escape from problems; engagement involves solving problems. … Entertainment results through the creativity of others; engagement asks for creativity on the part of the learner. Perhaps the greatest distinction is that entertainment is often passive, whereas engagement is active or interactive. –Doug Johnson
Getting beyond the superficial and coming up with something genuine sets the stage for the activity that engages students individually and collaboratively to pursue the scenario at hand. A good scenario goes beyond mere entertainment but gets to the core of what learning is all about. Kid’s are motivated to want to learn. Their minds are completely engaged that they’re still thinking about these powerful ideas they just explored as they leave the classroom and beyond.
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