**robertogreco : matheducation**
3

Building Better Teachers

february 2016 by robertogreco

"BaBT's thesis is simple. Most people assume that great teachers are born, not made. From politicians to researchers and teachers themselves, most of us speak and act as if there's a gene for teaching that someone either has or doesn't. Most reforms are therefore designed to find and promote those who can and eliminate those who can't. The problem is, this assumption is wrong, so educational reforms based on it are (mostly) destined to fail. Reforms based on changing the culture of teaching would have a greater chance of succeeding, but as with any cultural change, they would require the kind of long-term commitment that our society doesn't seem to be very good at.

The book is written as a history of the people who have put that puzzle together in the US, including Nate Gage and Lee Shulman in the 1960s and 1970s, Deborah Ball, Magdalene Lampert, and others at Michigan State in the 1980s and 1990s, and educational entrepreneurs like Doug Lemov today. Its core begins with a discussion of what James Stigler discovered during a visit to Japan in the early 1990s:

It's tempting to think that this particular teaching technique is Japan's secret sauce: tempting, but wrong. The actual key is revealed in the description of Akihiko Takahashi's work. In 1991, he visited the United States in a vain attempt to find the classrooms described a decade earlier in a report by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM). He couldn't find them. Instead, he found that American teachers met once a year (if that) to exchange ideas about teaching, compared to the weekly or even daily meetings he was used to. What was worse:

So what does jugyokenkyu look like in practice?

Putting work under a microscope in order to improve it is commonplace in sports and music. A professional musician, for example, would dissect half a dozen different recordings of "Body and Soul" or "Yesterday" before performing it. They would also expect to get feedback from fellow musicians during practice and after performances. Many other disciplines work this way too. The Japanese drew inspiration from Deming's ideas on continuous improvement in manufacturing, while the adoption of code review over the last 15 years has, in my opinion, done more to improve everyday programming than any number of books or websites.

education
books
teaching
howweteach
japan
us
nctm
math
mathematics
matheducation
2014
teachereducation
jugyokenkyu
The book is written as a history of the people who have put that puzzle together in the US, including Nate Gage and Lee Shulman in the 1960s and 1970s, Deborah Ball, Magdalene Lampert, and others at Michigan State in the 1980s and 1990s, and educational entrepreneurs like Doug Lemov today. Its core begins with a discussion of what James Stigler discovered during a visit to Japan in the early 1990s:

Some American teachers called their pattern "I, We, You": After checking homework, teachers announced the day's topic, demonstrating a new procedure (I)... Then they led the class in trying out a sample problem together (We)... Finally, they let students work through similar problems on their own, usually by silently making their way through a worksheet (You)... The Japanese teachers, meanwhile, turned "I, We, You" inside out. You might call their version "You, Y'all, We." They began not with an introduction, but a single problem that students spent ten or twenty minutes working through alone (You)... While the students worked, the teacher wove through the students' desks, studying what they came up with and taking notes to remember who had which idea. Sometimes the teacher then deployed the students to discuss the problem in small groups (Y'all). Next, the teacher brought them back to the whole group, asking students to present their different ideas for how to solve the problem on the chalkboard... Finally, the teacher led a discussion, guiding students to a shared conclusion (We).

It's tempting to think that this particular teaching technique is Japan's secret sauce: tempting, but wrong. The actual key is revealed in the description of Akihiko Takahashi's work. In 1991, he visited the United States in a vain attempt to find the classrooms described a decade earlier in a report by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM). He couldn't find them. Instead, he found that American teachers met once a year (if that) to exchange ideas about teaching, compared to the weekly or even daily meetings he was used to. What was worse:

The teachers described lessons they gave and things students said, but they did not see the practices. When it came to observing actual lessons‐watching each other teach—they simply had no opportunity... They had, he realized, no jugyokenkyu. Translated literally as "lesson study", jugyokenkyu is a bucket of practices that Japanese teachers use to hone their craft, from observing each other at work to discussing the lesson afterward to studying curriculum materials with colleagues. The practice is so pervasive in Japanese schools that it is...effectively invisible. And here lay the answer to [Akihiko's] puzzle. Of course the American teachers' work fell short of the model set by their best thinkers... Without jugyokenkyu, his own classes would have been equally drab. Without jugyokenkyu, how could you even teach?

So what does jugyokenkyu look like in practice?

In order to graduate, education majors not only had to watch their assigned master teacher work, they had to effectively replace him, installing themselves in his classroom first as observers and then, by the third week, as a wobbly...approximation of the teacher himself. It worked like a kind of teaching relay. Each trainee took a subject, planning five days' worth of lessons... [and then] each took a day. To pass the baton, you had to teach a day's lesson in every single subject: the one you planned and the four you did not... and you had to do it right under your master teacher's nose. Afterward, everyone—the teacher, the college students, and sometimes even another outside observer—would sit around a formal table to talk about what they saw. [Trainees] stayed in...class until the students left at 3:00 pm, and they didn't leave the school until they'd finished discussing the day's events, usually around eight o'clock. They talked about what [the master teacher] had done, but they spent more time poring over how the students had responded: what they wrote in their notes; the ideas they came up with, right and wrong; the architecture of the group discussion. The rest of the night was devoted to planning... ...By the time he arrived in [the US], [Akihiko had] become...famous... giving public lessons that attracted hundreds, and, in one case, an audience of a thousand. He had a seemingly magical effect on children... But Akihiko knew he was no virtuoso. "It is not only me," he always said... "Many people." After all, it was his mentor...who had taught him the new approach to teaching... And [he] had crafted the approach along with the other math teachers in [his ward] and beyond. Together, the group met regularly to discuss their plans for teaching... [At] the end of a discussion, they'd invite each other to their classrooms to study the results. In retrospect, this was the most important lesson: not how to give a lesson, but how to study teaching, using the cycle of jugyokenkyu to put...work under a microscope and improve it.

Putting work under a microscope in order to improve it is commonplace in sports and music. A professional musician, for example, would dissect half a dozen different recordings of "Body and Soul" or "Yesterday" before performing it. They would also expect to get feedback from fellow musicians during practice and after performances. Many other disciplines work this way too. The Japanese drew inspiration from Deming's ideas on continuous improvement in manufacturing, while the adoption of code review over the last 15 years has, in my opinion, done more to improve everyday programming than any number of books or websites.

february 2016 by robertogreco

My Objections to the Common Core State Standards (1.0) : Stager-to-Go

april 2015 by robertogreco

"The following is an attempt to share some of my objections to Common Core in a coherent fashion. These are my views on a controversial topic. An old friend I hold in high esteem asked me to share my thoughts with him. If you disagree, that’s fine. Frankly, I spent a lot of time I don’t have creating this document and don’t really feel like arguing about the Common Core. The Common Core is dying even if you just discovered it.

This is not a research paper, hence the lack of references. You can Google for yourself. Undoubtedly, this post contains typos as well. I’ll fix them as I find them.

This critique shares little with the attacks from the Tea Party or those dismissed by the Federal Education Secretary or Bill Gates as whiney parents.

I have seven major objections to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS)

1. The CCSS are a solution in search of a problem.

2. The CCSS were implemented in a remarkably undemocratic fashion at great public expense to the benefit of ideologues and corporations.

3. The standards are preposterous and developmentally inappropriate.

4. The inevitable failure of the Common Core cannot be blamed on poor implementation when poor implementation is baked into the design.

5. Standardized curriculum lowers standards, diminishes teacher agency, and lowers the quality of educational experiences.

6. The CCSS will result in an accelerated erosion of public confidence in public education.

7. The requirement that CCSS testing be conducted electronically adds unnecessary complexity, expense, and derails any chance of computers being used in a creative fashion to amplify student potential."

[continues on to elaborate on each objection, some pull quotes here]

"there is abundant scholarship by Linda Darling-Hammond, Diane Ravitch, Gerald Bracey, Deborah Meier, and others demonstrating that more American kids are staying in school longer than at any time in history. If we control for poverty, America competes quite favorably against any other nation in the world, if you care about such comparisons."

…

"As my colleague and mentor Seymour Papert said, “At best school teaches a billionth of a percent of the knowledge in the world and yet we quibble endlessly about which billionth of a percent is important enough to teach.” Schools should prepare kids to solve problems their teachers never anticipated with the confidence and competence necessary to overcome any obstacle, even if only to discover that there is more to learn."

…

"When teachers are not required to make curricular decisions and design curriculum based on the curiosity, thinking, understanding, passion, or experience of their students, the resulting loss in teacher agency makes educators less thoughtful and reflective in their practice, not more. The art of teaching has been sacrificed at the expense of reducing pedagogical practice to animal control and content delivery."

…

"The singular genius of George W. Bush and his No Child Left Behind legislation (kicked-up a notch by Obama’s Race-to-the-Top) was the recognition that many parents hate school, but love their kids’ teachers. If your goal is to privatize education, you need to concoct a way to convince parents to withdraw support for their kid’s teacher. A great way to achieve that objective is by misusing standardized tests and then announcing that your kid’s teacher is failing your kid. This public shaming creates a manufactured crisis used to justify radical interventions before calmer heads can prevail.

These standardized tests are misunderstood by the public and policy-makers while being used in ways that are psychometrically invalid. For example, it is no accident that many parents confuse these tests with college admissions requirements. Using tests designed to rank students mean that half of all test-takers be below the norm and were never intended to measure teacher efficacy.

The test scores come back up to six months after they are administered, long after a child advances to the next grade. Teachers receive scores for last year’s students, with no information on the questions answered incorrectly. These facts make it impossible to use the testing as a way of improving instruction, the stated aim of the farcical process."

…

"It is particularly ironic how much of the public criticism of the Common Core is related to media accounts and water cooler conversations of the “crazy math” being taught to kids. There are actually very few new or more complex concepts in the Common Core than previous math curricula. In fact, the Common Core hardly challenges any of the assumptions of the existing mathematics curriculum. The Common Core English Language Arts standards are far more radical. Yet, our innumerate culture is up in arms about the “new new math” being imposed by the Common Core.

What is different about the Common Core approach to mathematics, particularly arithmetic, is the arrogant imposition of specific algorithms. In other words, parents are freaking out because their kids are being required to solve problems in a specific fashion that is different from how they solve similar problems.

This is more serious than a matter of teaching old dogs new tricks. The problem is teaching tricks at all. There are countless studies by Constance Kamii and others demonstrating that any time you teach a child the algorithm, you commit violence against their mathematical understanding. Mathematics is a way of making sense of the world and Piaget teaches us that it is not the job of the teacher to correct the child from the outside, but rather to create the conditions in which they correct themselves from the inside. Mathematical problem solving does not occur in one way no matter how forcefully you impose your will on children. If you require a strategy competing with their own intuitions, you add confusion that results in less confidence and understanding.

Aside from teaching one algorithm (trick), another way to harm a child’s mathematical thinking development is to teach many algorithms for solving the same problem. Publishers make this mistake frequently. In an attempt to acknowledge the plurality of ways in which various children solve problems, those strategies are identified and then taught to every child. Doing so adds unnecessary noise, undermines personal confidence, and ultimately tests memorization of tricks (algorithms) at the expense of understanding.

This scenario goes something like this. Kids estimate in lots of different ways. Let’s teach them nine or ten different ways to estimate, and test them along the way. By the end of the process, many kids will be so confused that they will no longer be able to perform the estimation skill they had prior to the direct instruction in estimation. Solving a problem in your head is disqualified."

garystager
commoncore
2015
education
policy
schools
publicschools
standardization
standardizedtesting
standards
learning
teaching
pedagogy
technology
testing
democracy
process
implementation
agency
howweteach
howwelearn
publicimage
seymourpapert
numeracy
matheducation
math
mathematics
numbersense
understanding
memorization
algorithms
rttt
gatesfoundation
pearson
nclb
georgewbush
barackobama
This is not a research paper, hence the lack of references. You can Google for yourself. Undoubtedly, this post contains typos as well. I’ll fix them as I find them.

This critique shares little with the attacks from the Tea Party or those dismissed by the Federal Education Secretary or Bill Gates as whiney parents.

I have seven major objections to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS)

1. The CCSS are a solution in search of a problem.

2. The CCSS were implemented in a remarkably undemocratic fashion at great public expense to the benefit of ideologues and corporations.

3. The standards are preposterous and developmentally inappropriate.

4. The inevitable failure of the Common Core cannot be blamed on poor implementation when poor implementation is baked into the design.

5. Standardized curriculum lowers standards, diminishes teacher agency, and lowers the quality of educational experiences.

6. The CCSS will result in an accelerated erosion of public confidence in public education.

7. The requirement that CCSS testing be conducted electronically adds unnecessary complexity, expense, and derails any chance of computers being used in a creative fashion to amplify student potential."

[continues on to elaborate on each objection, some pull quotes here]

"there is abundant scholarship by Linda Darling-Hammond, Diane Ravitch, Gerald Bracey, Deborah Meier, and others demonstrating that more American kids are staying in school longer than at any time in history. If we control for poverty, America competes quite favorably against any other nation in the world, if you care about such comparisons."

…

"As my colleague and mentor Seymour Papert said, “At best school teaches a billionth of a percent of the knowledge in the world and yet we quibble endlessly about which billionth of a percent is important enough to teach.” Schools should prepare kids to solve problems their teachers never anticipated with the confidence and competence necessary to overcome any obstacle, even if only to discover that there is more to learn."

…

"When teachers are not required to make curricular decisions and design curriculum based on the curiosity, thinking, understanding, passion, or experience of their students, the resulting loss in teacher agency makes educators less thoughtful and reflective in their practice, not more. The art of teaching has been sacrificed at the expense of reducing pedagogical practice to animal control and content delivery."

…

"The singular genius of George W. Bush and his No Child Left Behind legislation (kicked-up a notch by Obama’s Race-to-the-Top) was the recognition that many parents hate school, but love their kids’ teachers. If your goal is to privatize education, you need to concoct a way to convince parents to withdraw support for their kid’s teacher. A great way to achieve that objective is by misusing standardized tests and then announcing that your kid’s teacher is failing your kid. This public shaming creates a manufactured crisis used to justify radical interventions before calmer heads can prevail.

These standardized tests are misunderstood by the public and policy-makers while being used in ways that are psychometrically invalid. For example, it is no accident that many parents confuse these tests with college admissions requirements. Using tests designed to rank students mean that half of all test-takers be below the norm and were never intended to measure teacher efficacy.

The test scores come back up to six months after they are administered, long after a child advances to the next grade. Teachers receive scores for last year’s students, with no information on the questions answered incorrectly. These facts make it impossible to use the testing as a way of improving instruction, the stated aim of the farcical process."

…

"It is particularly ironic how much of the public criticism of the Common Core is related to media accounts and water cooler conversations of the “crazy math” being taught to kids. There are actually very few new or more complex concepts in the Common Core than previous math curricula. In fact, the Common Core hardly challenges any of the assumptions of the existing mathematics curriculum. The Common Core English Language Arts standards are far more radical. Yet, our innumerate culture is up in arms about the “new new math” being imposed by the Common Core.

What is different about the Common Core approach to mathematics, particularly arithmetic, is the arrogant imposition of specific algorithms. In other words, parents are freaking out because their kids are being required to solve problems in a specific fashion that is different from how they solve similar problems.

This is more serious than a matter of teaching old dogs new tricks. The problem is teaching tricks at all. There are countless studies by Constance Kamii and others demonstrating that any time you teach a child the algorithm, you commit violence against their mathematical understanding. Mathematics is a way of making sense of the world and Piaget teaches us that it is not the job of the teacher to correct the child from the outside, but rather to create the conditions in which they correct themselves from the inside. Mathematical problem solving does not occur in one way no matter how forcefully you impose your will on children. If you require a strategy competing with their own intuitions, you add confusion that results in less confidence and understanding.

Aside from teaching one algorithm (trick), another way to harm a child’s mathematical thinking development is to teach many algorithms for solving the same problem. Publishers make this mistake frequently. In an attempt to acknowledge the plurality of ways in which various children solve problems, those strategies are identified and then taught to every child. Doing so adds unnecessary noise, undermines personal confidence, and ultimately tests memorization of tricks (algorithms) at the expense of understanding.

This scenario goes something like this. Kids estimate in lots of different ways. Let’s teach them nine or ten different ways to estimate, and test them along the way. By the end of the process, many kids will be so confused that they will no longer be able to perform the estimation skill they had prior to the direct instruction in estimation. Solving a problem in your head is disqualified."

april 2015 by robertogreco

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