Comments on educational models welcomed.

Discussion in 'Special Education' started by Dr Kevlar, Jul 15, 2012.

  1. Dr Kevlar

    Dr Kevlar Rookie

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    Jul 15, 2012

    So, I am about to start my student teaching. My uni's special ed department is very much about Direct Instruction as the method of choice in special ed. While I view it as a "tool in the toolbelt," they really emphasize it.

    Obviously, my experience is limited. I did spend this past school year volunteering in an elementary school's special ed rooms. I found that doing DI could be useful, but was very rote, very basic and dare I say did not seem to give the students credit for being much more than recruits at Marine boot camp. There were times when I introduced my own lessons/content and they seemed to get just as much using a differentiated instruction approach and they looked more engaged as well (that could just be my own ego speaking!).

    For those of you in the field my respect is immense, therefore I would value your thoughts...
     
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  3. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    I'm a math teacher iin a college prep high school, no special ed at all. So my point of view is going to be very different.

    I'm a big fan of direct instruction. Sure, we mix it up, and there's a lot of laughter in my class. But a lot of the topics I deal with are pretty abstract. Sometimes, there's no logical way for a kid to come up with the information on his own, particularly given the constraints of a 38 minute period )that can shrink to as little as 29 minutes on some days) and the need to teach all that's in the syllabus. I think that sometimes what's taught in education classes loses sight of all the constraints of a typical real world classroom.

    Sure, Pytahgoreas and Euclid came up with the formulas-- but they weren't 15 year olds facing a Chemistry test next period, on the verge of breaking up with a boyfriend, with parents on the verge of divorce, a dad whose job is in jeopardy, and that 38/29 minute period.

    I've found that my kids seem to learn a whole lot better if I present the information, we do a few examples, I ask them to explain the process to me-- those are the notes that go into their notebooks, in their words-- and we do several more practice problems.
     
  4. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    My direct instruction is my whole group, skills based, mini lesson...the follow up activity could be differentiated, or cooperative work or hands on, or a combination...it's a dance...crafting lessons to facilitate learning for all students. Bottom line, my direct instruction ensures all kids are exposed to required content and then I can tweak the independent practice to suit my students' needs and learning styles.
     
  5. Dr Kevlar

    Dr Kevlar Rookie

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    Thank you for the reply, Aliceacc. When you use DI in your room, are you using the hand signals to indicate responses or using verbal commands?

    My take is that yes, there are some curricula that lend themselves to this style, but is this something you use all the time or only for certain portions of the curriculum?

    And I agree that at the secondary level all those things going through the kid's minds does not make things easy!
     
  6. Dr Kevlar

    Dr Kevlar Rookie

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    @ czacza: Then you take the "toolbelt" approach then using DI (and other methods) if your assessments indicate thye may be needed/work?
     
  7. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    I'm not sure what you mean by 'toolbelt'. I generally use a workshop approach.
     
  8. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Jul 15, 2012

    My clases are pretty much the way you probably remember being taught.

    My kids normally raise their hands when I ask a question. I tend to call on those with raised hands, because so many kids have it in their heads that math is hard; I hate putting kids on the spot. The occasional kid who calls out isn't a big deal. But remember: these kids are 15, 16 years old. They know how to behave in class.

    And it's not just the secondary kids who have alot going on. There are an awful lot of elementary aged kids with the same sort of issues.
     
  9. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Jul 15, 2012

    It's possible, Alice, that what you understand by "direct instruction" (lower case, denoting an approach: i.e, tell the kids what they need to know) is not what Dr Kevlar intends by "Direct Instruction" (upper case, and sounding distinctly like A Program: it seems to prescribe scripts, hand motions, and so on).

    Have I got that right, Dr Kevlar?
     
  10. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Jul 15, 2012

    I imagine you're right, TG. That never even occurred to me.Thanks.
     
  11. Dr Kevlar

    Dr Kevlar Rookie

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    Yes, TeacherGroupie, you do! The folks in the sped dept at my uni think that DI is the best thing since sliced bread and sadly, brook no discussion of there being even the possibility of doing something else. The textbook from a recent class went so far as to denigrate not only constructivist theory but also differentiated instruction, classifying them as being "negative" and that those using them have some pie-in-the sky attitude that is wrong with a capital W.

    I found that rather atrocious and, this being grad school, rather weak intellectually. It is one thing to favor a method, but to then denigrate any other method out-of-hand lacks what we used to call intellectual rigor.

    I know that some school districts have actually gone as far as to ban the use of DI-based curriculum. Does anyone out there work in such a district?
     
  12. swansong1

    swansong1 Virtuoso

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    I taught for quite a few years in a self contained K-5 SPED class. We had DI curriculum for math and reading. My assistant and I used the curriculum for small group instruction at the children's instructional level. Then we used differentiated methods and curriculum materials for other types of daily instruction (small group, whole group, and individual).

    Used appropriately, DI can be very effective. Used inappropriately, like I have seen in many schools, it is not impressive.

    As all teachers know, one single instructional method is not going to work for every child.
     
  13. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    I was afraid of that, Dr K...
     
  14. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    A few thoughts, first specifically in response to this post, then more broadly. In terms of DI vs. differentiated instruction, anyone who thinks those are mutually exclusive (i.e., would say differentiated instruction is bad, while DI is good) clearly doesn't understand either, so I think that's less a reflection on DI, and more a reflection on the understanding of those making such a comment.

    More broadly, I think DI is an instructional approach that works extremely well for some skills/sets, and extremely poorly for others, probably just like any instructional approach. The real issue in many schools is not the use of DI or scripted curricula more broadly, but the misapplication of those instructional approaches.

    I'd be interested in hearing more specifics related to the comments of what you've been told in terms of DI vs. constructivist approaches. For example, with reading instruction with at-risk readers, the research is extremely clear that a DI approach is best, and that a constructivist approach is not useful. So, were the comments made related to that, or more broadly to a constructivist approach in general in education?
     
  15. e6789

    e6789 Rookie

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    :thumb: I dance the same way. I have even used "dance" to describe the process! You will get in your own rhythm. I think you are right to keep an open mind to other ideas. In time, you will figure out the "dance." It just takes a bit of practice. If you are instructing whole group, it is often beneficial to intro with the direct instruction approach. From there, you can differentiate the instruction--based on the students needs at Table 1 in an inclusion setting, or based on Student B's level in a contained setting.
     
  16. Dr Kevlar

    Dr Kevlar Rookie

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    Jul 17, 2012

    Thank you for the thoughtful and thought-provoking replies. The text in question is "Direct Instruction Reading" 5th edition by Carnine, Silbert, Kame'enui and Tarver. There are multiple negative references. In the first chapter, they discuss the "Four Perspectives" for improving reading performance. The "perspectives" are termed: "Pessimist's Viewpoint," "Generalist's Viewpoint," "Constructivist's Viewpoint" and "Direct Instruction."

    Those are their terms. The Pessimist's viewpoint "states that the schools can do little unless the student's physical makeup or home and social environment are altered and that conditions outside the control of the schools are the predominant determiners of success...Inadvertantly, educators with this viewpoint do not take responsibility for the effectiveness of their instruction."

    Generalist's Viewpoint: "...reading performance can be improved only by focusing on the processes or abilities that underlie learning." They go on to say, after citing a previous study by one of the authors "...students, regardless of their modality preferences or their learning styles, benefit most from explicit and systematic instruction."

    All quotations are from ppg 4 -5. It goes on, but this post is already long enough! This text is being used in a Masters level course. All through the text are detrimental references to other styles. The segment on the Constructionist Viewpoint is too long to quote, but leaves one feeling as if constructionists are well-meaning but woefully misguided individuals who are essentially dreamers.

    I really appreciate that DI CAN be used successfully but even in a sped environment each student is different and needs (imho) to be viewed and treated as an individual, not a data point on trendline.
     
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2012
  17. Emily Bronte

    Emily Bronte Groupie

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    Jul 17, 2012

    I worked in a district that used DI for reading. The staff was pretty much on board with it. I had some students that it worked really well for and others where it was not the best choice.
     
  18. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    I know the book well. Basically, the evidence is pretty clear over the past several decades that with at-risk readers, DI is the best approach. Obviously the pessimist's viewpoint is wrong in that it places an absolute limit - that schools can do nothing. The constructivist approach to reading from an intervention/instruction standpoint has long been invalidated (see general research on "whole language"). This doesn't mean that some kids don't learn to read from a constructivist perspective, but that it isn't a research-based approach to organizing instruction. They aren't necessarily "dreamers," the quote isn't too far off - the whole language movement a few decades ago was basically an entire movement designed around something that felt good, but had no empirical support, and ended up failing miserably.

    A more current example of this trend is single-gender education. There is almost no empirical support that it works, yet districts are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars (and a lot of time) on in-service trainings because it feels good and sounds like it would work.

    Your last paragraph to me is dangerously close to invalidating a huge amount of research based on the relativist principle that nothing can really ever be proven to be better. With any research-based approach, there are going to be exceptions. There isn't a single strategy in the history of education that works 100% with all children all the time. This does NOT, however, mean that a well-established strategy is worth no more than others, simply because it doesn't offer absolute effectiveness. In this particular case, there isn't evidence that DI works slightly better than a constructivist approach, but that it works vastly better, and that a constructivist approach to reading offers little if any instructional utility as demonstrated by research.

    So, we can't invoke the principle of "all children learn differently" to validate something that hasn't been validated. Another example is aptitude by treatment interactions, or the idea that we should base instruction on learning styles or other aptitudes. There is intuitive appeal in this, and it falls in line with the belief that "all children are different," but the research just doesn't support basing instruction on learning style.

    More broadly, there is a common trend in education to identify some sort of value or belief, and assume that all practices in line with that value or belief are inherently good. For example, some folks believe that children should behave for the sake of learning, not to earn some sort of tangible reinforcement. As a result, they engage in the practice of not using reinforcement in the classroom. In this case, an intervention/technique was selected based on the teacher's imported value, not based on what has the greatest likelihood of producing a successful educational environment.
     
  19. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    Basing instructional decisions on research and data isn't negating the individuality of a student, but precisely supporting it. By being concerned with how a child is specifically responding to various strategies, we are by definition concerned with their individual performance.
     
  20. Dr Kevlar

    Dr Kevlar Rookie

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    EdEd: Thank you for the detailed reply, I appreciate that. I hear what you are saying, but my main issue with Direct Instruction and how this book presents it is that 1) the authors use their research almost exclusively to disprove the utility of any other method. 2) terming a viewpoint as "the pessimist's" is their term and dare I say it, is not exactly something one can quantify or validate 3) a data-driven approach is emphasized even from the constructivist pov.

    My issue with the book and the approach in it is the invalidation of the value of any other approach. Further, DI, as it is put forward in this book makes the classroom (again, my opinion) somewhat akin to Marine boot camp, where the emphasis is on the immediate response to given hand and verbal signals with no attempt to develop within the boot/learner the ability to think on their own two feet. They can spout facts and perform functions. Can they assemble facts and make decisions? Is that not what they should be able to do once we are done doing what we do in the classroom?

    Again, I think the technique, used appropriately, like all other teaching techniques can be valuable. Reducing education to some sort of industrial process where raw materials/teaching inputs go in at particular times and "products" (students) come out is a vast oversimplification in my estimation of what an education is supposed to accomplish.

    Perhaps my issue is that I view education much like medicine: both have elements of science and data-driven methodologies. But like any good medical practitioner will tell you, there comes a time when art drives the decision-making.

    I respect your opinion and value the thought you have put into your response. That said, we are not building Subarus here or attempting to create a "product" at the lowest possible cost to be "consumed." Certainly we want students who leave and are able to obtain employment and contribute to our economy. I also want students who will be able to contribute to our society. That requires more than the ability to follow hand signals and verbal cues.
     
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2012
  21. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    Jul 18, 2012

    First, I should say thanks for being so respectful, and back at you - I've appreciated the discussion! I've included my responses below...

    In that particular paragraph, yes - they are outlining the weaknesses with another approach, but the vast majority of the book is geared toward outlining practical strategies for teaching reading. In other words, perhaps 0.1% of the author's research in the text is used to speak about ineffective practices.

    Also keep in mind the history of this field - for about a decade "whole language" took over the education world in terms of the dominant approach toward teaching reading. This was extremely ill-founded and resulted in a nationwide drop in reading performance. I don't consider it inappropriate to devote some time to describing why that approach is bad. An entire book would be overkill maybe, but most of this text is extremely "nuts and bolts" about DI, not "anti-constructivism."

    I agree, it is definitely an emotionally-laden term and I'm not sure it needed to be included. I do think there is some validity in the point they are making, but that they could have made it without using that term.

    Very likely, but I don't think the main problem the authors have with a constructivist approach is that it's not data-driven, but that it lacks best practices in terms of reading research.


    But what if those approaches are invalid? Why do we need to value every idea that comes up, even if it's not good? Do you have research to support a constructivist approach to reading intervention? If not, why should the author make a statement, "We value everything equally" if they don't have the research to support it?

    I think you have to consider stages of learning. Learning to decode a word doesn't require critical thinking or decision-making. I think it would be highly inappropriate to teach a high school social justice class from a direct instruction perspective, because the focus on such a class would be not acquisition of facts, but critical thinking and decision-making. No such requirement exists with teaching decoding.

    I think there certainly is an argument against strictly DI approaches when you get to higher levels of teaching comprehension, as critical thinking becomes more important. Still, I think the argument would be to teach comprehension strategies in a more DI manner, but include other methods to promote deeper thinking.

    You have a very egalitarian viewpoint of education strategies. If you are going to be an effective educator, you have to be able to identify what works and what doesn't. I think you may have developed this viewpoint of equality when it comes to students (i.e., we should value all students equally, even if different) and are applying it toward educational strategies. That just doesn't hold up. It's just not true that "all other teaching techniques can be valuable" if used appropriately. Do you have research to support that every single teaching technique ever thought of works?

    Again, my comments on stages of learning are appropriate here. What critical decisions or deep thinking do you suppose is needed when decoding a word?

    What do you mean by this? To me, "art" refers to the aesthetic value of something. Do you suppose that doctors make decisions because of the aesthetic value of something - because it looks pretty when they do something? Or do you mean something else by art?

    Again, my comments before respond to this. If American education stopped after a child learned how to decode CCVCC words, I'd agree with you - we have to go further. However, DI isn't intended to be the end-all be-all of educational strategies, but to address the need for teaching specific kinds of skills at specific stages of instruction.
     
  22. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Dr Kevlar's use of the word "art" is correct and fairly well attested. The science of medicine is in the physiology, the chemistry, and the statistics, but without the art - without listening, without attention to the individual as individual - relying solely on the science will cause alienated patients at best and bad outcomes at worst. Antibiotics are not the answer to all ills, and not every patient is a 180-pound Caucasian male whose response to a given medicine reflects the textbook case. (Some years ago, a friend of mine who was almost certainly hyperactive from childhood was diagnosed with Graves' disease; she was given radiation to reduce her thyroid gland, and the expectation was that she would retain enough thyroid function not to need Synthroid. Little by little she fell into a profound funk. She was fearing for her sanity when she happened to mention this to me. What the doctor hadn't told her, because he probably didn't know (but I did, from experience with thyroid deficiency) is that thyroid hormone does have a psychological effect as well as a physiological one. That was how we figured out that her thyroid function had gone belly-up.)

    The trouble with educational theories, theorists, and theory adopters is that they tend to lurch from silver bullet to silver bullet, overextending the current silver bullet while disparaging the silver bullet that immediately precedes whatever the theorist or program adopter is championing. Those who adopt and prescribe the programs DO in fact present and require them as the "end-all be all" du jour of educational strategies, until the next be-all end-all comes along.

    EdEd, you've branded whole language an utter failure and bad practice - but whole language arose as a corrective to the previous phonics-and-skills approach, because that approach wasn't a silver bullet, either.

    The skilled teacher, as Mary Bowman-Krum notes here (http://www.avko.org/Essays/whole_language.htm), is the one who is familiar with a variety of approaches to reading and the one who can select an approach that will work for a specific student at a particular point in time.
     
  23. Dr Kevlar

    Dr Kevlar Rookie

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    Jul 19, 2012

    First, thank you EdEd and TeacherGroupie for the thoughtful replies. this is the sort of dialogue that was NOT happening in the text I've quoted, and this is my main problem with it.

    EdEd, you've made some good points but some of the responses were based on your interpretation of my statements and to be fair to you, I didn't write some of them very well!

    First, yes, I do have a very egalitarian approach. And yes, I should not have made such a sweeping statement to say that ALL methods are good. TG (if I may) hit on what I was thinking: teaching methodologies are an evolution and so far, no single one has been shown to be THE innovation, including DI. The text in question quotes a number of studies, the majority of which were performed by one or more of the authors. Whenever I see that, my antennae go up in re: testing bias. Not saying this is the case here but I find it curious that the book is supported by their research and curiously, they were unable to find a single study that was at all supportive of any other pov.

    In re: the "art" of teaching or medicine I can say that yes, you have given me the dictionary definition of art. Talk to any doctor or nurse practitioner, especially those in critical care, and they will tell you that there are times when a patient presents with issues that do not respond to the standard approaches. At that time you have to mine the data, search your own experieinces and combine that with your training to come up with a solution. That is what I am referring to as "art."

    I will agree that DI, in it's drill and practice format is effective for drill and practice types of things. I do have an issue with the notion that young students have less need for higher thinking than older students. I think this notion is in many cases wrong and we end up boring them with assembly-line practices and does not allow them to think and explore and discover. Children are adults in transition, even at very young ages. I believe that to the extent possible we should treat them as such. For me, DI has an a priori idea of children as requiring regimentation and narrow focus. Yes, the developmental stage of a child may be such that one cannot throw too much at them, but DI seems to turn away from Piaget, Vygotsky, Dewey, Gardner, Maslowe and many others who have done good, solid work. Certainly one can look at what happens at Reggio Emilia and see what children are capable of and wonder about the "need" for DI.

    I am going to break here...back with more in a tick...
     
  24. Dr Kevlar

    Dr Kevlar Rookie

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    Jul 19, 2012

    To clarify: In the above quote, the first para is from me, the second para is EdEd's response.

    EdEd, this is what I was referring to in my post above. On the surface, I DO agree that decoding words does not require critical decision-making.

    But let's go a bit further. All through life, as children and as adults, our students will be presented with situations/challenges/opportunities at home, at work and as they further their educations (hopefully) that will require critical thinking skills. Learning how to decode words or to perform particular math operations are the building blocks for doing that.

    Was Sister Mary Screamandholler thinking this when she taught Dr Kevlar? Probably not. But as one who attended Catholic elementary school in the 60's, I am here to tell you that DI (which is essentially what they used) was a wretched, boring, sterile existence. Fortunately I was encouraged to read at home. Now, I admit to having digressed, but getting back to my point learning how to decode words builds the skills one needs to decode sentences, paragraphs, pages, chapters and entire books. Being able to do that means that one can write and interpret contracts, for example or understand and implement policy.

    EdEd, I have LIVED this educational method. It is not new. The nuns loved it as they loved immediate responses to their hand signals, uniform, unison responses to questions and the ability to memorize facts. Thank god I was not left-handed, as one could get beat half-to death for writng with "the Devil's hand." Good times back in the "good old days" of education!

    We were not encouraged to think for ourselves or discover anything. The lesson units were not to be interrupted for anything other than questions regarding the immediate topic at hand. There was to be NO deviation from the prescribed method of operation, particularly in math. The classrooms at Holy Christ Almighty, where I went to school looked not much different than the videos and demonstrations of DI that I have seen and performed myself in small groups in Life Skills rooms.

    I understand that this is my own, personal reaction without any data support to the educational style inflicted (and I use that term intentionally) on me and the other kids at HCA grade school, but if we want "thinkers" and "problem solvers" in this world (and we are woefully short of those!) then we need to really be aware of how we utilize DI in our classrooms.
     
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2012
  25. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    Jul 19, 2012

    TeacherGroupie, I think sometimes we are vague with terms and definitions, and I think "art" is one of those that just needs to be clarified, as I think it can be thrown around without meaning. I'm not sure I would say that "art" refers to treating individuals as individuals, and I certainly wouldn't say that a data-driven approach to teaching is not individualized. I think we're all on the same page that individualization is good, but the fact that individualization is good does not mean every educational strategy/theory is. Of course, there is no strategy that is 100% effective with all kids, and it's entirely possible that a teacher may learn that a particular student responds to a strategy that is extremely unconventional and not exactly supported by the research. This likelihood, though, doesn't mean we should throw in the towel on educational research and praise all strategies equally because one might hypothetically work in an isolated case.

    I'm definitely in agreement that people jump on bandwagons, and tend to polarize discussions because of a belief in one strategy - that happens both with good theories/strategies and bad ones as well. In the text referenced, though, the discussion of a constructivist approach to reading is still valid. There is still not research to support the whole language movement/constructivist approach to reading, and because of that it's valid for an author to cite reasons why such an approach should not be used.

    I think it's important to clarify the level of discussion we're having. If we're talking about an individual problem-solving situation in which we're examining data about a particular child and trying to determine an intervention, that's a different type of discussion than examining the research globally about a particular category of strategies. If discussing something on an individual level, research can never solely determine the course of progression of intervention. Research is used to inform decision-making, but not to control it. Also, the process by which decisions are made should be research-based. In other words, a data-based decision-making model can be research-based, even if the decisions that may arise out of that model may not be.

    On the other hand, if we're talking about educational theory/research broadly, it's appropriate to make statements such as, "This strategy is not an evidence-based practice," of course with any caveats that might exist.

    In terms of the whole language vs. phonics discussion specifically, I think it would be helpful to stick with a discussion of the relevant research. The book in question provides a number of references supporting DI, which are by no means obscure. If anyone would like to list references supporting a whole language approach, it might be more helpful as the discussion progresses. The problem with the discussion now is that folks are supporting whole language by the argument that no educational theory/strategy can inherently be wrong because of the importance of individualization. This simply isn't true, even if a strategy could hypothetically work in at least one situation in the world. I'm not advocating against unorthodox intervention in isolated cases in the situation warrants it, but that doesn't mean that all educational models/theories are true.

    In short, if we are going to discuss the merits of the statement, "A constructivist approach to reading is wrong," let's do so on the merits of the research, not on the philosophical notion that no strategy could ever really be considered wrong.
     
  26. EdEd

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    Jul 19, 2012

    The research support of DI is overwhelming, and is perhaps one of the most well-studied instructional approaches in the history of education. The authors of that text have been leading researchers in that field for decades, so it makes sense that some of their studies would be included (would be off if not), but they do not work for private companies trying to sell product, but clearly come from more of a research background. Beyond that, there are innumerable other studies supporting a DI approach.

    I would challenge you to find other references supporting a constructivist viewpoint. The fact that they didn't include any could either indicate a bias, as you mentioned, or the fact that there just aren't any. If they have cited a number of studies supporting their claims, and you disagree, the burden is on you to find contradictory studies. It's not appropriate to dismiss their findings (and the findings of others) based on an educational philosophy that "there must be something else that works just as good." As I mentioned in my reply to TeacherGroupie, I think it would be helpful if we are to continue the discussion about constructivist vs. DI approach to bring in specific research. If there's a component of the text you disagree with (e.g., we should teach specific letter sounds), it may be helpful to bring in a study which indicates the opposite, and we could discuss the merits of both.

    Gotcha, and this makes sense. I think we're all on the same page here in terms of the specific practices/approaches you're referencing being important. I think where I disagree is in this dichotomization of "art vs. science," as though individualization and clinical decision-making are somehow not scientific?

    I don't think it's a "DI now, and higher level thinking later" approach - I think it's more based on the specific skill you are trying to teach. I could very well see a teacher using a DI approach from 9:15-9:40 while doing small group reading with a phonics focus, then transitioning into a different modality after that when teaching a different type of skill. So, I think we're in agreement in that kids still need to experience instruction that focuses on higher level thinking, but not in the area of phonics. I think the discussion we're having is very limited to teaching basic reading skills - not to education as a whole, even with young children.
     
  27. EdEd

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    I'm glad Sister Mary Screamandholler wasn't my teacher! Thanks for the personal anecdote :) - sounds like it wasn't too good of an experience!

    Yeah, I think I have two main reactions to your experience: first, I think that DI was used in situations when it shouldn't have been. It sounds like the teachers used it to teach everything, and I think this gets back to TeacherGroupie's comments about people over-committing to a particular strategy or theory. Using chemotherapy to treat a broken leg of course isn't going to work, but it doesn't mean chemotherapy is wrong.

    My second reaction is that DI doesn't exactly have to be that
    boring! Yes, it's less exciting than a constructivist approach could be, but there are a variety of multi-sensory activities you can do to spice things up, and the teacher's personality and level of engagement is certainly a variable as well. Teachers who are completely flat emotionally, extremely strict, and unengaging are likely to make DI even more rote and boring. Consider a teacher, though, who is showing enthusiasm, praising student effort, injecting a bit of humor, etc.

    In short, I don't think the DI referenced in the book is exactly the same as the DI you experienced in Catholic school in the 60s, even though it sounds like the theoretical underpinnings are probably not too far off. I'd also point out that there are different curricula that make use of DI theory. While Carnine, etc. may describe certain practices (e.g., hand gestures), that doesn't mean that curricula that don't use hand gestures aren't considered DI. For example, both Wilson Reading and SPIRE are considered DI curricula (as are many others, of course), but both vary in a number of ways. I'd encourage you to not box DI into just the exact application that Carnine, etc. take in the book. This point really gets into a deep and critical understanding of the literature, and how to critically evaluate curricula.

    For example, in the text, Carnine et al describe a particular sequence of letter sounds that should be taught, but other curricula sometimes have a different "scope & sequence." I'm not sure that the exact order specified by Carnine is as important as understanding why that order was suggested. For example, teaching topographically similar letters (e.g., /b/ and /d/) in spaced format (not back-to-back) is important. So, if you're looking at a particular DI curriculum and those two letters are taught back-to-back, your understanding of the research would suggest to either modify the curriculum, or chose another one.

    I think it's hugely important to keep in mind that much of the research done with DI - and with any category of instructional techniques - is done on specific components, not on the "whole" of the process. In other words, some research may look at a child's overall experience in a DI vs. whole language environment, but much more research examines more specific components of each. So, a study might examine whether spaced or mass practice is more valuable when reviewing letter sounds, how many repetitions are needed for the average child to master a letter sound, which practice exercises are most helpful in promoting retention of letter sounds, etc. So, it's less important to understand the concept that "DI is better than whole language," and more important to understand exactly which instructional practices tend to work better with others. When you individualize, then, you might decide to change out the student response format, increase the number of review letters in a practice trial, or add a nonverbal component to your cuing process.

    Hopefully this last paragraph will help shed light on the fact that DI isn't really just one curriculum, but a body of research about how to teach reading. As TeacherGroupie pointed out, most intelligent conversation about reading strategy now happens on the individual strategy level, or perhaps on the level of specific curriculum. Most people don't focus their efforts on DI vs. whole language, but I think the point of the Carnine text is that most evidence-based strategies - if you had to drop them in one bucket or the other - would end up in the DI bucket, at least with basic/beginning reading skills. My point of pretty much this entire post is that there are a lot of gems in the Carnine text, and while this discussion may be interesting, I wouldn't invalidate the strategies discussed in the book because of a philosophical aversion to committing to a particular modality. As a matter of fact, I don't really know many people who do commit to any other standard than "research-based." Even if you brought Carnine himself a strategy from a constructivist perspective that had a wealth of empirical support behind it, I bet you he'd use it!
     
  28. TeacherGroupie

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    "Dichotomization"? I think not. The point of the art and science distinction isn't forcing a dichotomy, it's striking a balance. Either/or just makes for wars: both/and is both more interesting and more productive.

    The literature on art vs. science in medicine is considerable; for recent instances, see the following:

    http://www.dcmsonline.org/jax-medicine/1999journals/december99/presmess.htm
    http://www.mothersinmedicine.com/2011/04/art-vs-science.html
    http://thepatientpatient2011.blogspot.com/2012/07/art-vs-science-of-medicine.html

    Your physician can furnish further examples from her own experience.

    See also the remarkable article at http://www.paulgraham.com/knuth.html: the author is the late Donald Knuth, who pretty much founded modern computer science.

    For education, the pickings online are fewer, but that speaks perhaps of the extent to which liberal studies is not liberal arts. See, however,

    http://teacherleaders.typepad.com/tln_teacher_voices/2008/08/the-science-and.html
    http://darkwing.uoregon.edu/~moursund/Math/sotl.htm

    and Robert Marzano has a book by the title The Art and Science of Teaching, for which the squib on the http://www.marzanoresearch.com Web site begins, "Though classroom instructional strategies should clearly be based on sound science and research, knowing when to use them and with whom is more of an art."

    It's quite true that the preponderance of published research is on methods that stress heavily scripted instruction. The explanation for that is largely "follow the money", to be honest (and one sees the same thing in medicine: the two big drivers for the rapid expansion of knowledge in orthopedics are athletics and the aging of the Baby Boomers, and even in literature departments, one of the standards for deciding if a professor gets tenure is whether that professor can attract outside grant money; it is what it is. If there are fewer contemporary studies of aspirin than there are of naproxen or ibuprofen, it means that naproxen and ibuprofen attract more money, not that aspirin is ineffective.) In other words, caveat lector.

    With what did you learn to read, EdEd?
     
  29. EdEd

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    I think the discussion of "art vs science" is largely one of semantics, in that I think when we remove the labels of "art" and "science," we probably largely agree on what we're talking about. My main point in even entering the discussion in that domain is to point out that individualization of instruction and clinical/professional judgement are no less a part of "science" in that they adhere to principles of hypothesis generation, systematic testing & experimentation, and confirmation of hypotheses. The larger point here is to prevent folks from ignoring the role of science in research in all areas of practice, including the areas of practice you (and others) refer to as "art."

    In terms of support for DI, I disagree that the impetus is financial gain. Where do you see support from businesses in the research and publication of evidence supporting DI? Even if such a force could be found, if kids can read more fluently and accurately using a DI approach, wouldn't that be the best approach for teaching fluency and accuracy?

    Interestingly, I don't really remember learning to read :). My guess is that I learned like many kids, which is just through picking up pieces of instruction, as well as through exploration, as a child. I know that I didn't struggle with it, so that's probably why it isn't a strong memory for me.
     
  30. TeacherGroupie

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    EdEd, think about "art" and "science" some more, please, and let me urge you to read at least the article from Mothers in Medicine (that would be my second link) before you do. Recognizing both "art" and "science" does not constitute a value judgment that disparages the former while elevating the latter; it is not a value judgement, nor is it a way to dismiss one of those as merely fluff while enshrining the other as rigorous and therefore the only right way.

    As for research funding, let me try this again, a little more explicitly: Every university researcher (and university department, for that matter) knows very well that money is the mother's milk of research: without grant money, research simply doesn't happen. That was true in California even when the UCs and CSUs were deriving the lion's share of their funding from the state coffers; as state funding has shrunk, departments and researchers in all disciplines have had little choice but to rely more on outside funding. The grant is sought by the researcher, but it's paid to the university, and it funds not only the obvious costs like supplies and equipment that are specific to the grant in question but also being able to tender the university its cut for administrative overhead, including the offices that vet all the grant proposals, the offices that oversee research involving human subjects and their rights, and the offices that hire and pay one's research assistants, and the offices that disburse the grant funds. Furthermore, funding begets funding: the first grants can be tough to get, but as a grantee becomes known for attracting grants, she's likelier to keep getting them. Finally, it's well known that some worthy research goes unfunded and therefore undone simply because, for whatever reason, the granting agencies (some of which are commercial, like drug companies or publishers; some philanthropic, like foundations; and some governmental, like the National Institutes of Health or the US Department of Education) happen not to be dispensing money for that particular line of research at this particular time. To say all of this, however, and especially to note that grants make research possible, is in no way to make the assertion you rashly ascribe to me about financial gain as impetus.
     
  31. EdEd

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    In the article you highlight regarding "art vs. science," what action/thought process of the doctor would say is "art" and not science?

    Regarding grants, I'm well aware of the processes you're talking about and have had several positions in various capacities at the university level. Your comments, though, are global - they highlight the potential problem that any area of research might run into. My comments previously were more questioning how DI has fallen victim to these problems specifically? Which private companies, which individuals, and which public agencies have unfairly chosen to research DI over other types of interventions? Is it not possible that DI has been consistently more researched because it has shown more promise? If a strategy is found to be unsuccessful, wouldn't it be natural for that strategy to receive less funding and focus? What support is there that DI has been more heavily researched because of bias?
     
  32. TeacherGroupie

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    "Bias", and your earlier "dichotomization", are your imputations of value judgment, but if you were to read what I've actually written rather than what you expect or wish me to have written, you might realize that I neither said nor intended such polemic.

    We've had this discussion before, EdEd: your insistence on reframing others' words in ways that aren't justified is one way to win arguments, but it turns up the heat at the expense of obscuring the light.
     
  33. Dr Kevlar

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    If no one minds, I am just going to sit back and absorb both what EdEd and Teacher Groupie have had to say. I am then going to interview Mrs Dr Kevlar, who is a nurse practitioner specializing in cardiac critical care. She has told me a number of anecdotes where she has sussed the correct diagnosis using the "art" of medicine as opposed as the "science" of medicine.

    To the point that TeacherGroupie makes about funding I will sway this: it has become rather obvious that as DI has been adopted by political groups as the Teaching Methodology du Jour. Funding for studies that will (hopefully) validate DI is more readily available.

    This is a touchy situation. Harkening to medicine once again, we are seeing recently (specifically regarding drugs such as epogen) that industry-funded research studies were actually altered to provide a favorable result. The outcome though has been that epogen has been misused, to the serious detriment to the patients. See also Vioxx.

    The funding cuts to our public insttutions has, imho, placed them in a dangerous situation where the desired funds for research puts researchers in a very tricky position in re: testing bias. Further, the amount of money being made selling curriculum causes the producers of the curriculum to seek every advantage they can in the "marketplace." If that means tweaking the number of favorable research studies by sending the $$ to people who have produced sympathetic results in the past, so be it.
     
  34. EdEd

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    Forgive any mischaracterizations, for sure. I'm not intending to mischaracterize for the sake of winning of arguments.

    Returning to the discussion at hand, I'd be interested in your thoughts on the content of my last comments.
     
  35. EdEd

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    Sitting back and absorbing is probably something we should all do more often :).

    Regarding your comments, how have you specifically seen that funding for research has been influenced by political agendas as opposed to scientific ones?

    As you absorb and reflect, I think it is helpful for all of us to challenge our perspectives with the details of fact. For example, while it might make intuitive sense on some level to think that DI has received more funding because it's been politically popular, where is the support for this claim? What study/grant can you specifically identify that has been subjected to this bias? If our perspectives remain out of reach of challenge by fact, we are in danger of developing beliefs and ideologies that are contrary to best practice, and - on a more basic level - truth. I'm not claiming that my perspective is beyond bias either, but I think our discussion at present isn't dealing with the specific evidence that's available, and I think if the discussion is going to be helpful for our professional development, we need to move the discussion more in the direction of specifics and evidence. I accept any challenges to my statements based on evidence as well!
     
  36. Dr Kevlar

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    As I noted, it is simply my opinion. One need look no further than the research regarding Vioxx, or more recently, how the benfits for anemia drugs such as epogen were overstated.

    I will agree that this is a bit off the topic (validity of testing and where the $$ come from) but I reserve the right to be skeptical (in a scientific sense) of some of the research vis a vis favoring from whence the dollars flowed. The McGraw and Bush family connections are well known, and McGraw Hill has done quite well, thank you, with the advent of NCLB and the push for standardized testing.
     
  37. EdEd

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    I certainly think skepticism is good and warranted, but should be followed up with by looking at the facts. So, being skeptical that DI has been more heavily researched because of funding bias is fine, but the obligation of the person with skepticism is to follow up by researching the issue in question. It's not appropriate to make conclusions that research can't be trusted based on skepticism alone - confirmation has to be included.

    In this situation, then, I think it's appropriate to assume that the research about DI stands unless someone brings to light a specific fact that leads to serious question about the study's validity.
     
  38. EdEd

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    Jul 24, 2012

    I certainly think skepticism is good and warranted, but should be followed up with by looking at the facts. So, being skeptical that DI has been more heavily researched because of funding bias is fine, but the obligation of the person with skepticism is to follow up by researching the issue in question. It's not appropriate to make conclusions that research can't be trusted based on skepticism alone - confirmation has to be included.

    In this situation, then, I think it's appropriate to assume that the research about DI stands unless someone brings to light a specific fact that leads to serious question about the study's validity.
     

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