Resistant to Change?

Discussion in 'General Education' started by mathmagic, Jun 22, 2018.

  1. mathmagic

    mathmagic Enthusiast

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    Do you feel that as educators, we are sometimes over-hesitant to make change (based on research), because we've had "success" with the way we've done something?
    (quotation marks are purposeful - I'm meaning the idea that it seems to work well short-term at least, but we're not sure if it could work even better, or work better long-term)
     
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  3. 2ndTimeAround

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    I feel that "research" in education is lacking. (quotation marks are purposeful because very few controlled studies are out there and many papers are simply summaries of other papers. With authors often quoting themselves in second/third papers).

    Change for the sake of change is wasteful. Wasteful of time, energy and money. And if you've been around long enough, you'll quickly see that no one is reinventing the wheel. They're just rolling it over and slapping a new name on an old idea that was tried several years ago.
     
  4. a2z

    a2z Maven

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    I actually think that educators are too quick to jump to new things based on false summaries of "research". I also think educators are too quick to introduce new ways of doing things in younger grades under the guise of "preparing" the students for the next grade, for example, interactive notebooks.
     
  5. mathmagic

    mathmagic Enthusiast

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    Here's a follow-up, based on the responses so far: at what point does research become strong enough where breaking up the "what works" makes sense?

    (I'm simply having first-day-of-break productivity and deep thought time, sorry! Haha :p )
     
  6. Ms.Holyoke

    Ms.Holyoke Connoisseur

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    As a recent graduate, I felt like a lot of my math pedagogy classes talked about teaching methods that are very hard to implement in a regular classroom. I was at a conference and I was talking to one of my old college professors from undergrad (who is a math ed professor). I told her that I wanted to try to incorporate some problem solving in my classes next year, but I also wanted to teach using some direct instruction. I basically want to try a variety of teaching methods! She told me that it doesn't work and all math classes should be 100% problem solving. Professors do not always understand the realities of teaching, such as limited time, many standards to teach, and students who have many different needs! I appreciate how my methods classes showed us an ideal for how we could teach and they did give me many helpful resources. However, when professors do not have much or any actual teaching experience, it makes it hard for us to listen to everything they are saying.

    As a new teacher, I do want to try many of the things that I have learned and will continue to learn! In my student teaching, my mentor teacher did seem a little bit resistant to change. She didn't love it when I did group or partner work and our everyday routine was Do Now - Direct Instruction - Classwork Worksheet. I think that this works sometimes, but I didn't like doing it every single day. For her, this is how she was used to teaching and I think she did not want to change it much. However, when we had many standards to teach and limited time, it's tough to do the exploratory learning that we want to do!
     
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  7. Leaborb192

    Leaborb192 Enthusiast

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  8. Ms.Holyoke

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    Right, so I think there needs to be a balance. Problem solving and exploratory learning in math is important. I also think it is important for students to learn to work collaboratively and share ideas. The issue is that my professors seemed to think that any form of direct instruction is bad and that we should never directly answer a student's question. One professor told us that students should never work independently. Another professor told us that students should never do practice in math class -- that should be homework instead.

    In my experience, this is just not realistic.
     
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  9. Leaborb192

    Leaborb192 Enthusiast

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  10. miss-m

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    ...How would this even work? You can't do 100% problem solving with unfamiliar concepts. (Preaching to the choir, I know, but dang.) That's how you end up with really frustrated students.

    I hate this idea that all direct instruction is bad and everything should be "figured out" by students. Like... they don't even know what they're supposed to be figuring out; even inquiry based learning is guided by the teacher to some level. Is direct instruction the most effective method? Most of the time probably not. I know I taught a lot of things my first year where I talked way more than I should have, and my students took longer to get it because they got used to me giving them the answers too quickly.

    I think the gradual release model has probably gone a little out of vogue (or been rebranded, since that seems to be how teaching works) in the past few years, but I try to always keep that in mind except in very specific circumstances when students are legitimately exploring (like in science observations). I model a few times, students work with me and/or with a partner, and then they do it independently. It's an easy process to follow and it works for the majority of students.
     
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  11. Leaborb192

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  12. miss-m

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    I also just remembered something I read in an article for my current class, that "children tend to learn what they are taught." I can't find the article now (of course) but the author's point was that if you want a student to learn a specific skill, you have to teach them that skill. Sometimes that means using direct instruction and saying, "Look, these two letters together make this sound. These are words that have this sound in it with these two letters." Or, for math, "When you see this symbol, it means you do this." Like... not everything has to be worked out by students!

    Ok. I'm done ranting now. :D
     
  13. Leaborb192

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  14. MissScrimmage

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    It's actually frightening how many times I've heard "but the kids can't do XYZ" from teachers. (I'm a literacy coach). I always ask, "Have you taught them how to do XYZ?" to which the reply is usually, "No, they should know XYZ by now." Ummm, you're a TEACHER. If the students can't do something, TEACH THEM.

    I do think the accessibility of so many resources gives us a false sense of security to not do our research. Many teachers are crunched for time, so rather than researching best practices, it's easier to hop onto TPT or Pinterest and find a lesson/worksheet/activity all ready to go. We can do something flashy without a thought to the pedagogy that will actually make that lesson or activity effective.

    As to whether teachers are hesitant to make a change, like another poster said, there's a pendulum and everything in education comes back again. It can be tiring to constantly be changing practices, knowing the old ones are coming back.
     
  15. Ms.Holyoke

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    The idea of problem solving that students solve problems with a variety of strategies and then share these strategies. The teacher introduces the task, circulates and asks questions, and then sequences student presentations (usually from concrete solutions to abstract solutions.) For example, to introduce linear equations, students can look at a staircase pattern and create a graph, table, and equation. This is an example of a problem solving task that I think that would work and be a great introduction to linear equations and that students could work on cooperatively and make meaning out of. On the other hand, my mentor teacher taught this by just saying "y=mx+b; m is the slope, b is the y-intercept" and it was not effective. My students had issues conceptually understanding linear relationships during my whole placement -- it was really frustrating. I think problem solving skills are very important to develop, but I don't see how it can be the focus of every single class.

    There is a middle school math textbook series called Connected Mathematics which emphasizes problem solving and exploratory learning. I pulled problems from these textbooks all the time, but I would not use it without supplementing. One problem would have taken my students a whole class to really understand. To get through an entire unit would have taken probably four weeks.
     
  16. 2ndTimeAround

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    That's a legitimate question. Honestly, I have seen so much BAD so-called research in education that have zero faith in anything that is sold as being new and improved. At this point in my life and career, I just don't have the time or energy to fix something that isn't broken. I also don't have time to track down original studies and analyze raw data to make sure that the "researchers" did their jobs properly. I'm going to assume that they didn't, since none of the studies I read in graduate school were well-executed. Heck, just looking at the cyclical trends in education should tell anyone that. Why is it that XYZ, which was "well-researched" and the thing to do five years ago must now be replaced with ABC? And in five more years DEF will come along and claim that ABC was wrong.

    I KNOW I'm not a perfect teacher. I know I have room to grow. But you know what else I know? I know that when I have found THE FIX for a problem I've had with a certain topic/group of kids, it didn't always translate to the next topic or next group of kids. I know that what works for me doesn't always work for the teacher across the hall. What works for the students at my school doesn't always work for the students at other schools. What works for ninth graders doesn't always work for seniors. How in the world could a new approach (which usually comes with a large investment of time and money) possibly work for every teacher in every classroom?
     
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  17. 2ndTimeAround

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    I get what you're saying, but I admit that there have been times that I've thrown in the towel with this. In my district it isn't uncommon for students to skip pre-requisites for a number of reasons. I simply do not have the time to teach these kids everything they have missed or forgotten in previous classes. I do point them to resources and sometimes offer after-school remediation. But I can't fit it all into my curriculum. I have enough to teach in a short time frame as it is.

    Also, I firmly believe that if we make it easy for kids to skip ahead, they will continue to do so. If enough kids and parents talk to their peers about difficulties faced when skipping or taking the "easy A" teacher, then things will likely change.
     
  18. waterfall

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    I will echo the sentiment that many things in education are recycled. Often the "new thing" is something that's already been tried under a different name. At my school/district, we also change things so often that we never give anything time to work, which is very frustrating. There have been some "new" ideas that have been good, but then admin gets frustrated when everything is not magically "fixed" within the span of a school year and we change everything again.

    As for research, I think in many cases you'll be able to find research that supports whatever position you want. Take the discussion on direct instruction vs. problem based learning. This past year my new principal was very big on direct instruction and we read a lot of research that supports that approach. In a previous school, they followed a problem based learning model and we read a lot of research that supports that.

    This brought back memories for me. My math methods professor in college was also for 100% problem based learning and insisted that one should never, ever use worksheets or practice problems and that only "bad teachers" use these. We'd ask why students couldn't at least practice a few problems to practice whatever strategy they learned, and she said if they really understand the strategy, they won't need to practice, and they'll "really understand it" because they'll have figured it out themselves :rolleyes:.

    She and several of my other professors also really bashed paper/pencil tests and said this was no way to measure learning. I mean, they would go on and on. Yet our exams for those classes were paper/pencil tests :toofunny:.
     
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  19. rpan

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    With the amount of research out there, one can justify the pros for one type of pedagogy over another type of pedagogy. Doesn’t mean one is necessarily better than the other. But most of the time I find that it’s a mixture of pedagogies that is most effective. Nothing will ever be a 100% fit for a class. As classroom teachers our strength is that we know our students. Researchers may know a lot about a lot of things but they don’t know our students, their personalities, how they learn, their abilities, the dynamics of the class etc. which factors a lot into the decisions we make about how to teach something. So I guess knowledge about this pedagogy and that pedagogy just gives us more tools we can use in the classroom for all the students we have.
     
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  20. Been There

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    I was beginning to wonder when a provocative thread would pop up - just what the doctor ordered! Anyone who has had the pleasure of working at one of our dysfunctional schools should be acutely aware of educators' stubborn resistance to change. This in fact is a systemic problem that affects both teachers and administrators alike.

    Having been swept up by the education reform movement of the 70s and 80s, I was so fascinated by the potential for improving our education system that I actually spent several years studying and training to become a change agent. During what I call my period of enlightenment, I learned about key insurmountable barriers to change and significant factors that effectively countered such efforts in our school system - many of which others here have already alluded to.

    Jumping on the Bandwagon
    Adding to a2z's comments, I too think that we're all too often expected to jump blindly onto the bandwagon. Early on, I recognized a cyclical pattern in which we were expected to implement a new program or instructional approach that an administrator learned about at a recent conference - a new initiative was often introduced every year only to be discarded along the roadside a few months later. Most teachers became adept at appearing to be positive and enthusiastic while others bemoaned, "Here we go again!" I don't recall ever seeing any direct evidence of improvement.

    Research-Based / Data-Driven Instruction
    Regarding OP's follow-up question - I don't think research findings will ever "become strong enough" to convince teachers of their usefulness - especially after we've been duped by soft research for so many decades. I think it's laughable that districts flaunt their data-driven programs. If you were to take the time to examine their assessment results, you would discover that most interpretations are invalid - even state departments of education purposely misinterpret testing results so that they can report good news to the public. BTW, I've presented my detailed findings (complete with charts and graphs) to administrators at the school, district and county levels and never received a single response.

    The "fake research" hardly ever made any sense to me and as strange as it may sound, I learned to just do the opposite of what was currently in vogue to achieve amazing results with my students! Try it yourself, you'll be surprised!

    Differentiated Instruction
    As many teachers know, every subject requires the use of different instructional methods. For example, mathematical algorithms, scientific principles and literary analysis must all be taught differently. Professors who advocate the use of one approach for everything are simply crazy!

    Barriers to Innovation
    Another major barrier to change is the widespread resistance to innovation. While some teachers may be free to experiment, the majority are expected to simply "do as we do" without any deviation. There are even internet safeguards in place that effectively discourage those that may like to share their innovative programs with others - in the form of all-encompassing generic guidelines against self-promotion. As this thread reveals, it's difficult enough to get teachers to break away from the status quo, in which case a bit of salesmanship may be needed to sell an innovative idea - if this is self-promotion, then perhaps it's one of the missing links!

    It's encouraging to read that not everyone here - especially new teachers - is not prone to swallowing the proverbial hook, line and sinker. Sadly, there doesn't seem to be any far-reaching solution in sight. We need a miracle from God!
     
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  21. Leaborb192

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  22. Leaborb192

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  23. Been There

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    I don't consider your relevant comments to be "ranting". To dismiss you viewpoint as such is to minimize your contribution to the discussion.
     
  24. eiwactor

    eiwactor Rookie

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    I believe that educators are apprehensive to make changes for various reasons. Think about the way our students react to completing work that they don't understand. When they don't get it, they deem it "stupid" or refuse to complete it. When new curriculum programs are being implemented, teachers may not fully understand the program in its entirety and are hesitant to use it in their classrooms out of fear of doing it the wrong way. It may be that after these programs are introduces, teachers are not provided with the adequate support for using it daily in their classrooms. Although research shows that the new system would be a better success for the students, using the curriculum that already exists provides comfort for teachers, because using the new curriculum incorrectly may yield less effective results than using a more well versed one.
     
  25. eiwactor

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    I agree with the statement that teachers have first hand experience with our students and know them to far greater degree than researchers might. The district that I teach in is large, and the range of socioeconomic status is wide. The curriculum set by the district often times cannot be applied to students at my school, because it seems to be tailored for higher achieving schools, while in my school students are generally lower. Outside influences concerning curriculum can be supported by all schools but not fully adopted. Teachers do not necessarily disagree with new ideas, but are hesitant because as mentioned, all school demographics differ. Perhaps, curriculum should be built around the students, rather than having the students built around the curriculum.
     
  26. futuremathsprof

    futuremathsprof Aficionado

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    If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. If what you do works, then why change anything? Personally speaking, my students excel in pretty much every objectively measurable way: state tests, high school exit exam, AP scores, SAT/ACT scores, formative assessments, formal assessments, etc. And they matriculate to amazing and prestigious schools and email me to thank me for my help and say I explain their college material better than their professors do.

    My successful tutoring business is also a testament to what I am doing works and clients keep coming back and referring me to other students/parents.

    Yes, I do borrow ideas here and there from other educators with proven track records and research papers with conclusions actually supported by the data. However, I ultimately gauge what works and does not work. My students succeed because I do my due diligence, even though I don’t do exactly what the “experts” say I should (heterogenous grouping, for instance).

    I use a variety of learning tools such as interactive media videos, online videos, manipulatives, direct instruction, project-based learning, peer learning, etc., to great effect. It works for me and that’s good enough.
     
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  27. eiwactor

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    When I think of change in education, I think of cars. We keep the foundation, but improve it by adding technology that fits an altered society. I think that this applies to education, because while the pedagogy generally stays the same, researchers take into consideration the 21st century lifestyle. The availability of career types are changing, along with certain skill sets needed for those jobs, such as communication, using technology, and accepting diversity. The core of effective research will generally remain the same, but modifications need to be made to compliment our ever changing society.
     
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  28. mathmagic

    mathmagic Enthusiast

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    And to some extent, I agree with you. Something "working" though falls along a spectrum: much like it would work for me to walk to the grocery store, driving works better. While the iPhone 8 (or whatever it's on now...I have a 4 - haha) "works", the iPhone 9 (or whatever) will work better (let's not get into arguments of if this example is accurate -- I'm using it more generically). My laptop that I'm writing on "works" fine, but that doesn't mean it should necessarily be the only type produced (and yes, I know, there's lots of economics / corporation stuff at play, here, too :))

    In a similar manner, one way about things in the classroom may lead to 1.1 years of growth, which will look like it's "working", and rightfully so! However, what if changing something up could lead to 1.4 years of growth? Alternatively, what if one that same way drove 1.1 years of growth and then normal amounts of growth the following years...but changing something up managed to drive normal growth that year but heightened growth in the future years (i.e. due to a mindset change)?
     
  29. That Business Guy

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    I don’t think we are always hesitant but we need to have a clear cut purpose to make a change. All students do not learn the exact same way so much research is somewhat “flawed” because it shows the “best results.” We cannot strictly rely on research since we all learn best through different techniques and strategies. Introducing a new process or “change” will cause hesitation because it might not be best for all students.

    So in short, the “change” needs to have meaningful purpose and not just be the “new method” to teaching.
     
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  30. futuremathsprof

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    This makes sense and I see where you’re coming from, but at the same time my students are among the top performers in the entire state of CA and I teach almost all of them for their entire high school careers (from Geometry all the way through now Calc 3). They continue to excel in part because of my pedagogical methods. If my methods were lacking, they would not be scoring as highly as they are. And I teach low, medium, and high performers.

    The data says I’m doing well, so I’ll stick with what I’m doing. For instance, in all of my AP classes (AP Stats, AP Calc AB/BC) the average AP score is a 4 out of 5 and I have a 98% pass rate. The average math SAT subscore is a 750/800 — this is the data I have collected on my students over the last four years. On the math section for state standardized tests, the majority (not a simple majority) of my students routinely score in the 90th percentile or above, even the students who do not have an aptitude for math and have to work hard to understand it.

    I would be hardpressed to do much better. The only way I could do better is if all of my students miraculously scored 5’s on their AP tests and managed perfect or nearly perfect (770 and above) math SAT scores and scored in the 99th percentile for math on their state tests. A few of them do, but that is atypical.

    My exams are notorious for being incredibly difficult (I model them after the coursework I encountered in my honors math program from one of the best public universities in the country). I make my students work extremely hard and they constantly groan and stress out about it <smiles sinisterly>, but they are appreciative when they go off to college (they email me in college) because they ace their lower division and upper division math classes, as well as their science courses. Essentially, they are well prepared for college-level math/science coursework because I teach all of my “advanced” classes at the collegiate level — I kept all of my assignments and quizzes and tests from college and routinely use them as inspiration for questions I make on my formal assessments. In conclusion, my track record speaks for itself so there is no need to do anything different.
     
  31. readingrules12

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    While much research might be fitting for the dumpsters, there has been excellent education research published this past decade. I find that "Visible Learning" by John Hatte is outstanding. This book is based on over 50,000 studies with over 1,000,000 students studied. There appears to be an emphasis on trying to do research correctly unlike many that are biased.

    I do think education is an art as well as a science. In order to succeed in the classroom, each teacher's best chance is to be themselves. This added to using well researched methods equals great results.
     
  32. mathmagic

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    Okay...

    I agree with this: while it's important that we do look at even what's working to see how we can make it better, it certainly needs to be purposeful, and with a clear cut idea of why we think it could actually affect change (whether initially based on research or not). When I changed approach to independent reading, it perhaps might've been a "new method" (though not really), but there was significant purpose behind reaching for the change: I had significant uncomfortabilities (pedagogy-wise, mindset-wise, and just in general) with how it was being addressed before that.

    I had heard that some of the conclusions this came to were not valid due to errors? Or something like that? Regardless though, I think one can definitely take the sum of various research - including that even if slightly flawed, combined with one's own experience and the experience of others (when they actually give the whole picture and not just color it with perfect rosy colors), to determine whether there might be an opportunity for improvement (even if success already exists).
     
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  33. Tyler B.

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    I would agree with other posters that teachers as a group are not at all resistant to change. We embrace technology if we see a benefit—who remembers dittos?

    Changes in instruction should be based on the needs of our students and what research says. For example, Marzano identified the most effective teaching strategies. I think about these when planning instruction. Note that some of these refer to direct instruction and some to problem solving.
    • Identifying similarities and differences.
    • Summarizing and note taking.
    • Reinforcing effort and providing recognition.
    • Homework and practice.
    • Nonlinguistic representations.
    • Cooperative learning.
    • Setting objectives and providing feedback.
     
  34. futuremathsprof

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    mathmagic, you keep saying what I’m doing only “works” according to you, so what is your solution? I gave you data which substantiated my claims about how effective my pedagogy is (e.g. getting excellent scores pretty much). I told you the only way I logically see how my students can do much better. What are your suggestions besides saying my methods “work”?

    It’s easier to criticize than to propose solutions.
     
  35. mathmagic

    mathmagic Enthusiast

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    Jul 23, 2018

    I purposefully was trying to pull it away from simply being about you...we get it, you're an amazing teacher-of-the-year, get-paid-tons, perfectly-happy, wildly-successful kind of teacher. That's not my purpose of this thread. Does it always need to be about you? Geesh.

    (And to the idea of critique, even though again, it was framed around you in your post -- you're right. It is easier to criticize vs. propose solutions. I never said anything to contrary. I simply feel that when we don't critique something with some realistic reasons why and some possible solutions/ways to make it better, that's a missed opportunity.)
     
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  36. futuremathsprof

    futuremathsprof Aficionado

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    Jul 23, 2018

    Um, I didn’t make it about me. I made a single post initially to respond to your inquiry. I basically said that I only change my methods when I feel it’s absolutely necessary because what I’m doing right now has produced great results.

    You are free to use whatever pedagogical methodologies you want in your classroom, but I don’t have to agree with you and I don’t need your derision either just because I state why I feel we don’t need to always do what the “experts” say we should. Different strokes for different folks.

    You’re getting awfully defensive and agressive. Is this how you respond when your students disagree with you? Geesh, do you know how to respond without getting up in arms?
     
  37. blazer

    blazer Connoisseur

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    Jul 23, 2018

    I have always been an 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it' sort of teacher. If what I am doing works I don't want to throw it out for some untried method. After 30 years at the chalkface I have seen many, many wonderful initiatives come in, give us hundreds of hours of work to change everything and then quietly be dropped once a) everyone realises it doesn't work and b) the next new craze has arrived which of course is the same thing we adopted and then dropped 7 years ago but with a new name. I think I am experienced and knowledgeable enough to evaluate what I am doing and tweak it when necessary. Complete rebuilds from the bottom are never a good thing.
     
    Last edited: Jul 24, 2018
  38. futuremathsprof

    futuremathsprof Aficionado

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    Exactly right! That’s what I’ve noticed is happening particularly in public schools. They keep trying so many different learning modules and curricula every other year it seems and teachers become frustrated because nothing seems to work. Schools districts just need to stick with something that works and stop trying to update their curricula just for the sake of using the latest research-based “studies”.
     
  39. mathmagic

    mathmagic Enthusiast

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    Jul 23, 2018

    100% agreed (outside of extreme circumstances, naturally). Also 100% agreed with the shifting to one big idea to another big idea willy nilly.

    I think my initial goal with this thread was to mean more subtle changes, or if a significant shift (i.e. approach to independent reading in the classroom, or approach to homework), one done with a very specific purpose and goal in mind, reasoning behind it (including some research, perhaps), with an understanding that if there aren't positive effects, that one needs to revert away from that afterwards.
     
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  40. Ms.Holyoke

    Ms.Holyoke Connoisseur

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    Jul 23, 2018

    My mentor teacher had to go to meetings every week for a "new instructional method" across content areas. It was SUCH a waste of time. They spent half a yea talking about a reading instructional method that my mentor teacher never used. I stopped going after a few weeks because my mentor teacher said I should just use the time to get work done. However, I think that every teacher can improve and it is always a good idea to reflect. It would have been better to use the time to talk about behavioral strategies for shared students or collaborate with subject area teachers. I could see all of the math teachers coming together to talk about implementing a problem solving task or a number talk together, for example.

    My school this year has meetings every day, alternating between grade level teams and content teachers. I'm interested in seeing how these meetings are!
     
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  41. futuremathsprof

    futuremathsprof Aficionado

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    Jul 23, 2018

    I completely agree with this post. My school does these types of meetings and I feel they are more useful than most of the professional development workshops I’ve attended!
     

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