Hi there tout la gang,

We don't have much to say about research in practice at the Café right now

but we are talking policy and practice over here now: Literacy Enquirers.

Friday, March 5, 2010


I hope everybody had a great Adult Learning Week. ABC Canada changed their name for the occasion. Nothing so drastic here. I took a virtual trip south of the border and read a couple of articles over at the New York Times about some change that is happening there.

The first one was about how Diane Ravitch, formerly a staunch believer in standardized testing, charter schools and the power of free markets to improve schools, has changed her analysis of how education works. She now thinks that charter schools have proved to be no better than regular schools but redirect resources from the public system and that testing has become not just a way to measure student learning, but an end in itself.

Welcome to the dark side Ms. Ravitch. That is more than a mere name change.

The other, Building a Better Teacher, is about Doug Lemov's eureka moment:

Lemov spent his early career putting his faith in market forces, building accountability systems meant to reward high-performing charter schools and force the lower-performing ones to either improve or go out of business. ...

...he has come to the conclusion that simply dangling better pay will not improve student performance on its own. And the stakes are too high: while student scores on national assessments across demographic groups have risen, the percentage of students at proficiency — just 39 percent of fourth graders in math and 33 percent in reading — is still disturbingly low. ... But what makes a good teacher?

When Doug Lemov conducted his own search for those magical ingredients, he noticed something about most successful teachers that he hadn’t expected to find: what looked like natural-born genius was often deliberate technique in disguise. “Stand still when you’re giving directions,” a teacher at a Boston school told him. In other words, don’t do two things at once. Lemov tried it, and suddenly, he had to ask students to take out their homework only once.

It was the tiniest decision, but what was teaching if not a series of bite-size moves just like that?

Congratulations Mr. Lemov.

I would take exception to "in disguise" of course. The best teachers can make it feel invisible, but even that they do on purpose.The best teachers know that the best teaching and learning happens when no-one is disguising anything.

Every day is different. Every learner is different. And every time we "teach" something, we have to make a different series of bite-sized moves. To see how it is done, head back over to Wendell's blog. Here is the latest example of how those bite-sized moves create a banquet.

Never mind all the successes in the world. Each time we start anew, and "best practice" means what works best for that learner in that moment.

1 comment:

Introduction said...

"The best teachers know that the best teaching and learning happens when no-one is disguising anything." I totally agree with you on this. I think too often teachers feel they are in some sort of battle with their students in which student success is the ultimate victory. However, some of their battle strategies include trying these little "disguised" techniques. Instead, I think it is important that students and teachers are on the same page and work together to reach the victory of success. We do not need to hide our efforts, in fact it is important that our students know exactly what it is we are trying to accomplish.

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