WEEK 4         Overheads     Class Summary    Reflections  

Class Summary

I really enjoyed the presentations and the discussion this week. As usual, a number of interesting ideas and issues were raised. I haven't summarized all of them, but I have included some of the things I took away from our discussions below. The assignment and plans for next week are discussed below as well.

Week 4 discussion summary:

The practices associated with these approaches are based on the theories, values, and assumptions expressed by Gardner and Hirsch, but are influenced by other things as well (e.g. the Core Knowledge preschool sequence emphasizes skills or behaviors learning to control the volume of one's voice for example that are important but have nothing to do with Hirsch's theory about the importance of background knowledge for communication and learning)

Consistent with this fact, if these approaches do work in practice, it's not necessarily clear why they work (it could be because their theories of learning are correct, because teachers are given a means or framework for working together and coordinating their teaching, because teachers are more motivated, etc.)

In fact, regardless of the differences in theory and values, one of the key factors in the success of either approach may be that in both cases students' learning experiences should be more coherent and consistent across activities, courses, and grades than they normally are.

Finally, one thing we can't really get a sense of is the importance of establishing a classroom or school culture that reinforces the practices and values of these approaches. None of the materials we looked at really emphasized creating a classroom or school culture, but this might be another key factor in whether or not these approaches work.

For next week

Our next class will be on May 2nd. I've asked you to do a couple of things between now and then so I just want to be sure we're clear on them:

1. In order to get a better sense of what people are getting out of the course, in class this week I asked everyone to just write a brief reflection that addresses:

a. What is your assessment of Gardner & Hirsch now?

b. In what ways (if at all) is your thinking about the two approaches different from what it was at the beginning of the quarter?

c. What are your reflections on the course so far?

Of course, feel free to share any questions or concerns you have at this point! If you have not already done so, please e-mail these to me by next Tuesday, April 25th.

2. For class on May 2nd, everyone should read the assigned pages of Every child, every school, and should come prepared to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the Success for All approach to teaching and learning. In particular, what is the theory of learning (and culture) that underlies it? How does that compare to Gardner and Hirsch?

In addition, please skim the SFA web-site and focus on one of the following aspects of SFA (I've tried to give you the key link below, but you should explore other relevant aspects of the book and the web-site including classroom descriptions, lesson plans, etc.; note that they also have a few videos available on the site):

Research on effectiveness (Julie has already volunteered for this)

Roots & Wings (e.g give us an overview of how Roots & Wings expands and extends SFA into a whole school approach, including approaches to standards and assessment etc. )

Mathwings (give us a glimpse of what the math curriculum looks like)

World lab (take a look both on the web-site and in the book for descriptions, sample lessons etc.)

Middle School program (let us know how this approach has been adapted for middle school)

Scaling up (give us a sense of how SFA approaches the issues of implementation and large-scale school change by reading the paper: Success for All: Exploring the Technical, Normative, Political and Socio-cultural Dimensions of Scaling Up)

As we did this week, please prepare a brief, informal presentation on the aspect of SFA on which you focused. (Again, you might want to bring an overhead or handout). In particular, let us know how looking more deeply at this aspect of SFA affected your assessment of its strengths and weaknesses. (For May 2nd, you do not need to complete a written reflection on the reading.)

3. As mentioned in the syllabus, please bring to class on May 2nd, a brief description of your project. To the extent possible, let me know the approach you will be looking at, the sources of information you will be using to learn about it, the context in which you will be considering its implementation, and the audience to which you will address your report (if you prefer you can just address it to me!), and any questions you have.

See you in two weeks,

Tom


Reflections

Overall, several students commented that we had a good discussion, and, in fact, the discussion hardly lagged for 2 hours and probably could have gone on longer. At the same time, I felt like the presentations could have been a bit stronger, particularly less description and more analysis, but I wanted the presentations to be more informal and hadn't given them any criteria nor did I give them any feedback. (So a question for the future: how to push them to deeper analyses without putting too much pressure on them or giving them too much work or making these exercises more important than they really are... perhaps say in the beginning that these are activities we'll be involved in and here's how we'll be evaluating them...??) I asked people afterwards how they felt about Hirsch and Gardner. Several suggested that they weren't sure we'd have enough to talk about these two for all three classes but were glad we spent that much time on them, I said the question was would this deeper look enable us to look at Success for All in a quicker and deeper way.

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c. 2000, Thomas Hatch, Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.  All the material contained on this site has been produced by Thomas Hatch or other authors as noted. These materials can be downloaded, printed, and used with proper acknowledgement, including the name and affiliation of the author and the web-site address.