WEEK 5          Class Summary

Class Summary

In general, people felt that many aspects of the program sounded good but were troubled by factors like: a lack of coherence among the different elements, no clear theory to justify why certain principles or elements were included; ambiguity about whether the program really is effective and, if it is, why it is... We also talked about the fact that we have to get beyond our initial reactions to things like whether the program seems to match our values or attitudes (about prescriptiveness, progressive practices etc.), whether the results sound good, how practical it seems etc.

I came away feeling that while Gardner and Hirsch justified their approaches based on theories of learning and culture, Slavin et. al. justify their approach primarily on evidence of "what works". Similarly, they are concerned less with how students learn or what they need to learn to participate in the society/culture and more with what students need to get through school without getting left behind. That's part of the reason I feel that their program is based primarily on a theory of schooling that if we create an efficient organization focused on reading everyone can "make it" and a theory of change if we prescribe reading instruction we can improve students performance and provide everyone with the motivation to improve and change...

I was particularly struck by some contradictions in the program I hadn't recognized before. First, we pointed out that the program is based on the idea that succeeding at reading will provide students with the motivation to learn and continue to work in school, but wondered why grouping students according to ability (and not grade) for reading wouldn't lower their self-esteem and motivation. Second, I recognized that the name "Roots and Wings" really is an accurate characterization of the program because "Roots and Wings" is really a mixed metaphor: wings don't have roots, and it seemed to us like the math, worldlab and middle school program (the wings) were all "add-on's" that reflected a totally different theory/logic than SFA. (The roots). Calling it "Roots and Branches" (or maybe "Claws and Wings") would have implied a consistency and coherence that just isn't there.

In this summary, rather than simply noting what we discussed, I chose to describe what I took away from the discussion. I made this choice both because I believe that I learned some things about the approach that I had not recognized before and to serve as a kind of model for the kind of quick analysis I hoped that students would be doing in their projects and reports.

  top of page

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.