Bruno: Reforming *Instruction* Is Where It's Really At
I certainly hope that Sol Stern is correct and that Common Core implementation means that education reform debates are going to starting focusing as much on what kids are learning as on who's teaching it to them and in what kind of school. As a teacher, education reform debates can often seem frustratingly distant from what I do at work on a day-to-day basis. If we think that what teachers do matters for student achievement, then it's a little strange to think about how little of education reform seems to relate directly to teaching.
In fact, I'd like to see education reformers (of all kinds) think more carefully not only about content, but about instruction as well. As it is, arguments about instructional context suck most of the air out of the room before we have a chance to talk about instructional substance.
This means we end up having lots of conversations about whether parents should be able to take over schools, whether kids should do their learning online, or whether public money should follow kids to private schools. Those are all important topics, but they're macro-level issues that succeed or fail to a large degree on the basis of the quality of instruction at the classroom level.
We almost certainly don't know enough, collectively and with certainty, to start mandating many instructional practices as a matter of policy. Presumably, though, education reform groups could put a higher priority on efforts toward identifying, researching, and disseminating best teaching practices.
This happens a little bit already. The AFT's lesson-sharing site is a step in the right direction. The back-and-forth about Sal Khan's videos is interesting. And the research literature does have some fun findings that, if widely understood, could have positive effects on student learning: here's a new review on the virtues of guidance during instruction, and an interesting one applying principles of psychology to PowerPoint design.
I just think these instructionally-focused discussions are too small a fraction of the overall debate. Or maybe there's plenty of this stuff out there already and I'm just not aware of it. If so, point me in the right direction! - PB (@MrPABruno) (image source)