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Thompson: Refocus On Classroom Instruction, Brookings Urges

Curriculum101webThe contemporary data-driven "reform" movement, fundamentally, is a theoretical bank shot, where in the name of "output-based" accountability non-educators'  change the subject away from teaching and learning in order to somehow improve teaching and learning.  "Choosing Blindly," by the Brookings Foundation's Grover Whitehurst and Matthew Chingos, is a reminder that the best way to improve classroom outcomes is to concentrate on the real interactions in the classroom and not some statistical models.  The better approach, all along, would have been to target the interactions between flesh and blood students, teachers, and the learning materials that they actually use. Whitehurst and Chingos write, "students learn principally through interactions with people (teachers and peers) and instructional materials (textbooks, workbooks, instructional software, web-based content, homework, projects, quizzes, and tests). But education policymakers focus primarily on factors removed from those interactions, such as academic standards, teacher evaluation systems, and school accountability policies."  They then nail the essence of the contemporary accountability movement, "It’s as if the medical profession worried about the administration of hospitals and patient insurance but paid no attention to the treatments that doctors give their patients."  Even better, "Choosing Blindly" recommends data-informed research into the effectiveness of learning materials BEFORE imposing curricula based on non-teachers' hypotheses.-JT (@drjohnthompson) image via



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I would add one important addition to the list of how students learn best: experience. Short term gains are won through textbooks and the rest on the list you presented. Long term transformations occur when students experience something that sticks with them, that transcends all of the lectures and chapters and websites. It is those experiences that we need to create and nurture, and it starts with students participating in the creation of the learning environment. I am blogging a lot about this at http://learningpond.wordpress.com and a colleague, Bo Adams is sharing outstanding ideas and experiences at http://itsaboutlearning.wordpress.com.

"Education is what survives when what has been learned has been forgotten."
-B.F. Skinner

thanks for blogging about this report Alex

Our local school is moving so far beyond teacher/student interactions that I actually worry about what education will become. It was recently announced that the school board has approved the purchase of iPads for all Kindergarteners to use through their elementary school career. It's my understanding that the students will load whatever app of the day is being used and then they'll work independently with the teacher interacting with them only to make sure they get the material and don't need help.

This is the same school that did away with most textbooks and gave 5th graders a Netbook that they will use through the 8th grade. Many are already reporting that they've broken the hinges on them.

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