Perfesser Plum is back!

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Susan Godsland
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Perfesser Plum is back!

Post by Susan Godsland » Fri Aug 03, 2012 8:13 am

Hat tip to JAC

Perfesser Plum is back!

Fads, Scams, Goofy Ideas, and Worst Practices in Reading
http://www.educationation.org/readingfads.html

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Re: Perfesser Plum is back!

Post by JAC » Fri Aug 03, 2012 8:35 am

http://standpointmag.co.uk/features-jun ... C0%2C0%2C5

This is another interesting article I found on my day off sick!
Child-Centered Learning Has Let My Pupils Down
MATTHEW HUNTER
June 2012

- from an English journal called Standpoint, new to me. It was published only last month so maybe it has already been referred to on this forum.

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Re: Perfesser Plum is back!

Post by Susan Godsland » Fri Aug 03, 2012 8:43 am

Excellent link, JAC!
During my first week of teaching, I was exposed to the literacy levels of primary school leavers. The experience left me deeply shocked. My department charged me with setting and marking a simple comprehension test for the newly-arrived Year Sevens so that we could place them in sets (a rare example of traditional practice permitted at my school). The tawdry array of papers I received was horrifying. Each of these pupils had received at least six years of primary education, and by my calculation one in three of them was either illiterate, or had illegible handwriting.

How this state of affairs came to be becomes clearer the more you find out about literacy teaching in primary schools. The much publicised debate over "phonics" versus "whole word" methods sounds arcane, but it is really quite simple. "Phonics" involves teaching pupils to match individual letters to sounds, so that they can combine these sounds to make words. The teaching of phonics requires an orderly, teacher-led classroom, and in its technical approach is often characterised as boring and off-putting for young children.

For that reason, "whole-word" methods have been promoted for the last half-century as a more child-centred alternative. Instead of didactically instilling an understanding of which letters make which sounds, whole-word teaching encourages pupils to "discover" how to read by first matching words with meanings, then slowly building an understanding of letter-sounds. This method promises that pupils, to a large degree, will teach themselves. As one whole-word apostle claimed, it will lead to the "withering away of the teacher".

The most important distinction between the two methods is that one works, and one does not. This has not stopped generations of "progressive educators" from eschewing the teaching of phonics, not because of any perceived ineffectiveness but because its didactic methods are repugnant to their ideology. As a result of these teachers indulging their romantic ideals, 11-year olds arrive at secondary school unable to read and write.

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Re: Perfesser Plum is back!

Post by geraldinecarter » Fri Aug 03, 2012 9:09 am

You could go on quoting him for ever........
Fortunately for them, ed schools typically turn well-meaning new students into graduates with little knowledge of instructional design and less knowledge of "research" on the self-serving and rarely effective "innovations" served up by the desperate-for-legitimacy-and-tenure education professoriat--and who, therefore, rely on doctrinaire ed professors for "the truth."
but I wish these articles were always dated.

The article flagged by JAC is also well worth reading.

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Re: Perfesser Plum is back!

Post by elsiep » Sat Aug 04, 2012 9:01 pm

JAC wrote:http://standpointmag.co.uk/features-jun ... C0%2C0%2C5

This is another interesting article I found on my day off sick!
Child-Centered Learning Has Let My Pupils Down
MATTHEW HUNTER
June 2012

- from an English journal called Standpoint, new to me. It was published only last month so maybe it has already been referred to on this forum.
This article, to me, is an example of precisely the lack of rigour the author decries.

First, he cites the example of a lorry-driver’s daughter who happened to enjoy ‘mental drill and exercise’, who never questioned the purposes or methods of what she was made to do at school, and who also happened to become a university lecturer. No mention is made of the many children who hated school, questioned everything, left at 14, but still managed to become academics, captains of industry etc, in spite of, rather than because of, their schooling.

He then turns on Carl Rogers, doesn't mention his significant contribution to psychology or his nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize, and dismisses his views on education by quoting a single sentence out of context. After that he ropes the radical AS Neill into his armoury – someone whose approach could hardly be described as representative of child-centred educators.

Hunter claims that the idea that pupils should be in charge of their own learning is a ‘doctrine’ that ‘dismisses centuries of traditional pedagogy as authoritarian’. What does he mean by ‘traditional pedagogy’? The history of pedagogy has been dogged from time immemorial by debate about the best ways to educate, and since for much of the world mass education has been introduced only within living memory, it’s unclear what centuries of historical evidence he’s referring to.

The author is under the impression that child-centred learning ‘remained the preserve of a handful of middle-class eccentrics’ (presumably referring to writers such as Dickens, Twain, Alcott, Montgomery, Nesbit, Crompton, Potter and Lewis) until the publication of the Plowden report in 1967. He overlooks Edmond Holmes, chief inspector of elementary schools - a keen proponent, Maria Montessori and Charlotte Mason who inspired a huge number of teachers and psychologists, The Fisher Act of 1918 and the wave of interest in child-centred development that swept Europe and the US from the late 19th century onward as a result of Freudian thinking. (Chris Woodhead cites DH Lawrence’s complaint that as a five-year-old - in 1890 - he was given a lump of clay by his teacher and told to ‘express himself’.)

Hunter points out that ‘the dull memorisation of facts that Dickens caricatured is only an example of traditional teaching done badly’. But what he caricatures as child-centred education is only an example of child-centred education done equally badly. I’ve experienced child-centred education as a pupil, a teacher and a parent. Engaged in properly, it’s a highly effective way to enable children to learn. As well as the acquisition of skills and knowledge outcomes include independence, self-confidence, self-esteem, aspiration, a sense of responsibility, the ability to gather information, solve problems and work co-operatively. Engaged in badly, it’s what Hunter complains about.

To me, child-centred education is best encapsulated by the Montessori approach in which the teacher has a clear idea of what children need to learn (about the world, rather than a curriculum) but within that framework, children are actively in control of their own learning. They might learn about the world in different ways or at different times, but what they learn is relevant to them and related what they already know, rather than being derived from a curriculum designed by a committee that has never met them. There is no reason why child-centred education should not include teaching, rote-learning or examinations.

As for phonics vs whole word methods; Hunter might be right about the latter’s ideological origins. But ideology and romantic ideals weren’t what originally produced child-centred education – the approach was strongly evidence-based and was developed because teachers found that didactic education wasn’t working. Hunter continues his over-simplification when he says that phonics is ‘really quite simple’. It isn’t, actually, and it doesn’t just involve matching letters to sounds. Nor does it require an orderly, teacher-led classroom - not the kind depicted in the photograph at least. Blazers and sitting in rows are not pre-requisites.

The big problem with education is not ideology but the quality of teacher training. Teaching has never been a high status profession in England. In fact, for much of the time it’s not been a profession at all in the usually accepted sense. With adequate training, teachers would be able to evaluate educational methods for themselves and to see ideologies for what they’re worth. The problem not going to be solved by another former lawyer or journalist attempting to impose their personal opinions on the education system.

Sorry to rant, but this article appears to have been written by a history teacher who has a rather simplistic view of the history of education in this country. :evil:

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Re: Perfesser Plum is back!

Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Sat Aug 04, 2012 10:56 pm

I would put forward the perspective of being a class teacher with 30 or so different children to teach.

It's all very well talking about child-centred learning where children take charge of their learning - which reminds me of the 'personalised learning' agenda of not so long ago - but this really does not, in my opinion, pay sufficient regard to the numbers of children teachers have to teach, and the range of knowledge-about-the-world and skills to address - and providing for children's health, creativity, music and arts - and the rest!

I believe that there are some aspects of education which are perfectly and appropriately doable - and enjoyable and successful - when the provision is not personalised or driven by the children themselves.

If teachers and visionaries want child-centred and personalised learning as the daily and embedded diet, then that is the domain, in reality, of the tutor or settings with much smaller classes than 30+ or a much more generous adult to pupil ratio within the typical classroom.

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Re: Perfesser Plum is back!

Post by yvonne meyer » Sat Aug 04, 2012 11:35 pm

Elsiep,
This article, to me, is an example of precisely the lack of rigour the author decries...
Fair enough, except that the "lack of rigour" the blog author referes to is the lack of rigour in teaching basic reading & writing skills in primary schools that has resulted in 1 in 3 of this author's students unable to access the History curriculum that this author is required to teach. We have plenty of data that informs us of the literacy skills of students at the end of their primary education to accept the author's statement (1 in 3) and the reason for this (lack of teaching based on the evidence of what is most effective) as 'true'.
child-centred education is best encapsulated by the Montessori approach


I researched the life of Marie Montessori for a documentary many years ago and, yes, she was an amazing individual and yes, she took a scientific approach based on her medical training when she worked with children who were, at that time in the 19th Century, deemed to be 'uneducatable' due to mental retardation.

As far as I am aware, there has been no rigorous scientific research that specifically evaluates the 'Montessori approach' compared with direct, explicit, systematic, teacher-directed instruction with non-retarded students in the 20th & 21st Century.

I asked a recognised researcher & academic about both the Montessori and Reggio Emilia approach (which is hugely popular among Australian teachers) if there has been any scientific research on these approaches since my searching has not uncovered any, and her reply was that scientist don't take these approaches seriously enough to bother.

Are you aware of any scientific research that evaluates the effectiveness of the modern Montessori approach?
But ideology and romantic ideals weren’t what originally produced child-centred education – the approach was strongly evidence-based and was developed because teachers found that didactic education wasn’t working.
Would you please let me have the references for the evidence-based research that informs us that child-centred education is more effective than didactic education as I have not been able to find it.

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Re: Perfesser Plum is back!

Post by yvonne meyer » Sun Aug 05, 2012 12:04 am

Project Follow Through: In-depth and Beyond
Gary Adams
The Follow Through models that were based on a self-directed learner model approach were at the bottom of academic and affective achievement. The cognitively-oriented approaches produced students who were relatively poor in higher-order thinking skills and models that emphasized improving students' self-esteem produced students with the poorest self-esteem…

… Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the Follow Through results is the persistence of models that are based on what data confirms is whimsical theory. The teaching of reading used by the Tucson Early Education Model was language experience, which is quite similar in structure and procedures to the whole language approach. The fact that TEEM performed so poorly on the various measures should have carried some implications for later reforms; however, it didn't. The notion of the teacher being a facilitator and providing children with incidental teaching was used by the British infant school model (Open Education). It was a flagrant failure, an outcome that should have carried some weight for the design of later reforms in the US. It didn't. Ironically, it was based on a system that was denounced in England by its Department of Science and Education in 1992. At the same time, states like California, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Ohio, and others were in full swing in the National Association for the Education of Young Children's idiom of "developmentally appropriate practices," which are based on the British system.

Equally disturbing is the fact that while states like California were immersed in whole language and developmentally appropriate practices from the 1980s through mid 1990s, there was no serious attempt to find models or practices that work. Quite the contrary, DI was abhorred in California and only a few DI sites survived. Most of them did through deceit, pretending to do whole language. At the same time, those places that were implementing the whole language reading and the current idiom of math were producing failures at a tragic rate...
http://darkwing.uoregon.edu/~adiep/ft/adams.htm

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Re: Perfesser Plum is back!

Post by elsiep » Sun Aug 05, 2012 7:52 am

Debbie Hepplewhite wrote:I would put forward the perspective of being a class teacher with 30 or so different children to teach.

It's all very well talking about child-centred learning where children take charge of their learning - which reminds me of the 'personalised learning' agenda of not so long ago - but this really does not, in my opinion, pay sufficient regard to the numbers of children teachers have to teach, and the range of knowledge-about-the-world and skills to address - and providing for children's health, creativity, music and arts - and the rest!

I believe that there are some aspects of education which are perfectly and appropriately doable - and enjoyable and successful - when the provision is not personalised or driven by the children themselves.

If teachers and visionaries want child-centred and personalised learning as the daily and embedded diet, then that is the domain, in reality, of the tutor or settings with much smaller classes than 30+ or a much more generous adult to pupil ratio within the typical classroom.

In 1959 I started attending a small rural English primary school that had a new, young headteacher viewed with skepticism by the locals because she was reputed to use 'modern' methods. Her methods included a great deal of music and movement, learning through (structured) play and a considerable amount of autonomy for pupils. What happened in the infant class was crucial.

Pre-schoolers are generally accustomed to relatively high levels of autonomy alongside having to be compliant in certain situations. They are also used to learning in different ways from family members; some learning is by direct instruction, some through mimicry, some by doing. Sometimes their learning is parent/sibling-led, sometimes they lead it themselves. The infant teacher used the same model; a lot of structured play, some direct instruction, some modelling, some following up pupil's interests. Maths and literacy were tackled mainly via children working in age/ability matched small groups, but children followed an explicit and structured scheme of work individually at their own pace. 'Helping' was permitted ie children could work together on problems. By the end of the second year of infants, most children were trusted to correct their own work, which freed up the teacher to focus on younger pupils or those who needed 1-1 help.

The head teacher taught the top class (35 children from what would now be yrs 4-6). We had a daily timetable (English, maths, pe/music, art/craft/science/history/geography/story) but it was a completely flexible one. Most of us would be working on our own or on ongoing group projects all day apart from singing, dance or pe. Projects were selected by the teacher or by the class and individual pupils would choose which aspect of the project they would work on.

The results would be considered 'mixed' by most people, I think. Although pupils from the school started passing the 11+ for the first time ever, and the more able children excelled in literacy, maths and problem-solving skills, our factual knowledge was rather patchy. In the long run, I don't think this would have mattered much, because we were so used to volunteering to research a particular aspect of a group project, we could have caught up quickly on any deficient areas. In other words, if we'd continued at the school until 16, a lot of the gaps would have been filled in because we would have needed to fill them in to pursue areas of interest.

If what you want is everybody to study a set range of subjects at a set time and to get a set number of formal qualifications, child-centred education, however effective, won't tick your boxes. If , however, you want everybody to develop their natural interests and capabilities to the highest level and to know how to find out what they don't know, then child-centred education can deliver that.

Child-centred learning, or 'personalised learning' would be very challenging within the current educational framework. You could probably manage to cover the content of the national curriculum - as long as you could do so at any time within KS 1 &2 or within KS3. Whether children would meet specific learning goals, whether performance targets would be met and whether you could demonstrate that you'd covered all the other bases that teachers are expected to cover is another matter.

elsie

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Re: Perfesser Plum is back!

Post by elsiep » Sun Aug 05, 2012 8:24 am

yvonne meyer wrote:Elsiep,
This article, to me, is an example of precisely the lack of rigour the author decries...
Fair enough, except that the "lack of rigour" the blog author referes to is the lack of rigour in teaching basic reading & writing skills in primary schools that has resulted in 1 in 3 of this author's students unable to access the History curriculum that this author is required to teach.
Actually he says that rigour has been renounced by a 'pedagogical outlook' and then goes on to critique a philosophical framework.
We have plenty of data that informs us of the literacy skills of students at the end of their primary education to accept the author's statement (1 in 3) and the reason for this (lack of teaching based on the evidence of what is most effective) as 'true'.
I'm not questioning his assertion that literacy skills are poor.
child-centred education is best encapsulated by the Montessori approach


I researched the life of Marie Montessori for a documentary many years ago and, yes, she was an amazing individual and yes, she took a scientific approach based on her medical training when she worked with children who were, at that time in the 19th Century, deemed to be 'uneducatable' due to mental retardation.

As far as I am aware, there has been no rigorous scientific research that specifically evaluates the 'Montessori approach' compared with direct, explicit, systematic, teacher-directed instruction with non-retarded students in the 20th & 21st Century.

I asked a recognised researcher & academic about both the Montessori and Reggio Emilia approach (which is hugely popular among Australian teachers) if there has been any scientific research on these approaches since my searching has not uncovered any, and her reply was that scientist don't take these approaches seriously enough to bother.

Are you aware of any scientific research that evaluates the effectiveness of the modern Montessori approach?
No, I'm not. But rigorous scientific research is noticeable by its absence throughout the education sector. It's not so much that scientists don't take educational approaches seriously enough, it's that educational 'approaches' are generally poorly defined and are multi-variable problems and as such are a pig to control for.
But ideology and romantic ideals weren’t what originally produced child-centred education – the approach was strongly evidence-based and was developed because teachers found that didactic education wasn’t working.
Would you please let me have the references for the evidence-based research that informs us that child-centred education is more effective than didactic education as I have not been able to find it.
See point above about scientific research. A key issue is what you mean by 'child-centred education' and 'didactic education'. And I think the dichotomy is unhelpful; for education to be effective, pedagogical methods need to be tailored to the knowledge or skill in question. Some knowledge (multiplication tables, foreign language vocabulary) is best acquired by rote-learning; some by direct instruction, some by research, some by modelling, some by doing, some by trial-and-error.

I've experienced both child-centred learning (primary school) and didactic learning (secondary school). The approaches had different outcomes. At primary level I was engaged, enthusiastic and loved school. I passed the 11+ but my knowledge-base was rather patchy. At secondary, I was generally interested in what we were learning but I was also bored and completely disengaged from school itself. At university, it was a relief to be back in a learning environment that was very similar to what I'd been used to at primary school. I wasn't alone in my responses to each of the three settings.

I can't cite 'scientific evidence' because I don't think there is any; but I think I'm as justified in citing anecdotal and experiential evidence as anyone else.

Essentially, what the author of this article is saying is that the current pedagogical approach to education isn't providing a good education. I completely agree. But I don't think it's due to 'child-centred learning' because a curriculum-based approach with performance targets is incompatible with child-centred learning, as Debbie points out. Unfortunately, the author doesn't go into detail about what he means by the 'traditional' practice he thinks should replace the status quo.

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Re: Perfesser Plum is back!

Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Sun Aug 05, 2012 10:03 am

I think a really strong and creative teacher could be excellent at providing a wonderful educational (and effective) experience with a very child-centred ethos - perhaps of the kind you describe from your own primary days.

I think such a teacher would also be able to provide a wonderful educational (and effective) experience with a more whole-class ethos - and this does not preclude knowing about the children as individuals and, within the general provision, providing help, inspiration and motivation, and specific goals to the children as individuals.

A more whole-class approach to teaching does not necessitate a negative 'herd' experience - not at all.

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Re: Perfesser Plum is back!

Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Sun Aug 05, 2012 10:08 am

I think the biggest downside to modern teaching is the proliferation of bureaucracy.

Being seen to 'do' something by being made to provide a paper (or electronic) trail became the norm.

Take, for example, the formal arrangement of individual target-setting - where, typically, the teacher might be expected to sit with every child individually, to discuss the child's personal targets for the core subjects, agree them, record them -and even, in some cases, share them with parents. This is followed by some form of monitoring, per child and reflected in detailed marking systems, perhaps with target-setting posters of some description on the classroom walls showing ongoing progress and/or achievement - followed by the whole procedure repeated very regularly.

For the 30+ children.

In some ways, the early years became the worst case scenario and yet was being held up as 'best practice' ro be emulated in primary.

The child-based philosophy has been driven home in the early years (in some ways, quite rightly because they should be at mother's knee and have a pre-school experience as a development from a home-based experience) - but it was the accompanying planning, formal observations, evidencing, being scrutinised and judged to the minutest detail, reporting to the minutest detail, observing - recording observations - planning and recoring 'next steps' - all for the individual child and beyond all reasonable planning and monitoring expectations.

Over and again I have written on forums urging teachers to ask for the 'time-management' studies to demonstrate how these paper-trails could be done within a reasonable time-frame - but also I've argued that much of this minutiae was not necessary - nor desirable - and counter-productive to adults being free to spend their time interacting with the children instead of observing and noting what they were doing and saying (very Orwellian in my opinion - and getting children used to the surveillance society from the cradle!).

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Re: Perfesser Plum is back!

Post by JIM CURRAN » Sun Aug 05, 2012 1:42 pm

I have posted this link on the board a number of months ago and in the context of the present debate is well worth another read.

Why Minimal Guidance During Instruction Does Not
Work: An Analysis of the Failure of Constructivist,
Discovery, Problem-Based, Experiential, and
Inquiry-Based Teaching

Evidence for the superiority of guided instruction is explained in the context of our knowledge
of human cognitive architecture, expert–novice differences, and cognitive load. Although unguided or minimally guided instructional approaches are very popular and intuitively appealing, the point is made that these approaches ignore both the structures that constitute human
cognitive architecture and evidence from empirical studies over the past half-century that consistently indicate that minimally guided instruction is less effective and less efficient than instructional approaches that place a strong emphasis on guidance of the student learning process. The advantage of guidance begins to recede only when learners have sufficiently high
prior knowledge to provide “internal” guidance. Recent developments in instructional research
and instructional design models that support guidance during instruction are briefly described

http://igitur-archive.library.uu.nl/fss ... idance.pdf



There's a shorter article based on this research in the spring 2012 edition of the excellent American Educator.
http://www.aft.org/pdfs/americaneducato ... /Clark.pdf

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Re: Perfesser Plum is back!

Post by elsiep » Sun Aug 05, 2012 2:06 pm

Debbie Hepplewhite wrote:I think the biggest downside to modern teaching is the proliferation of bureaucracy.
>>>>>>>>>>>>>
Over and again I have written on forums urging teachers to ask for the 'time-management' studies to demonstrate how these paper-trails could be done within a reasonable time-frame - but also I've argued that much of this minutiae was not necessary - nor desirable - and counter-productive to adults being free to spend their time interacting with the children instead of observing and noting what they were doing and saying (very Orwellian in my opinion - and getting children used to the surveillance society from the cradle!).
I agree completely Debbie. There's a robust research literature showing that different organisational structures are suited to different functions - bureaucracies work for record-keeping, flat flexible hierarchies for entrepreneurial activities etc. For organisations where practitioners need to adapt to varied, often challenging situations, professional model has proven to be the most appropriate structure, in the sense of professional as an individual who is sufficiently well-qualified to be able to handle the majority of situations they encounter and who will need to refer very few cases to specialists. Builders, electricians, lawyers and doctors are examples. Teachers should be trained as professionals, but as far as I'm aware, there has never been a time between 1870 and the present when every teacher at every state school in England, at least, has been a qualified teacher. Never mind that teaching qualification being fit for purpose. Professionalism isn't foolproof - there are always going to be people who don't or can't fulfill their role properly, but like democracy, it's the best system we've found.

In the past the education system has been designed around teaching as a profession, with schools and teachers put in charge of it, but training has always, IMO, been the weak link in the chain. I did a primary level PGCE, for example, which I felt provided a totally inadequate preparation for the classroom. And when you factor in the role of ideology in teacher training, plus poor quality educational research....

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Re: Perfesser Plum is back!

Post by volunteer » Sun Aug 05, 2012 6:49 pm

Sounds from TES fora like there are a few other things to factor in too these days - advisers who don't know what they are talking about who teachers / schools feel they have to listen to, management systems in schools which headteachers feel they should have in place for OFSTED but that don't necessarily improve anything.

I always get the impression when reading TES that I had far more freedom in the classroom over 20 years ago so long as my results were OK I was left to get on with it. So much of it now seems to be about what various observers think / will think of them. I don't know what all that's about.

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