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Re: [xmca] Direct Instruction: observations at Djarragun college, Cape York, Australia
I think what disturbs me about ALL this material is not the attacks on other ways of thinking in education. That, on the contrary, is what intrigues me, both because I agree completely that under extant social conditions intellectualistic methods WILL allow the classroom rich to have richer educational experiences and the poor to get poorer and because I believe that intellectual debates in a time of crisis should really be like street brawls--everybody's invited and nobody is safe. (By the way, if you are interested in research that has been neglected, ignored, and unfunded, the place to look is not neo-behaviorism!)
No, what disturbs me is this:
Now, you haven't actually addressed Larry's question of what is meant by "it works". But I think these youtube clips make it pretty clear. "It works" means the children have the ability to respond to a signal with a decontextualized word, the ability to provide definitions which are interchangeable in form and often mixed up in practice, and the ability to get through "check out" with a minimum of errors and a maximum of monotonously intoned and apparently poorly understood "words". Although this may be "working" is it is not a working definition of literacy. It has the same relationship to a definition of literacy that the definition of plot has to the definition of setting in the words of the hapless first learner in the youtube clip.
We are now doing some work here in Korea that shows that teachers' subjective impressions of whether or not a child reading aloud understands a word corresponds quite exactly to objectively measurable variations in sound frequency, intensity, and timing. It also corresponds to a quick translation test: if the child sounds like he or she understands the word, then he or she can usually translate the word, and we can also detect that understanding in the way they intone and stress the word.
The catch is this: every learner is different. That is, some are loud and some are soft, some use a wide pitch range and some a narrow one, some hesitate a lot and some hesitate a little. One learner's "comprehending" pitch range is a lot narrower than another learner's uncomprehending pitch range, and one learner's intensity when they don't understand can be more intense than another learner's when he or she does. A pause can suggest both befuddlement and boredom, or simply dramatic effect. What the phonological analysis shows is RELATIVE to individual learners, and in no way comparable across learners.
I think you can see the problem. It's not just that a teacher who is teaching a class in lockstep will not be able to build up a clear sense of these individual variations and become sensitive to them. It's that "what works" will invariable have to ignore these individual variations and concentrate on the countable. What works will inevitably be reduced to what counts, or rather what is countable in a mass market, rather than in a classroom of living, breathing, varying learners. And that explains the emphasis on "consumers", "efficiency", "results", "accountability"...all of these are the aliquot and fungilble content of "what works". None of them are what you or I would call comprehension.
Hankuk University of Foreign Studies
--- On Mon, 5/7/12, Bill Kerr <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
From: Bill Kerr <email@example.com>
Subject: Re: [xmca] Direct Instruction: observations at Djarragun college, Cape York, Australia
To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Monday, May 7, 2012, 7:27 AM
This paper appears to provide a comprehensive overview of the theory and
practice of DI and also includes a response to criticisms (27pp)
I think that Engelmann is incorrect to criticise other theories of
education so trenchantly but what he has done brilliantly is develop one
practice of basic literacy / maths education with almost fail proof rigour.
Some other theories and practices do work IMO (eg. Papert's constructionism
is one I have worked with for years) but the problem with them in practice
is that they don't scale for all learners because they require fairly high
degrees of teacher expertise.
Given that we have a society in which the highly skilled mathematicians and
physicists are more likely to end up programming economic models for
Goldmann Sachs than teaching in primary school then Direct Instruction is
the best bet since it doesn't require deep thinking teachers for it to
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