A Reader Writes… If We Could Just Keep Our ‘Friends’ From Helping – Part 1

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In response to the 3/14/2012 post, “If We Could Just Keep Our ‘Friends’ From Helping,” a reader writes: SC, In response to “…running out of things to do” when teachers are using a ‘flipped’ environment. Teachers and students would actually have time to have a conversation about the subject matter and possibly veer off into related areas of interest. After many years in education I am convinced that the most effective way to develop higher order thinking and problem solving skills is to have teacher-student conversations. From conversations, teachers can figure out what students are actually thinking and understanding and from there can lead them to higher plateaus of understanding/learning. It’s so basic and one of the very valuable things that the over-emphasis on standardized testing has stolen from the teaching and learning in our educational environment today. SC Response You are absolutely correct in your belief that conversation is a critical element in increasing instructional rigor. This is one of many reasons why the Fundamental 5 is able to dramatically change student performance. It is through academic conservation that students create meaning, make connections and expand on ideas. When teachers monitor or participate in these conversations they are able to formatively assess student understanding, guide learning in the appropriate direction, and have a window into the student’s brain to more accurately determine levels of cognition (rigor). However, I disagree with your blanket assessment that accountability has stripped this practice from today’s classrooms. The sad truth is that this practice was rarely occurring prior to the current accountability era. Instruction, to this point, has been primarily at the knowledge and comprehension level, rooted in the specific content area. In other words, chronically low rigor, chronically low relevance. This isn’t to say that educators don’t work hard, with the best of intentions. It is to say that we are notoriously poor at objectively self-assessing our practice (and who isn’t, at both a professional and personal level) and accountability is forcing us to address weaknesses in our collective craft. In fact, every day I see where the realities of increased accountability have improved the lot of our students. Because for our most fragile student populations the key to performance is not drill and kill, it is high rigor / high relevance (more build, more talk, more write). It just so happens that what is good for our weakest students is also what is best for our strongest students. Accountability just provides the incentive for us to do this everyday, instead of when it is convenient. Think. Work. Achieve. Your turn…

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