The Pendulums Of Education And The Science Of Reading


Teachers who have been in the classroom for more than a few years are all too familiar with the policy pendulums of education. Because teachers deal with a wide variety of students, they employ a wide variety of instructional strategies and techniques. But there is an inexorable push (particularly by people who don’t actually work in classrooms) to tidy up, to sort out all these tools by determining which are best, even to decide that one particular tool is the only one that effective teachers should use.

The resulting process is much like having a dozen cooks work on one batch of chili arguing whether there should be more meat, more beans, or more tomatoes. Each cook gets a turn to win the argument, inevitably followed by the realization that the chili is now missing that other ingredient. Especially if the council of cooks included people who believe chili should only include meat, or only include beans, so that the argument can never really be settled, and the pendulum just keeps swinging back and forth in perpetuity because somebody always hates the current product.

Reading instruction has always been prone to policy pendulum swings, with a recent lurch in the direction of the “science of reading.” A paper by Paul Thomas of Furman University, published by the National Education Policy Center, provides an insightful guide into the many tools and debates of the reading instruction world and offers some useful recommendations to move forward.

To begin with, Thomas walks us through some of the highlights of the reading debates from the past eighty years.

Much of it seems familiar. One group complains that a high rate of illiteracy is the fault of progressive education ideas, but research shows the affected persons were taught with more traditional methods and the major factor may be poverty. That debate was kicked off by Eleanor Roosevelt’s writing about the high expense of army illiteracy in World War II.

From Why Johnny Can’t Read through the rise of whole language on to the National Reading Panel report, Thomas finds versions of the same struggle to incorporate research, debate the role of phonics, and argue the efficacy of whatever new ideas have arisen, as well as the disconnect between researchers and classroom teachers.

While cognitive scientists are making important contributions to reading research, they also acknowledge that brain research does not easily translate into mandates for instruction.

Thomas outlines several different views of reading instruction. Whole Language “is a holistic theory that promotes learning to read through whole experiences with texts.” This is the source of curing systems. Balanced Literacy is similar, emphasizing teacher expertise and the needs of students, but not endorsing or rejecting any particular practices.

Simple View of Reading focuses on pronunciation as a gateway to comprehension. Active View of Reading is a more advanced version of the simple view, building on a body of research that has added to our understanding of reading acquisition. Structured Literacy uses a scripted approach with uniform instruction. It sits at the opposite end of the pendulum from whole language’s emphasis on student centered instruction.

Thomas points out that proponents of these competing theories all claim a research base. For instance, the current “science of reading” wave, which proponent Emily Hanford classified as a simple view of reading approach, claims to be “settled science.”

Thomas digs into the debates about each of these approaches, and concludes with some recommendations for policy makers.

First, beware of overhyped and oversimplified versions of the debate. Good advice; reading is a complex and personal act that humans have been trying to unravel for centuries. Anyone who claims they have a true, simple answer (and who presents other views as simple and obviously wrong) is selling something.

Pay attention to what we do know matters, including factors such as socio-economic effects, teacher expertise, and learning conditions.

Acknowledge that student-centered instruction is research-supported. Move away from one-size-fits-all programs and standardized instruction that assumes that given Activity A, all students will learn the desired skills.

Recognize that it’s difficult to translate research into effective classroom practice, and even more difficult if you don’t listen to teachers.

There are some truly terrible reading policies out there, such as states that require students to pass a standardized reading test in third grade in order to pass on to fourth grade.

Thomas’s overview of reading theories and policies underlines one important insight. It is a fool’s game to pursue reading policy with the assumption that once we identify the one perfect instructional approach, all we have to do is make every teacher in every school do that, and then all children will learn to read. As long as policy makers insist on that premise, the pendulum will keep swinging and somebody will always be unhappy with the chili.



Source link

Denial of responsibility! galaxyconcerns is an automatic aggregator around the global media. All the content are available free on Internet. We have just arranged it in one platform for educational purpose only. In each content, the hyperlink to the primary source is specified. All trademarks belong to their rightful owners, all materials to their authors. If you are the owner of the content and do not want us to publish your materials on our website, please contact us by email – [email protected]. The content will be deleted within 24 hours.

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.