December 6, 2006

Engelmann Interview

Now that your educational mental slate is clean, you're going to want to start filling it back up again with validated educational theories. There is no better place to start than with this hour long 1998 interview with Zig Engelmann.

Whether you agree or disagree with his teaching methodology, there is no arguing that Englemann's brand of instruction has proven to be very effective in inducing learning in almost any child. Engelmann takes a very scientific and logical approach to teaching children and is probably one of the best designers of instructional material we've ever seen. And, as opposed to most of the other educational theorists out there, his theories, as embodied in his instructional programs, have been proven to be effective and replicable under experimentally sound conditions.

And, I've yet to find a legitimate counterexample proving that Engelmann's methods don't work as they've been shown to work. What I usually see is the kind of unsubstantiated opinions that Mr. Person (who should be on your must read list) has been turning up over at TextSavvy. It's a lovely hypothesis as far as it goes, but you have to prove it's true for it to be valid criticism.

In any event, Engelmann has given us one successful and effective way to teach children, especially low-performing children who are otherwise unteachable. This is not to say that other successful ways to teach do not exist, especially when you confine your teaching to average and high-performing kids. Engelmann's theories serve as a strong foundation for understanding education related issues for the simple reason that they've have some validation behind them.

You would do well to watch the entire six-part hour-long interview and then re-watch it until you understand what he's saying. Bear in mind that this is raw interview footage. I've summarized each clip for those of you who want to jump around to the more interesting parts.

Clip One -- how Engelmann went from advertising executive to instructional designer; a discussion of the famous chicken sexing experiment; why development theory isn't useful to instructional design.

Clip Two -- The Bereiter-Engelmann preschool and their first failed reading program; fallacy of using picture cues for helping kids learn to read; why DI is and structured the way it is, i.e, so that teachers are able to identify and correct students' understanding.

Clip Three -- Logical analysis and sequencing of instruction; the reason for field testing instructional programs before releasing them; teaching fractions and why to avoid using manipulatives when teaching math; why not to teach misrules; the retention of taught material and amount of practice needed for mastery; teaching of irregular words and sequencing of instruction.

Clip Four -- Low performers compared to typical middle class kids; difference is primarily language related; many lack the critical language needed to teach them because they do not know the meaning of many words the teacher assumes they know; why good practices aren't accepted in education; criticisms of DI; educators do what they want regardless of whether students are learning.

Clip Five -- Educators as elitists; installation of unsound practices by fiat; why DI uses a scripted program; project follow through; problems implementing DI in inner cities.

Clip Six -- Teacher problems and deficiencies in their math skills; criticism of certifying agencies; turning schools around; problems with placing transfer students, problems with state tests like the pre-2003 Maryland state test; consumer advocacy for schools; and criticism of the high-scope study.

1 comment:

Mr. Person said...

An early Christmas present.

I've already transcribed my favorite parts (soon to come). It's simultaneously flattering and frightening that he and I find such verbatim common ground on education.

Intellectual honesty is so rare these days; when you see it, it's almost incomprehensible.

P.S. Thanks for the compliment. Right back atcha.