It is excellent and a bargain at $28. It should be the first book you read if you want to really understand what is hindering education reform. Go buy it now. Then read it. If one tenth of the people read this book instead of Alfie Kohn's latest execrable screed ...
The author, Vicki Snider, has been an educator for 35 years and has worked in all types of school settings using all manner of curricula. She concludes:
Everything I have learned since I started teaching 35 years ago convinces me that student failures are not inevitable, and that educators have to change the way they think about teaching and learning. They can't continue to do things the same way and expect a different result... I have identified six myths that adversely influence teaching practice. The first four myths impact teaching practices and often result in ineffective instruction. The last two myths provide a way to explain the predictable academic failure that results from the other myths.Needless to say, Snider's myths are spot on.
Myth #1: The myth of process emphasizes what occurs during instruction and de-emphasizes what happens as a result of instruction. When activities and projects become an end in themselves, there is little accountability for learning outcomes. Actual achievement is less important than participation.
- learning how to learn
- learning is natural, aka discovery learning
- lack of accountability
- self promotion and self-esteem
- learning should be effortless
- entertaining activities should motivate students
- hands-on activities should motivate learning styles
- wasted time
- knowing what to pay attention to
- fewer lifelong learners
- competence requires practice
Myth #3: The myth of eclectic instruction refers to the practice of drawing on a variety of teaching methods and materials. Teachers believe that designing patchwork lessons is creative and makes learning more interesting. This haphazard approach, however, ignores the complexity of curriculum and restricts teachers' practice to what is intuitive.
- student characteristics should guide instruction
- teaching is not technical
- no one approach works for all students
- components from different approaches may be incompatible
- teachers may not choose the effective parts of a program
- isolated components may not be effective
- skills might be taught at the wrong time
- using multiple explanations may confuse naive learners
- altering a well-designed curriculum may render it ineffective
Myth #4: The myth of the good teacher assigns most of the variation in teaching quality to the personal characteristics of the teacher rather than the quality of the teaching. Inspired teaching not only depends on the person doing the teaching but also on his or her level of skill and access to effective curricula.
- teaching is an art, not a science
- good teachers are born, not made
- pseudoscience and faddism
- inadequate training models for teachers
- generic teaching methods
- learning styles are intrinsic
- learning styles can be assessed
- learning styles can be matched to instructional styles
- The sorting hats
- blaming the victim
- blame the student
- blame the family
- effect of low expectations
- ineffective prevention and remediation
Snider sums up in two paragraphs exactly what is wrong with the current state of teaching:
Teachers aspire to be professionals, but without a shared scientific body of knowledge they remain bricoleur, a term borrowed from French by anthropologist Levi-Strauss (1966). There is no precise translation for bricoleur in English, but according to the translator's note, they are a "jack of all trades." not a handyman exactly, but a professional do-it-yourselfer. They cannot be called craftsmen because they work with whatever tools are at hand to solve whatever problems exist, nor do they have a specialized niche like craftsmen. They must be very intelligent and may, at times, achieve good results, but they are still constrained by their limited and finite assortment of tools and by the extent of their experiences. Contrast the bricoleur to engineers. Engineers have access to a range of tools designed for the specific job that needs to be done. They rely on the cumulative evidence for theoretical and technical knowledge, and use what is known to expand the boundaries of their professional knowledge. They rely on other professionals and specialists to help them do their job and to solve new problems. Engineers specialize--electrical, mechanical, biomedical, chemical, aerospace, naval, civil--and one type of engineer may assist the other, but would never be expected to do his or her job. An engineer is a member of a profession, but a bricoleur is just a clever person. Without a common body of knowledge about best practice, every new bricoleur teacher invents the wheel.Powerful stuff.
A profession that is guided by myths rather than empirically validated principles and practices maintains its bricoleur status. The teaching occupation will become a profession only when educators replace myth with science and raise their expectations for the success of all students.
I agree with almost everything Snider writes in this book. I've gone through all the same evidence that Snider sets forth and independently came to the same conclusions that she did. It took me a long time to plow through and sort out the extant material on education and reach the same conclusions that Snider did. Snider gives it all to you in an easy to digest form that shouldn't take more than a few days to get through.
I had to learn all this stuff by discovery over the course of many years. You can learn it all in a couple of days by Snider directly teaching it to you. Ultimately, this is the best proof of Snider's arguments.
Highly recommended (especially to you teachers).