Let me tell you how this latest educational movie, “Effective Instruction in the Common Core,” ends. The movie ends with a predictable cast of education researchers proclaiming that there is no one best approach. The most effective approach to teaching the standards is one in which direct instruction, collaborative learning, and application are all utilized. As George Santayana wrote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
I have only been involved in education, as a student and educator for 55 years. Here is a partial list of similar movies that I had the pleasure to watch over that time period.*
“Whole Language” In 1990’s there was concern that although students were learning phonics and were able to decode words but the students were not judged to be competent because they were not able to comprehend texts at a high level. A national reading panel subsequently issued a report stating the best reading program is balanced in it’s approach.
“New Math” In the 1960’s scientists and mathematicians worried that students were learning algorithms, but not gaining a broad conceptual of mathematics, advocated a more abstract method of learning math. Many students had difficulty with “New Math” especially the students’ whose teachers had a difficult time with “New Math.” After about ten years the new math was replaced with a more balanced approach, concepts and algorithms when education researchers determined such an approach would be best.
Going back a little further than I can personally recall, Aristotle argued that every virtue lies between excesses and deficiencies, a more balanced approach.
So what will the most effective instructional practices for helping students master the Common Core Standards? Let me think. I know. How about a balanced approach?
*Please note that all descriptions of programs have been simplified for space.