What with the TIMSS results being released showing slight improvement in students of 4th and 8th grades in the US, the explanations and credit-taking will be coming fast and furious. And leading the pack is the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM):
“The TIMSS results for fourth- and eighth-graders are encouraging because we are seeing elementary and middle school students continue to show long-term growth,” said National Council of Teachers of Mathematics President Matt Larson. “This may reflect an increased focus on mathematics in the early grades and could be a longer-term effect of standards reform and the implementation of research-informed instructional practices in more schools.”
Left undefined in this statement is “research-informed instructional practices”. There are a lot of those. Some of them aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on. Others are better. Are they talking about papers by Sweller, Kirschner and Clark who maintain that minimally guided discovery doesn’t work, and who advocate direct instruction and worked examples? Or are they more in the Jo Boaler direction?
Also, to what extent has tutoring/learning center instruction played a role–a question yet to be addressed but becomes increasingly important as the numbers of these establishments goes up.
Watch this space for further spin; I’m sure there will be some.