Articles I Never Finished Reading, Dept.

In a recent Ed Week Teacher article, the author posits that because students are so diverse, we must cater to all their particular weaknesses, strengths and (dare I say it?) learning styles. And what better way than through ed technology.  I got as far as these two paragraphs. (Mainly because the rest of the article was behind a paywall for which I’m extremely grateful):

“Most teachers will agree that student brains are as diverse as their fingerprints. Each student is compelled by different interests, aided by different strengths, and hindered by different struggles.

“Universal design for learning, or UDL, provides a framework for embracing the neurodiversity that exists in all our classrooms. It asks teachers to create flexible learning environments and practices to support a broad range of learners. It might seem like you have to be an expert to start employing UDL principles in the classroom—but in fact, you can start laying the groundwork as early as tomorrow.”

The UDL acronym reminds me when Understanding by Design (UbD) was the hot ticket item. But now UDL is the latest shiny new thing to feel guilty about if you’re not using it, and doing tried and true traditional teaching.

Where I teach, they separate the more capable math students in 7th grade for the accelerated math course.  The others who have had poor results in their math classes and on standardized tests are placed in the regular math class.  This does make it easier because I have chosen a curriculum/program that is designed for struggling students and breaks things down. I daresay that although the program provides the conceptual understanding behind various procedures and algorithms, and I teach those things, the students glom on to the procedures. And it may be offensive to many, but I’m just fine with that.





2 thoughts on “Articles I Never Finished Reading, Dept.

  1. I was able to get the whole article for free.

    “Most importantly, UDL suggests a fundamental shift in how we understand learning challenges. It puts an emphasis on remediating the classroom rather than the student.”

    There should be no need for any type of remediation, and helping the classroom rather than the student is the new aim of full inclusion – differentiated learning, not differentiated instruction. The onus is on the students and parents.

    “Think of it this way: When you put a wheelchair ramp in an airport, it helps people in wheelchairs, of course. But it also helps many other people, including those with roller bags and strollers and sore legs. UDL is meant to work the same way—…”

    A moving airport walkway helps everyone, but they have two sides – one for those who stand still and one for those who want to walk ahead. Schools require everyone to go at the same speed. This author doesn’t seem to care about the needs of faster and more able students – not to imply that what they do is any good for the slower students.

    “In order to design learning environments based on our students’ diverse interests, needs, and abilities, it helps to know more about them. That might involve simply surveying our students—or talking to others who know them, like their parents and former teachers.”

    No teacher ever talked to me about the learning needs of my son. I always wanted to tell them that his learning style and need was “fast.” They did, however, try their best to tell me that what he had was “superficial knowledge.” I got the feeling that some teachers hated smart students and thought they were the products of helicopter parents who would ruin their kids in the end. When we moved our son to a private school in 2nd grade (which still used Everyday Math!), one teacher had the temerity to tell me to my face that she hoped he would have time to play. We brought him back to the public school in 6th grade right when the school got rid of CMP and high school reality was being pushed down to 7th grade. Our public high school completed the change to traditional honors classes. Note that our change to the private school for 2-5 grades was not very helpful and not worth the money. This is a K-6 systemic educator problem.

    Their fundamental flaw is to think that full inclusion can be done without optional academic acceleration. They’ve increased the range of ability and willingness to near high school level, but think they can do it all with age-tracked academic classrooms.

    “For example, if I’m trying to determine whether my students understand the three branches of the U.S. government, I can have them write out an explanation, tell it to me orally, perform a rap, design an infographic, or create an iMovie. The mode of expression is not what I’m measuring. Furthermore, if I don’t set strict rules, some of their demonstrations of understanding will likely exceed my less imaginative assessment structures and make the task infinitely more personal and engaging.”

    An infographic or iMovie might be OK for large projects (nothing new here), but what about the other 90%+ of the learning? Nobody EVER explains how that learning (using PBL or UDL) ever fits into a larger curriculum structure. They waste SO much time.

    “A More Inclusive Learning Environment”

    There are a whole bunch of students not being “included” here – all who can walk on a slow moving walkway. They’ve never explained how they can include up without limiting down.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “She [Kyle Redford] is also the education editor for the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity.”

    This is another example of what I call argumentum ad ego – It’s all about me.

    People see problems and solutions based on what they know best. Many K-6 and non-subject mastery educators see the problem and solution as an issue of classroom process and not content and skills. It’s all about me. They aren’t going to say that their job is to ensure mastery of skills like phonics and basic arithmetic. They are going to point to some sort of scientific brain-based research to support their ideas and turf. They’re not doing scientific studies to prove their ideas, they’re finding and interpreting research to justify them.

    Many are drawn to K-6 teaching because they believe more strongly in nurture and not pushing. This nurture belief allows them to create solutions where process and nurture supposedly help all students equally in some gentle, natural way. The only way this can be done is to define goals using low and fuzzy expectations. Miraculously, that fits perfectly with the expanded ability range of full inclusion. You just have to conveniently ignore the needs and learning styles of the more able students. You often hear them say that the cream always rises to the top. They have no clue what the top is in terms of achieving the best individual opportunities in a competitive world. It’s the difference between a one-generation versus a two-generation solution where the parents have to figure it out and help at home.

    That’s why we have curricula like Everyday Math that tells teachers specifically to “trust the spiral.” This is not a mastery scaffolding spiral. It’s what I call a repeated partial learning spiral. One parent I know was so pissed off to see her three kids in different grades covering the same material with no assumption about any level of mastery. Your level was due to nature and nurture, not direct teaching and pushing. This is limited somewhat by CCSS, but that proficiency level is well below the STEM level, and parental mastery help at home hides educators from their fallacies.

    Then kids hit high school where reality and competition is driven down from college and the real world. It’s no longer about gentle engagement/excitement/PBL nurture. Those things lead to a vocational education (like PLTW), not a college or liberal arts or STEM education. My son’s public high school is where I heard even Waldorf kids refer to themselves as “Waldork” kids. They were not prepared for competition and pushing in subject areas – whether they loved the material or not.

    Helicopter parents is used as a pejorative term for any parent who pushes academically with no middle ground between engagement nurture with low expectations and parents who drive their kids for straight A’s or success in athletics. Is there a natural path to “grit” and success? I heard one parent refer to his job as being a slowly moving wall for his kids. My role was pushing to get my son ahead from the start in terms of content and mastery of skills. It wasn’t difficult in the early grades. This allowed him to be successful and see himself as a good student. I pushed him into a lot of things, didn’t let him give up easily, and set higher expectations for those things he seemed to love. Nurture and engagement are not enough, especially if you are good at something.

    Many of us understand that nurture can include setting high expectations and pushing. Pushing helps success, and success creates engagement and more opportunities. Engagement without pushing might seem like success, but it creates students who will never reach their full potential. It’s what I call “the passion trap.” If you are not fully successful, then you just didn’t have enough passion. Blame the student.


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