Do We Want Our Students to Struggle?

Like so many buzzwords in education, it's hard to pin down what people mean by the term "Productive Struggle". Of the two meanings of Productive Struggle I've heard being used most often, the good meaning is uncontroversial, and the bad - and more popular - meaning encourages teachers to abandon principles of effective instruction. The … Continue reading Do We Want Our Students to Struggle?

From Door to Do Now

It’s perhaps surprising how a lesson’s success greatly depends on the moments that precede the actual lesson: The etiquette in the hallways, the way students line up at the door and enter, and the design of the task they're meant to do when they take their seats. When I coach teachers who struggle with classroom … Continue reading From Door to Do Now

The Private School Penalty

For the past 9 years, I've worked in private independent and international schools, and before that, I trained and worked in public schools. As I've written before, the challenges that teachers experience in each of these contexts are vastly different. A pedagogy consisting largely of unstructured tasks with ill-defined goals, coupled with a laissez-faire approach … Continue reading The Private School Penalty

Instructional Videos: Perfect for Learning Styles, Popular with Students, and THE FUTURE of Education!

Last week I attended a government-sponsored training on instructional video that began with three weird reasons for why teachers should use more instructional video: Instructional videos cater to students' learning stylesInstructional videos are more popular with students (i.e., they like them) than alternative methodsInstructional videos are the future of learning I'm sure fans of this … Continue reading Instructional Videos: Perfect for Learning Styles, Popular with Students, and THE FUTURE of Education!

Is Classroom Management Based on a “Dim View” of Human Nature?

One of my favorite episodes of the Progressively Incorrect podcast is the one in which we discuss an opinion piece by Alfie Kohn on classroom management. Consistent with his past writing, Kohn takes issue with the idea that schools should concern themselves with externally regulating students’ behaviors, saying that classroom management is based on a … Continue reading Is Classroom Management Based on a “Dim View” of Human Nature?

The Sad, Sad Story of the Hollow Curriculum

The Sad, Sad Story of the Hollow Curriculum

When I first started teaching 4th grade, I inherited a social studies unit on Ancient Egypt, a topic that is universally adored by students at this age level. Over the years of teaching this unit, the 4th grade teachers had developed a document - what we'd now call a knowledge organizer - of all of … Continue reading The Sad, Sad Story of the Hollow Curriculum

Is Working Memory Fixed or Can it be Trained?

Many teachers allow students to play "brain games" as part of the curriculum. When I say "brain games", I'm referring to short - often fun - activities that are unrelated to the core content, but which are thought to engage the mind or make you smarter. When I was a student, if I finished my … Continue reading Is Working Memory Fixed or Can it be Trained?

5 Meanings of Student-Centered Instruction

There's an interesting essay called "Five Meanings of Direct Instruction" where the author (Rosenshine, 2008) shows how even a term as commonly used as direct instruction can take on different meanings depending on who you talk to. Some people use it in the pejorative to refer to non-stop passive lecturing, while those familiar with the … Continue reading 5 Meanings of Student-Centered Instruction

Does More Learning Happen When Students are in the Driver’s Seat?

Most teachers will be familiar with Khan Academy, or similar learning programs, that offer a mixture of 1) problems to solve and 2) instructional supports that students can use to learn how to solve the problems. Common instructional supports in online learning environments include partial hints (e.g., click here for a hint to get you … Continue reading Does More Learning Happen When Students are in the Driver’s Seat?