Saturday, January 21, 2006

MI disorder

A teacher in Denver writing in the NYT education forum illustrates the absurd lengths to which Gardner's so-called multiple intelligences are taken by educationists:

While you are on this one, my American History class is heterogeneous.

We know that there are seven separate and distinct learning modalities.

Kindly tell us how you will differentiate your teaching so that the tactile, auditory, visual, and kinetic [sic] learners will come away with the same knowledge as the readers and writers.
I would like to see how this teacher would teach history in the purely tactile and kinesthetic mode. At some point there has to be exposure to words, either by reading or listening. It's also dubious that people can be pigeonholed into one mode to the exclusion of other modes.

I also find it ironic that on the one hand educationists rail against expository instruction and on the other hand they show concern for "auditory" learners.

See here for a link to Willingham's debunking of modality theory. In Willingham's priceless observation, students learn best when content is presented in the subject's best modality.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Superficial ed reporting

Fuzzy math enthusiasts like to justify their enthusiasm by invariably pointing to supposedly towering test scores attributed to fuzzy math. This self-congratulation then gets reported uncritically in the media. See, for example, Everyday Math multiplies in schools:

But administrators at Clayton and Edwardsville stand by the program.

"Look at the scoreboard," Keenoy said, referring to Clayton's high test scores.

Edwardsville has seen its math scores jump since it started the program in 2001 by up to 20 percent in a grade level, some of the highest overall in the area. And the number of students taking higher math classes in high school has nearly tripled, said Lynda Andre, assistant superintendent for instruction.

What education reporters fail to do is ask a series of critical questions and do some investigating. For example, reporters could ask: What math questions are on these tests? Are these tests possibly geared to fuzzy math? Is there math instruction outside of fuzzy math, e.g. from parents or tutors?

The article does point out that there is supplementary math instruction.

Both districts have addressed some of the perceived shortfalls by requiring teachers to supplement the program with timed tests and exercises on basic math facts.
Could that and other unreported factors like parent involvement and tutoring contribute to the supposedly high tests scores attributed to fuzzy math?