Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Common Core instruction: not an either/or

Liana Heitin wrote a blog post for Education Week in which she quoted an Ed Source piece by Lillian Mongeau who said
that in most classrooms previously, 'To find the area of a rectangle, for example, students would be given the appropriate formula—multiply the width of the figure by the height—and then expected to practice similar problems on worksheets or homework.' However, with the new standards, 'Rather than providing a formula to calculate the area of a shape, students might be given a set of problems or activities that help them discover how to arrive at the formula on their own.'
Wrong at worst; easily misconstrued at best.

The key word is might.

There is nothing, nothing, nothing in the Standards that says teachers can't provide students with the formulas. There is always, always, always room for teachers to teach, to instruct, to make sure students have accurate information.
There is nothing wrong with students doing some similar programs on worksheets. What is problematic is if kids do only similar practice problems on worksheets without having an opportunity to understand why knowing how to calculate the area of a rectangle matters.

The challenge for teachers is finding the balance between the kind of instruction they believe students need and creating or finding engaging activities that enable students to make that learning their own and to apply it to situations that might seem meaningful and might matter.

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