Roland Tharp


Final comments from New Orleans #8 at Time Code 00:35:51:01)

Learning the language of instruction needs to be a medigo of all the school day across the cirriculum. So if the instruction is in English as it is in most of the United States, if the instruction is in English, then the learning of English needs to be ago in science, during social studies, during mathematics—that needs to be done throughout the day, not in an English lesson. That, incidentally, extends uh, that learning the language of instruction also extends the language as the subject matter. So in in mathematics, it’s very very important that teachers attempt to learn the language of mathematics. You can’t do mathematics if you don’t talk mathematics. And, so, learning the languages of instruction, whether it’s the main code or whether it is the uh, subject matter needs to be a pervasive goal of the school and going all the time. And that’s both written---- and spoken and read languages.

Well the third one is already, is, is, is, I, I, I, I was, I was, talking uhm, um, in another context about context and that is our third basic principle is that one of the tasks of good pedagogy is making meaning and that making means, it means, embedding the abstract and knowledge of school during the instructional period of embedding that in the concerns, experiences, and expectations of the students themselves. That uh, uh, schools are uh, schools are typically a place where we learn abstract rules and we learn how to manipulate abstract rules and long lists, long lists of—of, of, uh, decontextualized knowledge and, and, that is a very difficult way to learn unless one has gone through years and years of training in how to do that and it is not a natural ability. And uh, and even in the highest reaches of science this is something um, of, ah, du, great psychologist Pegoski (sp) has taught us is that even in the highest reaches of, of, of learning, in scientific learning, there’s a continual alteration between abstraction and experience and we have to – we cannot know what a rule means until we see how that rule exists in the level of event. And we can’t, we can’t, we can’t uh, we can’t purely cognitize something unless we can also attach it to our experience. We have to go back and forth. Well when, we’re not real good at that in schools. And uh, going back and forth between some meaningful experience, some meaningful problem for kids and then how to solve that in an a more abstract way—that’s the way, that is the route toward the most effective learning.

The fourth one is… and and is, is, is that you simply must have ---- cognitively challenging activities. You’ve got to, you’ve got to, press kids to learn. You’ve got to set high standards for kids and continually move them forward to continually take the next step of understanding. And that, that kind of pressure needs to be unrelenting. You don’t--- when, when, when, when do you ever get to the point in live when you stop learning and don’t have to get smarter? We have to do that every day until we fall over. And that needs to be that way in school, too. And what—what’s so sad about that is, is that many at risk kids until very recently the standard prescription I still hear it—well for kids that are not getting it, what they need to do is more trials on basic skills. So, that’s thus, thus the drill and kill environment of that many underachieving kids face. And that is dead wrong because kids learn what you teach them and if you teach them to think they’ll learn to think. And if you teach them to do drills, that’s what they’ll learn how to do. So, that, that kind of of uh, necessity for productive classroom is not frequent but it is vital. And then the fifth thing is, is that and this, this I think may very well be the hardest for everybody to do is that uh, instruction needs to be dialogic. And we are – schools in the common tradition are so committed to the lecture as the tent pole that holds up school. That we are, it’s very difficult to replace that with the, the notion that best instruction occurs in sharing ideas, question and answer, only in that way is it possible for a teacher to know what it is a student does know and needs to know next. And only through that kind of conversation is it possible for the learner to be able to exercise their current level of ability and continue to strain toward expressing and understanding the next. So where we think of us, what ought to be, what ought to be the foundation of their instruction is not the lecture. I’m not saying we shouldn’t have any, but that should not be the foundation, but it should be a conversation. That’s a very, very difficult thing, I think, for us teachers to be able to grasp and to be able to enact. Now if you take those five things –everybod—if you, when you see a classroom and when that’s all happening that everybody says that’s just good teaching. Right! So let’s just all go-do,go do good teaching and the problem of underattainment of uh diversity would disappear. But we find is, over and over again, if you do those 5 things you can’t get there from here. You can’t get from what my wife refers to as the, the uh classroom organized like cemetery (Laugh) rows and ranks and files and it’s very quiet. Is moving from that—you can’t get to what I’m telling about from there. You have to start over again. You really do have to have the different vision of the classroom in which, in which there’s multiple simultaneous activities, in which the teacher is actively engaged with small groups of kids or with an individual kid moving around and the rest of the kids are working under their own recognisense, assisting one another to learn while they can and to the extent that they can. And in which there are the kids are engaged because the activities are meaningful to them and which there is a rich soup of language and which, in which learning the appropriate language to discuss different issues is going and then in which, instead of one active communication coming from the teacher or uh, or which there is a rich network of communication going on in which the activities are challenging, in which everybody is moving forward at all times to take the next step of complexity and in which both kids with each other and especially the the teacher with the students regularly has a, a focused serious academic conversation.

Now if you do that, it doesn’t look like school and that what, that’s what I would hope for the next generation is that schools don’t look like schools. When you have classes like this and you walk down the hall and you’re looking at one as you go over there… if you go--- the journalism class does not look like a classroom it looks like a newsroom. Though, the uhm, the uh communications uh, the communications class does not look like, does not look like a classroom it looks like a studio. Computer science class doesn’t look like a classroom and it does not look like one of those typical computer labs. It looks much more like the uh, the work corner at Microsoft. That’s what… and, and, the, the art class looks like a studio and the science class looks like a laboratory. But none of that looks like our own third grade classrooms when we were kids. And so I think that teachers that enter the profession still carry that vision then we’ve got to help them see that that worked for them, but it is not going to work for the educational challenge we have now.