This is a review of my notes from my final session from this summer’s TASSP Summer Workshop in Austin. In this particular session, Sean Cain, one of the authors of The Fundamental 5: The Formula for Quality Instruction, gives some practical advice to administrators and teachers about how to increase student achievement by following each of the components he outlines in his book. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it. It is an easy read with straight-forward, easy to follow and implement strategies. This will not be a summary of the book only a summary of my notes from this particular session. Notes that I took that will help me in my school as we work to increase student achievement.
I am not an advocate of teaching to the test, or CONSTANTLY verbalizing the importance of raising our scores. My teachers know that we are judged by our scores and they don’t need to be constantly hounded about getting them up. This is not to say that we “bury our heads in the sand” and do not talk about it. What we do is work to improve instruction in every classroom every day. When students know what they will be learning each day, when they exposed to higher-level instructional practices, and they are engaged daily, then our test scores will improve.
We will discuss how the Fundamental 5 transforms classroom instruction. I will describe the relationship between the Fundamental 5 and improved student performance.
What does instruction look like now? Mostly it is at the COMPREHENSION level. There is lecture, students are taking notes, and they have homework . Students are doing something. Teachers are still teaching like they were back in the 1990’s. At the best campuses, typical instruction is just under the APPLICATION level.
LOW-YIELD INSTRUCTIONAL PRACTICES
- whole group instruction
HIGH-YIELD TEACHER PRACTICES
- teacher to student feedback
- questions, cues, and organizers
- reinforce effort
HIGH-YIELD STUDENT PRACTICES
- written summarization
- generalize and test hypothesis
- cooperative learning
- student-to-student feedback
- discussion groups
WRITE CRITICALLY = written similarities and differences, written summarization, note taking
SMALL GROUP, PURPOSEFUL TALK = cooperative learning, student-to-student feedback, discussion groups
If teachers teach the way they always have taught but recognize and reinforce (authentically) they can get up to a 30% increase in student performance. This is a big increase just by doing this one thing. It only make sense that when students are doing the right thing, they need to know.
If students are engaged in an academic task and if the teacher monitors and supports this by being in the Power Zone, student performance can also increase. Teachers can now more easily recognize and reinforce. All they have to do is start talking to their students.
Students need to write. There is noting more powerful than writing critically. This does not mean that students need to write research papers all the time. They need to write in small to mid sized chunks. They need to talk & write and write & talk. If it doesn’t involve talking and writing, it is not a good instructional practice. This purposeful talk can easily be managed by the teacher being in the power zone.
When the teachers don’t frame their lesson, they haven’t planned enough to know when and where to talk and write.
Here’s a simple solution to increased and improved student achievement: Expose students to better instruction. When students are exposed to better instruction, they will out perform students who are not exposed to better instruction.
Math teachers can easily have students work at the application level if they “solve” problems BUT only if they are solving what they don’t already know. Otherwise it is only “review”, which is only at the knowledge level.
If the teacher is talking it is only at the Knowledge level.
Fine Arts classes and science labs are at the Application level. Most of the time the core classes are not at this level.
In order to get to the Analysis, Synthesis, and Evaluation levels, students must write and students must talk. (write critically, small group, purposeful talk). The prompt is important and the teacher being in the power zone is vital for them to see and hear what is going on.
No matter how hard the teacher works, if the students are not talking purposefully and writing critically, their instruction will never be above the knowledge, comprehension, and application levels.
Rigor in the classroom is not driven by how hard the teacher works or talks. Rigor only increases when students talk with a purpose and when they write critically. They must Talk & Write, and Write & Talk.
The Good Ole Days are now and the Great Days are ahead of us.