Saturday, April 03, 2010

Better teachers

Now that I have started doing a bit of teaching of Physics again two recent news items struck me as being of particular relevance to our situation here in Guyana.
First an article from the New York Times about making education in schools more effective. It seems that there is general concern about having better teachers rather than better methodologies even though there is no concensus about what makes teachers better:

"“Today, the teacher-education curriculum (in the US) is a confusing patchwork. Academic instruction and clinical instruction are disconnected. Graduates are insufficiently prepared for the classroom.” By emphasizing broad theories of learning rather than the particular work of the teacher, methods classes and the rest of the future teacher’s coursework often become what the historian Diane Ravitch called “the contentless curriculum.” "
"But what makes a good teacher? There have been many quests for the one essential trait, and they have all come up empty-handed. Among the factors that do not predict whether a teacher will succeed: a graduate-school degree, a high score on the SAT, an extroverted personality, politeness, confidence, warmth, enthusiasm and having passed the teacher-certification exam on the first try. When Bill Gates  announced recently that his foundation was investing millions in a project to improve teaching quality in the United States, he added a rueful caveat. “Unfortunately, it seems the field doesn’t have a clear view of what characterizes good teaching,” Gates said. “I’m personally very curious.” "
Reading the article makes me feel that having better teachers is really what we need to focus on. And makes me think about my own teaching...

Secondly the surprising research finding from Psyhology Today that formal Mathematics is best not taught to young children:
"In sum, Benezet showed that kids who received just one year of arithmetic, in sixth grade, performed at least as well on standard calculations and much better on story problems than kids who had received several years of arithmetic training."
Could be very popular...

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