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Behaviorist

Evidence

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Direct instruction isn't new and it isn't limited to special education populations. It's evidenced-based and meets the requirements of NCLB and IDEA. Scripts are used to ensure fidelity of implementation. Effective lessons are highly variable based on the teacher's delivery. Robotic, script-dependent,mono-toned teachers can kill even the best direct instruction lessons. But over-enthusiastic, spastic, ill-prepared teachers can also kill even the best project-based activities, too.
There are tons of teachers that use direct instruction with tremendous results. It's a shame that you haven't seen them in action. Scripts are just a small part.
Bottom line....whatever teaching style you use, do it well. Believe in what you're doing. Collect specific data to monitor progress. Change it up if it's not working. Ground your work in evidence...Pinterest, blogs, and Mailbox Magazine don't count when it comes to evidence. Our kids deserve better.

Teacher and Educational Journalist

Great column Rick.I'm

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Great column Rick.
I'm reminded of a classic story in education.
The great curriculum program out of Cambridge , Mass. years ago was "Man a Course of Study." Jerome Bruner had helped design it. It was being widely used throughout the country. It was supposed to be teacher proof, with lots of guides written by team members, many of whom had never taught.

Richard Jones, a colleague of Bruner's, did a study of classes using the program and put it in a book entitled "Fantasy and Feeling in Education." Tho he liked the program he found that teachers who were just handed the curriculum were ineffective in using it at times because they weren't prepared for the emotional elements that were integral parts of the curriculum. A film about a Netsilik Eskimo grandmother being left behind on an iceberg to die, an Eskimo ritual, resulted in some very upset kids. The curriculum provided no room to deal with that. So there are some kids crying. Others appear very concerned about whether that will happen to their grandmothers. Strictly following the curriculum, the teacher responded by ignoring the tears and going directly to the question in the unit "Now what does this tell us about the Eskimo culture as compared to ours." Many of the upset kids were paying no attention to her.

Of course there is no teacher proof curriculum, which is also one of the reasons online courses that don't include an effective real, non-virtual, teacher mentor/facilitator are a serious mistake.

Thanks for this important little gem Rick.

Director, Graduate program in behavior disorder, David Yellin College

I really appreciate all of

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I really appreciate all of your comments. (I always do.) This issue seems more confounding than others I've written about. It seems that too many teachers, and students, are suffering from scripted curriculum. Can anyone share the way you have dealt with it to improve learning or found a way to eliminate it? I'm sure others would appreciate hearing your stories, especially, but not necessarily, if it helps them directly. We can win the battle if we all remember that school is for kids, all kids. Good luck to all.

Does it seem to anyone that

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Does it seem to anyone that each time the educational pendulum swings back toward these scripted programs that they get just a little more extreme. I remember my first glimpse of them 15 years ago and there was general suggested dialogue. The one I saw most recently was specific to the point of telling you the gestures you should make with your hands. I completely agree with the "be yourself," this is the part of education that makes it fun for teachers and students.

High School English teacher from South Carolina

I was unaware of the scripted

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I was unaware of the scripted curriculum method of "teaching". So, the concept is nonsense to me. If we are to use scripts when teaching our students, what is the point the Praxis/Praxis II exams that we educators have to pass in order to become a certified teacher? I mean all we really need to be tested on is our reading skills and ability to follow instructions. There is no need for teachers to fork out money to take exams that tell our respective state boards of education that we are competent enough for certification, especially if we do not need to think once we enter the classroom. I could not imagine being given a script to follow every school day. Thank you, Dr. Curwin, for this information and suggestions for those who are stuck in this alternate reality!

A writer who is interested in the field of education

Uniformity

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Thank you for the article, Dr. Curwin. Having just recently finished Diane Ravitch's book, "The Death and Life of the Great American School System," I can very much appreciate your concerns with this method of instruction. Along with the use of standardized testing for high stakes purposes, I think this is part of a much larger trend that tends to view the American classroom from a distance, thereby producing a homogenized view of students.

With this in mind, I am very glad you mentioned the importance of recognizing the individuality of each student, taking into account their unique needs and abilities. As a wise man recently told me, there is only one way in which all people should be treated exactly the same -- namely, with respect and as human beings with natural rights. Beyond that, all bets are off.

I find that this type of

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I find that this type of program comes and goes as the education pendulem swings. I find the whole idea terrifying. I would have to find a different place to work if this was mandated. Several of my co-workers have come from schools that used this method and they had horror stories to tell.

In some instances, my high

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In some instances, my high school uses a computer program to lead students through a particular content area class. The classroom teacher does little more than monitor students behavior and progress and trouble shoot technology problems. All instruction comes in the form of video lectures, slide shows, and reading selections. Most students complain about how boring taking a class this way can be. They also often say that they would rather have a traditional classroom experience. These direct instruction methods lack the human element that makes great teachers so great. It is frustrating to see and certainly not what is best for our students.

Increase in Boderm

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I have been a part of a direct instruction for reading for a short time. There is no room for leniency or deviation. Students tend to try to buck the system by either not complying or participating or misbehaving. Students want to be seen for who they are, and not just a number. Their brains need more stimulation, and students tend to shut down mentally when they are not challenged.
Teachers also tend to be more negative when there is only one right answer. Teachers are people too, and I like how Curwin suggested no matter what the teaching situation, teachers can still be themselves and make things fun.
The change in shift in the Math Standards where the focus is on higher level questions, communication, and how the problem is solved more than their answer; these reasons suggest going away from direct instruction. I hope to see more programs and approaches that are open-ended, and not as much based on tests. I believe open ended approaches and collaborative study for students will help them prepare for the real world.

high school math

Just like Chris M, my school

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Just like Chris M, my school district is somewhat split on this topic. When I mean somewhat split we have a few schools that do this program, have the same calendar that they give to the students, on the calendar it says the topic covered for the day, warmup, notes, activity, homework. It states when quizzes and test will be. I can see where new teachers would love this so that they can concentrate on how they are going to teach and not what they are teacher. I can also see the student who needs to know every minute of the day what they are doing, but at the same time we are not preparing students for the real world with this system. We are not teaching students how do adapt to situations that might happen unexpectantly on a given day or how to adapt to different teachers learning styles, especially when they further their education. We are teaching children to be robots and not be people. This type of teaching is teaching students not to be individuals and at the same time eliminates differentiate instruction. With this type of class, it would be vary hard to adapt it to an inclusion class, which I teach, or collaborate with the colleagues about upcoming units.

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