Monday, December 15, 2014

Double Dose - It's All About Research?

 
When it comes to mathematics, I am truly the teacher of the gifted and not the gifted teacher.  I am an excellent advocate for gifted kids when it comes to math, but if I had to solve a simple calculus equation to save my life, well, let's just say it would take my last breath and I'd still be dead.  I am definitely a right brain hemisphered individual, and I do my best to nod and look less than comatose when left-brained kids attempt to connect with me using mathematical logic.

Now that I've made that confession, and probably alienated more than a few of my mathy friends, I turn to my most discovery:  the research that talks about struggling math students and how often they should receive their daily doses of Algebra

Double Dosing?

In a society where "more is better," I know of no students who would intentionally seek out double doses of mathematics -- or many classes for that matter -- to increase their learning.  The district in which I teach has a Block Schedule at the high school, and it is frequently under attack by achievement critics who feel that what is essentially a double dose of instruction in an 82 minute block is too much for one challenged student to take in without application and practice.  (Let alone the stress of having a subject from September - January, and then not again for 8 more months or more, depending on the placement of that subject the following year.)  Yet this is exactly what is suggested in these studies.  (I yell a hardy YAY BLOCK! at this point...)

Putting on my gifted advocacy hat adds to the conundrum.  Double-dosing is a GREAT thing for most gifted kids -- as it allows for a lot of flexibility in scheduling, compacting, and challenging courses.  Teachers are using more project based or discovery learning strategies in block, because the time is there to experience AND debrief.  Fong's study (see links above) certainly places the argument for struggling learners' repetition needs squarely in the cross-hairs, allowing for continued support of block.  So should we double the already doubled block?  How much is too much?

The reality is that there are probably an equal number of studies contradicting exactly what Fong has discovered and reported in his research.  Because that's the nature of research.  Prove what you want, and ignore the rest.  It's interesting to me that when kids do this when writing research papers, we ask them for "balance" in their research, but when it applies to education we are quite selective in our application.  One thing that I know for sure is that in the apparent haste to "correct" the flaws in the current educational process, often the prescribed cure, or the newest study, is grabbed with gusto and a hardy har har, without consideration for the mid-stream horse switch impact.  When it doesn't work, we're on to something else.

I'm feeling like Dr. Seuss writing the end of The Grinch:

And he puzzled three hours, `till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before! "Maybe learning," he thought, "doesn't come from research galore. "Maybe learning...perhaps...means a little bit more!" And what happened then...? Well...in Who-ville they say That the Grinch's small heart grew three sizes that day! And the minute his heart didn't feel quite so tight, He whizzed with his plans through the bright morning light And he brought back the fun! And the discovery learning! And he... ...HE HIMSELF...! The Grinch discovered his educational yearning!

I know.  don't give up my day job.

I'm trying not to.  I just wish the targets didn't keep moving.