The education field tends to rely heavily on qualitative studies, sometimes proclaiming open hostility towards modern statistical research methods. Even when the research is clear on a subject — such as how to teach first-graders to read — educators often willfully ignore the results when they don’t fit their ideological preferences.” — Chester E. Finn
Every new attempt to “save” education in America (especially in math) has failed. Miserably.
Why? Because the “reformers” vilify the only thing that actually works: practice, practice, practice.
In the largest education research study ever conducted — involving over 70,000 students and 180 schools — that’s exactly the finding: a combination of small-group, face to face instruction/lecture — and lots of drill (aka, practice) is the most effective form of learning.
If you want results, train like the Karate Kid.
From Dr. Jeffrey R. Jones:
“The inescapable conclusion of Project Follow Through is that kids enrolled in educational programs, which have well-defined academic objectives, will enjoy greater achievement in basic skills, thinking skills, and self-esteem. Self-esteem in fact appears to derive from pride in becoming competent in the important academic skills.”
His comment about self-esteem agrees with the current research — pride in ones actual ability and accomplishments is the foundation of self-esteem, not what others say about you (even if what they say is positive).
Here’s a quote by University of Oregon professor, Douglas Carnine, about the study:
In only one approach, the Direct Instruction (DI) model, were participating students near or at national norms in math and language and close to national norms in reading. Students in all four of the other Follow Through approaches—discovery learning, language experience, developmentally appropriate practices, and open education—often performed worse than the control group. This poor performance came in spite of tens of thousands of additional dollars provided for each classroom each year.
The rhetoric of reform treats “drill” and “rote” as evil forms of learning. And yet these are but euphemisms for “practice”.
My mother is an Art Professor, and I can hear her saying, “Duh! Of course detail and drill work. Why is this so hard to understand?” Because practice, drill, and rote learning are boring as hell.
Imagine how different the Karate Kid movie would be if Mr. Miyagi thought that Daniel should be “having fun”.
There is no getting out of the fact that practicing your scales on the piano, or drilling the same dance step in ballet, or memorizing your lines as an actor (by rote!), or doing 1,000 “wax-on, wax-off” moves is mind-numbingly boring!
Student-centered learning is a myth whose time has come to die. Athletics and the Arts thrive on practice and requiring students to do what is good for them whether they like it or not — so does medicine and physical therapy.
Do you think Michael Jordan got good by avoiding the hideously boring drills he had to practice, day in, day out, for decades? Of course not.
The key to mastery is the art of embracing boredom.
- Less romanticism (ala Rousseau and the German Romantic movement)
- More Karate Kid
Now go lift something heavy,