Zig speaks

Children of the Code interviews Zig Engelmann, the father of Direct Instruction,  on “a science of instruction based on learning from the learners.” His motto:

If the learner hasn’t learned, the teacher hasn’t taught, and that it’s not a question of the learner’s ability, it’s a question of the teacher’s ability. These kids are capable of learning, certainly at different rates, but learning anything we want to teach them.

But it’s not easy to analyze what students need to know to move on to the next level of learning.

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Comments

  1. Diana, it may not be easy to know under current practice, but it’s not inherently difficult. It depends on how important you think it is to find students’ zone(s) of proximal development.

  2. Diana Senechal says:

    Jane,

    That was Joanne’s post. The name of the author is at the top of each post.

    Diana

  3. Student of History says:

    One of my favorite quotes from the interview is:

    “any child could learn anything if we could meet them on the edge of what it is they need to stay engaged in the learning” .

    It really is an extraordinary conversation.

  4. Oh, is THAT all. Well, I have my finger on the very pulse of all my 100+ students’ zone, hormone levels, emotional state, etc. every day. Doesn’t everyone?

  5. Mike Curtis says:

    Yes, every child can learn something; but, don’t think you can forge gold from iron ore. Every person has a limit, and each limit is as uncommon as the individual.

  6. Student of History says:

    A good part of the interview concerned the beginning of the sequence of learning – where to start, why, and what mistakes tell you about the missing pieces.

    No one gets near their limit if no one tries to determine if they have the prerequisite concepts and skills to move forward.

    Iron ore may never be beautiful but it can be made strong and highly functional with the right tools and craftmanship.

  7. Oh, is THAT all. Well, I have my finger on the very pulse of all my 100+ students’ zone, hormone levels, emotional state, etc. every day. Doesn’t everyone?

    And you still have time to come up with poor excuses and poorer sarcasm? Those are the skills American public education would be barren without.

  8. Roger Sweeny says:

    allen,

    You make light of a real problem. It is something Direct Instruction actually tries to do something about. When you do DI, you first find out what students can already do. You then put each student in a fairly small group that matches his or her level of mastery.

  9. Oh jeez Roger, you don’t stop an epidemic with a band-aid and as much as some pretty decent folks think of DI it’ll always be a band-aid until there are real penalties in failure and real benefits in success for the professionals, the folks hired to do the job.

    Until that time the only motivation teaching professionals have is pride and even that’s mitigated anywhere their superiors aren’t similarly motivated by pride.

  10. Roger Sweeny says:

    allen,

    I agree that DI is no cure-all and that outcomes will be better when “there are real penalties in failure and real benefits in success for … the folks hired to do the job.”

    That is not the case now AND a middle or high school teacher has to try to teach twenty-plus teenagers in one room who vary widely in motivation and preparation. Unless you are the teaching equivalent of Michael Jordan, you don’t accomplish much with many of them.

  11. Student of History says:

    Isn’t one of the primary reasons that there is such a wide variation in motivation and preparation in middle and high schools the fact that we generally refuse to use DI in our elementary schools to teach reading and arithmetic?

    If most kids could read and work with numbers, wouldn’t the divergence be less?

    To what extent are we bemoaning problems we helped create?

  12. Roger Sweeny says:

    “What you mean ‘we,’ Kemo Sabe?” I’m a high school teacher and nobody ever asked me 🙂

    But it is certainly true that ed schools and teachers unions, and hence administrators, generally oppose DI.

    To the extent that DI leads to success in reading and working with numbers, it would certainly lead to better prepared students– who are less likely to consider themselves “bad at school” and to correspondingly not like it.