Cross-Cultural Terminology: Competing Forces

Mark Heyward defines Intercultural Literacy as the unconscious, transcultural ability to empathize with another from a different culture, to take on their perspective and embed it into your own thinking, to be the dynamic, multilingual ‘mediating person’ who can navigate between and among many different kinds of people.

For Heyward there are many reasons to aspire to this high level of cultural competency; to make the world more cooperative, safer, and sustainable for all, while also ensuring each person’s economic competitiveness in a globalized world. It is not clear where his emphasis lies, but the economic security of being interculturally literate is not mentioned first and is not mentioned repeatedly in his paper From international to intercultural. In fact, Heyward is setting a very high aspirational goal for a new ‘global species’ of human who still occupies a plurality of identities, but has gone well beyond a nationalist or monolingual culture and identity and has instead become transcultural.

Of course, Heyward argues that international schools are uniquely positioned to provide the environment which shepards young students through their ‘crisis of engagement’ and onto progressively higher levels of mono-, cross- and intercultural literacy. This ‘crisis of engagement’ as Heyward calls it, is essential, for only through experience and encounter with the other can one begin to understand and then move on to integrate the other cultural and social imaginary. This eventual unconscious integration of bicultural and transcultural identity is problematic in a world that is in many regions and nations backlashing against notions of transnational economic cooperation and transnational pluralistic societies. Looking at the white nationalist movements in the US and Eastern Europe as an extreme, one can easily assume the virulent objections concerning the loss of culture, identity, and the dangers of a monocultural or multicultural society that would be raised. There are more legitimate concerns, of course, like those who would see this transcultural process as another form of cultural imperialism from the west, or those developing nations that use a national image and identity to spur growth and energy in its workforce.

 

Intercultural literacy shares an emphasis on experience as a philosophical footing with international mindedness (IM). The term IM is associated with Kurt Hahn and the International Baccalaureate programmes (IB), and the experiences are meant to engender the dispositions and attributes of an IB Learner; risk-takers, caring, principled, open minded and more.

Dr. Arathi Sripakash and his colleagues, in their study of six IB schools in Australia, China and India, found a significant association with IM and Hahn’s idealized traditional western education and the IB World Schools acknowledgement that they come from a humanist western tradition. In fact, many students and families enrolled in IB schools in these countries see IM as a form of “western cultural capital” intended to help them navigate the western higher education system. The study found that IM in these schools and cultures was more curriculum and instruction focused and put less emphasis on the constructivist or experiential learning that both Hahn and Heyward find essential to creating a student who can effectively navigate and contribute to a globalized world. Thus, Sripakash describes a very practical version of IM which is limited in its effect on student identities and does deeply engage students in the tensions between the nationalist project of developing China, say, and the international education pursuits of its highest achieving students.

 

In this practical vein, we move on to global competence, as defined by Veronica Boix Mansilla and Anthony Jackson in the Asia Society’s joint publication with the Council of Chief State Schools Officers (CCSSO) entitled Educating for Global Competence. In it, Mansilla and Jackson define global competence as “the capacity and disposition to understand and act on issues of global significance.” Action to “improve conditions” in the world is emphasized throughout the document, but most especially in the matrices for global competence in multiple subject areas. To build global competence in students all subject area teachers should follow the following learning cycle:

  1. Investigate the world
  2. Recognize perspectives, both their own and others’
  3. Communicate ideas, to diverse audiences
  4. Take action, to improve conditions

The notable verbs repeated in all the subject area matrices are the following: Identify, Analyze, Produce, Recognize, Examine, Explain, Explore, Use, Select, Reflect, Assess, Act

Aside from ‘reflect’, this comes off as a very western-oriented actionable matrix. Even in the global competence matrix for the world languages subject area it is all about the functionality of the second language. For example, “reflect on how proficiency in more than one language contributes to their own capacity to advocate for and contribute to improvement locally, regionally or globally.” This is all about the ability to “improve conditions”, not about the reflecting upon new awarenesses, interconnections made, perspectives newly understood and adopted, not much at the intercultural literacy level advocated by Heyward.

Screenshot 2018-02-17 at 11.30.37

In fact, there is a whole body of western imperialism criticism of international education, and particularly the international mindedness of the IB programmes, being the most prominent and common model of international schools worldwide. Lodewijck van Oord argues that there are three primary western liberal epistemological assumptions embedded in the IB Diploma Programme:

  1. Marketplace of ideas, wide range of valid opinions
  2. Questioning is central, fallibility is acknowledged
  3. Marketplace of ideas will lead to truth, the best ideas win out

Citing Blooms and Gardner, van Oord makes the case that our traditional western liberal values tell us that mean-making is the ideal end of education, and that conceptual knowledge has primacy over rote learning of quantities of content.

In addition, Barry Drake takes van Oord’s conclusions about the values found in western liberal education and how the IB programme reflects those values, and calls on education policy makers in non-Western, non-Eurocentric nations to deeply consider the implications and potential ‘cultural dissonances’ produced when those Eastern, African or Latin American nations adopt the IB programmes in their national schools. In terms of teaching methodology

the PYP is committed, unapologetically, to “. . . structured, purposeful inquiry, which engages students actively in their own learning, because it is believed that this is the way in which students learn best. The PYP believes that students should be invited to investigate important subject matter by formulating their own questions, looking at the various means available to answer the questions and proceeding with research, experimentation,  observation and other means that will lead them to their own responses to the issues.” This is the IBO basically declaring a constructivist theory of learning. Meaning making through first person experience, which is a western pedagogical approach and yet also problematic in the west with western students in some settings, high poverty and trauma communities. Thus, the adoption of this epistemology and pedagogy must be done intentionally, Drake argues, so that the environment for cross-cultural cultivation is set appropriately.

 

My philosophical beliefs in how children be taught and should learn definitely fall into the western liberal tradition. I believe in meaning making through inquiry and that truth will reveal itself in the marketplace of ideas. But I certainly acknowledge that these assumptions are fraught, or simply ineffectual, for many communities and cultures. Like I said, constructivist learning does not work for all students coming from the western tradition, direct instruction, rote memorization and deep content knowledge are aspects of teaching and learning that are important even in the western education setting and indeed work better for some students, particularly those coming from high poverty or trauma situations where uncertainty in learning is not desirable. The pitfalls for non-western students can be even greater, identity alienation and a lack of relevance and reflection of their own lives in the educational setting. That lack of practical connection between their own lives and traditions and the learning taking place in their school, is the opposite intent of the western tradition of educating, thus it can self-defeating.

That being said, there are value judgments made when deciding upon education policy, and in curriculum and instruction choices, and I would tend to the integration of IM, IL and GC into a school curricula because I see the need for a trained, culturally competent citizenry in a globalized world, I’ve experienced the joy of intercultural experience, and those ‘crisis of engagement’ have been the most important formative experiences of my life and continued education. I agree with Drake, that it is critical for policy makers, school directors and teachers to consider the effect and implications for adopting IM through the IB programmes in a non-western school setting, but that does not mean that the right environment, the appropriate considerations, and the positive, identity affirming experiences cannot be achieved in the name of higher order thinking strategies, meaning making and self-actualizing student imaginaries.

 

Sources:

Heyward, M. (2002). From international to intercultural: Redefining the international school for a globalized world. Journal of Research in International Education,1, 9-32. Retrieved February 16, 2018

Sriprakash, A. (2014). A comparative study of international mindedness in the IB Diploma Programme in Australia, China and India(Publication).

Boix Mansilla, V., & Jackson, A. (2011). Educating for Global Competence: Preparing our Youth to Engage the World(Rep.). New York, NY: Asia Society.

Lodewijk van Oord (2007) To westernize the nations? An analysis of thevInternational Baccalaureate’s philosophy of education, Cambridge Journal of Education, 37:3, 375-390, DOI: 10.1080/03057640701546680

Drake, B. (2015). International education and IB programmes. Journal of Research in International Education,3, 189-205. Retrieved February 16, 2018.

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Thoughtful Tech for Students & Teachers

I am on a serious podcast kick. My forty minute to an hour commute affords me ample time to consume almost a podcast a day. Vox editor, Ezra Klein, consistently refers to himself and his guests as “infovores” and while I wouldn’t dare put myself in a class with Ta’Nehisi Coates and Tyler Cowen, I would like to consider myself an infovore too.

Here’s what podcasts I’ve been tuning into lately:

  • S-Town – A strange saga of a small Alabama town and one of its eccentric denizens
  • The Tim Ferriss Show – Work and live smart, but don’t expect to be as successful or productive as Tim Ferriss himself
  • Recode Decode – Tech- and media-centered podcast featuring the incisive Kara Swisher
  • The Ezra Klein Show – The Vox editor interviews fantastically interesting and important thinkers and infovores (my personal favorite podcast)

Last, On Being with Krista Tippett has been a podcast and radio staple for years now. If you don’t know her soothing lilt and curious questioning, you should! Recently I listened to her discussion with Anil Dash, a serial tech entrepreneur turned thought-leader on tech ethics and purpose.

I was ignorant of Dash before listening to the podcast, and found it pleasantly surprising to come across an industry leader asking all the tough reflective questions that seem to go unaddressed each time a new iPhone iOS is released. Dash and Tippett cover the gamut too, including personal tech use and best practices, social media pros and cons, automation, self-driving cars and machine learning.

The whole conversation is worth a listen, but if you are an educator you should listen especially closely to the section where Dash describes his thoughts on how children should engage with technology. Below is a transcript of that section of their conversation:

MS. TIPPETT: So my children are, right now, 18 and 22. And even in those four years, there was such an acceleration. And it was interesting also in terms of the platforms they and their friends use completely shifted.

MR. DASH: Totally different tools. Yeah.

MS. TIPPETT: And I’m actually — I find myself being really grateful that I’m not a parenting — we were still in that window where I could say, “No, you will not have an iPhone until you’re 14,” or something, which I just don’t think you can do anymore, right? And so they were already kind of formed before all of the technology entered their lives. And I know it’s changed so much now in the meantime, and you have a 5-year-old. I mean, I wonder how are you thinking about that question.

MR. DASH: We don’t have a very intelligent cultural conversation about how kids engage with technology at all.

MS. TIPPETT: No. No.

MR. DASH: I think…

MS. TIPPETT: It’s like a guinea pig generation.

MR. DASH: Yeah. Well, it’s also — I also think of the concept of “screen time.” When you’re with young kids, you’ve heard this, right? “Do you limit your child’s screen time?” And it’s like, no. I engage

with what he’s specifically doing. I don’t limit his page time. I just choose whether he’s reading a book or a magazine or whether it’s something that’s like a bunch of — he’s 5 years old, so he likes poop jokes. But — how much of that and how much of, like, smart stuff? And so the idea that they’re both on pages and are therefore equivalent is absurd, and yet we talk about screen time that way. I’m like, is he playing chess on the iPad? Or is he watching funny YouTube videos of animals falling over? Which is also awesome, but different.

And so that really — that always sticks with me because I think it’s a very unsophisticated way to look at things, and then we carry that forward. And that’s when they’re very, very young, right? 2, 3, 4, 5. They first start seeing screens. And my son maybe spends 15 minutes a day on the iPad, and he loves it, and that’s all he gets. But that’s always been the rule for him, so it doesn’t matter. And I limit it mostly just because we limit everything. I mean, you just don’t let a 5-year-old do whatever they want, or you end up in hell.

[laughter]

MS. TIPPETT: Are you saying — so, this is a radical idea. You apply the same wisdom you apply to other things to technology?

MR. DASH: Yeah.

MS. TIPPETT: Yeah, well that…

MR. DASH: Well, that’s the thing. It’s part of your life. I think that was the thing. I saw so many parents — and this is not judgment. I don’t judge other parents. Other parents are fine.

MS. TIPPETT: No, we’re all on this frontier, and we’re learning a language.

MR. DASH: But as we’re figuring it out, they treat it as if there is life — they say this — like, “This is real life, and then there’s computer world.” And I’m like, “That’s not the thing. That’s not how their lives are gonna be.” And I think I had an unusual perspective, in that I did start using computers before I was in kindergarten, just as my son has.

And he has way better programing tools. I was like, “Gosh, if I had these things.” He’s got — because we had to do these primitive blocky green graphics on the screen when I was a kid, and he’s got this Star Wars robot that he can go on the iPad and give it programming instructions, and it follows his directions to roll around the living room. And I’m like, “That is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen.” Like, you wait until they go to bed so you can play with it.

[laughter]

MR. DASH: And that’s — no, he’s going to listen to this I bet. So — I don’t do that. I don’t do that.

[laughter]

MR. DASH: But the thing that I think about is that that’s part of his life. It’s not over there. It’s not an artifice. It’s not the virtual world. It’s just life. And I think about that with so many experiences where, when we were fighting for validating social media and social networking, saying these would be important, these would be part of our lives and there’s a reason to include it, it was about this idea that sharing makes something better.

I fully reject the argument — people say this all the time. You know, “I saw this young person in a restaurant on their own, on their phone, not interacting with anyone.” What do you think they were doing? They were talking to people.

MS. TIPPETT: [laughs] Right.

MR. DASH: They were interacting with lots of humans all at once. And it makes me furious because I’m saying they’re being deeply social. It’s not in the mode that you know, but it’s actually better than when they were sitting alone at the diner with a book. And I think there’s been this misunderstanding and this misapprehension about what the tech is doing. It is connecting us to people.

And there’s so much attention paid — and with good reason — to the bullying and the other things, the cyber bullying and all those. A general rule of thumb is anything that begins with “cyber” is a lie. Like, if you say “cyber bullying” or “cyber crime,” it was probably — that’s one of those rare areas where they — it’s a behavior that existed before, and the “cyber” is not the issue. So children being unkind to each other…

MS. TIPPETT: Right. So nothing happens online that doesn’t happen offline.

MR. DASH: Right. And so being able to integrate it — now it can be worse because of the network effects. It can be amplified by the immediacy and the fact that it happens in your home. But the principles can carry across. And it has to be an integrated conversation, and that’s the key. It’s like, how much time do you limit your child talking to their friends? I don’t care if it’s on the phone, on the computer on messaging, in real life, in person, out in public, whatever it is. If you have a set of rules, they apply across these things. But that demands a literacy and a fluency that I think takes a serious investment in time and understanding your child’s context. And that’s the hard part.

A few key takeaways:
  • Screen time versus quality time on technology is the tech equivalent of blended learning versus traditional learning. We get tripped up thinking too much about the amount of screen time or the specific innovative model of learning, and forget that quality is key no matter what we’re talking about. I have always thought that I would limit the screen time of my own children, and I probably still will, but now I’ll remind myself that the important thing is the quality of time spent on a screen or in the neighborhood, and both can be positive for children.
  • “Nothing happens online that doesn’t happen offline.” However, the tech affect can amplify an experience in certain ways.
  • Mr. Dash: “But the thing that I think about is that that’s part of his life. It’s not over there. It’s not an artifice. It’s not the virtual world. It’s just life. And I think about that with so many experiences where, when we were fighting for validating social media and social networking, saying these would be important, these would be part of our lives and there’s a reason to include it, it was about this idea that sharing makes something better.

    I fully reject the argument — people say this all the time. You know, “I saw this young person in a restaurant on their own, on their phone, not interacting with anyone.” What do you think they were doing? They were talking to people.”

    This whole section gives me pause, because I’m not a digital native, nor do I desire to be. I want to leverage technology to serve me as a human, not the other way around, and maybe, just maybe, help create a technology that serves HUMAN learning, not machine learning. This leads me to bifurcate my life between the virtual, online world and the “real world”. While I realize that these two worlds are already indistinguishable in many respects, and I recognize that Dash’s son’s generation, the generation of my 2nd grade students, are going to see tech as a fully integrated part of life, I’m not yet comfortable with that. And I don’t know what this means for me as a teacher and ed tech user.

    Please let me know your thoughts on this tech educator dilemma if you can relate. And, if you know of any great and compelling education podcasts out there, please do share!

We feel, therefore we learn

This article originally appeared in the July issue of BiBimBap magazine, an online journal for EFL teachers in Jeollanamdo, South Korea. You can view the ISSUU version here.

The Emerging Science of Culture and Emotions in the Classroom

At our orientation in Gwangju, all of us JLP NET’s were introduced to the cultural framework of Geert Hofstede who, according to JLP coordinator Chris Devison, characterized Korea as “collectivist, slightly feminine, having large power distance and a strong avoidance of uncertainty”. Among the many implications that this unique Korean cultural makeup has in our English classrooms, Chris pointed out that, “What your students have learned when learning Korean is part of their identity and eliminating it completely may give the impression of threatening their identity.” Another important implication is that, “Korean students also have a strong avoidance of uncertainty and ambiguity. This causes them to seem quiet and shy as they prefer not to ask about the unknown and even try to avoid it if possible.” At one point or another, we have all found ourselves frustrated with the variety of Korean cultural elements at play in our classrooms.

Indeed, as Western Waygooks we all experience the cultural effects on education in Korea more acutely than the natives. We are able to compare and contrast against what we know of and experienced in our schools back home, as students and/or teachers. In addition to what we intuit about the cultural effect on education systems and learning styles, there is an emerging body of research that confirms and potentially clarifies that effect.

At the University of Southern California’s Rossier School of Education, Professor Mary Helen Immordino-Yang is in the midst of a five year study of Latino, East Asian and bi-cultural students to see how culture affects the social development of the adolescent brain. Half way through the research period, Immordino-Yang claims there are already two big takeaways about learning; first, Immordino-Yang says, “Traditional educational approaches think about emotion the way Descartes did; emotion is interfering with your ability to do well in school, to think rationally. Neuroscience is showing us that that is absolutely not the case—when you take emotion out of thought you have no basis for thought anymore. So we’re trying to understand how socially constructed emotion shapes learning, academic development and identity.”

Second, Immordino-Yang says “There were no differences at all in how much these young adults’ brains were activating when they responded to our emotional stories—and no differences in the strengths of emotions that participants in the different cultural groups reported…But there was a strong cultural difference in how patterns of neural activity corresponded in real-time with participants’ experience—in how people became aware of their emotion.”

In other words, emotions play a big role in how we all learn, regardless of cultural or linguistic backgrounds, and yet those backgrounds do have a differing effect on our awareness and outward expression of those same emotions we all feel.

Based on my background teaching in Latin America, Korea and the U.S., these preliminary results of Immordino-Yang’s research rung true, and so I became interested in hearing how or if this study resonated with some of my fellow English teachers here in Yeosu. So I asked them. What follows is an abbreviated version of some of the highlights of that discussion.

How do you say ‘emotions’ in Korean?

Many of the teachers I interviewed expressed bewilderment at the fact that emotions were once thought to have no role in learning. Most seemed to believe that across cultures emotions play a significant role in learning, but that student emotions in a Korean classroom differ significantly from those in Western classrooms. For example, Alison Pirtle (Nam Elementary), said, “I find that it is more difficult here to identify the students who are experiencing big, emotional issues in Korea, than it is in the U.S. My lack of understanding the Korean language probably has a lot to do with that, but I also think it’s their lack of outward emotions as well. Back in the States, it’s often easy to identify students who are having emotional issues due to personal problems. Here, though, it seems that students internalize their problems so it’s harder to identify a student who really needs emotional support.”

The emerging results of the Immordino-Yang study confirm this anecdotal observation about East Asian students. In a cultural identity test students are asked to monitor their heart rate after performing a simple exercise. “What we find is that among the East-Asian American kids, it’s the kids who are not particularly sensitive to their heartbeats who are saying they strongly hold Asian values, whereas among the Latino kids, it’s those who have a better ability to feel their heartbeats who are saying they strongly hold Latino cultural values,” says Immordino-Yang. In other words, a person’s cultural identity may affect their sensitivity to or awareness of their own physical and emotional state.

One teacher went a step further regarding emotions in our English classrooms and brought it back to us as Western educators and cultural ambassadors in Korea. Melody Peters (Booyeong Elementary) said, “The biggest thing in any classroom in Korea is that to the students we don’t just teach English, we ARE English. We can have the best resources, technology, and curriculum, but if we don’t show up emotionally, if we don’t see ourselves as the biggest asset in their learning, then we offer little chance of the students to emotionally connect with the language.”

The Cultural Elephant in the Room

In the end, Immordino-Yang puts her study’s implications for learning fairly succinctly, “We’re learning that what’s happening on the outside—the same story, the same lesson—can be interpreted differently, experienced differently, by different learners. So we really need to start to unpack the roles of school culture and individual variability when we think about how children learn. We need to understand that the way kids feel matters.”

Not surprisingly, this is where my conversations with my fellow NET’s on this subject got a bit more critical of Korean and Confucian culture. Issues like the singular adolescent pressure of Suneung (수능) were mentioned, large class sizes, the lack of differentiation in instruction and too much rigidity in the curriculum. While the most watched TED Talk of all time is Sir Ken Robinson’s on creativity and schools, John Palmsano (Shinwol Elementary) wrote of Korea, “Creativity isn’t reinforced as much as it is back home. Asking them {students} to be creative with or modify their use of our language is something out of reach of all but the most advanced elementary speakers.”

Lastly, the Confucian undercurrents in modern Korean society are significant. Its emphasis on family and social harmony are evidenced positively here by the Han River Miracle and the high level of personal safety we all feel walking down the street. “It ensures that Korea is a strong society and community by ensuring everyone’s survival and collective success as a people. The teamwork of Korea astounds me as an American,” writes Ryan Hedger (Yeosu Information Science High School). The downsides, as we all know, are rigid social hierarchy, lack of individual identity and one-size-fits all solutions to all sorts of problems ranging from safety to English language acquisition.

In spite of the significant strengths of Korean culture, the questions that the Immordino-Yang study presents for Korean society and education remain. Is that initial progress and success brought about by Korean culture and the education system now being impeded by those same forces? Is it necessary to improve the quality and style of education in Korea in order to leverage student emotion? How can the strong and proud collectivist culture of Korea, which has assured their sovereignty and exported wonders across the globe, accommodate the unique learning needs of individual students in the education system? Should Korea even care about a Western academic study on culture and learning?

My answer to those questions is YES, YES, IDK and definitely! But, of course, I’m the one working in a foreign culture here.

GOOD Magazine on Immordino-Yang – http://magazine.good.is/articles/cultural-literacy?utm_source=thedailygood&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=dailygood

USC Rossier School of Education article – http://rossier.usc.edu/immordino-yang-probes-the-connections-between-emotion-culture-and-learning/

Vicki Cobb: Why Teaching and Learning Cannot Be “Scaled Up”

“Think about it. If you remember the teacher who had the most influence on you, I’ll wager you remember nothing of substance that you learned from him. You remember how he made you feel about yourself and about the learning process. You remember how you worked and how you achieved.” -Vicki Cobb

That quote resonates with me so much as a former student and current teacher. I think of my first grader teacher, Ms. Saltvich, my AP US History teacher, Dean C. Brink, Mr. Woods, my middle school basketball coach and my college advisor, Dr. Aguirre. I remember exactly how those teachers made me feel and knew exactly what their expectations of me were. I learned so much from those mentors/teachers. That’s my goal everyday I enter the classroom as a teacher now.

“Let me explain why. The very nature of “standardized” testing runs counter to the work of educators and to the notion of America as a haven for the individual worth of each human being.”

From my perspective as an English teacher in South Korea, this is not hyperbole when Ms. Cobb states that the standardization of education is un-American. Living and working in a communal Confucian society as an American teaches you the strengths and weaknesses of a different, more conformist way of life. Without passing too much judgment on my host country, I must say that from what I see of the education system here and the box they try and fit all students in, I do not want the American education system to mimic the Korean one in any way. In fact, I bock at any comments made by the President, Arne Duncan or any ed policy leader which favorable compares the Korean ed system to that of America’s. It works for Korea and fits their culture, this is not true of America, however.

Diane Ravitch's blog

Vicki Cobb, a prolific writer of science books for children, is offended by the simplistic idea that education practices can be “scaled up,” just like manufacturing processes. Standardized testing is the quintessence of “one size fits all.”

She writes:

“Let me explain why. The very nature of “standardized” testing runs counter to the work of educators and to the notion of America as a haven for the individual worth of each human being.

“There are certain professions that are considered “high touch.” Nursing, for example, is about patient care and “care” is the operative word. Nurses deliver human kindness to people who are not at the top of their game. A patient may want a glass of water, but getting it from a robot is not the same as interacting with another human being. Teaching is another “high touch” profession. Children learn because of the relationship established between them…

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On reading, Part 4: research on the comprehension strategies – a closer look

I am reblogging this series by Grant Wiggins on the research around comprehension reading strategies because it is an important resource for literacy teachers, which nearly all of us are in this day and age of CCSS.

Here are my key takeaways from Part 4:
1. “It is difficult for many teachers to understand the necessity of keeping the content of the text at the forefront while teaching strategies… This [lack of improved comprehension of the content] occurs, for example, when teachers only ask students questions about which strategies they used and why, instead of asking questions about the content of the selection.”

2. “Many students think comprehension is “knowing what the words mean” and “what the author said”. Thus, many students do not understand the goal or nature of reading for meaning. As a result, the strategies will naturally seem pointless and/or not stick or transfer.”

3. “Far greater attention has to be placed on getting readers to feel the lack of understanding/slow down in the face of the realization that they do not get it.”

4. “The strategies can only transfer i.e. be seen as useful forms of self-regulation by the learner if their use enhances understanding of challenging text; and if the teacher makes clear (through modeling and gradual release) that the strategies reflect a repertoire to be wisely selected from and used flexibly when understanding breaks down.”

Granted, and...

In the three previous posts on reading for understanding (here, here, and here) I looked at the general question: What can we say for sure (or not) in research on comprehension in reading? Here, I take a closer look at comprehension strategies and what the research does and doesn’t say. In general, it supports many of the blunt comments I made here and here  a few years ago: there is still a lack of clarity about what the right strategies are, how to teach them, and which ones work for older students (my focus in these current posts).

Most importantly, the research reveals a very spotty record in terms of transfer of the strategies from individual lessons to a self-regulated repertoire used effectively and autonomously by the reader – the very point of my earlier post for which some took me to task (& some in nasty

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On reading, Part 2: what the research REALLY reveals

Extremely important analysis of the historical and current research on teaching literacy, and also, importantly, what is lacking in the literacy learning scholarship.
Key takeaways:
1) Students are not able to “transfer” the literacy strategies learned into deeper, independent comprehension.
2) All teachers, in all subject areas and grade levels need to be aware that teaching literacy explicitly or through content knowledge is essential.
3) Reading results, as measured by standardized tests, have not improved despite the wealth of research on strategies that improve deeper comprehension.

Granted, and...

In a previous post I argued that the dreary and un-improving results on tests of reading comprehension mean we need to take a radical look at what we are and are not doing, especially in middle and high school. I argued in the first post that we know far too little about what real readers actually do when they face challenging text – a predictable problem of great importance in light of Common Core and college.

Here, in Part 2 of a series, I summarize the research on comprehension.

I spent three weeks reading almost everything of note written on the subject since 2000, plus seminal pieces from the 80’s. My chief reference was The Handbook of Research on Reading Comprehension (2009) in which most of the top researchers in literacy summarize the state of the art of current and past research on comprehension.

Except for the bracketed comments by…

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