“Most teachers acknowledge that when they hold class discussions, four or five students typically participate, and always the same four or five students.”
Lesley Roessing (see item #6)
“In classrooms where the primary mode of personalization is a hyper-individualized, technology-driven curriculum, we find our children siphoned off into silos, taking away valuable points of convergence. When we take away points of convergence, we take away opportunities for our children to learn from, through, and with each other.”
Paul Emerich France (see item #5)
“Technology amplifies whatever is happening. If we’re widening the gap, it can be amplified by technology, and it happens faster, and it happens sometimes under the radar, because teachers and students might not be having every interaction in person anymore.”
Rupa Chandra Gupta (quoted in item #4)
“The word ‘rote’ has a bad rap in modern-day learning. But the reality is that rote practice, by which I mean routine practice that keeps the focus on what comes harder for you, plays an important role. The foundational patterns must be ingrained before you can be creative.”
Barbara Oakley (see item #2)
“I trust that you will make it safefor us to make mistakes by making yourself vulnerable; acknowledging what you don’t know and where you need help; righting wrongs, apologizing, and making restitution; acknowledging mistakes; showing loyalty by giving credit freely, acknowledging others, and not bad-mouthing anyone behind their backs; holding yourself accountable and sharing how you’ll communicate what you’re doing; and being a constant, visible learner with us.”
Jon Saphier on what teachers look for in school leaders (see item #1)
“The ‘Black Box’ of Collective Efficacy” by Jon Saphier, February 17, 2018 at Research for Better Teaching http://rbteach.com/products-resources/downloads/all; Saphier can be reached at email@example.com.
In this New York Timesarticle, engineering professor Barbara Oakley (Oakland University, Michigan) says that to launch girls toward STEM success, lots of work in mathematics is the sine qua non. “Math is the language of science, technology, and engineering,” says Oakley. “And like any language, it is best acquired through lengthy, in-depth practice.”
The problem, she believes, is that many girls aren’t putting in the necessary hours of math practice. Why? Researchers have found that elementary-age girls are, on average, just as good at math as boys, but they’re stronger at reading and writing. Here’s the result: “A typical little boy can think he’s better at math than language arts,” says Oakley. “But a typical little girl can think she’s better at language arts than math. As a result, when she sits down to do math, she might be more likely to say, ‘I’m not that good at this!’ She actually isjust as good (on average) as a boy at the math – it’s just that she’s even better at language arts… Unfortunately, thinking you’re not very good at something can be a quick path to disliking and avoiding it, even if you do have natural ability. You can begin to avoid practicing it, because to your mind, that practice is more painful than learning that comes more easily. Not practicing, in turn, transforms what started out as a mere aversion into a genuine lack of competence.”
Oakley likens elementary mathematics to learning to play the guitar. To become skilled on a musical instrument, there’s no substitute for repeated practice of basic patterns until they are automatic. “The word ‘rote’ has a bad rap in modern-day learning,” she says. “But the reality is that rote practice, by which I mean routine practice that keeps the focus on what comes harder for you, plays an important role. The foundational patterns must be ingrained before you can be creative… All learning isn’t – and shouldn’t be – ‘fun’.” The same is true of mathematics, she says, except “the instrument you play is your own internal neural apparatus.”
Here’s where the current U.S. emphasis on getting students to understandmath, making it fun, and deemphasizing drill and practice may be producing unintended consequences for girls. “All American students could benefit from more drilling,” says Oakley, citing the lowly status of the U.S. in international rankings. “But girls especially could benefit from some extra required practice, which would not only break the cycle of dislike-avoidance-further-dislike but also build confidence and that sense of, ‘Yes, I can do this.’ Practice with math can help close the gap between girls’ reading and math skills, making math seem like an equally good long-term study option.” Of course understanding and fun are important with math, but Oakley believes there needs to be much more foundational drill and practice – which will disproportionately benefit girls.
In this article in AMLE Magazine, teacher/consultant/author Rick Wormeli argues that the well-intentioned push to develop students’ grit and growth mindset “can perpetuate harmful stereotypes, racism, and classism.” How so? Wormeli cites several critics who contend that it’s wrong to push schools to “fix” failing students from disadvantaged backgrounds (Adopt a growth mindset! Work harder!) when the focus should be on fixing racism and the economic and psychological conditions that contribute so powerfully to those disadvantages.
Paul Gorski is one of these critics, citing the school conditions with which many less-fortunate students have to contend: fewer qualified teachers; more substitutes; less-rigorous and less-student-centered curriculum; not as much access to school nurses and college counselors; more-limited access to computers and the Internet; inadequate science labs and other facilities. “So,” says Gorski, “explain to me how we can meaningfully respond to the impact of these conditions by completely ignoring these injustices while ‘fixing’ the mindsets, cultures, or grittiness of students or families experiencing poverty.”
Young people from challenging backgrounds “don’t lack grit and tenacity,” says Wormeli. “They have plenty of it; that’s how they survive. We lose all credibility by harping on it as the root of a student’s problems. What these students lack are the resources, time, and support needed to maneuver, extend energy, and find hope in the instructional demands placed on them.”
Wormeli is not saying schools should abandon efforts to help students develop initiative, self-discipline, tenacity, voice, authenticity, self-efficacy, and responsibility for the choices they make. “Heck,” he says, “this description alone is probably 90% of a middle-school teacher’s daily job description.” Rather, he’s saying that educators must be sensitive to the circumstances from which students arrive in school every day and work in ways that take those conditions into account – without lowering expectations. Some suggestions:
In this Cult of Pedagogyarticle, Jennifer Gonzalez focuses on how schools can make good decisions on classroom technology purchases. She was advised by Rupa Chandra Gupta, a former school administrator who now runs a technology company (Sown to Grow) and has strong views about ways that tech can be unhelpful in schools.
Working in a middle school, Gupta and her colleagues noticed that a learning platform that was producing better average test scores was actually having a perverse impact: students who entered sixth grade at or above grade level were making significant gains, but students who entered below grade level weren’t. “Not just moving forward at a slower pace or even staying flat,” says Gupta; “they were falling further behind.” Despite having invested considerable money and time in the program, the school dumped it. From this experience, Gupta reached a sobering conclusion: “Technology amplifies whatever is happening. If we’re widening the gap, it can be amplified by technology, and it happens faster, and it happens sometimes under the radar, because teachers and students might not be having every interaction in person anymore.”
Here are Gupta’s suggestions for a deliberate, systematic approach to vetting a possible classroom technology product:
• Use it like a student. Log in, imagine you are one of your lowest-performing and then one of your highest-performing students, and get the feel of the product. How does it respond when you make a mistake? Are there challenges for high fliers? Are there solutions to problems?
• Run a pilot. Recruit a small, diverse group of students to try out the product and see how easily they can navigate, whether it’s accessible to all levels of achievement and language proficiency, and whether students enjoy and learn from it.
• Disaggregate the data. What are the results for different student subgroups? Gupta gives the example of a digital portfolio app that allowed students to take pictures of their work and send them to their parents. This looked good at first, but wait a minute: what about parents who didn’t have smartphones and computers at home? “If there is a subset of folks who aren’t able to engage or access,” says Gupta, “it’s probably folks who we want to make sure we’re not leaving behind, right?”
• Ask how and why a product improves student learning. “How is this tool fundamentally changing something about teaching and learning?” asks Gupta. “What is it about this that’s innovative or different?... Is this tool truly changing learning experiences, or is it just a worksheet in an online format?”
• Ask critical questions about impact. Push beyond the aggregate information on a tech company’s website and ask about results for different student populations.
• Trust your gut. Experienced educators have a good sense of what will work for their students, once they’ve actually tried out a product, watched a pilot group of students try it out, and listened to the company’s answers to probing questions.
In this EdSurge Newsarticle, Chicago teacher Paul Emerich France expresses concern about classrooms that are attempting to individualize and personalize instruction with technology. “What we fail to realize,” he says, “is that individualization actually has diminishing returns. As individualization increases, so does the potential for isolation. In classrooms where the primary mode of personalization is a hyper-individualized, technology-driven curriculum, we find our children siphoned off into silos, taking away valuable points of convergence. When we take away points of convergence, we take away opportunities for our children to learn from, through, and with each other. We rob them of opportunities for social-emotional learning through serendipitous and spontaneous interactions. We limit the amount of time children can learn through meaningful dialogue and discourse. In essence, we take away the very things that make the human condition of learningutterlypersonal in the first place.”
Why do educators go down the technology-driven personalization/individualization rabbit hole? First, says France, because it makes it easier to manage classrooms. Second, because, as one of his third graders blurted out, “parents don’t have to help us with our homework.” And third, because tech companies’ sales pitches have convinced educators that their products produce better test scores. That may be true in the short run, but France is concerned about the long-term consequences of high-tech classrooms. John Hattie’s research shows that what produces truly meaningful results in schools is teachers’ collective sense of efficacy, constant feedback to students, and other low-tech factors. Individualization and web-based learning do quite poorly in Hattie’s meta-analysis – 0.23 and 0.18 effect sizes, respectively.
“In order for learning to be personal, it must be meaningful and transferable,” concludes France. “And meaningful, transferable learning only comes when human connection is at the center of what we do.” He suggests four guiding questions for tech in the classroom:
“During-Reading Response: Notepassing Discussion” by Lesley Roessing in AMLE Magazine, August 2018 (Vol. 6, #3, p. 44-47), https://bit.ly/2MGgxGn; Roessing can be reached at
In this article in Education Week Teacher, Elena Aguilar (Bright Morning Consulting) shares four big lessons from working with educators during the past school year:
•Talk as little as possible. “I only need a couple of good questions,” says Aguilar, noting her tendency to ask as many as 15 during a coaching session. One of her resolutions going forward is trying to find the very best question – the one to which the educator will say, “That’s a really good question” and dive into the most important issues.
•Lean into vulnerability. One of Aguilar’s long-time clients shared something that was “big and deep” for him – it revealed sadness and fear – and she felt herself getting uncomfortable and leaning back in her chair, realizing that for her there’s something about a man showing emotion that’s particularly unsettling. But Aguilar took a deep breath, leaned forward, and said, “Tell me more about what’s coming up for you.” He did, and it was okay.
•Don’t try to fix things. Giving people answers to their concerns and problems is a common reflex, says Aguilar, but it underestimates what they’re capable of and strips them of autonomy. Better to guide them as they think through their own solutions.
•Coach the person, not the problem. There’s a strong tendency for coaches to respond to the problems teachers and school leaders present with answers, solutions, and resources, says Aguilar – and there are times when that’s the right thing to do. But she keeps telling herself to tune in to the person in front of her and facilitate their exploration of the problem so they can come to their own conclusion about what to do. “This results in a far more empowered teacher/leader/person than if we were to direct them to get there,” says Aguilar, “and our world needs more empowered people!”
“Big Lessons from a Year of Coaching: Stop Talking and Be Fearless” by Elena Aguilar in Education Week Teacher, June 14, 2018, https://bit.ly/2MiBGtf; Aguilar can be reached at
“I’ve long had a complicated relationship with screen time with my young sons,” says Michael Petrilli in this Education Gadflyarticle, “but have come to see its benefits, especially if the focus is on quality over quantity.” Petrilli worked with colleagues at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute to compile a list of YouTube channels that he believes provide high-quality content for young people:
History and geography:
•Crash Coursehttps://www.youtube.com/user/crashcourse– Created by Hank and John Green (the Vlogbrothers), this channel has 48 U.S. history videos, 72 in world history, and 50 on U.S. government and politics. Each video is 10-15 minutes long with a spoken narrative about the topic, with humor and animations.
•Extra Credits Extra History
https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLhyKYa0YJ_5Aq7g4bil7bnGi0A8gTsawu– This channel has over 200 videos across a wide range of world history, accompanied by cute animations. The emphasis is on military conflicts.
•The Great Warhttps://www.youtube.com/user/TheGreatWar– More than 200 ten-minute videos take an in-depth look at World War I from every angle, one week at a time. There’s video footage, maps, and informed narration.
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCmmPgObSUPw1HL2lq6H4ffA– Paul Barbado is working his way through the world’s countries in alphabetical order (he’s up to the M’s), each one with a 15-20-minute video that’s like an encyclopedia entry with humor and silly graphics.
Science and nature:
•Vsaucehttps://www.youtube.com/user/Vsauce– Michael Stevens draws on his comedy and video editing background to present engaging “journeys” that start with big questions like How much does a shadow weigh? andWhat color is a mirror?
•The Brain Scoophttps://www.youtube.com/user/thebrainscoop– Emily Graslie is the Chicago Field Museum’s “chief curiosity correspondent” and presents videos on the living world in the Ms. Frizzle mode.
•Crash Course Literature
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MSYw502dJNY&list=PL8dPuuaLjXtOeEc9ME62zTfqc0h6Pe8vb– Created by Hank and John Green, this library has 45 videos on literature includingRomeo and Juliet, Catcher in the Rye, and The Handmaid’s Tale.
•Khan Academyhttps://www.youtube.com/user/khanacademy– Salman Khan’s site started with math but is now a gateway to quick explanations and refreshers on a wide variety of topics.
•Viharthttps://www.youtube.com/user/Vihart/videos– Victoria Hart, who describes herself as a “full-time recreational mathemusican,” is on a mission to make math cool. Videos include “How I feel about logarithms” and “Doodling in Math Class: DRAGONS.”
If you know of other educationally excellent YouTube channels, Petrilli would like to hear from you.
© Copyright 2018 Marshall Memo LLC
About the Marshall Memo
Mission and focus:
This weekly memo is designed to keep principals, teachers, superintendents, and other educators very well-informed on current research and effective practices in K-12 education. Kim Marshall, drawing on 48 years’ experience as a teacher, principal, central office administrator, writer, and consultant lightens the load of busy educators by serving as their “designated reader.”
To produce the Marshall Memo, Kim subscribes to 60 carefully-chosen publications (see list to the right), sifts through more than a hundred articles each week, and selects 5-10 that have the greatest potential to improve teaching, leadership, and learning. He then writes a brief summary of each article, pulls out several striking quotes, provides e-links to full articles when available, and e-mails the Memo to subscribers every Monday evening (with occasional breaks; there are 50 issues a year). Every week there’s a podcast and HTML version as well.
Individual subscriptions are $50 for a year. Rates decline steeply for multiple readers within the same organization. See the website for these rates and how to pay by check, credit card, or purchase order.
If you go to http://www.marshallmemo.comyou will find detailed information on:
• How to subscribe or renew
• A detailed rationale for the Marshall Memo
• Publications (with a count of articles from each)
• Article selection criteria
• Topics (with a running count of articles)
• Headlines for all issues
• Reader opinions
• About Kim Marshall (bio, writings, consulting)
• A free sample issue
Subscribers have access to the Members’ Area of the website, which has:
• The current issue (in Word and PDF)
• All back issues (Word and PDF) and podcasts
• An easily searchable archive of all articles so far
• The “classic” articles from all 14+ years
Core list of publications covered
Those read this week are underlined.
All Things PLC
American Educational Research Journal
American Journal of Education
ASCA School Counselor
District Management Journal
Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis
Elementary School Journal
Harvard Business Review
Harvard Educational Review
Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy
Journal of Education for Students Placed At Risk (JESPAR)
Kappa Delta Pi Record
Literacy Today (formerly Reading Today)
Mathematics Teaching in the Middle School
Middle School Journal
Peabody Journal of Education
Phi Delta Kappan
Reading Research Quarterly
Responsive Classroom Newsletter
Review of Educational Research
School Library Journal
Social Studies and the Young Learner
Teaching Children Mathematics
Teaching Exceptional Children
The Chronicle of Higher Education
The Journal of the Learning Sciences
The Language Educator
The Learning Professional (formerly Journal of Staff Development)
The Reading Teacher
Theory Into Practice