What’s the balance between teaching readers and teaching lessons with text-dependent questions? This is an important response to the ongoing debate. Thanks, @TCRWP. #TCRWP (Penny Kittle on Twitter)
Like EdReports, TCRWP is committed to supporting students’ growth. In this response, we will argue that EdReports has reviewed Units of Study to see if it matches the aspects of the CCSS which EdReports prioritizes, and not to see whether using Units of Study curricula produces student achievement. And we suggest that the teaching practices that EdReports values are not essential (and some are even counter) to meeting the CCSS and other iterations of standards.
To do this, we prioritize things we know to be effective. We prioritize choice, as that allows for teaching which is more specifically responsive, more tailored to each learner, and it creates agency and engagement from teachers and kids alike. We wonder where the data-based evidence is that when teachers and students are given some agency and choice, less is taught and learned. We also value asset-based learning and believe that to teach in affirming ways, teachers and children need to be in a position to select texts for a myriad of reasons, not just by Lexile level, including choosing texts for their subject complexity, for their cultural relevance, and for the literary qualities.
When teachers and students work together to design a course around a shared set of educational values—writing for an authentic audience, leaving space for all voices in the conversation to be heard, and purposefully engaging many of the controversial issues of our time—the class becomes so much more than a repository for learning content and skills. Instead, it is driven by a shared purpose: to communicate with others, consequently expanding the opportunities for writing across the disciplines. Digital literacy facilitates this drive to communicate.
I started by having students create their own blogs, but I found that quite a bit of class time was taken up with questions on how to design the blog (not necessarily a negative, just not the focus of my class). Students would ask how to create a blogroll or add features to their blog instead of discussing author’s purpose or argument construction. I had to try something different. I decided to create an online magazine so that the class could publish content together and focus on the writing, not the design of the magazine. To facilitate this focus, we settled on using medium.com for our magazine. The features of the site are standardized, so writing the articles was the priority, not designing the magazine. We were on our way to creating texts that not only changed the way my class functioned but also changed the way my students interacted with writing in school. They grew to see themselves as a community of practicing writers, working together with a shared purpose for composing.
People are the backbone of education, yet the challenges in recent years, coupled with frequent external criticism, has defined the teaching profession more as a problem to be managed rather than a calling to be celebrated. Books and articles attempt to address teacher disillusionment and dissatisfaction. Educators have applied influential approaches to their work from books such as Grit by Angela Duckworth (Scribner, 2016), Find Your Why by Simon Sinek (Portfolio, 2017), and Mindset by Carol Dweck (Random House, 2006). But even with the value of these powerful research-to-practice considerations, progress is slow. What if there was something else—a different framework available to identify how teachers can find more teaching satisfaction and enjoyment?
As both practitioners and scholars interested in teacher well-being, we believe that the concept of “mattering” holds the key to collective efficacy in schools. Mattering is the feeling that our actions are significant and we would be missed if we were gone. It is the belief that another person cares about what we want, think, and do, and is concerned with our fate. Elliott et al. (2004) stated that mattering is “the perception that, to some degree and in a variety of ways, we are a significant part of the world around us” (p. 339). It’s been shown that a sense of mattering leads to lower stress, while a lack of mattering leads to depression (Taylor & Turner, 2001).