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Honest criticism is hard to take, particularly from a relative, a friend, an acquaintance, or a stranger. Franklin P. JonesFEAR NO TESTS: There is No Crisis, but it is past Time to get serious about Quality Teaching & the Preparation of Teachers
It can be argued that there is no such thing as teacher education since there is no such thing as a agreed upon core curriculum of teaching principles and practices. Courses with identical titles can vary very significantly from school to school, and professor to professor. This is a recipe for near chaos, ironically there is no "crisis" in education, and we should not act as if one exists if for no other reason than because CRISIS conjures panic, a search for culprits and competing disruptive reformers with vested interests in everything but education. However, it is past time to take some measured evolutionary steps whose benefits could be globally far reaching.
A logical place to begin this stage forward evolution is with teachers and teaching. So much of teaching is management, improvisation and bureaucratic demands that we owe it to teachers and schools to at the least help them to calculate and inventory the most powerful instructional platforms available for day-to-day teaching. Most all who teach are now facing a new global emphasis on accountability. The version thrust upon schools is properly called High Stakes Testing. This is a fitting term. There are severe penalties in the USA for example if national assessments fail to show Annual Yearly Progress (AYPs), though somewhat lesser ones in other English speaking countries. In general, when targets are not hit, jobs can be lost, principals demoted or re-assigned, and even schools dissolved as students are given vouchers to go elsewhere. There has been considerable and worthy research of the factors that characterize effective schools and failing ones. Oddly, the flip side of the accountability movement has not been seriously answered, it is the identification of Best Practices, a banner term in Education more than a serious movement. Ironically, the real movement to identify Best Practices, or tools, now reaches across industries.
There has even been a business patent issued on how to identify and promulgate Best Practices (US Patent: System and method for determining and implementing best practice in a distributed workforce. United States Patent: 20020091558). Teachers and schools are a distributed work force and should have access to similarly functional systems.
To borrow a line from Dr. Phil: "How is the present? Is having No System for identifying Best Practices working for you?" If your answer is most any variation on "Not well" you should be interested in this turn-around proposal offered. It is an attempt to develop the rudiments of a system for identifying and predicting what would most likely be Best Practices for most any instructional situation. However, it also includes elements, options and choices based on local and situational needs. The system proposed is not intended to displace teacher decision making but to better inform it.Next
The objective of the proposed TORC system is to equip professors and teachers with open-ended knowledge of very precise and grounded educational technology able to guide them in answering instructional questions and expecting significant and measurable results. The Internet now makes this an ordinary function through websites that allow "asynchronous" communication. In other words, anyone can drop in 24/7 and add their two cents. Our pilot target is Content Area Literacy objectives since many of its methods are applicable from 4th- grade to college levels, and in the case of Emergent Content Area Literacy even younger (Alvermann, Swafford, and Montero, 2004: Manzo, Manzo & Thomas, 2005). These methods tend to address areas that seem to wind up taking a back seat to word recognition and analysis, or learning how to read. Typical of CAL concerns is the next stage which often is referred to as reading in order to learn, or: comprehension; thinking; and content/concept learning from text, class discussion and now electronic resources. Several CAL methods also have furthered the efficiencies of what could be called concurrent methods (Manzo and Manzo, 1990) since they contribute significantly to multiple objectives, such as promoting tolerance, collaboration, mechanisms and options for more facile teacher adoption, and most importantly, promoting student self-instruction, sometimes referred to as the sine qua non of educational processes.Prev | Next
One of the best stories never told is the cornucopia of solutions to educational problems that are can be harvested from the quarter acre of the Educational field called Content Area Literacy. The fertility of CAL methodology is easily demonstrable. Using the CAL Solutions suggested in the Figure ahead, for example, would cause most any teacher, language arts to math, to be able to know some of the best ways to accomplish many of the fundamental goals detailed.
Representative CAL Solutions
The professors, administrators and teachers who can provide the means and methods of satisfying just the obligations and solutions found in this Figure would instantly be distinguishable from even the most naturally talented but uncertified persons who would claim the privilege of being called Teacher. Ironically, the answers to these and a host of related technical questions can be found in most any solid Content Area Reading textbook, and could easily be woven into the many "Leadership" programs that now dominate doctoral studies throughout the nation, but are very light on pedagogical science. TORC is designed to advance pedagogical science.Prev | Next
There are Troves of Generative Story Locked up in "Known" but Unplumbed Practices. In the field of Neuroscience theory is considered a somewhat pompous term. This seeming humility comes from the fact that they essentially are biologists, and biology is so complex that it humbles any who attempt to understand it. The term they use for theory is Story. The parallels to education and human learning suggest that we might do the same. Predictably, each nested story told likely will serve to excite other stories or latent theory structures and fresh applications and innovations. The Figure below offers an example of what should of/could of have been a continuing story on the ReQuest Procedure that has been cut to a very short-story by a culture of decontextualized and superficial coverage of potentially generative ideas that are nested in some otherwise familiar practices. (Other examples are welcomed. Send to: email@example.com.)
The ReQuest Procedure (Manzo, 1969) has been somewhat widely adopted but little understood and implemented following its publication nearly 40 years ago. Several matters of a theoretical nature that were/are nested within it. It was, and remains for many a Vel without Cro. The Journal of Reading, now the Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, published a four page article on ReQuest Procedure with little reference to several other theoretical constructs and connections within the research. It would not allow mention of several instructional design features that virtually pioneered aspects of the then emerging field of cognitive psychology, nor of the role of social and imitation learning theory and Mental Modeling (Manzo & Manzo, 2004), today called "Cognitive Apprenticeship Teaching." The shallowness of knowledge of ReQuest makes two independent but related points: recently several books have been written dedicated to improving "reading comprehension" but without a single reference to this proven and scientifically replicated and clinically supported teaching methodology. The absence of its theoretical and philosophical story may in part explain its relatively weak showing where comprehension and inquiry training have been targeted. ReQuest’s primary function answered the very carefully researched but inconclusive answer to the question of where to put questions, before, during or following reading. It did so by raising a different question: can we teach student’s to raise their own guiding question, or purpose for reading? It answered this challenge by creating a reciprocal interaction that made students co-creators of a tentative guiding question. Few realize that ReQuest both described and provided a proof-of-principle of a process for improving reading comprehension at a time when it was widely held that comprehension could not be improved because it had a very high correlation with another factor believed to be immutable, IQ. The ReQuest Procedure also was constructed to create a seamless diagnostic-teaching method that near automatically was adaptive to each student’s comprehension needs in a socially and ego protected way. In many ways these actions and predictable results were the first convincing evidence for the emerging branches of study now known as cognitive and social psychology.
Most disappointingly, the ReQuest method and the related research gave the first clear evidence through example of the value and distinction between strategy and skill instruction by stressing student inquiry training and involvement in determining whether they had evolved an appropriate question to guide reading or not, as opposed to giving them a stated purpose as in the Directed Reading Activity. Much of the justification for the design of the method’s rotational questioning and answering between students and teachers was based in great measure on theoretical propositions that subsequently were highlighted by the discovery or more correctly re-discovery of the writings of theorists such as Vygotsky & Bakhtin. The study suggested that the rotation function and modeling dimension of ReQuest caused teachers to be as influenced in how they conceived instructional conversation and taught as much as they influenced the way students’ questioned and responded. We came to call this a Heuristic Effect. From this discovery we concluded that teaching methodologies could be designed to intentionally cause teachers to discover insights into better ways to teach (c.f., Manzo & Manzo, 1990, Content Area Literacy: A Heuristic Approach).Prev | Next
The movement toward results-based teacher education now is being institutionalized and given durability if not permanence. Forty-two countries participated in the 2006 PIRLS evaluation of literacy achievement, and fifty-eight in PISA a similar cross-national test that focuses on science literacy. Schools of Education are being drawn into providing and/or reconciling their offerings with those in K-12 situations where districts offer professional development workshops and credit. Most formidably, the new National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) standards fully reflects this more accountable form of professional education. It contains a Standard that requires evidence from the institutions that prepare teachers to also show how that preparation results in improved achievement scores for K-12 students and ideally on both state and nation wide tests.
This new standard is based on the assumption that the professions are ready to provide teachers-in-training and schools with easy access to an inventory of core information about best- most productive - practices. Even while the core function of teacher education is based on the appropriate selection and use of best practices there is little agreement, and no serious effort that we are aware of to make such determinations. This piece is an effort to declaratively evolve a sensible system for inventorying such practices and in the process to re-establish pedagogical science as a priority item on our professional agenda. The emphasis placed here on Content Area Literacy is prompted, as suggested above, by two factors: This subfield clearly addresses higher-order functioning, as well as addressing the frequent NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) findings that progress in school begins to level off following 4th grade and all but stalls out post 8th grade. Further, the racial divide still is far too great, even while there has been slow though not adequate progress by Latinos and to a lesser extent African-Americans who are being called a forgotten minority (Landsberg and Blume, 2007).Prev | Next
The TORC is a teacher sensitive instrument for making an orderly inquiry and categorization of an instructional means and methods as ‘good,’ ‘better,’ ‘best’ and hence optimizing learning outcomes. The key term in the TORC search and identify system is Optimization. The term is an extension of cutting edge movement across many other fields meant to identify the critical factors, information and principles that can be converted into reliable and dependable guidelines that would objectively get things done in the most efficient and effective way. Typically these now are being coded into computer-based algorithms for quick and comparable results. Education is not quite ready to create algorithms, however the process of weighing, evaluating, and categorizing teaching methods will elevate the search for best methods to the level necessary to soon build such algorithms. Metaphorically, the goal is that the public policy and special interest group lions will work with the pedagogically oriented lambs and frankly that this primary mission - as opposed to mere interest group - will hold sway, but not monopolize the many other stake holders in educational and public policy making process. In a word, the proposed system is designed to assist teachers in rebuilding a legacy of knowledge and evidentiary supported practices that could once again showcase our wisdom and experience in the science and art of pedagogy. This may be more possible in Education than in any other field since most everything published is put in the public domain; few have ever filed for a patent on a particularly effective means/method of teaching. There currently is no such thing as one’s Intellectual Property in Education.
Currently K-12 schooling is in truth running a bit ahead of universities in pioneering practices. For example, the Blackboard.com option that first was the technological edge at universities now reaches into every classroom. In even a more advanced phase while Literacy programs at universities continue to teach standards like the very complex Informal Reading Inventory on tear-out sheets schools are moving toward the efficiencies and interpretative power of computer-based diagnostic assessment. One of the goals of TORC is to create and elevate "professional communities of learners" made up largely of teachers and professors working with computers and new algorithms to put a sharper point on how to teach more effectively and comprehensively, though beginning with the most fundamental of questions: what are the best practices? TORC will act as an aggregator of science, field reports and a continuous interactive dialog on this site where anyone can respond with alternate perspectives by indicating both their selections and choices of instructional methods and options, and with any additional input they deem relevant.
TORC is designed to open dialogues and inform instructional decision making, not to compel it. Teacher Choices and ongoing input as well as fresh thoughts, new evidence and ongoing critique are built-into this nascent and evolving system. However, there is a bias; it is that quality information and student outcomes are weighted above all other considerations simply because the history of prior missteps suggests that we all are prone to a higher rate of poor decision making when we have relied too heavily on ideologies, personal preferences and anecdotes. TORC is a reality check clearly intended to set a new agenda that stresses pragmatic pedagogy of result-based findings as first and foremost among other considerations. Users will also be able to openly suggest modifications and redesign of the items and weightings in the evaluation system itself. Ideally this approach will incite questions that doctoral students and professors will attempt to address in various forms of scholarship, from analytical essays to tightly knit empirical studies.Prev | Next
Tailored by you, to you, for them.
N.B: This rubric and its several parts are not meant to be fully employed in every case. TORC looks under the hood. It is a set of pre-test operations to determine if the power plant and the mechanical functions of a particular instructional means or method are able to deliver the promises offered and endorsements made. The larger objective is to use it to enhance teacher judgment, and better understand, adapt and certify that which is offered in university courses, state recommendations and district curriculum guidelines.
TORC Directions: Carefully review a proposed means or method for teaching. This will require some re-reading, and reflections. The Listen-Read-Discuss Method is offered as a common starting point that all new users will have it common. TORC Guidelines for Estimations are based on a weighted 7 point scale with a zero (0) base, and where fractions of a point are acceptable in quarter point units; e.g., an item can be characterized as 2.0, 2.25, 2.50 or 2.75. A sum is calculated from each item considered. If an item is not considered for any reason – such as you don’t feel qualified to make such an assessment or such information is not available or simply not relevant. In such cases the item should be left blank or marked N/A – Not Applicable. Items that are left blank of marked N/A should not be included in Instructional Power Estimator (IPE) as the number of items addressed in calculating an average. The sum of the values assigned to each item addressed is called a numerator – it is the number above the line in a fraction, which is a division problem waiting to be completed, as in ¾’s. The weightings assigned by the rater should be added together, however to form the divisor, or number below. See Figure 3: Optional & Appreciated Demographic Information.
TORC Listen-Read-Discuss MethodPrev | Finish