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View Full Version : A UK Educational Study: "Chalk and Talk Teaching Might Be The Best Way After All"



Topsy
04-26-2015, 08:52 AM
I urge you to read the article before you read my comments below, but basically the article is a follow-up on a UK study that explored why China's students perform so well on standardized tests compared to UK students. And the answer they come up with is that it is because of China's instructional model - - "chalk and talk".

Here's the original article: Minister tells schools to copy China - and ditch trendy teaching for 'chalk and talk': Teachers speaking in front of a class 'much more effective than independent learning'* | Daily Mail Online (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2836240/Minister-tells-schools-copy-China-ditch-trendy-teaching-chalk-talk-Teachers-speaking-class-effective-independent-learning.html)

And the follow up in The Conversation: 'Chalk and talk' teaching might be the best way after all (http://theconversation.com/chalk-and-talk-teaching-might-be-the-best-way-after-all-34478)

A few quotes from the article:

"Given China’s success in international tests such as PISA (http://www.oecd.org/pisa/), TIMSS and PIRLS (http://timss.bc.edu/), it seems we have been misguided in abandoning the traditional, teacher-directed method of learning where the teacher spends more time standing at the front of the class, directing learning and controlling classroom activities."




"​Often derided as “drill and kill” or making children “parrot” what is being taught, the UK report (http://www.suttontrust.com/researcharchive/great-teaching/) and other research (http://isites.harvard.edu/fs/docs/icb.topic951140.files/whyMinGuidInstructionDoesNotWork-kirschnerSwellerKlark2006.pdf) suggests that memorisation and rote learning are important classroom strategies, which all teachers should be familiar with."


​"Instead of taking the time, energy and resources to customise what is being taught to the supposed individual learning styles of every child in the classroom, it is more effective to employ more explicit teaching strategies and to spend additional time monitoring and intervening where necessary."​

My thoughts on this are many, but aside from the ridiculous idea of making standardized testing the only measure of educational success, I would want to know many things about China's "scoring." For instance, when they report the scores, are they including the scores of students with learning challenges, as the UK and the US would do? I sincerely doubt it. With the pervasive stigmatization (http://aeon.co/magazine/society/whats-it-like-to-be-disabled-in-china/) of people with differences in China, I am guessing that those scores reflect only traditional learners who are likely to do well in a standardized testing setting.

But then, yes...what about using the standardized testing results as the comparative measure of success between countries? How does that translate past an educational setting? Does the fact that China's students scored 30% higher in maths than UK students mean that those same students would have better jobs? Be more fulfilled? Happier? More productive human beings? Again, I'm doubtful.

I'd love to hear what you think after reading the article.

Elly
04-26-2015, 10:27 AM
I agree with you that it's ridiculous to suggest that the only measure for education is scores on standardised tests. It might well be that drilling is the best way to increase those scores, it doesn't mean that children will do so well on areas outside those they've been drilled in (although my understanding of the PISA tests is that they do test more divergent thinking, so maybe I'm wrong there). I think part of the problem is assuming that, e.g. remembering times tables = being 'good' at math, which isn't what I see math education researchers saying (they value more problem solving approaches). I'm also aware that educators in some S E Asian countries are worried about their students' lack of creative thinking and have been trying to emulate Western education models to tackle that.

We also have years of research in developmental psychology showing the value of constructing our own knowledge (i.e. a focus on learning not teaching). And while I know that psychological research hasn't supported learning styles, I believe that evidence suggests we have learning preferences. I much prefer learning visually and I know from experience that it's a waste of time for me to sit and listen to someone lecture (unless I can be doing something at the same time) because it just doesn't go in.

I feel that they're making the same mistake that they're criticising (of course, the actual report could be more nuanced): trying to find the one true method of teaching.

Elly

Accidental Homeschooler
04-26-2015, 11:12 AM
I think there is probably an optimal balance between small group and "Chalk talk". I know my dd hated all the small group stuff that was emphasized when she was in ps. I think it also depends on the subject being taught. It seems like education reformers are so extreme, first A method is bad so let's toss it and do B method and then some new research comes along and we have C and that doesn't work so we need to go back to A... And every change is heralded as the thing that is going to "fix" education.

alexsmom
04-26-2015, 11:34 AM
Im embarrassed for the British that they would take any assertations that the Chinese make at face value. Their entire culture is one of corruption. Olympic gymnasts, Peking Man, Toothpaste with antifreeze, toxic dog food, foreign financial auditors imprisoned because they dared show that the annual reports being made by Chinese conglomerates were blatant falsehoods, pirated and knockoffs galore with no respect for copyrights or trademarks. I went through a huge period of disillusionment when I worked for a Chinese importing company before DS was born.
Of course any testing from China is going to show them as superior. They dont even need to administer the tests - and the results will still be the same.

And looking for the *one best way* of teaching an entire group of students? If there was a one best way of teaching anything, I think it wouldve caught on. Thered be no need to homeschool, nothing would be able to compare with the quality education that could be had from the public schools.

If they were talking about teacher-led versus kid-led instruction, I could see validity there. I try reading the History of US chapters aloud to DS - but dont always manage it - and those chapters I read aloud and discuss as we go, he always seems to have better comprehension. Thats my sample size n=1.

Maybe the people with experience group-teaching can share the relative benefits / drawbacks of the teaching style advocated in the article.

BatDad
04-26-2015, 11:59 AM
I am leaning towards this being more of a futile attempt to compare two very, very different cultures. Yes, we should be studying other cultures to learn and explore options, but once you say one is better than the other, we should start looking closer at what brought one to the conclusion. The question should be, better at what, exactly?

​"Instead of taking the time, energy and resources to customize what is being taught to the supposed individual learning styles of every child in the classroom, it is more effective to employ more explicit teaching strategies and to spend additional time monitoring and intervening where necessary."​

I am going to think on this one a bit more. It is possible that the Chinese push this system solely due to its efficiency. Without starting a debate about communism itself, I would point out that this represents the communist mindset. Maybe it does work for THEM, but England or the U.S.? There are many factors to look over. Before a country tries adopting the methods, perhaps they should look at why the Chinese use such a system. With a country well over a billion people, I'd imagine they would find individualized education to be time consuming and costly. If you don't have a billion people, could something else be better?

If comparing statistics between nations, you also have to verify that all reporting is equal, and it rarely is. One of the commenters stated that as many as 25% of the student body is missing from the test results. Many countries do this. There have been studies already, pardon me for not linking them right now, that U.S. students are actually much closer if you subtract the lower quartile of scores like many countries conveniently leave out.

Elly
04-26-2015, 12:09 PM
I think there is probably an optimal balance between small group and "Chalk talk". I know my dd hated all the small group stuff that was emphasized when she was in ps. I think it also depends on the subject being taught. It seems like education reformers are so extreme, first A method is bad so let's toss it and do B method and then some new research comes along and we have C and that doesn't work so we need to go back to A... And every change is heralded as the thing that is going to "fix" education.

My mum's theory on this is that they have to keep doing it to be paid ;) If they can't suggest changes, there's nothing for reformers to do.

Deli76
04-26-2015, 12:26 PM
i read this article late last night. I found it disturbing. Especially the picture of the open air testing. With communism, they have no other choice but to conform.
If I remember correctly there is a parent here on the forum who taught in China. Hopefully she can inform us about how their education system works there

TFZ
04-26-2015, 02:28 PM
Child directed learning is a falsehood in PS, at least in my experience. How could the material be truly individualized when teachers are forced to adhere to a scripted, day by day, boxed curriculum? With all the same tests on the same dates? And when the kids don't pass - you just move on. And when the kids already can do it - just go through it anyway.

I don't know if "chalk and talk" is that vastly different than what is actually being done in the classroom now. My experience teaching (primary mostly 1st and 2nd) is that cooperative type learning, centers, and small group, is supplementary to direct, explicit instruction. Yes the desk arrangement may be different, but we had to keep all of the kids on the same page. That requires whole group, direct instruction. We were required to do many trainings on the benefits of cooperative learning, but teachers would put it in their plans just to satisfy admin or use it as a break or for centers when children would be unsupervised anyway.

The curriculum we used (Saxon phonics, Macmillan reading, grammar, and spelling, Pearson Math) required direct, whole group instruction with q&a first, then break into groups or independent work. It wasn't me literally standing at a chalkboard, but it was direct instruction. Calendar: whole group on the rug. Phonics: whole group in their seats. Read alouds: whole group on the rug. Shared reading (read together, echo reading, I read/you read, each kid has the story): whole group in your seat. Grammar: Whole group focused on overhead or whiteboard. Math: whole group in seats with smart board integration (I used it in front of them). Test prep/review: whole group in seats with ppt. Whole group would be broken up with independent and and group work in centers, but for shorter times and not for instruction, only practice.

I dont know what instruction really looks like in England or China, but my guess is that the more standardized tests we require, the more standardized curriculum will be, the more standardized instruction will be, the more standardized students will be.

Sort of an aside, personal story - we did a training with Singapore math with a guy named "The Singapore Man" and he described teaching elementary with classes of 50+ students in an auditorium setting in Singapore. He triumphed direct, explicit, and whole-group instruction as why Singapore was so ahead of the rest of the world. He was very inspiring. The minute he stepped out the door my principal was like, "Yeah but that's not how we do it here." But that was exactly how we were doing it.

darkelf
04-26-2015, 04:04 PM
I read this article this morning and dh and I talked about it in length.

Our conclusions are this:

1. China is "teaching to test". They cover the skills on the test, they most likely teach the format of the test. (And SE are not included, most likely because they aren't accepted at the school in the first place)

2. Kids need instruction. Seriously, there needs to be some type of instruction. I've seen some classes where the teacher says to open to page 101, read and answer questions. And that is all the instruction that is given. Do I think free play and student led interests are important, yes. But I think kids also need instruction.

3. High expectations are important. (But not everything and not so high they can't be reached) goal setting and achieving is also important.

We also discussed how B&m schools are "fine" for about 80% of the kids. The thing is schools don't want to say, "we can't help your child. Or explore other options? Have you thought about other options?"

Topsy
04-27-2015, 12:34 PM
As a follow up, here's another article (also UK-based) that also came up on my radar, and I share it because it's one of a few recent ones I've seen that have the goal of debunking the learning styles theorem.

Can neuroscientists dispel the myth that children have different learning styles? | Pete Etchells | Science | The Guardian (http://www.theguardian.com/science/head-quarters/2015/apr/24/can-neuroscientists-dispel-the-myth-that-children-have-different-learning-styles-im-a-scientist-learning-zone-wellcome-trust)

After reading a few similar items I'm still a little confused on the agenda behind this push. (And maybe there really, truly is no agenda, which would be lovely, but I'm always skeptical) If you know more about why scientists in general and the education establishment in specific would be keen to abandon the idea of brain dominance and learning styles, I'd love to hear about it!

alexsmom
04-27-2015, 12:50 PM
Perhaps we dont use the right terms, when we talk about learning styles, and right-brain, left-brain.... but isnt it obvious to everyone who has taught any child that kids can learn differently? Without putting value judgements, we know some kids are mathy, some are artsy, some are wordy... some kids learn from soaking up information like a sponge from a book, some kids learn from watching documentaries, some kids learn by kinesthetically acting things out.
How is this a myth?
It seems a much more dangerous myth would be to say that all kids will learn given one instructional method. Teachers address *different learning styles* (ideally) by presenting information in different ways, to reach the kids that dong grasp the concept from the first way presented.
Is this some sort of trend to assure us that all our children are identical cogs, what works for programming one will work to program all of us?
If neurologists dont want lay people using terms like right and left brain because its not accurate, I suppose we could go back to saying *analytical* and *creative*, along with the connotations those words bring. ;)

Accidental Homeschooler
04-27-2015, 03:17 PM
Thanks Topsy. I found that particularly interesting as my dd has NLD, which affects "right brain" learning. But she has an LD so it is a little different than saying that everyone is some specific category of learner. I have kind of felt that while people, and I am thinking NT people, have preferences for how they learn, they are just preferences and there has been a movement to label it more than that, to say that everyone needs to be slotted or labeled as some specific type of learner. I think it is important for material to be presented in a variety of ways. Even with dd, I want her to be able to get better at learning visually or hands on and not just rely on her strength or preference for auditory learning. So maybe that is part of it, not that there are not learning preferences, but that they are becoming faddish and being given too much weight.

darkelf
04-27-2015, 03:46 PM
The problem is the media. (And I am going to keep saying this)

China jumps ahead of GB and the USA in test taking.


Alarm!

They must be doing something right. What are they doing, that we are not doing? When a normal educated person can look and see that the test scores are because they are not including Special Ed students. They are not getting zeros because some parents refuse to allow their kids to test. That we are not teaching to test, but are encouraging a whole rounded education.

Instead people react and create studies and make "much ado about nothing".

Last year my son was included in the state testing and everyone knew he could not pass the math section. He has a LD in math. He doesn't understand it, yet he was required to take it. Why? Because some politician said the reason he isn't passing is because he hasn't been pushed hard enough. The more we push him, the better he will be at math. (Gosh I wish that were true)

Avalon
04-27-2015, 08:40 PM
I can't really comment, except to share a related anecdote:

I provide homestay to international students, most of whom come from China. One of my students had to write the SAT to apply to an American university. When I asked if he would to take a test-preparation course, he said yes, but he would do it in China when he went home for the summer. When I asked him why, he said that if you want to pass a test, go to China. The Chinese are experts in how to write tests. I thought it was pretty funny, but I'm betting he has a point.

ikslo
04-28-2015, 08:04 AM
Is "write a test" in Canada the same as "take a test" in the US? I've never heard that before.

Topsy
05-01-2015, 10:15 AM
Perhaps we dont use the right terms, when we talk about learning styles, and right-brain, left-brain.... but isnt it obvious to everyone who has taught any child that kids can learn differently?

Right there with you this one. I think homeschool parents probably have an even greater insight on this one simply because of having the opportunity to work one on one with kiddos who, for all intents and purposes, are as "alike" as possible having the same gene pool and learning environment. And yet, we see that one curriculum that works for one of our offspring absolutely does not work for another. One kiddo needs to move to be able to retain info, and one can sit dead still. One kiddo needs to discuss the information in a back-and-forth way for it to stick and another kiddo takes it in the first time it's explained. I have a hard time understanding any expert who works with children not seeing this firsthand.

Avalon
05-03-2015, 11:01 PM
Is "write a test" in Canada the same as "take a test" in the US? I've never heard that before.

Interesting. I didn't even notice that until you pointed it out. People here certainly say that they "take tests." Maybe we use "write a test" more often with essay-type tests.

I did find this list Canadianisms (http://www.eecg.toronto.edu/~steffan/canadianisms.html) that suggests that "write a test" is a Canadianism, but it's hardly an authoritative source.

Several websites noted that British people use "to sit a test/exam" which we don't really use here.

Luv2HS
05-04-2015, 04:53 AM
"And while I know that psychological research hasn't supported learning styles, I believe that evidence suggests we have learning preferences."

This is completely true and we don't need a research paper to tell us that.

I have a very bright friend that cannot, no matter how hard she tries, learn anything unless she actually writes it down herself. My DS and DD, both excellent readers, had to learn reading differently. DD took a very traditional approach. DS had to have physical motivation and tactile experiences for his learning. This is why I get so sad when someone tells me their child has to go to SPED for not "being on track". Sometimes, it's just the approach! One method does not fit all. I shared some tips with a good friend so she could "afterschool" and her child "caught up" super quickly. When she tried to remove him from SPED, the school wouldn't cooperate (they get more money for SPED kids). She had to change schools.

alexsmom
05-30-2015, 12:19 PM
Ahhh WSJ has this article on Chinese fraudulent test results....
Surge of Chinese Applicants Tests U.S. Colleges - WSJ (http://www.wsj.com/articles/surge-of-chinese-applicants-test-u-s-colleges-1432943722?mod=WSJ_article_EditorsPicks_2)

Go figure.

Topsy
06-01-2015, 03:47 PM
ahhh wsj has this article on chinese fraudulent test results....
surge of chinese applicants tests u.s. Colleges - wsj (http://www.wsj.com/articles/surge-of-chinese-applicants-test-u-s-colleges-1432943722?mod=wsj_article_editorspicks_2)

go figure.

interesting!!!