"Evidenced Based?" What about unmotivating?

March 18, 2016

As a psychologist specializing in dyslexia and learning disabilities, I have always valued and embraced reading instruction that has been referred to as “bottom-up” (skills based) for teaching struggling kids how to decode and read more fluently. Over the years I have seen so many reading struggling kids benefit from these approaches.

However, please understand this, decoding instruction should not be confused with literature instruction. “Reading” instruction is much more involved utilizing rich, imaginative literature and interesting non-fiction to generate thinking and to stimulate the imagination.

What is being passed off as literature within the typical worksheets approved as “evidenced based” within Common Core curriculum is having the opposite effect of stimulating imagination and creativity, at least from the kids that I interact with on a regular basis.

Not only is the material stultifying but increasingly in order to stay within “research-supported” fidelity of a given program, teachers are being asked to cut back on diverging from the script and to not use their personalities.

There was a time in the “way-back machine” when teachers taught genuine literature and poetry to children using their own personal enthusiasm as a way of trying to ignite passion in children to connect with the literature.

There was creativity in the process of teaching. Passion and love of literature, character or theme were all part of the interactive educational process. Worksheets were supplemental, if used at all. They were not the primary vehicle as they seem to be today.

Schools should rightfully look to the research evidence to help guide what type of instruction is the most effective with different types of children. But removing the teacher’s personality, joy and enthusiasm will lead to boredom and disconnection. Further, literature presented through dense worksheets leads to uninspired children who learn to detest reading. (Keep in mind that to the average kid reading is already perceived pretty negatively, compared to spending time on something like Youtube or playing video games. I am afraid that misguided “research supported” methods are not helping counter this perception any.)

Takeaway Point:
Teaching fabricated “literature” robotically scripted with no sign of personal passion will lead to legions of bored faces detesting the reading process. Yet, such approaches are “evidenced-based.”

Good teaching is an art that involves many intangibles. How does one quantify and measure enthusiasm? Love of literature and poetry? Connecting the disconnected?

You don’t.

There are some things that you cannot measure.

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