The Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE) has an engaging video series on its website called “8 x 8” that gives viewers access to the latest thinking on education policy.
“As part of the Bold Ideas & Critical Conversations event on September 19, eight HGSE faculty members were each given eight minutes to discuss research-based ideas that will have a big impact on the field,” the website explains.
It’s like a mini collection of TED talks on education.
The eight faculty members who speak are:
– Karen Brennan, whose research looks at how learning communities can support young people as designers of interactive media
– Howard Gardner – senior director of Harvard’s Project Zero
– Tom Kane – faculty director of the Center for Education Policy Research
– Nonie Lesaux, author of “Turning the Page: Refocusing Massachusetts for Reading Success,” a report commissioned by Strategies for Children
– Bridget Terry Long, an academic dean and an economist who specializes in the study of education
– Karen Mapp, faculty director of Harvard’s Education Policy and Management Program
– Paul Reville, former Secretary of Education for Massachusetts and director of HGSE’s Education Redesign Lab, and
– Todd Rose, co-founder and president of Project Variability, an organization dedicated to providing leadership around the emerging new science of the individual and its implications for education, the workforce, and society
Below are highlights from two of those talks. To learn more, watch all the videos.
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Nonie Lesaux: “A Matter of Talk”
What promotes children’s reading success? Nonie Lesaux’s bold idea is that “teacher talk,” the number of complex words that teachers use in classrooms, has a substantial impact on how well children read.
“The words that educators use, whether they’re teaching a lesson, having a discussion with students, or even recounting the weekend — it’s the consistent voice in our classrooms,” Lesaux explains. “And the daily talk that students are exposed to is essential for developing their minds. It’s a key ingredient for building up their knowledge of the world, their understanding of concepts and ideas.”
Why talk about talk, Lesaux asks, given that her focus is on reading success?
Because “conceptual knowledge is the cornerstone of reading success,” and talking helps children develop that conceptual knowledge.
Lesaux describes her work conducting a randomized study of literacy curriculum in a large urban school district. The data, she says, revealed “enormous variation in the amount and quality of teacher talk.”
In 20 minutes of instruction, the typical teacher of sixth graders used 60 complex words. But another teacher in the same grade might only use 20 complex words in that time period, while a third might use 106 complex words.
“This complex word use mattered greatly for students’ language and reading growth across the year.”
“In fact, we found that if the typical teacher using those 60 complex words in a 20 minute span consistently increased those by what we might call one standard deviation — or used 20 more words during that time — we would see almost a year’s worth of growth, extra growth, in reading in that classroom across the year.”
That’s more growth, Lesaux says, than in other reading interventions.
Hearing a lot of words isn’t enough, she adds. Children also need to hear complex words.
There’s much more to understand about this topic and more questions to answer.
“What might happen if students were enrolled in the highest quality language learning environments from the earliest years right through their public education? In other words, for their 20,000 hours of schooling. How many extra years’ growth might accumulate and what would this mean for students, for all of us in this room, for society?”
Karen Mapp: “Linking Family Engagement to Learning”
“So we know a lot about the field of family engagement now,” Mapp says at the opening of her talk.
“Students with involved families, they’re more likely to earn higher grades and test scores.” They enroll in higher-level programs, have better social skills and behaviors, and they graduate on time and go on to post-secondary educational opportunities.
So if we know family engagement works, why isn’t there more of it?
“What we figured out is that the main reason that we really haven’t gotten anywhere is because people really don’t know how to do it.” Both schools and families say they want more engagement, but what’s lacking, Mapp says, are the knowledge, skills, and capacity it takes to build this crucial connection.
We tell people “to engage,” Mapp says, but don’t teach them how.
What are some of the secrets of effective practice in family engagement?
“Relationships matter. A lot of times we jump straight to the program. ‘Do this.’ But we haven’t really gotten to know each other as people.”
“These interactions between home and school have to be interactive,” because “we learn more when we get to get some dirt under our fingernails and do it together.”
Collaboration is important so that families and schools can learn from each other.
Building the capacity of families and schools is essential.
And finally, “all of our family engagement practice should be linked to learning. Makes sense, but we don’t do it.”
Mapp points out that the thousands of typical school open houses that occur each year tend to be tedious, predictable events where parents are talked at and told about long lists of rules.
“Do I get to talk?”
“Do I get to learn as a parent a new tip or a tool? Or do I get to practice something that helps support my kid’s learning? Not usually. Do the teachers get to hear from me about what I know about my kid that might help them be a better teacher to my child? No.”
“We blow it; because it’s not linked to learning.”
“Linked to Learning: That’s my big idea. That’s what I try to do. And I am on a personal quest to change every open house in this United States of America.”