Thursday, March 26, 2009

Dr. Willingham responds...

Dan Willingham took the time to respond to my recent post regarding his week blogging on the Core Knowledge blog. I'm glad to see this conversation continue. It's funny, I really do disagree with a great deal of what is proposed over there and I fully realize that my own prose can be, um..., sharp at times, but, egos aside, I think both this blog and that blog really are trying to serve the purpose of helping teachers and students. And I appreciate the efforts of the folks at CK, including Dr. Willingham -- with whom I disagree on so much -- very much. Keep up the good work, without the debate we're dead in the water.

Here's Dan's response in full.

Thanks for reading my posts and taking them seriously enough to reply
First, you’re right, I have never taught in a K-12 classroom, and I recognize that that is a serious limitation in my ability to contribute anything to a conversation about K-12 teaching. To try to be better informed I rely on observing classrooms and conversations with teachers, who read and critique what I write. I honor your expertise—obviously teachers know more about classrooms than I do. I ask in return that I not be cut off because I lack that experience. In return, I will not cut you off if you question the validity of laboratory results. I know the lab, you know the classroom. I think a sensible point of view from each would be that the other might tell us something that could inform what we do, but that ultimately we know our own domain best.
Second, I agree that one could pervert what I’ve said to justify bad teaching. The last paragraph of the blog entry was meant to emphasize that not everything should be practiced, and that in fact the candidates for such practice are probably limited. I briefly considered adding something more explicit like “but this doesn’t mean you should give kids mindless worksheets, or ask them to engage in practice in the absence of thought.” But I didn’t write that because it seemed insulting. Do teachers really need me to tell them such an obvious thing?
Third, regarding the hierarchical nature of expertise and proficiency: I didn’t think I was saying anything all that controversial, or that would surprise teachers. What I meant was that complex skills typically build on simple skills. The number of students who leapfrog over simple skills to more complex skills (the Einsteins or Satchmos) are a vanishingly small number. I trust that teachers can recognize the geniuses.

1 comment:

  1. Did his second to last sentence just imply that we are devo?


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