Monday, March 7, 2011

April 1976: Evaluating Elective Programs

Question: Speaking of elective programs, how were they evaluated, judged, by their peers?

Answer: Quote. “Four years ago, the English curriculum of Minneapolis South High School, was evaluated by a team representing the North Central Association, our accrediting agency. The report, generally favorable, pointed out as one of our weaknesses the following: ‘Because of the lack of a systematic way of developing and evaluating elective courses, fragmentation, duplication, and apparent ‘hodgepodgism’ have resulted.’ We suspect that this charge might be leveled against hundreds of English curriculums across the country which are based on electives. There are exciting stews being offered in elective curriculums, each one probably having a slightly different flavor, using different kinds of meats and vegetables. The main criticism aimed at these ‘stew’ curriculums is that students may never get a well balanced meal. If they ever ate the whole curriculum, they might, but if they had free choice, they might well push aside those parts of the stew which might seem to them at first glance distasteful.”

Comment: I think “hodgepodge” is a pretty good description of the main weakness of most elective programs in the ‘70s. Remember that when elective programs have their reincarnation in the future. We reduced the number of electives by instituting three year-long courses: Writing, Speech and American Literature, Writing Speech and British Literature and Writing, Speech and World Literature at three levels, Advanced Placement, Level One and Level Two. Students were required to take two year-long courses and could choose electives, if they wished, for one of the three years. RayS.

Title: “Elective English: Three Case Histories. Moving Out of the Hodge Podge.” David Bane and Margaret Reed. English Journal (April 1976), 43-47.

Friday, March 4, 2011

April 1976: Interesting Idea #2

Question: In a previous review of an article on how to organize an American classroom, I remember that the author offered three choices: teacher-dominant, student-centered and teacher-students learning together. How would you invite the latter approach?

Answer: The article from which this idea was taken was about how to create and organize elective courses. It suggests that the teachers offer what they themselves want to learn as the subjects of the courses. It’s but one step from what the teacher wants to learn to what teacher and students want to learn together. I could see such an approach used in demonstrating the steps in a research paper. Teacher and students learn together how to produce a research project and paper on a topic of mutual interest.

I thought it was an interesting idea. RayS.

Title: “Ten Guidelines for Establishing an Elective Program.” Larry Palmatier and Millie Martin. English Journal (April 1976), pp. 28-31.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

April 1976: An Interesting Idea #1

April 1976: An Interesting Idea #1

Question: What follows is an idea for student self-assessment. How would you as a teacher use this profile?

Answer: Frankly, I’m not sure whether I would ever use the following profile. Yet it provides insight into people’s self-judgment of their personal characteristics. It was included in an article on evaluating elective programs.

A Profile of Me

How Would You Rate (circle number) (#1 = low #8 – high):

.Your intelligence                                                                 1..... 2 ….. 3 ….. 4 ….. 5 ….. 6 ….. 7 ….. 8

.Your reading ability                                                                           1..... 2 ….. 3 ….. 4 ….. 5 ….. 6 ….. 7 ….. 8

.Your ability to express ideas clearly                                               1..... 2 ….. 3 ….. 4 ….. 5 ….. 6 ….. 7 ….. 8

.Your amount of participation in class                                            1..... 2 ….. 3 ….. 4 ….. 5 ….. 6 ….. 7 ….. 8

.Your ability to get along with fellow students
In committee or other group work                                                   1..... 2 ….. 3 ….. 4 ….. 5 ….. 6 ….. 7 ….. 8

.Your ability to get along with teachers                                           1..... 2 ….. 3 ….. 4 ….. 5 ….. 6 ….. 7 ….. 8

.Your group leadership ability                                                           1..... 2 ….. 3 ….. 4 ….. 5 ….. 6 ….. 7 ….. 8

.Your ability to keep up with the work of this class                      1..... 2 ….. 3 ….. 4 ….. 5 ….. 6 ….. 7 ….. 8

.Your ability to listen to what the other person says                     1..... 2 ….. 3 ….. 4 ….. 5 ….. 6 ….. 7 ….. 8

.Your tendency to recognize and support others
in a group situation                                                                             1..... 2 ….. 3 ….. 4 ….. 5 ….. 6 ….. 7 ….. 8

.Your tendency to impress other students as a very
worthwhile person                                                                               1..... 2 ….. 3 ….. 4 ….. 5 ….. 6 ….. 7 ….. 8

.Your tendency to impress teachers as a
very worthwhile person                                                                      1..... 2 ….. 3 ….. 4 ….. 5 ….. 6 ….. 7 ….. 8

.Your impression of yourself as a very
worthwhile person                                                                               1..... 2 ….. 3 ….. 4 ….. 5 ….. 6 ….. 7 ….. 8

.What are three important things
about you which are not listed above?                                           1..... 2 ….. 3 ….. 4 ….. 5 ….. 6 ….. 7 ….. 8

Comment: Many of the articles in these past journals deal with topics that have very little interest for today’s teachers. Still, they contain ideas that are interesting and useful in today’s (2011) teaching situations. I suspect that I might give this “profile” to a class at its beginning in order to help them set goals for themselves. I would not read the responses myself. At the conclusion of the class, at the end of the year/semester, I might give the “profile” again to use in comparing the students’ progress in their personal characteristics during the class. I might even have them write an essay comparing the results from beginning to the end of the course. Anyhow, I think the “profile” is an interesting idea to use on myself as a teacher. RayS.

Title: “Evaluating Alternatives: Elective Program Assessment.” Roberta Riley and Eugene C. Schaffer. English Journal (April 1976), 37-42.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

April 1976: Censorship

Question: What is one of the reasons for censorship incidents?

Answer: A belief that schools indoctrinate. The belief that teaching means indoctrination. The belief that whatever teachers teach, students learn mindlessly. By rote. What goes in , always comes out.

Comment: We need to define what we mean by teaching. We need to define what we mean by discussion. Most of what we teach is skills. We need to make clear our purposes for teaching what we teach, usually skills. When we discuss issues raised by literary works, we need to be clear that our classes are looking at the many sides of controversial issues in an attempt to understand them. We need to make clear that we are not indoctrinating our students with ideas or attitudes. Most of all we need to make clear our purposes for what we are teaching. RayS.

“Censorship: War? Peace? Truce?” Ken Donelson. English Journal (April 1976), p. 7. 

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

March 1976: A Unit on Pantomime

Question: In an era of high-stakes testing, how do students benefit from a unit on pantomime?

Answer: Preparation, practice, performance and evaluation. From writing a script to practicing to performance and evaluation of the finished product. The following example will illustrate the finished achievement.

“Performances are, of course, delightful. Topics range from ‘shoplifting to ‘the subway.’ A memorable reducing salon routine was created by an extraordinary group of girls. They made their entrances in their fathers’ jogging outfits stuffed with pillows, front and back. They were so obese, exercises were practically impossible for them. But they attempted a number of them, one of which involved the girls plopping in unison on their derrieres. Their feet suddenly disappeared, and there they were bouncing on their extra flab.

“One of the girls indicated a time change on the chalkboard as she exited, and a ‘week’ later they reappeared in the salon. Fewer pillows made each appear thinner. A week later they were thinner still. Finally, the girls reappeared dressed for a celebration. They were stunning, and they knew it! The celebration was dinner in a restaurant. They were very proper and calm as they ordered and as they were served. However, once the waiter left, the girls simultaneously lost all control and forgot their weeks of weight struggle. They gorged themselves, even grabbing from one another’s plates!

The routine was successful because of the planning and pantomime skill the girls showed in their performance. Though one could guess the routine’s development, anticipation added to the fun of watching the manner in which the girls worked things out. Their routine brought tears of hilarity.”

Comment: In today’s culture of high-stakes testing, a unit on pantomime doesn’t make much sense. It probably won’t contribute to scores on reading or math tests or even writing tests. But learning how to prepare for a project, from planning to performance, teaches students how to organize, work cooperatively, understand the stresses and strains inherent in the completion of any project. That is what occurs in the real world. And that is worth teaching. RayS.

Title: “Junior High School Harlequins.” Janet E Cushman. English Journal (March 1976), 74-77.