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The topic on this week's Behind the classroom door from northern Illinois University's College of Education is innovations in the classroom. Here is the moderator Dean Robert after top innovation is a word with a lot of different meanings it seems to me and is being misused is what is innovation. It seems as though every advertising state that we see in connection with cars or new devices. This is an innovation and now we're approaching the idea of innovation in the schools. We're so anxious to do the best job that we possibly can in the schools that we are innovating left and right. I sometimes wonder if these are really innovations or if some of these might be reworked ideas or they may not be as new as we think they are. And I also wonder what might be some good innovation that we might start with. Well I think in my opinion my definition innovations are
practices that are not generally found in the classroom. I know that about a year ago the North Central Association with the Kettering foundation conducted. I study and innovations and they send a questionnaire to over 10000 regional regionally accredited high schools throughout the 50 states in Washington D.C. and some overseas schools and they listed the 20 what they thought were the 27 outstanding innovations in school in secondary schools and after the questionnaire was returned and they they looked at the results. They decided that 12 of the 27 innovations weren't innovations at all but prevailed in some of the four that were very very well they they found that there was such a common that these were such a common commonly practiced commonly practiced throughout the country that they couldn't really classify them as innovations.
Well perhaps nothing is entirely new. And I wonder if sometimes the easiest way to prevent a school from trying something new is simply for someone on the staff to say well that's not new it would seem to me it's an innovation in a school. Is not practicing it at that time. Therefore it's an innovation to that school even though it may not be an innovation from the standpoint of statewide or national research. That could be carried even farther. Couldn't it you might say that it is an innovation when it's something new for that particular kind of student teacher. Well innovation is good people in any occupation should be thinking of new ideas that might be better and might be an improvement. And I like the idea that schools and teachers are thinking in an innovative way. From what you were saying then it would seem that there are very few truly innovative ideas in education today that most of them are
actually old ideas under a new guise. I think this might be an example we hear quite a bit. Now about in the individual lies the instruction about the advantage of a child progressing at his own rate. But is that really a new thing. I'm not relieved it was an old thought one planned years and years ago were the children were given given in a kind of an individual contract and it's back on track in 1900 Dr Maria Montessori developed self teaching devices whereby children became involved in situations where they could proceed on their on their own at their own rate. But again I thank you even though Montessori method used individualized instruction many years ago. It doesn't mean that schools today should feel that individualized instruction is old hat and therefore not worth trying. Too many
classrooms do not have individual ised instruction and if individual Aizen destruction is desirable then I think. All teachers should be concerned with trying to develop some degree of individualized instruction within their own classroom so of course there's no denying the fact that the range of individual differences among any group of children at any grade level or in any subject matter is far more than we ever imagined. And so you just can't have all 30 of those children doing the same kind of work. In working in the same kind of materials I have noticed in the past two years that we've been encouraged at every level to innovate in the schools for example. Many of the professional organizations for teachers and school administrators have encouraged innovations of all kinds throughout the country. I know that
for example the. Thank you National Commission on teacher education and professional standards sponsored an 18 month campaign to identify innovations in schools throughout the United States and some of them were abroad because in their directory that they have now listing about 200 innovative practices in schools some of them are found in Japan. And I think all 50 states have contributed to this to rectory and I know there are. I think re the organization with which your associated has it has just prepared to state directly that I have see a lot of my association for supervision and curriculum development is preparing to book length list of innovations in public schools and on our way. They've already completed the first which isn't titled You know additions in Illinois schools. Dash elementary schools and the next
one will be you know patients on the secondary schools have been online. These contain brief descriptions of innovations reported by public schools. The contact person within the public school to whom interested teachers or administrators could write and some method of evaluating me. You know of ation when the method of evaluation has been adopted I would have to say that I think one of the biggest criticisms of innovations in public schools is that and then ovation is often adopted simply because. Parents or teachers or administrators have heard that other schools have such an innovation. Rather than to base it upon research. So there is not much research evidence supporting many of the innovations that are common or certain sure are hard to accumulate wouldn't you say. Dr. Byock should you have to try some things. Just because they're
new. Do you have a feeling from your experience that they will work you just don't try anything and I didn't mean that you'd wait until the research evidence would be on before you would try it. But I think it's the obligation of the local school district when they adopt an innovation. For example if a local school system decides to put him out. Foreign language in the elementary school that at the same time that that decision is made some means for evaluating what its program does would also be incorporated Otherwise we have no way of knowing whether it's an improvement or not. And of course there's much room for improvement in just the idea of innovation helps bring this about and some time and sometimes I think an innovation might be desirable in one school and not in another because one school might have the facilities and the staff and the materials equipment to carry it out. Why don't I just go might just blunder. It seems to me now that you have identified three reasons for
innovations number one other schools are doing it. Number two some authority and I do occasionally says it's good. And number three the PTA wants it. How I Am i don't think any of those reasons should be the basis for adopting an innovation I think you've got to have some research some evidence to show that this innovation wanted to do the job better than what has been done but level that it's been done leave you just can't find the research it hasn't been and if it is innovative then it hasn't been done before very much and many times they haven't evaluated it in a sufficiently thorough way so that the report can be made on it. But let's not say that the BGA does this. Let's note that a group of experienced teachers working in an elementary or high school become concerned about the fact that let's say children are finding some of their history in their social
sciences repetitive. They know this as a problem. They put their heads together and come up with some kind of individualized instruction or group being or individual contract form of operation independent study. They test it they try it out and then they should publicize publish the results so that others might be able to make application of it if it were if it did if it worked. But again we would have to recognize that it would depend on the school system in which they might make another application of it. Well due to the lack of research that we have in many cases the the National Commission on teacher education and professional standards in order to build their directory sent out a team of evaluators in every case. In other words if you if you had. A knowledge of an innovation in your school or in someone else's school you merely nominated the
school and then Nia de-commissioned sent out this team of evaluators and it usually consisted of three or four or five people who were specialists in the field. And then as a result of their evaluation which meant they seen observations interviews and so forth. Then the school was nominated. You know I wonder if we ought to think of some of the practices that might be called innovative or at least a reshuffling of old ideas so that they're applied to a modern situation. You know it was only about three years ago that the State Superintendent of Public Instruction made a survey in L.A. high schools small and large schools to see if they were using up to date practices. Now up to date practices were defined as any established desirable educational practice that had been
well thought through and was it had been used maybe as long as 20 years. And their survey was very very discouraging. What they discovered was that many many schools across the state were not using well-established practices that had been on the market had been known for 20 and 25 years. So part of the problem is dissemination of this information. The exchange of ideas with regard to what are good sound practices. And as Ray indicated if it's not being used in a school is innovative for the school and it is bound to being bring about an improvement we ought to look at some of the so called innovative things that are being done now days before you leave that I wonder whose responsibility it is to disseminate information concerning successful and of the nations would seem to me that teacher education institutions have as one primary
role the dissemination of research evidence concerning innovations at least the innovations that. We feel are successful. Committee cue of the yawn II Board of Higher Education which is the committee on. Teacher Education in the state conducted a survey of teacher education institutions last year to determine what innovation was the teacher education institutions had employed. And I might also say that like the state one that you refer do this was very unsuccessful. There were a few innovations reported that were original. There also were very few reported that had research designs tied to the innovations so that we could tell after a period of time that
you know vacation was good or bad. They reported things such as my critique gene using TV. And the usual sort of things that you would expect you know but not many that hand innovative programs in other words programs built around innovations that could be carried into public school while there are always leading leading schools and leading school systems and leading institutions that carry on innovative practices and they should of course disseminate this information and use a dissemination how are we to accomplish it by every possible avenue I think including publications from the state office and including the teachers colleges that are preparing new teachers including every professional publication so that teachers will learn about this. You know I think that probably this emphasis upon meeting the individual differences of students is one of them.
One of the best trends again it's coming up again we have repeatedly considered it but never never done much about it but now that it's that we have particular situations arising where we find children who have had certain good instruction at the high school level coming to college and taking courses that are repetition of courses that they had earlier. We need to discontinue this we need a more thorough type of testing so that they don't repeat what they've had before that's enormous waste. On the other hand for the individual who is has not moved along as well or lack skill in a particular skill area we have to provide them with more and more coursework and more instruction in those areas of weakness. This I like to see and I think it ought to prevail from kindergarten through graduate school so that we're structuring the curriculum and the
experiences in such a way that it meets better those individual differences that we know exist. And I think that it is an innovation it's rather difficult to establish because it does depend upon preparation of the teacher so that even though it's desirable I think everyone agrees that it is a desirable innovation. It may be somewhat slow in coming because it does take. Require re-education of the teacher. Well individualized instruction certainly has always been a goal of education and in the truly individualized instruction situation wouldn't that require one teacher for one child a sort of an arrangement of a tutor. Well that would be an extreme case but no matter how small you would make this group of children per teacher the economic factor would enter in and provide a limiting measure
there. Leo I think that individualized instruction can carry and be carried on by the individual. In other words let's imagine a class of 30 students and at the present time we see they have to meet every morning at nine o'clock five days a week or if they're at the college level maybe three days a week. Why can't they get started on their own individual library research so that they are there working by themselves and reporting back to the teacher and the teacher could have conferences in the know in and out in the past I didn't think. I don't think that we had the technology to bring about an increase in individualized instruction. But I think today with all of the new equipment we have such as educational television program learning I think that individualized instruction can become more of a reality today and that we are in error by not developing it
further. We want to look at a lot of these innovations or at least good practices that should be adopted by other schools. Yes I I think that although we don't have the time to discuss them now we ought to try and list as many of these innovations as we can think of and we've already missed two or three I think programmed instruction. What do you mean by a programmed instruction program destructionists. Yes. Where the child is able to work individually on a program in other words is designed for him and his level of ability. That's right and he can work at his own speed. And then of course program instruction also goes along with teaching machines because where you have teaching machines you have to have program materials to operate machines. And then we have we have team teaching. We have the ungraded school we have the use of teacher aides and other auxiliary personnel in the schools today. The movement toward your own school.
That's right. The student exchange program the extended school year new a new math new science new English programs all of these are considered innovations today. I think from the standpoint of practicality it's important for schools to realize which person or group of persons in a school has a responsibility for and he she ating these innovations. I think it's helpful I'm thinking about the list of innovations that Lloyd just read that. We think of them in terms of division as we have innovations that are technological such as teaching machines of program learning devices computer assisted instruction various new audio visual aids foreign language laboratories that sort of thing I would say are technological. They demand an expenditure of money on a part of the school system. If a teacher would like a technological
innovation to be incorporated into his classroom he still has to depend upon the administration to support that innovation. And then we have organizational innovations that are largely the responsibility of the school administrator. You mean like the ungraded primary digital primary. Even now the ungraded intermediate and a couple cases in Florida for example the ungraded secondary school everybody has to get in the act down there and they have to be sure that everybody is supportive of it before they move into it. You know I was but other organizational innovations would be team teaching differentiated instruction differentiated instruction and courses. One of my favorites. That's the assigning of individuals to instructional roles depending upon their qualifications so
that you may have a master teacher who has considerable experience and is recognized as being an outstanding teacher. Working with several certificate ed teachers who are good teachers but haven't reached the level of the Master Teacher. Some student teachers some in terms some lay persons citizens who are working with it. And now of course some teaching aids which recent state legislature has permitted or has passed regulation permitting teacher aide to work in the classroom. Lazy readers for example housewives who help English teachers by reading themes. You can take many people and assign them particular duties based upon their knowledge and their skills. You know you have analyzed the
teacher's role in the past and it isn't true they've discovered that only a small percentage of the teacher's time devoted to teaching as a fact the NEA research division and you get that an elementary teacher actually spends about 60 percent of his day in direct contact with students in an instructional setting. The other 40 percent of the time is spent on putting on coats taking off over shoes passing out supplies doing the milk letting Malcolm money many many non teaching duties. Nevertheless those non teaching duties are essential. Remember a these teaching age could move into the classroom and not only relieve the teacher of some of these responsibilities bulletin board correcting papers and so on but could help supply instruction to individual children who needed individual help. It seems to me yes in fact I think that would be a major.
Duty of a teacher aide. But in have in the third category of the ones I was mentioning would be subject matter innovations and subject matter to innovations I think are primarily the responsibility of teachers within a particular subject. By that I mean the modern math program foreign language in the elementary school chem study and the many many other subject matter innovations which have recently seem to spread rapidly throughout the country. In regard to the non certified teacher aid that has been authorized in Illinois and now in the last year a study was conducted a year ago that found that about 20 percent of the school systems in Illinois were employing teacher aides and it also showed that possibly 50 percent of the school superintendents in the state favored the use of teacher aides. You know earlier Ray you mentioned my groat teaching.
What is that. What are you referring to. I think one of the major criticisms of the way we prepare teachers is that the teacher the prospective teacher is assigned to a cooperating teacher in a public school during a student teaching experience. We have evidence to indicate that the student teacher tends to imitate the way in which his cooperating teacher teaches. If he has a fine cooperating teacher this may not be bad. Nevertheless people have individualized their own teaching roles in their teaching techniques. So what may work for cooperate in teacher may not work for student teaching and student teacher micro teaching has. Well it's been adopted in a number of forms the most common one is actually to televise a student teacher during a student
teaching presentation horrible equipment put it on a tape. Yeah you can take it away with you. Some has been in studios However people feel that it's not a normal situation so most of it is done with portable television equipment. A teacher teaches a group usually a small group while he is being videotaped as a student teacher. Yes the students the teacher and then following that there are systems the most common one is that the student teacher can watch that videotape with no one else present. If he feels it so bad that he doesn't want anyone else to see it. Here is the videotape. If he feels it's all right but he would like the help of a supervisor the supervisor comes in and views the videotape with him and together they go over the strengths and weaknesses so he could take video back to the supervisor the college level supervisor is going to get back to the college classroom and if the student teacher
didn't object too much show up there and use it or purposes of criticism and suggestion before we leave the subject of innovations today I'd like to mention that our practices in education and in this country are deeply rooted in tradition and I think and I think that the all of the emphasis put on innovations by professional organizations by the U.S. Office of Education by state departments of education all of this emphasis I think has been good I think in and times it has been carried to extremes or too far for the reasons that we mentioned here but I think in all it has been good or I'm much more concerned about the educational lag in the conservative ism that may prevail than people trying things work. Because I think just trying something new is likely to result in something good even though you don't continue with the practice. I've got a few suggestions on innovations I don't know
of anybody houses thought of them but I'd like to see something as simple as typing required if possible at the junior high school level so that everybody who went into high school would have this skill I think typing is as important as handwriting. And I'd like to see this come about. This is not particularly innovative but it would be a wonderful tool to have. I'd like to see boys start school a year later than girls or girls a year earlier than boys because a different difference in their imagination or rate of the mothers at home would agree with me on this but on the other hand we would reduce individual differences tremendously. We do this. I'd like to see a complete testing program for children as the end of the high school particularly well they would have done it in the elementary schools but I think elementary schools are doing it better and have been for many years a complete testing program. When students enter high school when they enter college so that their
their dyad coursework can be structured for them. I'd like to see some more junior college terminal programs I think the junior college is going to play an important social and economic role in our country I think more terminal programs should be devised for the junior colleges. And I think that that list would be certainly very good for a school to adopt I guess the only one I'd quarrel with is that boys should be admitted to school later than girls because I think you some boys are more advanced than some girls. It would be good to admit school people to school based on they are ready for you to do school. I agree that would even be better well we've talked about innovation in the classroom. We want to avoid gimmicks we want to avoid things they're going to get in the way we want to avoid things that on the surface won't work. But we are saying in effect let's try new things. Let's get out of the old ruts and let's do something that's different and hopefully better
Behind the Classroom Door
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Behind the Classroom Door is a radio series from WNIU-FM about education in the United States. In each episode, faculty from the Northern Illinois University College of Education address specific issues related to public school education and operation. The program is produced in cooperation with Northern Illinois University and distributed by the National Educational Radio Network.
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