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Current issues in teaching and learning.

The debate over "the curriculum and privileged knowledge may be one of the most important in which today's educators engage" (Noddings, 1995, p. 70). Class size, parent-teacher relations, the preparation of student teachers, the content of the curriculum, teaching strategies, transition to school, and selection of reading and writing teaching strategies are just a few salient examples of current issues in teaching and learning. The articles reviewed in this column were chosen to provide teachers with a wide range of research and debate about topics related to curriculum and instruction.

THE EFFECTS OF CLASS SIZE ON CLASSROOM PROCESSES: "It's a Bit Like a Treadmill - Working Hard and Getting Nowhere Fast? Blatchford, P., & Martin, C. British Journal of Educational Studies, 1998, 46(2), 118-137. What do we know about the influence of class size on classroom performance and behavior? According to the authors, not nearly enough! They point out that previous studies have focused on outcomes (such as test scores) as opposed to processes (what goes on in classrooms). The authors identify five processes that are affected by class size: 1) grouping practices, 2) teaching practices, 3) student attention and engagement, 4) students' school adjustment, and 5) teachers' attitudes and stress. The authors emphasize that future research efforts on the effects of class size should consider not only pupil-teacher ratios, but also pupil-adult ratios (which includes both teaching and non-teaching staff, such as paraprofessionals). More research is needed on class size and academic outcomes, as well. Finally, additional studies are needed concerning what actually goes on in classrooms, as well as about the connection between academic outcomes and class size.

ORGANIZING PARENT-TEACHER RELATIONS AROUND THE WORK OF TEACHING. Ogawa, R. T. Peabody Journal of Education, 1998, 73(1), 6-14. Is more parent involvement always better? Ogawa believes that this premise has gone virtually unchallenged. The author also asserts that schools can improve their effectiveness if they build bridges to parents in some situations, but keep them at arm's length in others. Although current research does not adequately address how teachers can buffer themselves from parent-related difficulties, teachers do have an ally, according to Ogawa - "research consistently demonstrates that teachers expect principals to shield them from undue parental influence and that principals do perform this function" (p. 11).

This article demonstrates how little we know about either positive or negative parent-teacher interactions (or, as Ogawa describes it, bridging and buffering strategies). While this article demonstrates that we must seek to learn more about the organization of teacher-parent relations, we also should consider whether or not this viewpoint presents an "us versus them" attitude toward parents.

PREPARING STUDENT TEACHERS FOR CURRICULUM-MAKING. Hansen, S. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 1998, 30(2), 165-179. Schools in the Nordic countries (particularly Finland) have become increasingly decentralized, resulting in a more school-based curriculum. If there is no state or national curriculum, how are teacher educators to prepare student teachers for this education change? Consequently, student teachers need help in designing curriculum. Hansen proposes a comprehensive set of stages for preparing future educators for this very process, at the local level: 1) conceptualizing, which confronts student teachers with the complexity of developing curriculum; 2) exercising, in which students reflect assumptions, values, and predispositions related to curriculum development; 3) internalizing, which is concerned with how to put ideas into action or practice; and 4) consolidating, by which these future educators consider the social, political, and ethical issues related to implementing the curriculum.

Although each country, state, or local community would have its own issues related to the education of student teachers for curriculum development and participation, this article can serve as a framework for starting a dialogue about how preservice teachers might get involved in the process of deciding what and how to teach.

DR. HIRSCH'S DIAGNOSIS AND REMEDY FOR THE ILLS OF AMERICAN SCHOOLS. Schrag, F. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 1998, 30(1), 87-94. This article is actually a critique of Hirsch's The Schools We Need and Why We Don't Have Them. Schrag begins by reviewing some of the basic tenets of Hirsch's book, such as his problem with "American professors of education...localism, developmentalism, and the 'tool metaphor' for learning" (p. 88). While this critique of Hirsch's book questions some of the data he uses to make his points, Schrag also gives Hirsch his due for espousing balanced viewpoints. Hirsch's treatment of standardized testing, for example, weighed its pluses and minuses. Hirsch's proposal for a national curriculum makes both his book and this critique recommended sources for pondering the structure, content, and processes in determining what and how to teach.

A TAXONOMY FOR IDENTIFYING, CLASSIFYING, AND INTERRELATING TEACHING STRATEGIES. Beck, C. R. The Journal of General Education, 1998, 47(1), 37-62. There are probably too many books on teaching strategies to count them all. How does one go about finding a synthesis and classification system concerning what we know about teaching strategies? This article is a good place to start. Beck presents a taxonomy of the laundry list of teaching strategies described in teacher education textbooks, making a good case for why a classification of teaching strategies would be useful to educators.

Beck classifies teaching strategies as 1) associative, 2) deliberative, 3) expositive, 4) individualistic, 5) interrogative, 6) investigative, 7) performative, and 8) technological. These are not mutually exclusive, however. Beck's taxonomy classifies almost 80 teaching strategies into these 8 categories. This classification system "should provide a useful reference for I teachers who wish to match individual learning I styles to teaching strategies" (p. 59).

LESSONS FROM THREE DECADES OF TRANSITION RESEARCH. Kagan, S. L., & Neuman, M. J. The Elementary School Journal, 1998, 98(4), 365379. What do we know about children's transitions to school? Kagan and Neuman partially answer this question by reviewing major federal initiatives since the 1960s, including the National Head Start/Public School Early Childhood Transition Demonstration Project, the National Transition Study, the Head Start Transition Project, The Project Development Continuity, and the Follow Through and Head Start Planned Variation. Their two major conclusions are jarring: the research on these programs is inconclusive, and these programs have not had a major impact on public policy or practice.

Kagan and Neuman make a strong case that a new approach is needed to ensure that students receive continuity in early education. They recommend an exploration of new research methods to help answer the numerous existing questions regarding a child's transition from preschool to public education.

LEARNING TO READ AND WRITE: Developmentally Appropriate Practices for Young Children - A Joint Position Statement of the International Reading Association (IRA) and the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). Young Children, 1998, 53(4), 30-46. For over two decades, educators, parents, and legislators have fought over what constitutes proper literacy education (witness the whole language debate). IRA and NAEYC address this debate in a timely joint position statement. This piece begins by stating the current issues about literacy education and then provides a research-based rationale for its recommendations. The article explicitly describes early reading and writing attempts of young children and provides a comprehensive continuum of children's development of early literacy (pp. 40-41).

Had it only stopped there, this article would have been useful enough for teachers. The policies it recommends for achieving developmentally appropriate literacy experiences make it accessible to administrators and politicians, as well.


Noddings, N. (1995). Philosophy of education. New York: Westview Press.
COPYRIGHT 1998 Association for Childhood Education International
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Author:Aldridge, Jerry
Publication:Childhood Education
Article Type:Bibliography
Date:Sep 22, 1998
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