Discover more from Special Education Today by John Wills Lloyd
Don't make teachers write instructional programs
Don't teachers have enough to do already?
Teaching is a full-time job. A teacher has responsibility for other people’s children. Teachers have to handle faculty meetings, PTAs, IEPs, lunch counts, grading and feedback, and lots more. They have to greet kids at the door, take care of skinned knees, mediate disagreements, help kids make mother’s day gifts, and on and on.... On top of all those duties, they have to present smartly designed lessons that promote their students’ leanring and advancement.
Writing instructional programs is a full-time job, too. Many of us watched Zig Engelmann write programs. He collaborated with Linda, Susan, Cookie, and many others. He and Doug wrote dynamite arithmetic and math programs. He and Bob conceptualized and created an approach to spelling that was comprehensive and integrated; it was predicated on early master of phonemic segmentation and sound-symbol relationships, but it went way beyond that to help students learn how meaning units (morphemes) unlocked accurate spelling of quite sophisticated words. And he oversaw the field-testing and revision of all those (and other) programs. He worked hours and hours a day on programming instruction.
So let’s acknowledge that teachers do a heckuva lot—and for way too little recognition, let alone sufficient pay. And let’s also agree that we should not expect teachers to design effective lessons, lessons that are essentially guaran-damn-teed to cause acquisition of critical concepts and skills. Teachers’ jobs are already quite demanding, so it’s silly to expect them to do Zig’s job on top of their day-to-day duties. It would be wonderful if they could create powerful instructional programs, too. But that’s asking a bit much.
In education we seem to place too much emphasis on the creative aspects of teaching. Developing the precise wording needed to communicate unambiguously, selecting the teaching examples that will promote generalization, and integrating lesson components within—as well as across—subject areas is asking too much of professionals who already have full-time duties.
We don’t need to require that teachers create instructional programs. It’s not so important that other professionals create their own methods of, for example, practicing medicine. Teachers (like doctors) need to know how to employ practices that have been documented to be effective in promoting learning (health). Doing so is a demanding enough.