Friday, April 25, 2014
Teaching and reteaching
One of the big criticisms of American education is that the curriculum covers topics, and then goes back and covers them again the next year. I assume the philosophy is that constant revisiting of topics cements them in people’s minds, and shores up any holes people might have. But it can also be mind-numbingly boring. One study I recently came across found that this revisitation might be almost ridiculously widespread. Some 95 percent of children entering kindergarten can do basic counting and can recognize basic geometric shapes. This is a good thing -- early childhood programs and parents are doing their jobs. Yet kindergarten teachers reported spending nearly 13 days per month working on basic counting and shapes. They spent very few days per month on the topics that children were less proficient in (addition and subtraction, for instance). The more time teachers spent on the basic topics that kids already knew, the more negative were the outcomes on end-of-year kindergarten assessments. Boredom isn’t good. Being bored is part of life to be sure (I wrote this in a hotel room during a conference, taking a break because I was bored with the panels). But constant repetition on things you already know doesn’t make you more confident in a subject. It makes you dislike the subject. This is a shame -- and not just for gifted kids. When 95 percent of kids know something, it’s time to move on. What do you remember from school being revisited too many times?