Madness in Seattle, cont’d

In a previous post, I wrote:

A judge overturned the math textbook selection of the Seattle school district, on the grounds that the books are “inquiry-based” and not as effective (according to the plaintiffs in a court case) as “direct instruction”.

Just to be clear: I don’t see myself on the side of “inquiry” and against “direct instruction”. Well, OK, if I had to choose one or the other, I would probably pick “inquiry”. But all my experience as a teacher tells me that there is no one way to do this work. Sometimes, inquiry lays the groundwork for direct instruction, perhaps by putting questions in the student’s mind, or by familiarizing them with a given domain. Sometimes it works in the other direction, and a teacher’s explanation can be the foundation for a student investigation. The key is to become adept at both, and to learn how to articulate them, depending on what is going on in a given classroom at a given time. This is what skillful teaching is.

An inquiry-based textbook in no way prevents a teacher from offering direct instruction as needed. This judge does not know much about teaching and learning.


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