Beers Ch. 15

Donna and I are scheduled to fascilitate the Beers Ch. 15 discussion in class, and I know Donna has a lot to say about the topic of flow during this discussion.  Just in case we do not have time to touch upon this chapter in our last class on Tuesday, I want to call out some pieces of the chapter that I found most resonating:

  • This chapter by Wilhelm and Smith addresses the study done on adolescent male readers entitled “Reading Don’t Fix No Chevys.”  Catchy title, isn’t it? 
  • The meat of this article comes from a quote by a boy in this Chevy study named Buda.  Buda says, “School teaches you how you are dumb, not how you are smart.”  After reading this, I was struck by how well this chapter discusses expanded notions of text, competence, and the celebration of knowledge.  More importantly, I was struck by how well this article combats the idea that kids should feel “dumb” and dwell on what they don’t know. 
  • Next, I realized how this idea of expanding our whole notion of what to teach and how to teach it is a recap of the Understanding by Design template, isn’t it?  In fact, the entire chapter here in Beers is a confirmation of all that we have learned about the UbD model.  Start with a question and work that question instead of fitting a question to pre-selected texts. 
  • Another example of the UbD model at work in this chapter comes around page 239, where Wilhem discusses his daughter’s lack of interest in history after receiving a mere B in Social Studies Class.  Wilhem writes, “What might happen instead if Fiona’s teacher recast his job as helping develop skills a historian needs rather than as providing her with historical information?”  I find that the best way to meet this challenge is through the overarching understandings of the UbD model.  This way, kids walk away with the big picture instead of little sentences of information on a narrow topic, don’t they? 

I was so happy to read in this chapter that kids should select some of their own texts, that pictures count as real texts, too, and that great learning comes from reading things NOT taught in school.  All of these points have been stressed throughout our semester in 541, and here they come full circle in Beers.  I think this was an excellent choice for an end-of-semester reading assignment, especially because it captures the last three months into one neatly presented essay. 




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2 responses to “Beers Ch. 15

  1. jmdegan

    We need to really think about assessment when a student remarks that “school shows you how you are dumb.” Content might play a role in this student’s frustration, but I suspect that he considers himself dumb more because he “failed” the exams then that he didn’t understand content (most people link the two- I think of myself as bad at math because I failed most of the math assessments throughout my education, but I was successful in an accounting course). He’s dumb because in the arbitrary device his teacher or state subjected him to, he wasn’t able to deploy the knowledge he had to satisfy the assessors.

    Failure is a powerful motivator. It motivates students to disconnect, to drop out. It doesn’t motivate students to improve unless there is an opportunity to improve. How many of us have seen process-oriented classrooms in our observations? I’ve yet to find one. Content might be an important factor in student success, but I think that, unless the culture of assessment changes, nothing is going to change, even if there’s a Nancie Atwell in every classroom.

    J. Degan

  2. sofiapenna

    Hi Jerry,
    Thanks for responding to my post. I felt lonely for a while!

    I think this Ch. 15 does a great job stressing on the fact that students are not doing well in subjects because the content does not interest them. Also, the content does not maximize on students’ individualized areas of expertise. Giving a student a B in a course that was based on memorizing facts out of a textbook really does not hold much weight in the real world. I think Wilhelm was trying to say here that courses in high school should stress critical thinking and conceptualizing over cold memorization. Much of what you say is very interesting here, Jerry….and I think I’ve ended up repeating much of it with different words…
    I wonder, do you think that a student might be more motivated to improve his failing grades if he was truly interested in what he was learning? Is “interest” the opportunity to improve that you speak of in your comment? -Sofia

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