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Achievement ‘versus’ Engagement
November 8, 2022
We are drowning in information, while starving for wisdom. The world henceforth will be run by synthesizers, people able to put together the right information at the right time, think critically about it, and make important choices wisely.
-EO Wilson (1929-2021), biologist
David Blazar, University of Maryland, and Cynthia Pollard, Brown University, have published research comparing teaching styles and student satisfaction with outcomes for 4th grade math students, noting, “There was often a tradeoff between ‘good teaching’ where kids learn stuff and ‘good teaching’ that kids enjoy. Teachers who were good at raising test scores tended to receive low student evaluations. Teachers with great student evaluations tended not to raise test scores all that much.”

Interestingly, five and six years later, Blazar is finding that “students who had more engaging elementary school teachers subsequently had higher math and reading achievement scores and fewer absences in high school. The students who had teachers who were more effective in raising achievement were generally doing better in high school too, but the long-run benefits faded out somewhat. Though we all want children to learn to multiply and divide, it may be that engaging instruction is ultimately more beneficial.”

In the original study, “It was rare, but the researchers managed to find six teachers among the 53 in the study that could do both types of good teaching simultaneously. Teachers who incorporated a lot of hands-on, active learning received high marks from students and raised test scores. These teachers often had students working together collaboratively in pairs or groups, using tactile objects to solve problems or play games.”

“The researchers noticed that these teachers ‘appeared quite thoughtful and sophisticated in their use of routines to maintain efficiency and order across the classroom,’ the researchers wrote. ‘The time that teachers did spend on student behavior typically involved short redirections that did not interrupt the flow of the lesson.’”


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