Date: Oct 11, 1995 3:37 PM
Author: roitman@oberon.math.ukans.edu
Subject: Re: Class size (Re: Getting students to take responsibility) (fwd)

By mistake I sent something from nctm-l to another list.  It turned out to
be a very useful mistake, since it elicited this response from Dick Askey,
a mathematician at the University of Wisconsin.


Here is Dick's response:

>I can answer some
>of the question she asks, but part of my answer would come from a
>chapter Harold Stevenson's students have written (preliminary version,
>I do not know whose names will be on the final version) for a Dept.
>of Education book, and I do not like to quote from preliminary
>versions without permission. I wrote Stevenson and he replied that
>similar comments were given in a chapter he, Shin-ying Lee and
>Theresa Graham wrote for a book edited by T. Rohlen and G. Le Tendre
>which is due out in a couple of months. Rather than try to summarize
>the full paper, here are just a couple of paragraphs which speak
>to the question Judy was really asking.
> "Teachers in both cities were experienced professionals. The teachers
>that we observed in both Sendai and Chicago had taught in elementary
>school for an average of 16 years. However, their educational histories
>differed greatly. The average teacher in Sendai had attended college
>for 3.5 years; only 70% of the first grade teachers and 85% of those
>in fifth grade had received a bachelor's degree. The remainer had
>received a teacher's certificate from a two-year college. In contrast,
>all of the Chicago teachers had received their bachelor's degree and
>40% also had received a master's degree."
>[In the publication ~The Underachieving Curriculum", the authors
>go to great pains to show that our problems in mathematics education
>are due to the curriculum, and as part of this try to show that
>our teachers are as well educated as teachers in other countries. The
>quality of the courses and the knowledge students bring with them when
>they start college are very relevant to this, but they did not consider
>either. There is no question that our curriculum has shortchanged our
>students, but that is not the only problem. Knowledge of teachers is
>also very important.]
> "Given this difference in formal education, how do we account for
>the proficiency in teaching that we observed? The answer lies in the
>way teachers are trained. In preparing Japanese teachers, colleges mainly
>provide training in substantive areas, such as language arts, mathematics,
>and science. Aspiring teachers are expected to enroll in classes dealing
>with the methods for teaching these subjects, but this requirement is not
>always enforced. A few weeks are spent in practive teaching, but teacher
>training does not stop then. Japanese teachers do not acquire their
>skills primarily through college classes. Real instruction occurs on the
>job. for example, each new teacher interacts closely with a mentor,
>a skilled teacher on leave for the year, who is assigend to help several
>new teachers. Close interaction with other teachers throughout the
>teacher's professional life results in continuous refinements of teaching
>skill."
> The next paragraph has "Japanese teachers arrive at school around 8 in the
>morning and remain at school for 8 or 9 hours a day. Chicago teachers
>usually arrive by 8:30 and leave 6 1/2 hours later. Despite the fact that
>Japanese teachers spend more time at school, they actually teach between
>25 and 29 hours a week, or somewhat more than 4 hours a day in the 5 1/2-
>day week. Chicago teachers, in contrast, are in front of the classroom
>nearly all of the time they are at school. The energy and skill that
>Japanese teachers bring to their teaching are due in large part to the
>opportunities they have at school for interacting with other teachers,
>preparing lessons, working with individual students, and correcting papers."
> Elsewhere, it is mentioned that the teachers have a well thought out
>curriculum to follow, so they do not have to start from scratch when
>preparing lessons. As Stevenson has said, the Japanese teachers are
>not expected to write the concerto, but to play. If we can think of
>people who play solos with an orchestra as being creative, we should
>be able to think of people who teach as being creative in their
>teaching, even if we do not expect them to design the full curriculum
>they follow.
> Dick Askey
> askey@math.wisc.edu