***************************************************** [Note: The following responses were received shortly after posting the "Flaw in Student-Centered Learning" OP-ED piece from the NYTimes.] *****************************************************
 Thanks for the article. My mailbox is full of essays I should read, but I couldn't pass up one on student-centered learning. The op-ed goes overboard in rejecting all student centered learning, but I did spend the last 15 weeks taking a supervision course at _________ College. When teachers were assigned a chapter to teach, I was appalled by how badly the teachers ran discussions. I couldn't believe they couldn't ask better questions to elicit instruction. Thus student centered learning can easlily be as bad as the writer attested, if the teachers don't know how to ask meaningful questions that would get students excited about collaborating.
 this was an interesting article.....it is amazing to me that so much of the time schools and school boards and universities in this country just blindly follow a "new" model of teaching or teacher training. they don't do research or when they do, it is ignored....when you read about it it sounds completely ignorant....but still it continues. why is this? do we always have to have something new, not knowing whether it is better or not? strange thing ....
 The ed class described in the op-ed article IS terrible; worse, it's dangerous. I agree.
However, research presented at a November '98 meeting of the Council of Chief State School Officers reveals that there are significant differences in student achievement between students of teachers who come to classrooms with and without education preparation. The differences favor those who have it. This does NOT mean that all is well with pre-service education. It definitely isn't. Nor does it mean that everyone needs to travel the exact same path. But the solution is not more folks who have avoided ed school. It is to improve teacher preparation, base it on sound research, use the standards established by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS-for accomplished teachers) and the Interstate New Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium (INTASC-for beginning teachers) as frameworks for what teachers need to know (these include subject matter knowledge) and to take the debate out of the arena of ideology into the arena of what works, for whom, and under whnat circumstances.
The flaw is not so much in "student-centered" learning, but in the perception that student-centered learning is by nature touchy-feely, directed only by student interest, and not based in specified content. The Japanese TIMSS geometry lesson, for example, is quite student-centered. But it is also math-centered and highly teacher-directed. Those three elements are powerful together.
 I agree. It's not an either/or situation. Plus, this was such a gross misrepresentation of "student centered learning". I am not disputing what the woman saw, but to characterize this as what's going on in classrooms in the name of student-centered learning is wrong. Here's an example of what I mean when I say student-centered: The teacher could stand up and give students the distance formula and let them plug in points and chug out answers, not thinking too much. Or she could give them points on a coordinate system and tell them to use the Pythagorean theorem to figure out the distance between the two points, thus deriving the distance formula for themselves.
There are thousands of even better examples that teachers on this list could name that they use.
What really bothers me is that this type of article really prejudices the public about these issues, and now when they hear the phrase "student centered", this is what they'll think of.
 Very interesting......seems we are either on one side or another. Do you suppose there are teachers that might use both methods depending on the subject/project and/or students themselves? Seems we should be able to gleen the good from different learning styles and adapt them appropriately. Guess this article got a rise out of me. The pendulum swings.
 The last article reminded me of research about the general public and their concepts that "anyone can teach". This idea is so entrenched, it does prevent research based change. I always want to ask those people who write editorials like that to come in and teach for a week. HA! Oh well, enough fantasizing.
Just finished the latest KAPPAN. The whole issue was filled with pertinent, just-in-time info, and I want to point out the best (to me) of the whole issue was the article written by Judith M. Newman, entitled, "We Can't Get There From Here!" The article is fairly long, but I was especially touched by the reflection of the new teacher who was put in her place by a peer on her first day on the job. I want to quote this lady's reaction, pg 289:
"'After three years of waiting, I have finally signed a probationary contract. I'm bursting with excitement. On my first day at school, in the midst of my musings about how I can transform my classroom into an exciting place, a colleague drops by and introduces herself. We chat for a few minutes about her background and about the school community before she asks about some materials I've got laid out on a nearby table. I launch enthusiastically into an account of portfolio assessment. My colleague listens with the odd "uh-hum" and nod, and then she finally speaks.
"We don't do stuff like that here. We'll hate you if you do because then we'll have to start doing the same thing." I chuckle nervously not knowing whether she is joking or being serious. Our chat ends soon after that.
That was the first day. Four months later, I still have not implemented my portfolio plan.'"
Dr. Becker, I believe colleges and universities could help their students by providing their students, in teacher education, classes in group theory, negotiating skills, and other skills necessary to combat that typical attack that ALWAYS happens to the new teacher.
One downfall of education programs, in my opinion, is to separate the knowledge of systems and people that administrators receive and the knowledge that teachers NEVER receive.
If we ever hope to develop leaders, shakers and changers among teachers, they must have the skills and the werewithal (money, supplies, or other prestigious perks such as listserv backup, conferences, etc) to help them survive and thrive while overcoming the weak, yet effective guerrila tactics to bring the new into line with the status quo.
* * Jerry P. Becker Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction Southern Illinois University Carbondale, IL 62901-4610 USA Fax: (618)453-4244 Phone: (618)453-4241 (office) E-mail: JBECKER@SIU.EDU