Laura, in reading of your commitment to effective instruction in schools, I find myself wondering what meanings *effective* has. You speak of students learning more rapidly than they would on their own. What does it mean to learn rapidly, and why is this desirable? As I reflect on my own question, I suppose it is rooted in a concern that at times the language of efficiency can obscure talk of value(s) and the assumptions underlying programs. How do you understand the purposes of effective teaching and learning? -S.T.
At its simplest level, to learn rapidly would be to learn as much as possible in the time available. This time may be a lifetime, the time before children start school, or the time students are in school. Co-reform of education in its broadest sense is concerned with learning in all three contexts. The problem we often encounter in school is that some children learn much before they start school while others learn very little. Those who learn much before they come to school need only learn an average amount from year to year to remain academically able to continue learning in a field of their choice. Students who learn very little before they come to school will have to learn at a faster rate because they have less time in which to learn all they will need to learn if they too are to be able to continue learning in a field of their choice. Students who begin first grade reading at a beginning first grade level can make a year's progress in learning to read for each of their primary grades and in so doing be able to read their textbooks, learn independently, and problem solve if they are provided a supportive educational environment. However, students who begin first grade reading at a beginning kindergarten level will have to make more progress in learning to read during their primary grades to have an equal opportunity to read their textbooks, learn independently, and problem solve even if they are in the same supportive educational environment. Students who start school behind their grade-level peers either catch up or are eventually left out of many educational opportunities. I believe this concern for efficiency is very value laden. For me, the value is in respecting the potential of every student and doing all we can within the educational system to allow all students to maximize their potential. In order for this to happen, some students will have to learn more in less time because of where they start in the formal process. To provide less for any child is to diminish the value of the child.