Curriculum Column

October 05, 1983 4 min read
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An increased emphasis on reasoning and problem-solving in the schools is regarded by many educators as a more pressing need than the teaching of so-called “basic skills.”

Now, a test designed to measure children’s reasoning proficiencies is available from the Institute for the Advancement of Philosophy for Children at Montclair State College in New Jersey. The test, believed to be the first of its kind, was developed by Virginia Shipman, a research psychologist with the Educational Testing Service in Princeton, N.J., for the New Jersey Department of Education; the department is the ''authorized distributor” of the test.

The New Jersey Test of Reasoning Skills includes 50 multiple-choice questions that cover 23 areas of reasoning skill. The skills include “detecting assumptions, induction, recognizing symmetrical relationships,” and similar tasks.

The test questions are written in “children’s language,” according to Matthew Lipman, director of the iapc, so that children will not find them “impersonal” and thus react badly to them. The test was written at a 4th-to-5th grade reading level.

The advantage of such a test, Mr. Lipman said, is that it allows teachers to identify those children who are not learning to reason well.

The iapc will collect scores from school districts around the country that use the test and will create a computer data bank. The institute has received many requests from schools nationwide for information on the test, Mr. Lipman said.

For more information, write to the Institute for the Advancement of Philosophy for Children, Test Division, Montclair State College, Upper Montclair, N.J. 07043.

A program designed to acquaint high-school students with energy--its production, use, and conservation--will be tested in Massachusetts schools this year.

The program, called “Energy Choices,” is funded by Tenneco Inc., the Houston-based energy company, and sponsored by the Massachusetts Association of School Principals. After testing the program in Massachusetts, the sponsors plan to extend its use regionally, then nationally.

The program uses films, curriculum guides, and activities to provide students with the information they will need as adults to make decisions about the environment, energy, and “what the trade-offs are,” according to Shirley J. Hansen, an energy-education consultant in Lake Jackson, Tex., who developed some of the materials.

Unlike most energy-education programs, Ms. Hansen noted, “Energy Choices” relies more on the social sciences than on the natural or physical sciences. Students are introduced to “government responsibility, economics, and consumer education,” she said. The program also includes guidelines on how teachers can use the materials in an interdisciplinary course.

Topics covered in the films include: “Conservation: Rethinking Our Use of Energy"; “Oil and Gas: Where Do We Stand"; “Synthetic Fuels and Renewables: Visions of the Future"; and “Natural Gas:3Bridge to the Future.”

Teachers can use the lessons separately or incorporate them into existing lesson plans.

For more information, write to Shirley Hill, 127 Sequoia, Lake Jackson, Tex. 77566.

The Mathematics Association of America is looking at the issue of the “articulation” between high-school and college mathematics programs. The Washington-based association is establishing a six-member panel--composed of college professors and high-school teachers--that will examine high-school calculus programs to determine what can be done to improve the preparation of students who continue to study calculus in college.

In high school, many students are trained to do the “mechanics” of calculus, but they lack a “conceptual understanding” of the subject, according to Donald B. Small, associate professor of mathematics at Colby College, who will head the panel. “These students receive good grades in high school and can solve the first 10 problems” at the end of the chapter in a calculus text. But they are not prepared to solve advanced problems.

“They need to be challenged to think about the concepts and what is really meant by ‘derivatives’ and ‘functions,”’ he said.

A national task force that will assess the need for leadership training among those who deal with curricular matters met for the first time last month.

The task force, whose members include school administrators, curriculum advisors, college professors, and representatives of high-technology industries and management-consulting firms, is sponsored by the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Among the task force’s goals are defining new demands on the profession, determining how schools can improve student achievement in the face of “pressure for basic skills,” and “defining the competencies that curriculum supervisors need and how best to train them,” according to Gordon L. Cawelti, executive director of ascd

Ben M. Harris, professor of educational administration at the University of Texas, will chair the panel.

The Foundation for Teaching Economics has announced a new program that will provide grants of up to $5,000 to help school districts buy economics textbooks and pay for staff development.

The Sponsored Textbook Program is funded jointly by the foundation and about 20 corporations, which may target their donations to their local community. Twenty corporations have contributed funds in the program’s two years of operation; about 8,000 students have been affected by the program. The application deadline is Nov. 1.

For more information, contact Ronald A. Banaszak, vice president, educational programs, Foundation for Teaching Economics, 555 California St., Suite 4600, San Francisco, Calif. 94104.--sr & sw

A version of this article appeared in the October 05, 1983 edition of Education Week as Curriculum Column


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