To the Editor:
Mike Schmoker’s Commentary on pedagogic fads presented an inaccurate case (“When Pedagogic Fads Trump Priorities,” Sept. 29, 2010). It failed to recognize a large volume of positive school evidence on brain-friendly teaching.
Mr. Schmoker specifically attacks “earning styles” as a fad that does not work. He describes an erroneous model of using a single factor in a multiple-component environment. His model is apparently that of teaching students with individualized plans based on their individual learning styles—a completely unrealistic approach. The model that works is one that provides choices, not prescriptions.
Prior to my retirement, I supervised a high school where the staff offered both learning-style and multiple-intelligence options to students along with the use of additional brain-friendly factors. Measured results were positive and dramatic: Students made gains of three to four years (per year) on standardized-test scores in reading. These gains were often made by students who needed a visual approach, rather than the phonetics emphasis they had encountered previously.
We found continuous improvement in annual class grades on practical projects with objective performance standards, and a constant increase in enrollment of out-of-district special education students. Once given something other than the narrow one-way-fits-all, these students blossomed. And parents recognized procedures that worked for their youngsters.
I suggest that teachers encourage the use of learning-style options, as part of a more comprehensive brain-friendly approach to students who:
&bull Like having choices;
&bull Often need learning-style options, especially if they are visual learners;
&bull Profit from multisensory learning opportunities;
&bull Deserve access to a system of brain-friendly learning that recognizes individual differences, while not restricting lesson planning to a rigid, classic, and often-boring approach.
The brain-friendly approach is not difficult. More to the point, it works better for more students.
A version of this article appeared in the November 03, 2010 edition of Education Week as Choices, Not Prescriptions: A Model That Works