Curriculum Column

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Students who use word processors to write are not expanding or reorganizing their drafts, as once hoped, but are adding restatements or new details to the end of their texts, according to research by a professor of education at Harvard University.

Colette Daiute, who teaches and does research on writing and computers at Harvard, reported in the August issue of the Harvard Education Letter that in five years of research with 4th through 9th graders, she has found that students tend not to reread or expand their drafts when they do not have to recopy them.

"Apparently students need help reading and evaluating what they have written, regardless of the writing instrument," she wrote. Research by Ms. Daiute and others has found, however, that students correct more mechanical errors with the word processor than they do when they use pencils or typewriters.

Ms. Daiute also reported that junior-high-school students at first write more quickly with pens or pencils than with a computer, while younger children who are just learning to form letters write more when they type on a word processor.

The country's largest teachers' union this summer endorsed a stronger emphasis on art education in the nation's schools. By 1990, every student in grades K-12 should have access to a balanced, comprehensive, and sequential program of fine-arts instruction in school, according to the National Education Association. Every high school should require at least one Carnegie unit of credit in the arts for graduation, and high-school students should have access to art courses each year without prerequisites or conflicts with required courses.

By 1992, the NEA said, every college and university should require at least one Carnegie unit of credit in the arts for admission. The union defined fine arts as music, visual arts, theater, and dance.

New editions of American-history textbooks include a greater diversity of viewpoints than those of previous years, according to a national study of textbooks conducted by People for the American Way.

A six-member panel of historians and educators convened by the national citizens group concluded that in addition to engaging students in more critical thinking, this year's textbooks give more attention to social and intellectual history than previous editions. The coverage of the role of women, immigrants, and ethnic minorities has also improved, the panel found.

The panelists criticized some books for uneven coverage of topics and events and for "bloodless narratives" that placed too much emphasis on compromise and comity.

The American Federation of Teachers has begun a critical-thinking project to help improve the teaching of higher-order learning skills in the nation's schools.

"The amount and nature of the information, misinformation, and disinformation that constantly bombard us, coupled with the continuous demand for new skills in an increasingly technological age and the magnitude of the social issues of the day, suggest that never before have skills in rational thought and reasoned judgment been so urgently needed," said Albert Shanker, president of the union.

The project will produce materials and support services for teachers, a series of booklets about teaching critical thinking, a special "Inside Your Schools" feature for television about critical-thinking skills, and a series of videotapes with accompanying teaching guides to be used for staff development in grades K-12. It will also include an information clearinghouse and dissemination network.

North Carolina State University and the Research Triangle Institute have received a $335,000 grant from the Standard Oil Company of Ohio to develop new teaching materials for middle-school science teachers.

The two-and-one-half-year project is designed to upgrade the knowledge and skills of practicing science teachers. Iris R. Weiss, director of the project, said that materials to be developed "will emphasize the application of science concepts to problems in daily life, social issues, and careers in order to make science relevant to all students, not only those preparing to become scientists."

Although the basic array of academic courses available to students attending school in the San Francisco area has not changed much during the past 25 years, programs and courses "on the periphery" for students who are very bright, handicapped, slow, or possess some unusual talent have changed considerably, according to a researcher at Stanford University.

Decker Walker, an associate professor in the school of education, reviewed the past 25 years of accreditation reports for six high schools and two elementary schools in the bay area. Changes have included the introduction of team teaching, girls' sports programs, "new math," and black and minority studies, he found.

Few if any of the innovations, however, were aimed at basic changes in instruction, he said. Instead, changes involved the addition or subtraction of courses, an increase or decrease in students' freedom to choose classes, and shorter or longer class periods. Many of the changes adopted by the schools were not carefully planned or tailored to a particular school, he said, but were applied similarly across schools with different student populations.

Information about successful literacy programs for teen-agers is being collected through a cooperative project of the University of North Carolina's center for early adolescence and the American Library Association's division for library services to children and young adults. The center received a $100,000 grant from the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation to find solutions to adolescent illiteracy in the United States.

Vol. 05, Issue 02, Page 10

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