Monday, November 21, 2005

NYTimes Editorial on Educational Practices in Japan

Interesting editorial in the New York Times today about Japanese teacher training programs. Here's a highlight:

The book has spawned growing interest in the Japanese teacher-development strategy in which teachers work cooperatively and intensively to improve their methods. This process, known as "lesson study," allows teachers to revise and refine lessons that are then shared with others, sometimes through video and sometimes at conventions. In addition to helping novices, this system builds a publicly accessible body of knowledge about what works in the classroom.

The lesson-study groups focus on refining methods that improve student understanding. In doing so, the groups go step by step, laying out successful strategies for teaching specific lessons. This reflects the Japanese view that successful teaching is the product of intensive teacher development and self-scrutiny.

Sound familiar? Here's my letter to the editor on the subject:

To The Editors:

In Why the United States Should Look to Japan for Better Schools, you lauded the Japanese practice of “lesson-study groups” in which teachers come together to share best practices, thereby promoting instructional mastery and student achievement.

While such practices may not be commonplace in American public schools or university education programs, they do occur in 189 locations around the U.S. every summer.

The National Writing Project (NWP) offers fellowships to teachers interested in improving their pedagogy, increasing their resources and expanding their professional networks. The month-long summer institutes focus on teacher research, writing, and the sharing of best practices through peer-to-peer teaching demonstrations. Following the institutes, teachers return to their own schools and districts to offer professional development to their colleagues. As stated on the NWP web site, the main purposes are “developing teacher knowledge and leadership in their home communities and putting this knowledge and leadership to work to improve student achievement”.

We don’t need to look to Japan for a model with which to revitalize American education; we need to recognize the successful models we already have and begin to integrate them into the mainstream of American teacher training.


Megan Freeman
Fellow, Colorado State University Writing Project

Friday, November 18, 2005

Coverage Continues

Joey, a RUWP tech liaison, is also live-blogging the NWP Meeting. Here's his take on today's kick off sessions.

Poetry Idol?


AP National Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — The National Endowment for the Arts and the publisher of Poetry Magazine have organized a national poetry reading competition for high school students, with the winner receiving a $20,000 college scholarship.

“There’s a twofold importance in a program like this,” Dana Gioia, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, told The Associated Press in a recent interview.
“One half is education; students come into contact with great poetry and language and learn it by heart. There’s also an equal, and often overlooked practical importance. It will improve the student’s command of language, and will provide much needed training for speaking in public. A student speaking well will do better in the job market and better in life.”
The program, co-sponsored by the NEA and the Chicago-based Poetry Foundation, was officially announced Thursday in Pittsburgh at the annual convention of the National Council of Teachers of English.

(Cross posted at Bud the Teacher)

NWP National Meeting

While I'm not at the NWP National Meeting this year, I know that we're well represented. Several board members are present and some are even presenting.
I'm following the events via blogs like this one from folks who are posting as stuff happens. Thanks, Red Cedar WP and everyone else sharing info for those of us left behind.
I'm only mostly jealous.

Friday, November 04, 2005

A Loss

James Gray, the founder of the National Writing Project, has passed away. I never met the man, but he's been making a difference in my life, and the life of my students, for the last five years or more.
Well done, sir.