on June 1, 1999
Continuing the conversation:
This discussion has been quiet of late, but it should be noted that every
post has been thoughtful and informative of some of the challenges facing
middle school. We will continue this conversation for only two more weeks
and we would like to hear from the many "listeners" who have been to shy, to
date, to post. (Of course, that welcome extends to current contributors as
To move the conversation along I have highlighted some recent posts and
have posed some questions. I have put the questions in ALL CAPS. Please
excuse this format, should you find it annoying. It was meant to highlight
questions that have arisen from the dialogue this far. Broad participation
from different projects will help us gain a better understanding of what is
happening in middle school science reform (Thanks. joni)
Bob Box writes that at the middle school level it seems easier to push for
"subject specific reform" than it is to push for "cross curricular efforts."
I wonder if this is true because the latter is dependent on a school wide,
(and perhaps district wide) commitment to integration. As Bob points out,
science teachers are not held accountable for math content and are therefore
less likely to pursue it. I wonder if behind this statement is the
understanding that high stakes external assessments get in the way of
efforts to integrate curriculum?
SO TO ALL THE READERS OF THIS LIST: DO YOU FIND THAT YOUR LSC IS MORE
SUCCESSFUL AT PROMOTING SUBJECT SPECIFIC REFORM THAN CROSS CURRICULAR
EFFORTS? PLEASE REPLY.
Bob also points to the fact that teachers profit from meeting with same
curriculum teachers sharing and discussing subject matter. It is my
understanding that the middle school movement has moved in the direction of
teams that cut across departments, and this has in fact made it more
difficult for science teachers to get together.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR EXPERIENCE WITHIN YOUR DISTRICT?
Scott Hays has provided a perspective and a warning from the California
experience. He speaks of the dichotomy of those who feel science is "only
the facts" and those who value pedagogy that promotes inquiry and
investigations. He warns against a simplistic hands on approach that does
not connect to big ideas and does not embody content, and relates that such
an approach fuels the arguments of "traditionalists."
I am particularly interested in his hypothesis that there is "an inverse
relationship between the grade level one teaches and the importance or value
that one places upon pedagogy; the higher the grade level you teach, the
less importance is given to how you present the material." Scott writes "so
far, when trying to convince middle school teachers that we can modify the
content standards in order to present the ideas within the context of
investigation and experimentation, their response has been to shrug and ask
I WOULD BE INTERESTED IF THIS RINGS TRUE IN YOUR DISTRICT? IF SO, HOW IS
THE ISSUE OF PEDAGOGY TO BE ADDRESSED IN THE MIDDLE SCHOOL GRADES? ARE SOME
LSCS CHOOSING TO ABANDON THE CHALLENGE OF IMPLEMENTING AN INQUIRY BASED
APPROACH BECAUSE OF THIS?
A FEW PARTICIPANTS HAVE ASKED ABOUT CURRICULUM THAT IS BEING USED IN
MIDDLE SCHOOL. CAN PEOPLE FROM DIFFERENT PROJECTS REPLY TO THIS?
The conversation has been rich and it makes me reflect on how the core
values are playing out in the LSCs in terms of middle school
IS THE REFORM IN YOUR DISTRICTS CAST AS A CURRICULUM REFORM FOCUSING ON
1. SCOPE AND SEQUENCE
2. PEDAGOGY THAT INVITES INQUIRY AND INVESTIGATION
3. INEGRATED CURRICULUM BETWEEN MATH AND SCIENCE AND/OR OTHER SUBJECT
We have two weeks left to this discussion. Please, please add your
insights, thoughts and comments.