10/22/2018 1 Comment
By John Beisner
Previously, we reviewed the first unit of the Intro to Data and Modeling series. While unit 2 (Introduction to Experimental Design) and Unit 3 (What Does it Mean to Live in a Food Desert?) look enticing, I've decided to jump over to another series of packets within the great CAASPP prep series.
A few quick bullet points about why we're reviewing CAASPP prep packets:
In order to thoroughly evaluate this curriculum, I've solicited the help of Dr A.E. Geigenhopfer, renowned Scholar, Author, Education Theoretician and creator of the REALI model of curriculum evaluation. The following is a transcript of our recent conversation (redacted for brevity):
JB: Dr. Geigenhopfer, thank you for joining me in reviewing this new packet!
Dr AEG: Ya, is mine pleasure.
JB: I'm looking forward to employing your famous REALI criterion to evaluate the packet. Can you introduce the method a bit and tell us why it will be useful to us today?
Dr AEG: Ya, it is being an acronym for Relevant, Engaging, Accessible, Learner-oriented and Informative. It was initially written and published in Flemmish, where the acronym is translated TBSKM. Your English acronym is an improvement.
JB: Thanks, that’s very kind of you. It also seems to align with the goals of the packet, and by extension with the goals of the state-wide exam that we're hoping to help students prepare for. So you could say that all the stars are aligning.
Dr AEG: I could say that, but I will not because it is foolish. I am not here for astrology nonsense. This exam, like the packet, is the product of rigorous and exhaustive rational thought; nothing more. We must be dispassionate and consider emotional or sentimental impacts only in the most abstract sense.
JB: You are right of course; I beg your pardon. So tell me then: what is your reaction to this packet?
Dr AEG: TBSKM gut.
JB: Come again?
Dr AEG: REALI good.
JB: Really?! REALI? That’s fantastic. Can you tell us more about why you’ve come to this conclusion according to your metric?
Dr AEG: Ya, let’s start with R. Is it Relevant. Well of course, since it’s preparing students for the CAASPP, and the CAASPP is measuring how students are preparing for the future. It’s Relevant in the general and immediate sense.
JB: That’s great. And E for Engaging?
Dr AEG: Ya, the packet is laid out in a very logical, sequential format. Learners are drawn in naturally by close readings, realistic scenarios and skill-building activities that are immediately put to use. They are also often skills and tools that are applicable outside the context of this packet, so students are potentially learning beyond the packet, so to speak. Overall I think the packet is very engaging apart from one flaw: there is a grave paucity of dog pictures.
JB: Yes, I’m very fond of dogs and pictures of them. Perhaps in later units...
Dr AEG: Ya. They would certainly make the packet more Accessible. For the moment the learner will have to be content with the use of videos, real-world scenarios, interviews, dialogues and exercises that make the packet seem welcoming. It’s rather like the shallow end of the pool: you enter and the water is warm and you are not afraid of drowning, and yet very quickly you have entered an world of delights in which any number of exciting acquatic activities are available to you.
Dr AEG: You can do the backstroke, the froggy stroke, fancy handstands, blow bubbles...
JB: ...which are metaphors for discrete learner outcomes, surely.
Dr AEG: Eh, ya.
JB: Okay then, let’s move on to L. “Learner-Oriented.” How does this packet measure up?
Dr AEG: The packet’s authors include several real-world jobs held by real-world people in which these individuals describe how their respective positions are made possible by the deployment of particular skills. Taken in the abstract, these skills might seem arcane and frustrating. There is always potential for curriculum to be undermined by the question (which students are ALWAYS right to ask, even if we find it frustratingly difficult to answer momentarily) “why do I have to know this?” We learn best when we are interested, so by introducing the learners to the humans and their exciting jobs, and from there leading into the skills and abilities which these humans and jobs require, the dubious voice which seeks to withdraw the learner’s interest is precluded. The skills are literally personified.
JB: That’s a very keen insight Dr Geigenhopfer, thank you.
Dr AEG: You are welcome.
JB: Okay then: we have our last letter of the English Acronym. The last letter in REALI stands for “Informative.” Tell us Dr G, how do you think the packet measures up in this regard?
Dr AEG: Ya certainly it is informative! We are invited to learn about new and current jobs which students might not have known about, to consider the capacities that underlie these positions and to evaluate our own ability to demonstrate or acquire these skills. Things are put into the framework of “The Four C’s”: Creativity, Collaboration, Communication and Critical Thinking. By overtly framing the exercises in this way, the learners are encouraged to consider their own learning trajectory. That adds a level of meta-cognition that can be applied to any number of academic or intellectual endeavors in life. Don’t you consider that Informative?
JB: Yes Dr G, I must agree with you.
Dr AEG: Ya you must, for I am the expert.
JB: Okay well on that note, thanks for sharing this time with us and helping introduce us to this new curriculum. Do you think it’s likely that teachers will integrate it into their student’s learning plans?
Dr AEG: Who can say? I am an internationally-renowned scholar and theorist, not a fortune teller. But I hope that they take the time to investigate the packet for themselves, or better yet have their students try it out. Then the instructors may base their decisions on the reactions and opinions of their students.
JB: That sounds wise and very reasonable. How can teachers access this curriculum?
Dr AEG: It’s in your intra-net in the right-most column under “Academic Development.” They click on the electronic button called “CAASPP Prep.”
JB: That sounds easy enough. Can you tell me what grade level is required for this curriculum?
Dr AEG: Later units require relatively high TABE scores, but this packet is available at the very accessible 4.0 level for both English and Math. These are merely recommendations mind you; officially the packet is accessible to all learners, particularly in a Small Group Instruction setting when instructors are available to provide more immediate support.
JB: That’s excellent! Almost anyone can do this packet, in other words, regardless of whether or not they’re preparing to take the CAASPP exam.
Dr AEG: Ya correct.
JB: Okay last question: how many credits is this packet worth?
Dr AEG: Students can receive 0.25 credits of General English, 0.5 credits of General Math, 0.5 credits of Physcial Science. It is quite reasonable.
JB: I agree! The packet does seem a bit long, but 1.25 credits isn’t bad…
Dr AEG: No not bad! In fact the packet is quite economical in terms of student effort for credit return. Though it looks rather large at 40 pages, students should remember that this accounts for both the reader and the student workbook. Considering that, it’s actually not very large at all. Besides, the pace and flow of the exercises is quite natural.
JB: That’s fantastic Dr G, thanks again. Before you go, would you like to tell us about your current research? Are you writing any other seminal tomes, delivering department-shattering guest lectures, upending decades of conventional thinking, redefining the word “orthodoxy,” or honing fresh, new, world-shattering acronyms?
Dr AEG: No, I've been dead since 1884. Happy Halloween!