Fuzzy thinking is just fuzzy thinking

Kevin Donnelly demonstrates just how fuzzy is his own thinking in Fuzzy thinking leads to failure in The Age Education Supplement today.
His opening few paras aren’t too bad. He’s spot on when he quotes Ken Rowe’s research that the main determinant of success at school is the quality of the classroom interaction. But then, instead of following Rowe’s lead and discussing what good classroom interaction might look like, he branches off into the quality of schools – which is exactly what Rowe is saying is NOT as important.
In his final para he launches an attack on “whole language and fuzzy maths” as fads with no evidence whatsoever to back up the claim that these ‘fads’ will lead to school failure.
I personally believe that the whole language approach is good pedagogy for a large majority of students. It may well be the best pedaggogy we have for allmost all students. This is a vexed issue with seemingly just as many people arguing that the traditional ‘phonics’ approach is better and certainly better for students with reading difficulties.
If I read Rowe correctly, what he is really is the distinction is not as important as the actual quality of teaching. (See Quality Teaching Matters Most.)
It takes me back to a Mathematics Conference I attended many years ago when Doug Clarke read an article from Mathematics Teacher entitlted “Cypher in the Snow”. It was a moving story about repeated failure by to identify a students progessive disengagement first from school, the society and finally life. There wasn’t a dry eye in the lecture theatre when he finished. The writer finished by telling us the promise she made to herself after the incident to walk up and down every aisle and look every student in the eye and ask herself “am I doing as much for this person as I possibly can?”
That, in my mind is good teaching. Teachers need support and professional development to continually develop better skills at doing as much for each child and young person as they can. But we must value the love that’s necessary for that to happen.
Terms like accountability, under-performing schools, and fads get in the way of us remembering what is really importat in schools.

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