Breakthrough Paperback – Apr 5 2006
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A major problem with most educational change is that it is political and structural in nature and is designed to change the ways schools operate. The impetus for change founders on the vested interests imbedded in school communities and adds to the festering debate about the inability of educational change to make a real difference to students' learning. With Michael Fullan adding Hill and Crevola to the writing team, he has added a lot of credibility to this text in the eyes of school-based personnel.
This book is a testament to the fact that we need to change inputs to bring about better outcomes for students. The expectation that teachers, if left to their own devices, will improve outcomes is patently false when examining large organisations. Clearly there are individual exceptions but generally speaking Fullan is on the right track here.
I feel that this book will be a very well received book because fellow educators will recognise the book for what it- the first step on a journey worth taking. On the strength of that, our school leaders' reading group has chosen this text as our next reader.
Fullan, Hill, and Crevola take the healthcare concept of "Critical Care Paths" which is a map for each patient based on his/her needs and apply it to education. These Critical Care Paths seem to connect easily with education in that they include such concepts as "timing, sequence, and the interventions necessary to achieve the desired outcomes" (p. 52). The authors used this system as a model and created what they call the Critical Learning Instructional Paths (CLIP). They describe how they applied their system to two early literacy programs. In doing so, the authors bring theory into practice by providing these real-world examples of their CLIP system. This made their method easier to conceptualize and less idealistic. In addition, they provide examples of how their system can be applied to other areas and levels of education. Most educators will appreciate that the authors consider the reality of implementing such a system while being aware of the constraints of the school day and budget. The book ends with a chapter on how to provide leadership to put their system in place.
This 100-page book was clear, concise and research-based. It provided specific examples and a realistic description of what needs to be in place in order for a "Breakthrough" to occur. Professionals who would find this book of interest would be: reading specialists, P-12 educators, literacy coaches, instructional facilitators, curriculum specialists, building principals, and district-level leaders.
Fullan, M., Hill, P., & Crevola, C. (2006). Breakthrough. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
Everyone agrees that the future success of public school reform lies in developing expert systems. That is the key. It is easier said than done. Breakthrough does a good job documenting the failures of the direct instruction movement to achieve wholescale, systemic reform. Their failures exist in spite of the large sums of money and expertise that have been invested into the method.
The authors also talk about the importance of teacher and principal leadership to bring about systemic reform and the importance of personalizing instruction so that data is used to make instruction more effective. The book, however, falls short in the application. The last half of the books reads like a direct instruction manual. Yeah, that's right, it is a real yawner, which is surprising for an author like Fullan. I guess you can't hit a homerun every at bat.
What is lacking is the balance that must be found between using data to know where each child is at and yet at the same time providing interesting, inspiring work to the student so that her interest and motivation to learn remains high. Motivation and relevancy--especially in the 21st century is essential. The problem I am seeing across the country is that people are trading data for inspiration. It doesn't work that way. We must realize that doing work that matters--along with measuring progress toward meaningful benchmarks is the key. Otherwise, we might just find ourselves confusing assessment for learning. Not a healthy proposition.
This little volume is not a page turner, but it does make some good points. For starters, it documents via several research studies that direct instruction reforms will only yield average results at best--they will not teach students how to think, and they certainly won't teach them how to lead. They may produce mildly literate factory workers who live for the weekend, but they won't achieve systemic reform most of us are trying to achieve. I completely agree.
The authors make the statement that the quality of the instruction that happens in the classroom is what matters most. Nothing new there. However, what does effective teaching look like? That is the most salient question of all, and though the authors come close by mentioning the importance of motivation, high expectations, and engagement, they fall short in delivering a definition that will make us do something different. They propose engagement on task, but don't talk about the quality of the tasks. Student engagement in mindless seatwork will not get us where we need to go.
They talk about the importance of "focused instruction," but what do they tell us to focus on? Assessments and the data that comes from them. I don't think that is the answer either. It is important, but it is not the answer.