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The Teaching Gap

The Teaching GapWiggins and McTighe present in their second edition of Understanding by Design ways to improve the understanding of students through designing courses around specific well-¬‐articulated goals.
During points of the book, the authors take time to explore the meaning of several key words, such as "understanding," "assessment "and "curriculum, "in order to fit with their purpose and suggestions.
This is a book that has become the standard for course design in secondary and higher education over the past eight years, and is worth exploring.
Overall, the book provides various templates and strategies for designing lessons in a Backwards design. Wiggins and McTighe suggest beginning with what you want the students to have learned at the end of the lesson. The initial chapters focus on terminology like "understanding" and "assessment," with the book turning to methods and questions to form lessons in the later chapters. The authors present a user-­‐friendly account of a learner-­‐centered approach. Don't you just love it when a book comes along that validates everything you've been thinking about your job for the last twenty years? That's exactly how I felt when I read The Teaching Gap by Stigler and Hiebert. These authors set out to discover the difference in teaching methods between eighth grade math classes in Japan, Germany, and the USA. They analyzed hundreds of videotapes of actual classrooms in those countries and discovered something they termed a "gap" in the effectiveness of teaching methods between the USA and the other two countries. Then, unexpectedly, through researching the background of this gap, they found models for instituting change in educational systems. It's this discovery that most likely led to their publishing a book for a popular audience rather than a simple volume mostly of interest to fellow pedagogues.
I heartily applaud them in this. I don't think I'm the only elementary school teacher (as opposed to politicians, administrators, or anyone else in a position to actually effect change in the school system) who has a good idea of where the solutions to our problems lie, but the problem is in articulating them. That's where this book can come in very very handy. Not only does it express what many of us have known for years, but it's also been written by University people, so those in a position to affect change might actually listen to them.