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Table of Contents
Unit: Meeting the Diverse Needs of a Diverse
and Changing Classroom
Issue: Are Single-Gender Classes Necessary to Create Equal
Opportunities for Boys and Girls?
YES: Frances R. Spielhagen, from “How Tweens View Single-Sex Classes,” Educational
Leadership (April 2006)
NO: Kelley King and Michael Gurian, from “Teaching to the Minds of Boys,” Educational
Leadership (September 2006)
Frances R. Spielhagen, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Center for Gifted Education at the
College of William and Mary, argues that single-gender classes are viewed as more conducive to
learning than are coeducational classes by students, especially younger students. Kelley King and
Michael Gurian argue that coeducational classrooms can be made to be more accommodating to
the learning profiles of both boys and girls, and they illustrate this approach through the example
of classrooms that became more “boy friendly” through the inclusion of experiential and
kinesthetic activities around literacy.
Issue: Should Struggling Students Be Retained?
YES: Jon Lorence and Anthony Gary Dworkin, from “Elementary Grade Retention in Texas
and Reading Achievement among Racial Groups: 1994–2002,” Review of Policy Research
(September 2006)
NO: Nancy Frey, from “Retention, Social Promotion, and Academic Redshirting: What Do We
Know and Need to Know?” Remedial and Special Education (November/December 2005)
Jon Lorence, an associate professor of sociology, and Anthony G. Dworkin, a professor of
sociology, both cofounders of the Sociology of Education Research Group at the University of
Houston, argue that although the majority of educational researchers contend that making lowperforming students repeat a grade is ineffective, careful analysis of primary-grades data from
school districts in Texas shows persistent positive effects of retention on academic performance
over time. Nancy Frey, an associate professor of literacy in the School of Teacher Education at
San Diego State University, argues that the policy of retention and associated procedures such as
social promotion and academic “redshirting,” in which there is purposeful delayed entry into
kindergarten, are largely flawed with little compelling evidence to support their practice.
Issue: Is Full Inclusion Always the Best Option for Children with
YES: Michael F. Giangreco, from “Extending Inclusive Opportunities,” Educational
Leadership (February 2007)
NO: James M. Kauffman, Kathleen McGee, and Michele Brigham, from “Enabling or
Disabling? Observation on Changes in Special Education,” Phi Delta Kappan (April 2004)
Michael F. Giangreco, who is a professor of education at the University of Vermont, argues that
even students with severe disabilities are best served within the “regular” education classroom
along with their typically developing peers. He also outlines strategies for achieving inclusion
and shows how it creates a classroom that benefits all students, regardless of ability level. James
M. Kauffman, who is a professor at the University of Virginia at Charlottesville, and Kathleen
McGee and Michele Brigham, who are both special education teachers, argue that the goal of
education for students with disabilities should be to increase their level of competence and
independence. They conclude that full inclusion involves “excessive” accommodations that
actually become barriers to achieving this goal.
Issue: Are Schools Closing the Achievement Gap between Students
from Different Ethnic and Racial Backgrounds?
YES: Carol Corbett Burris and Kevin G. Welner, from “Closing the Achievement Gap by
Detracking,” Phi Delta Kappan (April 2005)
NO: William H. Schmidt, Leland S. Cogan, and Curtis C. McKnight, from “Equality of
Educational Opportunity: Myth or Reality in U.S. Schooling?” American Educator (Winter
Carol Corbett Burris and Kevin G. Welner argue that the achievement gap between white
students and African American and Hispanic students can be closed by “detracking” and having
similarly high expectations and similar curricular demands on all students. Burris and Weiner
provide an example of the positive effects on the achievement gap of such changes in one school
district, Rockville Centre in New York State. William H. Schmidt, Leland S. Cogan, and Curtis
C. McKnight argue that students are exposed to different academic content, with that content
depending on the demographics of the neighborhood in which they live. Students in
economically disadvantaged neighborhoods, which include an overrepresentation of ethnic and
racial minorities, are exposed to less demanding content and thus achieve less. Moreover, this
economic variation in exposure to learning opportunities is pervasive and persistent in the United
Issue: Does the Current Generation of Students Require Digital
Tools for Learning?
YES: Marc Prensky, from “Listen to the Natives,” Educational Leadership (December
2005/January 2006)
NO: Sue Bennett, Karl Maton, and Lisa Kervin, from “The ‘Digital Natives’ Debate: A
Critical Review of the Evidence” British Journal of Educational Technology
(vol. 39, no. 5, September 2008)
Marc Prensky, speaker, writer, consultant, and game designer in education and learning areas,
argues that there is a generational shift and that today’s students, having spent their lifetimes
immersed in technology, learn differently and have unique educational needs reflecting their
digital preferences. Sue Bennett, senior lecturer, Faculty of Education, University of
Wollongong; Karl Maton, lecturer, Department of Sociology and Social Policy, University of
Sydney; Lisa Kervin, lecturer, Faculty of Education, University of Wollongong argue that there
is little compelling empirical evidence supporting the contention of a “digital divide” in terms of
fundamentally different learning styles and educational needs.
Unit: Theories of Learning and Their Implications for Educational
Issue: Is a Constructivist Approach to Teaching Effective?
YES: Kaya Yilmaz, from “Constructivism: Its Theoretical Underpinnings, Variations, and
Implications for Classroom Instruction” Educational Horizons (Spring 2008)
NO: Richard E. Clark, Paul A. Kirschner, and John Sweller, from “Putting Students on the
Path to Learning: The Case for Fully Guided Instruction” American Educator (Spring 2012)
Kaya Yilmaz argues in favor of constructivism, a child-centered approach to education that is
defined by student participation in hands-on activities and extended projects that are allowed to
“evolve” in accordance with the students’ interests and initial beliefs. The student regulates his
or her learning and discovers the “facts” or structure of a problem without being explicitly taught
those facts or that structure. Richard E. Clark, Paul A. Kirschner, and John Sweller distinguish
between the different learning needs of novices and experts. They also argue that constructivist
approaches have failed and point to research demonstrating the superiority of teacher-centered
fully guided approaches.
Issue: Can Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences
Transform Educational Practice?
YES: Seana Moran, Mindy Kornhaber, and Howard Gardner, from “Orchestrating Multiple
Intelligences,” Educational Leadership (September 2006)
NO: Lynn Waterhouse, from “Multiple Intelligences, the Mozart Effect, and Emotional
Intelligence: A Critical Review,” Educational Psychologist (vol. 41, no. 4, 2006)
Seana Moran, Mindy Kornhaber, and Howard Gardner, who originally proposed the theory of
multiple intelligences, argue that the theory can transform the ways in which teachers teach and
students view themselves. Indeed, the theory should lead to changes in what is assessed, what is
valued as educational outcomes, and how teaching should occur. Lynn Waterhouse argues that
there are serious inconsistencies in the theory of multiple intelligences, there is a lack of
empirical evidence to support the specific intelligences proposed, and that there is compelling
psychometric evidence for a general intelligence.
Issue: Should Schools Teach Students Self-Control?
YES: Daniel T. Willingham, from “Can Teachers Increase Students’ Self-Control?” American
Educator (Summer 2011)
NO: Alfie Kohn, from “Why Self-Discipline Is Overrated: The (Troubling) Theory and Practice
of Control from Within,” Phi Delta Kappan (vol. 90, no. 3, 2008)
Daniel T. Willingham argues that individuals with enhanced self-control are more likely to be
successful in school and beyond and that healthy self-control arises from genetic factors as well
as a warm, structured, and supportive home and school environment. Alfie Kohn argues that
teaching self-control creates conformity and potential mental health challenges for students.
Kohn also argues that a focus on self-control detracts attention from more legitimate concerns,
such as including students as partners in their own learning and creating a curriculum that is
inherently engaging to students.
Issue: Do Recent Discoveries About the Brain Have Implications for
Classroom Practice?
YES: Judy Willis, from “Building a Bridge from Neuroscience to the Classroom,” Phi Delta
Kappan (February 2008)
NO: Dan Willingham, from “When and How Neuroscience Applies to Education,” Phi Delta
Kappan (February 2008)
Judy Willis argues that current research on brain function does inform educational practice and
she provides some examples from recent brain science findings. Willis cautions, however, that
we are truly in the infancy of brain science and the “hard facts” are still scarce and that many
people misinterpret and misuse the brain science findings. Dan Willingham argues that not every
finding about how the brain works can or should lead to an accommodation of educational
practice. Moreover, Willingham argues that some of the ways in which brain science is
conducted, while sensible for learning about the brain and the scientific questions of interest,
actually obscure or mislead about the importance of the findings for the classroom.
Issue: Do Video Games Promote Violent Behavior in Students?
YES: Brad J. Bushman, Hannah R. Rothstein, and Craig A. Anderson, from “Much Ado
about Something: Violent Video Game Effects and a School of Red Herring: Reply to Ferguson
and Kilburn (2010)” Psychological Bulleting (vol. 136,
no. 2, 2010)
NO: Christopher J. Ferguson and John Kilburn, from “Much Ado about Nothing: The
Misestimation and Overinterpretation of Violent Video Game Effects in Eastern and Western
Nations: Comment on Anderson et al. (2010)” Psychological Bulletin (vol. 136, no. 2, 2010)
Brad Bushman, Hannah Rothstein, and Craig Anderson argue that the research-based evidence
synthesized statistically across multiple studies—a meta-analysis—is clear and that violent video
game exposure is causally related to later aggression. Christopher Ferguson and John Kilburn
argue that the meta-analysis of research studies examining the effects of violent video game
exposure is flawed and that there is not a compelling collection of evidence supporting a causal
link between exposure and later aggression.
Unit: Effective Teaching and the Evaluation of Learning
Issue: Should Schools Adopt a Common Core Curriculum?
YES: E. D. Hirsch, Jr., from “Beyond Comprehension,” American Educator (Winter 2010–
NO: Tom Loveless, from “The Common Core Initiative: What Are the Chances of Success?”
Educational Leadership (December 2012/January 2013)
E. D. Hirsch, Jr., argues in favor of a common core curriculum, one in which language arts is
infused with a requirement to gain a broad base of domain-specific knowledge about the world
that is assumed by writers of newspapers, magazine articles, and other everyday texts. Hirsch
contrasts this approach to language arts with one that teaches general literacy skills devoid of
content knowledge about the world. He also argues that adoption of a common curriculum better
meets the needs of an increasingly mobile student body than does a curriculum that is variable
and idiosyncratic across schools. Tom Loveless argues that a common core curriculum is
unlikely to lead to the promised improvements in educational outcomes. In part, this argument is
based on the failure of past large-scale efforts to adopt a common set of educational targets at
each grade, but with little impact on outcomes. He also points out that the common core entails
adoption of common set of target skills but not a single approach to teaching those skills and thus
individual variation is likely to continue to characterize education in the United States.
Issue: Should Character Education Define the Values We Teach
YES: Merle J. Schwartz, Alexandra Beatty, and Eileen Dachnowicz, from “Character
Education: Frill or Foundation?” Principal Leadership (December 2006)
NO: Pamela Bolotin Joseph and Sara Efron, from “Seven Worlds of Moral Education,” Phi
Delta Kappan (March 2005)
Merle J. Schwartz, Alexandra Beatty, and Eileen Dachnowicz argue that identifying and teaching
core values such as civic engagement and virtue can improve academic performance, school
climate, and individual character. Pamela Bolotin Joseph and Sara Efron argue for a broader
moral curriculum, one that goes beyond character education to include cultural competence and a
commitment to peace, justice, and social action.
Issue: Does Homework Lead to Improved Student Achievement?
YES: Douglas Fisher and Nancy Frey, from “Homework and the Gradual Release of
Responsibility: Making ‘Responsibility’ Possible,” The English Journal (vol. 98, no. 2,
November 2008)
NO: Dorothy Suskind, from “What Students Would Do if They Did Not Do Their Homework,”
Phi Delta Kappan (September 2012)
Douglas Fisher and Nancy Frey argue that there are positive outcomes between homework and
achievement, but that it is important to recognize the nuanced nature of the relationship with
instruction and be clear about what the goal and specific objectives are. Dorothy Suskind argues
that the “homework default” (automatically assigning homework) is poorly informed practice
and that the time spent completing homework is counterproductive with the potential to interfere
with family relationships, and, in the long run, reduce student creativity.
Issue: Does Grading Help Students Learn?
YES: Kyle Spencer, from “Standards-Based Grading” The Education Digest (vol. 78,
September/October 2012)
NO: Alfie Kohn, from “The Case Against Grades” Educational Leadership (November 2011)
Kyle Spencer argues that grades provide useful information if they are linked to standards, or
targeted competences to be acquired, indicating what competencies the student has mastered and
which need more work. In fact, Spencer argues for more and more frequent grades than in the
traditional approach to grading. Alfie Kohn argues that grades interfere with learning because
they subvert the student’s enjoyment of learning, or intrinsic motivation, instead leading the
student to work for the grades rather than to learn. In addition, the focus on grades leads students
to avoid intellectually challenging tasks.
Issue: Should Schools Decrease Class Size to Improve Student
YES: Bruce J. Biddle and David C. Berliner, from “Small Class Size and Its Effects,”
Educational Leadership (February 2002)
NO: Kirk A. Johnson, from “The Downside to Small Class Policies,” Educational Leadership
(February 2002)
Bruce J. Biddle and David C. Berliner argue that the gains from smaller classes in the primary
grades benefit all types of students, and, importantly, that the gains are greatest for students
traditionally disadvantaged in educational access and opportunity. Kirk A. Johnson argues that
although the notion of reducing class size is popular among politicians, it is a costly initiative.
The research suggests that in terms of raising achievement, reducing class size does not
guarantee success.
Issue: Should Student Time in School Be Changed?
YES: Elena Rocha, from “Choosing More Time for Students: The What, Why, and How of
Expanded Learning,” Center for American Progress (August 2007)
NO: Larry Cuban, from “The Perennial Reform: Fixing School Time,” Phi Delta Kappan
(December 2008)
Elena Rocha, a scholar at the Center for American Progress and education consultant, uses
multiple case examples and argues that the expansion of school learning time is necessary for
meaningful school reform and improving student outcomes. Larry Cuban, a professor emeritus of
education at Stanford University, provides a brief history of school reform efforts related to
school time and argues that the call for expanding learning time in the form of lengthening the
school day or year is not new and has little evidence supporting its effectiveness.