Archive for August, 2013

August 26, 2013

Reading Strategies Are Great. Not.

Well, well, well. That is so unnerving. What? The reading strategies that are so faithfully and dutifully used across the U.S. are to be blamed for the low reading scores in the past decades? (tenth grade U.S. students scoring 15th in reading among 27 developed countries)

The reasons are explored in a challenging read (challenging in that it clashes with the “progressive” views), The Knowledge Deficit by E. D. Hirsch. I won’t go into detail about the book (read it, even if you disagree with his views) but I will focus on a few clarifications Hirsch makes in regards to reading that I find very useful for any teacher.

Consider the following paragraph:

“In eukaryotes, RNA polymerase, and therefore the initiation of transcription, requires the presence of a core promoter sequence in the DNA. Promoters are regions of DNA that promote transcription and, in eukaryotes, are found at -30, -75, and -90 base pairs upstream from the start site of transcription. Core promoters are sequences within the promoter that are essential for transcription initiation. RNA polymerase is able to bind to core promoters in the presence of various specific transcription factors.”

How much did you understand of it? 50%? 40%? Less? Wait. You are an intellectual. How could you not? After all, you can decode (phonologically) all the words. You know the punctuation marks. You know grammar, too.

The problem? You lack the knowledge (background knowledge) that is critical to comprehend such a text (I selected it from An Introduction to Molecular Biology ).

This is exactly what E.D. Hirsch argues for (and I must say, having a lot of research to link to and nearly 20 pages of notes): comprehension is not a strategy problem but a knowledge problem.

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