According to Heward (2003), there are ten (10) faulty notions that impede the adoption of systematic, research-based instructions, therefore limiting the effectiveness of special education. More importantly, these are experienced by the students themselves and their families (Heward, 2003).
First among the faulty notions included in his journal Ten Faulty Notions about Teaching and Learning that hinder the Effectiveness of Special Education is that “structured curricula impede true learning.” Heward (2003) believes that standardized curricula limit both the teacher and the students. The teacher is limited because he is expected to conform only to the scope and objectives of the curriculum (Heward, 2003), making his form of instruction insufficient for holistic development of the students as necessary adjustments for such development are not made.
Meanwhile, the students are also limited in the sense that they only have little freedom. The knowledge and skills they need to achieve are confined within the structured curriculum, making them passive and unable to maintain and generalize the lessons (Heward, 2003).
However, Heward (2003) does not discriminate the said advantage of structured curricula. According to the review of Brophy (1986), having skilled teachers as guides will help the students attain higher level of learning objectives which cannot be easily and solely achieved through discovery learning.
As regards to this notion, I strongly believe that a structured curriculum is indeed an impediment to effective learning. Learning is a continuous process wherein change is inevitable. However, this does not mean that conforming to changes disregards the learning objectives presented in the curriculum and thus, effective learning can really be conveyed to students if the teachers would not limit their means of instruction to the structured curricula.
According to the Office of Faculty and TA Development, The Ohio State University (2001), one important trait of an effective teacher is to use a variety of instructional strategies. These strategies, as I believe, include the research-based methods which Heward emphasizes. Moreover, there is no single teaching style, and thus, new approaches can be considered and cannot be rejected only because it is new (The Office of Curriculum and Development Management, The University of Alabama at Birmingham, 2005).
Second is that “teaching discrete skills trivializes education and ignores the whole child.” Heward (2003) argues that the isolation of specific skills for instruction only makes the essence of those trivial to the students. Since they are taught to the students merely as actions needed to be followed and executed inside the classroom, they [students] are unable to grasp and hold the meaningful context of those skills (Heward, 2003).
Moreover, the isolation of those skills also ignores the personality [behavior] and competency of a child (Heward, 2003). He adds that the skills are either separated from their meaningful context or taken as a requisite without using them on the students’ overall repertoire.
Supporters of this isolation notion, however, believe that “skills can be learned in a meaningful way only in the context of the whole activity,” taking the whole more important compared to the sum of its parts (Heward, 2003).
In my perspective, this isolation notion clearly overlooks the meaningful context of the skills being taught to students, therefore hindering effective learning. The teachers should situate the topic, in this sense the particular skill being taught, in a bigger picture and provide adequate context (The Office of Curriculum and Development Management, The University of Alabama at Birmingham, 2005) in order to genuinely convey to the students the meaningful context of such skill.
Third is that “drill and practice limits the students’ deep understanding and dulls creativity.” Present-day teachers, according to Heward (2003), believe that repetitive drill-and-practice exercises only focus on memorization. This belief, however, is highly overlooked by teachers, limiting the critical thinking of the students which is greatly improved by those exercises for deeper understanding of the lessons (Heward, 2003).
In addition, such belief impedes the creativity of the students. Heward (2003) emphasizes that repeated practice provides students the knowledge and tools with which they can be creative because the increase in confidence and competence is already achieved. Provided that these drills are carried out properly, they are “essential to complex and creative performance” of the students (Brophy, 1986).
I strongly agree that drill and practice promotes deeper understanding as there is more critical thinking that occurs; and that it also enhances creativity as the students clearly understand the whole process, providing rooms for creativity. In a study made by Cook (2008), she concludes that the experience of the research process, in the context of this notion the drill-and-practice activities, allows students to learn beyond “domain-specific questions” and even apply it on other subject areas and on a larger scale.
Fourth is that “teachers do not need to measure student performance.” Heward (2003) cited the belief of Greenwood and Maheady (1997) that “direct, objective, and frequent measurement of student performance” is highly important in special education. To take the measurement of student performance as a waste of time provides comfort to teachers but is definitely disadvantageous for the students as the necessary modifications to educational instruction provided by their teachers are not implemented (Heward, 2003).
Student performance is indeed important for effective learning. The Office of Faculty and TA Development, The Ohio State University (2001) recognizes the importance of such – “Although instructors generally keep a careful record of grades [which some teachers think is already enough to check the students’ achievements], very few devote a lot of attention to looking at teaching factors associated with results” to determine the appropriate approach on teaching. Moreover, it is emphasized that teachers should stop and regularly check student comprehension and engagement (Office of Faculty and TA Development, The Ohio State University, 2001).
In addition, the use of rubrics as a form of evaluating student performances will make the assessment process more accurate and fair (Wolf, Stevens, 2007).