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Who'll Fill the Gap: continued


To begin, let me make it clear that the authors are not teacher bashers. In fact, every presentation about the TIMSS study is very supportive of teachers.

We have watched many examples of good teachers employing limited methods that, no matter how competently they are executed, could not lead to high levels of student achievement.(p. 10)

Their point is not that U.S. teachers "aren't doing their job."

To put it simply, we were amazed at how much teaching varied across cultures and how little it varied within cultures [emphasis mine]... Although we saw variation in the U.S. videos we collected, comparing them with videos from Germany and Japan allowed us to see something we could not see before: a distinctly American way of teaching, which differs markedly from the German way and from the Japanese way. (p. 11)

They make the point that it appears that "the American way of teaching," as an entity unto itself, has much, much more to do with achievement than individual teachers. And they don't blame teachers for not seeing this and changing.

The fact that teaching is a cultural activity explains why teaching has been so resistant to change... [W]hen teachers do change their practice, it is often in only superficial ways. (p. 12)

The primary reason for the lack of change in American teachers is:

American teachers, compared with those in Japan... have no means of contributing to the gradual improvement of teaching methods or of improving their own skills. American teachers are left alone... (p. 13)

And how true that is! Once the door to a classroom closes, but even when teachers are outside the classroom and intentionally trying to improve, it's almost always on our own time, or in some isolated, randomly periodic in-service session. U.S. teachers have little support if they want to change and little access to reasons to change.

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