Academic journal article Education

Diplomates in School Psychology: Architects of Effective Learning

Academic journal article Education

Diplomates in School Psychology: Architects of Effective Learning

Article excerpt

Introduction and Overview

During the past nearly two decades, and especially since 1983, educational reform efforts have been a hallmark of American education. As evidenced by the continuing succession of new attempts to produce more acceptable learning outcomes and as assessed by various commentators of American education (Bobbett & Ellet, 1997; Waddook, 1995), these efforts have not been successful. Throughout these years, school superintendents, principals, teachers, parents, business leaders, politicians, state, and local school boards and students themselves have sought assistance from a variety of sources to develop programs that lead to more effective learning on the part of all students. Literally billions of dollars have been expended on reform efforts in the past fifteen years, yet it is highly doubtful that significant increases in learning outcomes have resulted from these expenditures.

Several explanations have been put forward to explain this dismal lack of results. These include: inadequate teacher preparation programs (Allman, 1987; Fullan, et. al. 1998), the purpose and condition of many public schools (Finn & Ravitch, 1996; Schlechty, 1997), the lack of adequate resources (Jones & Borman, 1994), a low benchmark for standards and expectations (Finn & Ravitch, 1996), lack of parental involvement (House Select Committee on children, Youth & Families, 1987), family and social problems (Waddook, 1995), the resistance of education to change (Morrison, 1991), and others. However, efforts to improve learning outcomes by addressing these issues have not been successful.

Several factors appear to be responsible for the lack of success in developing more effective learning programs in schools. This paper addresses these factors and offers several inter-related proposals for improving the effectiveness of student learning.

Responsible Factors

One primary reason explains why learning outcomes have not improved in America's schools in recent decades. In most states, this factor has resulted in and inter-acts with a rigid set of curriculum guidelines that additionally impede effective learning. Further, three secondary causes of non-effective learning keep educational systems from achieving the outcomes desired.

Primary Factor

The primary factor that impedes effective student learning is teachers' and policy makers' lack of knowledge of how learning occurs in students at different developmental levels. This lack of knowledge has resulted in the development and implementation of a linear and rigid set of curriculum guidelines that practically specify what a student is expected to learn on a daily basis. The assumption that students learn in the same rigid manner specified in the guidelines ignores the variability about how learning occurs provides a powerful impediment to establishing effective learning programs and activities.

Teachers and Policy Makers Knowledge

Although there are many critical issues confronting public schools, it can be reasonably argued that improving outcomes, if not the most critical, is certainly one of the top two. Along with safety, parents are most interested in their children's learning progress. Schools and teachers primarily exist to help students, first, by helping them learn how to learn and secondly, be demonstrating what to learn. It would be expected then, that teachers should be experts in how learning occurs and be able to design effective learning programs that enable each student to maximize his or her learning level. This, however, is not the case. Most teachers have not been exposed to a rigorous preparation program that emphasizes how learning occurs at different developmental levels. Without this understanding teachers are not able to design the types of learning programs and activities that will meet the learning needs of a diverse student body.

During the past 20 years new advancements and understandings about learning have emerged from research in cognitive science (Gardner, 1985; Hart, 1981; Reilly, 1989, 1998). …

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