Title

Lessons Learned in 4th-Grade Classrooms

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

1998

Abstract

For the past thirty years or so the profession has been focused on teaching method in one way or another. Over thirty years ago, Anthony articulated the distinction of approach, method, technique, and the profession has used this basic framework in all subsequent discussions of teaching (Anthony, 1963; Clarke, 1983; Clarke, 1984; Clarke, 1994; Richards& Rodgers, 1986). The focus on method has been productive. However, in 1976, Earl Stevick presented us with a conundrum that has not yet been resolved:

In the field of language teaching, Method A is the logical contradiction of Method B: if the assumptions from which A claims to be derived are correct, then B cannot work, and vice versa. Yet one colleague is getting excellent results with A and another is getting comparable results with B. How is this possible? (Stevick, 1976, p. 104; Stevick, 1996, p. 193)

Our study of three effective teachers who utilize distinctively different methods yet achieve comparable results has forced us to return to the riddle (Clarke, Davis, Rhodes, & Baker, forthcoming). The purpose of this paper is to examine the nature of teaching and learning and the role of method in the process.

Since 1990 we have been engaged in a research project that has caused us to question the role of method in understanding teaching. We began with an intensive examination of literacy instruction in forty elementary classrooms in Denver, Colorado (Davis, et al., 1992). We continued the study by focusing on three teachers who emerged as especially successful; they achieved remarkable success under difficult circumstances, yet espoused dramatically different philosophies and approach their teaching in strikingly different ways (Clarke, Davis, Rhodes, & Baker, 1996). It is the conundrum presented by this situation, essentially the riddle posed by Stevick over two decades ago, that we would like to pursue here. Let us introduce the three teachers, whom we will call Mary, Jackie, and Barbara.