Help me get up to speed with current educational trends.
September 20, 2010 11:34 AM   Subscribe

Teachers and other folks who work in the field of education: Where can I find out what’s currently popular/important in middle-school and high-school education? I’m looking for professional resources, trends, current education gurus—the kinds of things I’d find at Heinemann or at conventions like NCTE or IRA, but I’ve already been on the Heinemann site, and I can’t make it to conventions this year.

I’ve been out of the classroom for several years, and I’m trying to get an idea of what the current big ideas/big names in education are. For example, I know (or think I know) that Fountas and Pinnell are still luminaries in the field of reading education, that Grant Wiggins’s Understanding by Design is a big deal across the curriculum and across grades, that the Core Content Standards may be adopted by many states, and that Response to Intervention (RTI) is a term that many educational publishers are slapping onto their materials. However, I don’t know where to find out who/what else is important and popular right now.

I’m really looking for two things: (1) specific names, buzzwords, trends that are hot in education right now and (2) any resources that will help me keep on top of current and upcoming names, buzzwords, and trends.

My focus is literacy/reading/language arts/ English, but I’d be interested in hearing about resources in any subject area in middle and high school.
posted by TEA to Education (6 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
It's worth officially joining NCTE, if you're not already a member, since, among other perks, membership includes a subscription to one of the national journals (Language Arts for elementary level, Voices of the Middle for middle school, English Journal for high school, College Composition and Communication for higher ed, and RTE: Research in the Teaching of English for empirical research at all levels. Additionally, members get the yearly catalogue of new book releases from the NCTE press, plus a discount. Finally, another neat feature is the NCTE "Inbox," a weekly e-mail update on current events affecting literacy education across grade levels with links to both coverage in the popular press as well as articles on related scholarship. That would be a place to start.

Otherwise, I'd look into the professional e-mail list-servs geared toward literacy education. Depending on where you're located, your state department of education may sponsor one (I see a bunch showing up through a google search on "language arts listserv".) The ones I stay up on are more for the college level, but the WPA-L, the writing program administrators' list-serv, and the w-center list, both keep pretty good track of the current trends, key names, and overall buzz (kinda like this place but focused on writing, rhetoric, and literacy education). FWIW, the wpa-l has open, web-accessible archive, if you want to look around first; the w-center list requires membership, but it's no big deal.

Finally, again skewed somewhat toward post-secondary but still relevant to K-12, is the database and its sister sight, compFAQs. The first is a searchable archive for citations on scholarship related to writing, rhetoric, and literacy studies dating back to 1939; the other is a series of short overviews of current trends and scholarship on selected issues in literacy education, with emphasis on making research findings accessible to practitioners. Both are worth a look.
posted by 5Q7 at 12:25 PM on September 20, 2010

Oh, and since we're talking about overviews, you'll probably want to check a number of (mostly) recent or otherwise well-known encyclopedia-type releases, all of which I've found accessible and comprehensive:

- Charles Bazerman's Handbook of Research on Writing: History, Society, School, Indvidual, Text (2008)

- James Flood, et al.'s Handbook of Research on Teaching the English Language Arts (2003 and other editions)

- Charles MacArthur, et al.'s Handbook of Writing Research (2006)

- Peter Smagorinsky's Research on Composition: Multiple Perspectives on Two Decades of Change (2006)

As you can guess by their titles, most of these are fat, heavy reference books, which you may not want to buy yourself, but most local libraries should at least be able to borrow these for you via inter-library loan.
posted by 5Q7 at 12:37 PM on September 20, 2010

Doug Lemov's Taxonomy is pretty big, all about best teaching practices.

RTI is the Response to Intervention model that basically documents steps that teachers take to indicate how they help kids.

Gurus other than Lemov...Daniel Pink is getting a lot of positive press as is Will Richardson.
posted by dzaz at 1:46 PM on September 20, 2010

There's also Education Week, which the wonkier colleagues of mine reference quite a bit.
posted by smirkette at 4:56 PM on September 20, 2010

Oh and Edutopia is a great source of best practices!
posted by smirkette at 5:06 PM on September 20, 2010

In my (former) school district, the administrators and teacher-leaders are all about ASCD (formerly known by the full name "Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development"). ASCD publishes Understanding by Design and lots of other great books. The district was really into Robert Marzano (Classroom Instruction that Works, Building Academic Vocabulary, and lots of others).

The organization is not specific to middle/high school or English/literacy, but as a high school history teacher I found that many of their resources had very wide applications. (Such as UbD and most of Marzano's books.) There are also lots of resources for specific levels (middle/high) and subjects. I think you'll find a lot that will be helpful to you. Check out the "Research a Topic" section of the ASCD site for current issues in education-- it's a great primer for some of the things you mentioned, like RTI.

I have found that most of ASCD's books are based in research and/or the author's extensive experience, interesting, AND practical. You can read it and find any number of things to try implementing in your classroom right away. Most of my teacher-buddies and I found that buying a membership was well worth the money, especially if you buy one of the levels that gets you free books every so often. You also get discounts on any of their books and they have a pretty good magazine.

For a free daily dose of ASCD goodness, you can subscribe to the ASCD SmartBrief. You'll get a well-formatted email every weekday that has short summaries and links to the latest education news from national sources and local news from around the country. I don't always click through to the articles, but I always scroll through the email. Here is the archive of recent issues if you want to preview before subscribing. (It seems like every in-the-know teacher and administrator in my district subscribes to this-- I have been in meetings where almost every BlackBerry and laptop gives a new mail notification at the same time and we're all going, ah, there's the SmartBrief.)

tl;dr version: ASCD was a huuuge help to me in the classroom, because it was a good mix of theory and practice, and because I knew the administrators in my district were also reading these same things. Sorry to be such a super-fan; I promise I don't work there or anything like that.
posted by scarnato at 6:55 PM on September 20, 2010

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