Grant Wiggins spoke to teachers in my district about Understanding by Design a week before he passed away this spring.
More than once, that day, he used his baseball/soccer/sports analogy when talking about teaching. It was a powerful image and a powerful reminder about teaching/learning and release of control. We must allow our students to "play" the game of readers, writers, learners. We coach and let them do read, write, and learn. Wiggins reminded us that what is important is NOT the drill; rather it is "knowing what the bottom-line long-term purpose is, knowing ways of achieving the purpose, and knowing how to self-assess and self-adjust to achieve a purpose."
More than once, that day, he mentioned reading comprehension. He wrote about this subject many times including his last two blog posts. I guess it was on his mind. It's been lingering on my mind ever since.
Grant Wiggins (February 2015) suggested, "Maybe we don’t yet understand reading comprehension and how it develops over time." He suggested it's hard to teach and even harder to assess because, "we cannot see inside the mind." He did a review of the research (May 2015), and concluded, our teaching of reading strategies is flawed. "Just because “good readers” do certain things, doesn’t mean we understand how to improve “weak” readers. The strategies – e.g. visualize, predict, connect, re-read, infer, etc. – may only be correlated, not causal."
In May, he concluded, "We are not teaching people to read effectively....The research could not be more consistent on one basic theme: comprehension and self-regulation CAN be improved in ALL learners of ALL backgrounds. That reading results haven’t improved much beyond decoding says clearly, however, that we have not designed ‘backward’ from in-depth comprehension, using what research tells us will work."
As a reader and as a teacher of reading, I want to know how we can help students understand what they read. How can we assure our students can "play the game" as readers, writers, and learners? Fortunately, he did a lot of research on this topic in the past few months. While, we will miss his wisdom and insight, he left us with his thoughts and ideas. I think he also left us with an assignment.