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An Immodest Proposal: Pedagogic Information Supports for Teachers

by Ernst Z. Rothkopf - 2009

Background/Context: Concerns about instructional quality have unleashed a frenzy of reform efforts, including changes in school governance, teacher recruitment, and curriculum, modification of teaching philosophies and procedures, stricter accountability management, and increased quests for scientific research information and guidance. These efforts have resulted in much hope but modest returns. We have middling success in educating our talented students and fail catastrophically with many others. Science and mathematics instruction are among our most critical weak spots. Urgent demand for technically competent people in the workplace and society calls for early relief from our educational discomforts.

Purpose/Focus: The essay examines how we can take advantage of the colossal scale of the American educational system to improve instruction. Although policy makers have persistently turned away from the fact, the same subject matter is taught in thousands of schools, year after year, and thousands of teachers face very similar instructional tasks. The huge scale of their efforts, coupled with progress in the instructive uses of digital devices, makes it sensible and economically feasible to provide teachers with powerful tools to serve their common needs. We examine requirements and possible configurations for such digital instructional tools and their uses, and we make some cost estimates.

Research Design: This is an analytic essay.

Conclusions/Recommendations: Substantial investment of technical and financial resources is proposed for the development of a pedagogic information support system (APIS) for critical courses or subject matter in which competent teachers are in short supply. These systems should be sufficiently comprehensive to cover all core components that a reasonable teacher might include, as well as instrumentally pedagogic elements. APISs are seen as loosely organized, highly redundant collections, in polymorphic digital forms, of explanations, demonstrations, simulations, interactive exercises, problems, examples, elaborations, integrative expositions, and motivational supports, as well as a deep, searchable information base. An APIS for a particular course would be sufficient to support inexperienced teachers and skillful veterans and could be used both with monitored class groups and supervised individual students. APIS can be expected to provide new opportunities for practical teacher education and to stimulate and coordinate instructional research.

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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 111 Number 1, 2009, p. 164-179
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 15218, Date Accessed: 8/5/2021 5:30:11 PM

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About the Author
  • Ernst Rothkopf
    Teachers College, Columbia University
    E-mail Author
    ERNST Z. ROTHKOPF is the Cleveland E. Dodge Professor of Telecommunications and Education, Emeritus, at Teachers College, Columbia University. His major research interests are in human learning, cognition, instructional technology, and instructive communications. His most recent research has been on interaction between analytic processes and episodic memory in problem solving and decision making (with M. L. Dashen and K. Teft, “Aggregation in Memory of Episodic Influences on Rule-Guided Decisions,” Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, & Cognition, 2002); Aspirations of Learning Science and the Practical Logic of Instructional Enterprises, Educational Psychology Review, 2008 (in press); and economic models of pedagogy (“Cost of Asynchronous Distance Ventures,” Economics of Education Review, 2003).
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