I'm reading Methods that Matter by Harvey Daniels and Marilyn Bizar and it's off to a wonderful start.
The first chapter provides a great list of what school should be less about and what school should be more about.
- whole-class-directed instruction, e.g., lecturing
- student passivity: sitting, listening, receiving and absorbing information
- prizing and rewarding silence in the classroom
- classroom time devoted to fill-in-the-blank worksheets, dittos, workbooks, and other "seatwork"
- student time spend reading textbooks and basal readers
- attempt by teachers to thinly "cover" large amounts of material in every subject area
- rote memorization of facts and details
- stress on competition and grades in school
- tracking or leveling students into "ability groups"
- use of pull-out special programs
- use of and reliance on standardized tests
- experiential, inductive, hands-on learning
- active learning in the classroom, with all the attendant noise and movement of students doing, talking and collaborating
- emphasis on higher-order thinking: learning a field's key concepts and principles
- deep study of fewer topics, so that students internalize the fields way of inquiry
- time devoted to reading whole, original, real books and nonfiction materials
- responsibility transferred to students for their work: goal setting, record keeping, monitoring, evaluation
- choice for students; picking their own books, writing topics, team partners, research projects
- enacting and modeling of the principles of democracy in school
- attention to varying cognitive and effective styles of individual students
- cooperative, collaborative activity; developing the classroom as an interdependent community
- heterogeneously grouped classrooms where individual needs are met through individualized activities, not segregation of bodies
- delivery of special help to students in regular classrooms
- varied and cooperative roles for teachers, parents and administrators
- reliance upon teachers' descriptive evaluation of student growth, including qualitative/anecdotal observations
You can find a summary and study guide for the book here.
I hope to use this book to fine-tune my classroom's use of projects and performances collected in portfolios.