As we begin the new school year many educators are wondering, is there research we can lean on for the unique situation we find ourselves in? And when we look to research to inform our practice, context is crucial. Both context and research are what Not This, But That series editors Colleen Cruz and Nell Duke have been thinking a lot about.
Originally edited by Ellin Keene and Nell Duke, the Not This, But That series seeks to bridge the gap between research and practice. In 2019, Colleen Cruz joined Nell Duke as the co-series editor. In this conversation, Colleen and Nell discuss what research can tell us for this moment of online learning, and what it can’t tell us.
Colleen started out by asking Nell to reflect back on how the Not This, But That series began…
Below is a transcript of this episode:
Nell: I'm Nell Duke from the University of Michigan.
Colleen: And I'm Colleen Cruz from Teachers College Reading and Writing Project.
Nell: And we're co-editors of the book series, Not This, But That.
Colleen: And we're super excited to be talking to each other a bit about the series and the new directions we are going with it and the state of research and practice in this world that we live in right now. So shall we get started?
Nell: Sounds good.
Colleen: So Nell, you have been with the series since the beginning, and I'm curious. I know a little bit but I don't think I know all of how the series came to be and I would love to hear a little bit of that story.
Nell: So it really came out of a relationship that Ellin Keene and I had, and as many podcasts listeners will know, Ellin Keen is a very respected professional developer, practitioner, definitely has her feet in the worlds of schools and classrooms every day. And I am a researcher, I do spend some time in schools and classrooms and have taught, but much of my day is spent reading research articles and generating research and research reviews.
So we come from overlapping but distinct worlds and both bring with us a real desire to improve the quality of education in the US and beyond. So we had formed a relationship and we decided that it would make sense to try to bring researchers and professional developers together. Actually a few years we did these conferences that brought some prominent researchers and some prominent professional developers together to share expertise in a two-way street kind of format.
And one of those, we had a session that was about practices that researchers and professional developers agree are intractable. They're just out there in the field and they're frustrating to us when we see them, but we don't seem to be able to be successful in uprooting them at a large scale. And that session led to conversations with Heinemann about doing a book series that focuses on these practices that are widespread in US schools, but that both researchers and practitioners, professional developers agree probably shouldn't be widespread in US schools. And that's how Not This But That was born.
Colleen: Wow, I like that. And it's an interesting angle the Not This, But That. How did you end up with that angle?
Nell: Well, we were actually influenced by the diet craze Eat This, Not That. I don't know if you remember hearing about that?
Nell: But the basic idea was you take something like french fries and instead eat kale chips. And although I honestly don't really seem to be successful in my dieting life, in my life as a researcher, I thought that this was a good way to frame it. I think it's really helpful to tell people kinds of practices that research doesn't support, but it's also really helpful to suggest what they could do instead of those practices. Right?
I feel like practitioners are thoughtful decision makers. When they're doing something in the classroom, they have a reason for doing it as a general rule. So we need to tap into what is the reason they're doing it and what would be something that could address that same need, but do it more effectively. So that's how the Not This, But That came to be.
Colleen: I've been thinking a lot about... I don't know, I think a lot of people are thinking about this, of context and things that are going on, and I feel like I've been revisiting things that have changed considering the recent context of, we keep saying this unprecedented times, but they are truly unprecedented times. So between COVID and the political landscape and the Black Lives Matters movement gaining traction, it feels like we're all viewing things in new lenses.
And I'm thinking about the books in the series that were published before I came along. I would love to kind of pick your brain. Like, what do you think are the books that people might want to revisit, or maybe even pick up that were published in the past that might, considering our context, have a fresh angle?
Nell: And it's a great question. I mean, of course I want people to revisit all of our books, but I think certainly one that feels very relevant in this time is, No More Telling as Teaching, the sub-title of that one is, Less Lecture, More Engaged Learning. And I do worry that some people are reacting to this time by thinking that we can just record lectures and have students watch the lecture and answer questions at the end, you know?
Just kind of ways of teaching that maybe feel easy to do in a virtual or remote environment, but that we know don't really foster learning very well. And so that book is full of alternatives to lecture heavy approach to teaching and I think many of those alternatives are applicable even today. So for example, there's a lot in there about just peer-to-peer interaction and the value that peers can have for one another's learning. And so trying to set up a remote teaching context so that there's opportunity for a lot of interaction among students feels really important to me.
Colleen: Yeah, that sounds like a perfect text for people to be looking at right now.
Nell: Another text I think has special relevance right now is the book No More Mindless Homework, because in some ways everything is homework now for a lot of school districts around the country in the sense that kids are home, students are home trying to do a lot of their work without the immediate support of the teacher. And the book, No More Mindless Homework just goes into a lot of the kinds of activities that kids can be engaged in at home that we have reason to think from research will be productive for them.
So for example, there's a lot about just getting kids reading at home, because that's certainly something that we can all agree is a valuable use of their time. So I feel like that book, No More Mindless Homework has special relevance. And the third one I wanted to offer, really connecting in with the nation's growing recognition of how much anti-black racism affects schooling practices, is the book No More Culturally Irrelevant Teaching.
Colleen: Oh yeah.
Nell: That book I think is really special in the sense that it gets very practical. I think lots of people realize that we need to engage in culturally relevant and culturally sustaining teaching, but it's hard to get sort of past the theoretical or the broad strokes to like, what does that mean on Monday morning? How does that look different? And I think hard though, that is for people it's particularly hard for educators who work with the youngest students.
I think it's harder for them to picture sometimes like, what does it mean for me to be culturally relevant in a kindergarten classroom or a first grade classroom in my teaching. The author team springs a lot of expertise in the early elementary grades. And so I feel like there's a lot in the book that can really bring to life what culturally relevant practice can look like in the early grades of schooling. So those are three that really resonate for me. But I'm wondering, are there any forthcoming titles that you want to talk about in relation to the moment that we're in?
Colleen: Before I talk about the forthcoming books, I do want to just stop and point to a book that just came out, No More Teaching Without Positive Relationships by Howard, Milner-McCall and Howard. It's an incredible book that I feel like every educator needs to get their hands on. And that's because I think it takes that idea of positive relationships, which I don't know about you, but I always felt was sort of like soft kind of science and it shows us how there's actual data.
There's actual research to prove that positive relationships between educators and students make a huge difference, not just in social, emotional health, which is important, but also in academic growth. And it does this in a marriage with really practical steps of not just the research, but what teachers can do on Tuesday. And this notion that the relationship between teacher and student isn't just like an added bonus, but it is a thing.
And one of the other things that I love about this book is its focus on anti-racism and actual practical classroom practices that teachers can put into place to create classrooms that welcome and celebrate kids and where they come from and who they are and their identities and build healthy, lasting relationships with their teachers. So it's a great book and I wanted to mention that before I get into the forthcoming titles.
Two of our very upcoming titles, I don't think we have working titles yet for them. One is about using tech tools in the classroom in meaningful ways. And I think at the time we were just thinking about how do teachers make decisions around that and how does it feel mindful and purposeful. And now looking at the book, it feels even more urgent than it did at the time.
When we were starting to see one-to-one devices in classrooms around the country, not on a widespread basis, and now it's definitely on a widespread basis. And so how do teachers really use these tools in thoughtful ways and teach into them? And so that's one title.
And then the other one that comes to mind is the title that is coming up on trauma and being a trauma responsive teacher. And I know that the authors of that have had lots of experience with working with students both as researchers and practitioners, and they're quite a team. And it's interesting knowing their histories, how they're bringing that expertise of other events in history to this particular context that we're living in and speaking with at least one of the authors about, we don't yet know all of the ripple effects of our current context and how that will be affecting our students. I think a lot of teachers know that we are going to teach differently. We are teaching differently, but how do we do it in a trauma responsive way? So I guess those two books will get you through Wednesday and Thursday.
Nell: I love it. I love it. And also a shout out for the forthcoming, No More Random Acts of Coaching.
Colleen: Oh yeah.
Nell: Part of why I feel like that connects to the moment is that being situated at a university, I'm keenly aware that we have a whole generation of teachers from last year who didn't get to complete their student teaching or their internship in a way that would normally have happened. We can certainly agree that the cohort coming through this year and next year as well, things are going to be really different.
I know they'll develop really valuable skills, but it will be a different set of skills to some degree than what they're likely to use in years forward. So I feel like coaching is going to be more important than ever for our newer teachers, making sure that they're getting continued guidance from coaches that is aligned to research, is provided in a way that is connected to research, and that really builds the relationship among teachers and coaches that we know is productive.
Colleen: Absolutely. I was just thinking about that. I have been doing a lot of work with teachers in the past couple of weeks, getting ready for this school year. I've been working in my position with supporting teachers for a long time and I have never seen teachers more often request support. Because this is uncharted territory and trying to figure these things out. It can't be random. It really does have to be planful, especially in a world that feels so random right now. I do think having something like that text to lean on will make a huge difference and build things, for sure.
Nell: One thing that's really encouraging to me from research is that there's some evidence that remote coaching where you don't physically have the coach in the same room, so to speak, with the teacher, but they're watching via video, that that actually is and can be as effective. That research was done pre-COVID, but I think it's quite relevant here and I feel like that's encouraging that coaching can go on despite all that's happening right now.
Colleen: Yeah. It's wild that how some of these studies that felt so strange at the time now almost feel clairvoyant of some sort.
Nell: Yeah. So I didn't ask you what drew you to this series. You are very, very, very, very busy. You have so much on your plate. What made you want to devote your valuable time to this series?
Colleen: I think people who know me know that I'm a bit of a research groupee. I read every thing that's not nailed down. It's even a running joke amongst my friends of like, "Are you going to footnote that? Who's the citation?" And I do do that. It's the way I live my life. I don't buy soap without doing some reading into the studies around it. So why would I teach without it?
I feel like when it came up that this was something that I could be involved in. I was a fan of the series, like a lot of people. It was the first thing I had seen of its kind, which is what was intriguing to me because usually research lives on one side of the desk and practical books live on the other, and never the twain shall meet.
A lot of educators, quite frankly, don't have the time where with all our access to sifting through the piles and piles of research to find out what's going to match their particular needs. I think most researchers don't have the time, energy or access to practitioners to necessarily think about how to funnel that information that they've discovered through practitioners.
So I loved that it was this marriage of these two seemingly opposite sides. They live in parallel universes a lot of the time, and yet they absolutely have an effect on each other, but don't talk so much. So I do love that. I love that about the series of bringing that stuff together.
So I think it's really important and I feel like teachers love research. They want to know, I think, it's probably one of the most common questions I get asked in my work with teachers is, "Well, what does research say about that?"
I think that this series gives teachers that opportunity to look for the topic that is in their craw right now, and then find the research to back it up, which I think is a really attractive thing.
Nell: Well, I'm certainly glad you decided the series was worth your time and energy. I've really enjoyed working with you so much, Colleen, and learned a lot from you as well.
I do think that you're really hitting on just a major issue that continues to plague our field, where researchers and practitioners are not necessarily in conversation in the ways that we wish would be the case and that these books, because we do require that we have someone writing in the role of researcher and someone writing in the role of practitioner for every book, are one way of putting these two into conversation more directly.
I think it shows because the books both invoke research and hopefully shift mindsets and thinking on the part of readers about what research says on particular issues. But at the same time, again, are really practical.
I think one of my frustrations with researchers is that they can get really narrowly focused on the one thing they study and just lose the question of how does that fit into a day.
So if we develop and then study an intervention where we spend an hour a day on vocabulary, kids' vocabulary goes up. But how are we supposed to fit an hour or a day of attention to vocabulary with everything else that needs to happen?
So I think one of the things that really is good for researchers in terms of thinking more about practice is to try to contextualize their finding and their one narrow area of interest into the realities of a school day and a school year. I really appreciate that you ask some really good questions that push my thinking around how to do that.
Colleen: Yeah, and I do think, your point about, I think that's the moment we're in now, right? With schools reopening, we know masks are helpful, but then classroom teachers are like, "But how do I keep them on first graders?"
There's so much going on right now. Then of course, the research is all still very new, but I feel like that is the constant push pull of research and practice.
I do think also the accessibility is a big point. I know on social media, frequently, teachers are asking, "Can anyone give me your JSTOR login?" Because if you're not in the research loop, it's not easy to get a hold of the most recent studies. You can sometimes get watered down journalism interpreted studies, but it's very difficult to actually find the original studies. I think that that's a beautiful thing about this series as well, is it does give that access.
Nell: Yeah. You've pointed to another real barrier between research and practice and that's accessibility of the research itself. You've referred to the physical accessibility, which I think is a big issue, but also just the way that research has written. If we're reading a study that compares this structural equation model to that structural equation model, unless someone has actually studied structural equation modeling, it's going to be really hard to read that study and pull from it.
So I do think that this translational work between and among both research and practices is really an important piece of the puzzle.
I'll just say that something I appreciate about you, Colleen, and that I think is really important for podcast listeners to think about as well, is that the stance toward research is not, "Oh, let me go find or cherry pick the one study that supports what I already thought."
There's a lot of that. I think there's so much of that in the field. I see social media being used very heavily for this purpose, where if I tweet out a study that people like what it found, it gets tweeted out more than the study that maybe found something that is unexpected and maybe makes us have to think a little differently about our practice.
I think we've tried very hard in the series and I think you and I try very hard to keep our minds open to the direction that the research points, even if that's not necessarily where we wish it pointed or where we thought it pointed or where we used to think it pointed.
I think that's just really important and something that I hope that a lens that everybody can bring to our field is keeping that open-mindedness and seeing what actual empirical research tells us.
Colleen: Yeah. I think that confirmation bias is real. I think that people really do search out what will make them feel better or look good. Then that's their search terms. Nobody wants to hear the thing that they loved is actually really terrible.
Especially as a teacher, I hate finding out that something that I did for years and years turned out was a really poor practice. Sometimes not necessarily harmful, just not great, and sometimes actually kind of harmful. I think that that is a difficult path. So it's tempting to just find things that will confirm what will make you sleep better at night.
I think what I love about the series is it pushes against that. It names out the habits that we have. I feel like sometimes as teachers, we just say, "That's the thing we've always done." We've always had kids learn how to spell words by writing them 10,000 times. Even if there's not really any proof that that's going to be helpful for them, we're going to continue to do that.
I think that that's what I love about this series is it challenges some of our traditions and some of them are actually right on and some of them are not. So I think that's a really nice thing to think about.
Nell: There are a couple of books that stand out in my mind as ones where we were pushing against something that was really popular. One is definitely No More Reading for Junk.
Colleen: Oh, yes.
Nell: Yeah, that book, which really takes on the practice of incentivizing children's reading through external rewards that are unrelated to reading, like giving kids stickers or Nerf balls, or things like that for reading. We have reason from both research and theory to think that that's not good, actually, for kids' long-term reading motivation development, so the book takes that on and then goes into some things that we have reason to think, from research and practice, do actually build long-term motivation to read.
Another one that comes to mind is No More Letter a Week, because in pre-K and K, that's just a really popular way to teach the alphabet. The first week of school is A and the second week of school is B. It seems really organized and systematic. In fact, I think sometimes when people call for systematic alphabet instruction, that's where people's minds go, "Okay, I'm going to be systematic. First a week on A and then a week on B." So, the book explains why that's definitely not the way to teach the alphabet and goes into some research-supported approaches to teaching the alphabet and what makes more sense from a scope and sequence point of view. But again, that was kind of a hard book to put out there in a way because there are so many people who didn't want to let go of that letter-a-week approach.
Colleen: I felt that way about No More Math Fact Frenzy. I mean, I write about it in the afterword of the book of a teacher that I was listening in on. He was saying, "I'm pretty sure that doing these sprints and drills is not good, but I don't know what else to do." Literally, he just said it out loud in a curriculum conference. I think that so many teachers have a sense that it's not great, but it's that backyard tree being home. It's just, "We've always done it." And I think that that book and what it talks about, and "How do we actually get math fluency?" is shocking to a lot of people. Truly shocking. And yet, when I tell people about it, they're like, "Please, let me get my hands on it right away," because it is quite different than what many of us even grew up with.
Nell: That's such a good point, Colleen, that sometimes we have a sense of uneasiness around a practice, but if we don't know what to do instead, then it's easy to just keep doing that practice. Another book I'm excited about that you were involved in, Colleen, is the No More Science Kits or Texts in Isolation.
Colleen: Yep. I mean, I think it's funny, when that book came out, I was doing a lot of work with teachers at the time about science. I do think it's actually a very meta book, in the sense that it's research and practice coming together but talking about these two parallel tracks in the classroom, literacy and science, as if they don't go together. I think that book shows us that it's more than just maybe doing one Ms. Frizzle read-aloud and calling it a day for science literacy; that, in fact, science literacy isn't a separate, nice enrichment, but it is the thing.
I feel like, again, crystal ball, but aren't we seeing this over and over again? People are not literate in science. They don't know how to read any science. I think in part it's because of the way we teach it. We teach the literacy separately from hands-on science facts, and I think that book tackles that head-on and talks about, "How do we bring those literacy skills into the science realm?" and vice versa. I think that it could really have a transformative effect.
Also, quite frankly, our schools aren't teaching science as much as possibly they need to. So also just that, of seeing how, practically speaking, we could bring science back to the forefront to our classrooms, which I love about that.
Colleen: One of the things that I find that teachers, administrators, and educators in a whole variety of roles ask me a lot is, "What does research tell us about now?", especially in this environment where we've got online, fully remote learning versus a hybrid, blended situation where kids are going in a couple times a week or every other week, or half days, or schools that are doing five days a week but socially distanced, or... I was just talking to a teacher the other day from Alaska where half of her kids don't have phones or Wi-Fi, and so how does she do remote learning without those things? They're all asking the same question: "What does the research say?"
One of the things that I've been saying is be cautious of people who say research says, "Dah, dah, dah," in this situation, because the research studies on things like online learning were not in this context. They were usually not with these populations. They were not usually these age groups or this widespread. Secondly, I'm not sure that there even has been time to do this kind of research, or in any kind of way that would be useful for people. This is temporary, of course, but is there a way to make decisions for a profession that is supposed to be research- based without research? It feels a little bit like trying to build a house on sand. There's nothing sturdy underneath us.
I think, yeah, are there ways... Is there research we can lean on? We're just launching our own... We're in the [inaudible 00:28:10]. We are just a big experimental thing, like Fauci says. I don't know. But I would love to know what your thoughts are about, how can research serve us, or does research serve us at this time?
Nell: Well, I think that's such a great question. I completely agree with your caution to practitioners that if people are telling you things like, "Here's what the research tells us," they're probably making it up, because we don't have research on a lot of these questions like, "What is the most effective way to run instruction when kids are six feet apart wearing masks?" There are not studies on that to my knowledge... in the US, at least. So, I'm glad that you're cautioning folks to be a little bit skeptical of claims based on research right at the moment.
The way I've been approaching it is to try to think about, what are some of the things that we know from research that we could draw on and modify for an online environment? So for example, we know from research that interactive writing has the potential to improve children's achievement of many different early literacy skills. It improves achievement in letter recognition. It improves achievement in writing itself. It improves children's chronological awareness. So, if we know that interactive writing is an effective tool, the question is, how could we do it remotely?
I recorded a pair of videos. We could share the link with the podcast, potentially. In one of the videos, I model with a small group of kindergarten and first graders how I do interactive writing over Zoom using just a simple free Google tool, Google Jamboard. That's the kind of approach I've taken is, "Okay, well, let's go back to what we know, and then let's think about, how could we draw on it in an online environment?"
Another example, we know that it really helps kids to read. At least after the first couple of years of schooling, that can be one of the most powerful things that children do at home to foster their long-term literacy development. So, what do we know about how to get kids reading that we could apply in this context where they're home a lot and that might really be good for kids?
Another example is that we know that explicit phonics instruction is really helpful to kids in the early grades. So, what kinds of tools are available that could enable us to provide high-quality, explicit phonics instruction in an online environment? Obviously, I'm just giving literacy examples because that's my area, but I think you could use this same approach in other areas. So, what do we know about effective math instruction, and then which parts of that could we replicate remotely? And I would make the same... You use the same kind of logic in a classroom environment.
So, if we know that shared reading is a helpful opportunity for children, then how can we do that six feet apart? That's kind of the way I would approach it, is just use what we do know, and then see what kinds of modifications make sense in this environment.
Colleen: Immediately, I was thinking about Math Fact Frenzy, and I was thinking about... One of the things that they were saying is no doing these speed drills. It's not a good choice. But there are certain computer programs that are really great. That would be an example, in moderate doses. Not spending six hours a day on it, but that would be an example. But then, they also talk about things like kids storytelling their math and doing Number Talks. I could imagine, in a Zoom classroom or a Flipgrid situation, that those would be really adaptable. Even if the modality of communication has changed, the action is the same. Would that be a good math interpretation of that?
Nell: Totally, absolutely. The Number Talks that you just brought up is such a good example because it also speaks to so much research that finds that collaboration among children is associated with greater growth in academic achievement. And in fact, even randomized studies where kids are randomly assigned to approaches that emphasize more collaboration, we tend to see higher academic growth. And so, when you point to Number Talks, that's a twofer. It both is a really good way of developing number sense and mathematical understanding, and it's also an opportunity to have children collaborating, building on one another's discourse. So, I think that's a great example.
Colleen: These are tough times that we're in, and I do know that there's research around resilience. And I do think families and teachers and educate... I mean, my own kids have school, the community is talking a lot about... Kids are resilient, but I think a lot of us are afraid that maybe that's not true, or what does that look like in these times? Are there studies or things that you can point to, and research that could have that applicable action that you're pointing to, in terms of academics, when it comes to resiliency?
Nell: Two things really spring to mind. The first you've already talked about, Colleen, which is really the power of relationships. So, in the research on resilience, one of the things that you find that really fosters resilience in students, is the relationships that they have, in and outside of the classroom. So, we can endure hardship better when we have a supportive, consistent presence in our lives, of someone to be with us through those difficult times.
And of course, we hope that our students have lots of such people in their lives, whether it's an aunt or an uncle or a cousin or mom or dad or a sibling, and various individuals who are in their school sphere. But I think that for many kids, that consistent and supportive presence in the school environment, is so crucial. And so, I think that rather than thinking of resilience as something that we hope people have, we can think of resilience as something that we have the power to build in children and youth, through the relationships that we have with them.
So, that brings us full circle to, then, No More Teaching Without Positive Relationships. But I think the second thing I'd say about resilience is that, it's a concept that allows us to take more of an asset orientation. And although that's always been important, it seems like it's very very important right now. So, we don't bemoan all the things kids didn't learn while they were home and while they are home, we think about what they did learn. My collaborator, Ernest Morrell, professor at University Of Notre Dame, has shared a beautiful anecdote about a family that lives near him, where the siblings in the family built a motorcycle over the course of a... or repaired or something. Did major work on a motorcycle. And yeah, so, maybe they didn't get the normal test prep or whatever they would have been getting in school, last spring, but they built a motorcycle. So, how do we build on that? How do we use that as an asset or a bridge to the standards that we're trying to address in school?
And Ernest keeps reminding us, "The kids did nothing wrong here. We don't need to come at them with, 'Oh, all the things you missed and all the things you weren't doing, and how far behind you're getting,' we need to come at them with, 'Look all that you have been doing, look at what you're experiencing, this event, this, hopefully, once in a lifetime event and you are enduring, and you are here with me," and really taking that, "You've learned things and you're going to learn things, and we value you, and you're important to us, and to our work, and to the future of our country." I mean, those are the kinds of messages and asset orientations that we want to bring to the active education right now.
Colleen: And I think that point that you're making is very different in the world that I live in right now, both online, and in social media and that kind of thing. I think one of the things people are bringing up a lot is grit versus asset orientation. And like the sometimes, more often, racist connotations around grit. Like if you just pull yourself up by your bootstraps, is a little bit, or a lot different than an asset orientation, and resiliency, and valuing students, their funds of knowledge and the families they come from, and some of the most beautiful things that might be happening away from school, that have real value, that can actually help build that resiliency. And I think that that's a really great point that you're making, I love that.
Nell: And it really connects, I think, the pandemic, and COVID-19, with the murder of George Floyd and the increasing recognition of how anti-black racism permeates every aspect of schooling. Because, part of how anti-black racism manifests is in people's failure, to see the assets and the gifts and the genius that is present in every child. And that is, present in children who are black, children who are indigenous, children who are people of color. So, I think that, in a way, this thread connects a lot of what we've been talking about, which is really, see our children, every child as a precious gift with infinite potential, and do all we can to hone our teaching so that we enable them to be the best that they can be.
Colleen: Yeah. Now, I think that, it is, it, absolutely, is connected. And the beauty... The focus on the beauty and the focus on the joy, and then the focus on truly seen children that, I don't know, the habit that I think many educators... Certainly, when I started education, it was something that was in my ed program, of the idea of being colorblind was somehow superior, and growing up... I grew up in a Latinx home. So we always talked about race. And then as soon as I went to grad school, It was probably the first time I was in a predominantly white space. I would talk about people by race, and people would say like, "That's rude. You shouldn't mention people's race." And it was sort of pounded in, which is like, "I don't know. I always... Why wouldn't you... They have Brown hair, they have... this is their race, that they're black, whatever they are, and I feel like I would...
But the people who were the most sensitive to it were white people if I described somebody as white. And I think to see that shift for educators happening... In my career as an educator, I'm noticing that shift. And I think that the focus on beauty and not just the... Not seeing, and then not valuing... And I don't think anybody... Well, I'm not going to say anybody, but I think, for a lot of people, it was an attempt to do right, to not see. And the seeing kids of who they really are, and seeing their beauty, if there's anything positive that comes out of it, I think it's the seeing that a lot of people are doing now, of our students and ourselves really.
Nell: Right. I totally agree. I think white people have a lot of work to do. Lot of studying, a lot of thinking, a lot of listening, a lot of learning. And I think, as teachers, we have a particular responsibility to make sure that that learning results in concrete changes in practice, that lift up the cultural experiences, and again, the assets of the children of color that we teach.
Colleen: Absolutely. Yeah. So much to do, with so many more books for us to get going on. So much more research, they're for you to do now.
Nell K. Duke, Ed.D., is a professor in literacy, language, and culture and also in the combined program in education and psychology at the University of Michigan. Duke received her Bachelor’s degree from Swarthmore College and her Masters and Doctoral degrees from Harvard University. Duke’s work focuses on early literacy development, particularly among children living in economic poverty. Her specific areas of expertise include the development of informational reading and writing in young children, comprehension development and instruction in early schooling, and issues of equity in literacy education. She has served as Co-Principal Investigator of projects funded by the Institute of Education Sciences, the National Science Foundation, the Spencer Foundation, and the George Lucas Educational Foundation, among other organizations.
Duke is author and co-author of numerous journal articles and book chapters. Her most recent book is Inside Information: Developing Powerful Readers and Writers of Informational Text through Project-based Instruction. She is co-author of the books Reading and Writing Informational Text in the Primary Grades: Research-Based Practices; Literacy and the Youngest Learner: Best Practices for Educators of Children from Birth to Five; Beyond Bedtime Stories: A Parent’s Guide to Promoting Reading, Writing, and Other Literacy Skills From Birth to 5, now in its second edition; and Reading and Writing Genre with Purpose in K–8 Classrooms. She is co-editor of the Handbook of Effective Literacy Instruction: Research-based Practice K to 8 and Literacy Research Methodologies. She is also editor of The Research-Informed Classroom book series and co-editor of the Not This, But That book series.