Posted December 5, 2011

Literacy program takes a lesson from medical education

Kevin Cook
Roxborough High School Teacher Danielle Wach participates in a group activity with several Temple students in First Year Writing.

Fans of television hospital dramas are well acquainted with doctors' rounds, wherein medical residents shadow attending physicians to present and discuss their patients’ conditions and treatment.

A new Temple collaboration borrows that approach from medical education by bringing together high school and university-level teachers to observe classroom lessons, compare notes and diagnose challenges in an effort to promote literacy and writing instruction.

Last week, teachers from Roxborough High School attended Temple classes such as “First-Year Writing” and “MOSAIC,” a visit that followed a trip by Temple instructors to observe classes at Roxborough.

Through these instructional rounds, both groups are learning firsthand what happens in each other's classrooms so that they can develop a shared understanding of what good writing instruction looks like and how they can each maximize opportunities for their students' success.

The benefits that emerge from the process and discussions flow in both directions.

"As instructors, we can learn how to better scaffold our writing assignments to reach back, bridge gaps and put supports in place so that students can succeed at college-level work," said Pamela Barnett, associate vice provost and director of Temple's Teaching and Learning Center.

The visits are part of a national, five-year Citi Postsecondary Success Program that focuses on building partnerships and systems to  enhance college access and success rates for first-generation college goers and students from low-income families. The program is taking place in three cities — Miami, San Francisco and Philadelphia, which is now in its third year.

  • Roxborough High School teacher Dana Jenkins
  • Eli Goldblatt, director of First-Year Writing

What makes Philly’s program unique is the introduction of instructional rounds and that it is the only program in which the rounds include both college and high school teachers. In Philadelphia, the program is being led and implemented by the Philadelphia Education Fund and funded by the Citi Foundation and insurance firm ACE Group.

"The misalignment of high school and college writing curriculum is a national problem," said Eli Goldblatt, professor of English and director of First-Year Writing at Temple. “Greater curricular alignment needs to happen teacher to teacher,” he said.

And that is exactly what the folks at Temple and Roxborough are doing.

"Ultimately, this is about putting a model in place here that can be replicated at schools across the city — and the country," said Rick Moses, director of the Philadelphia post-secondary success program at the Philadelphia Education Fund.