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The Knowledge Matters Podcast

Author: Knowledge Matters Campaign

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The "Knowledge Matters Podcast", produced by the Knowledge Matters Campaign, is a thought-provoking and engaging exploration of the vital role of knowledge-building in education. Each season delves into the pressing issues, innovative ideas, and transformative solutions shaping the future of education, and is a must-listen for educators, administrators, parents, and anyone with an interest in the evolving landscape of learning.

7 Episodes
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Coming soon: "Reading Comprehension Revisited," the inaugural series from the Knowledge Matters Podcast.  Hosted by Natalie Wexler, education journalist and author of “The Knowledge Gap”, this series explores one of the most pressing dilemmas in education today: the hidden cause of America’s reading crisis.In this powerful and compelling series, Natalie tackles crucial questions such as, why do students from low-income backgrounds typically score lower on reading tests? Why do improvements in the early grades fade out as students advance to higher levels? And most significantly, why haven't substantial investments in education reform delivered expected results?The answer lies in a longstanding misunderstanding about reading comprehension itself, and how students learn to make meaning from texts. Over six episodes, you’ll learn what research tells us about how children really learn to read, and you’ll hear from educators from around the country as they share their experiences of embedding knowledge-building into their literacy instruction, and the powerful effects this change had on their students.Season 1 is coming soon, so subscribe to the Knowledge Matters Podcast, and be a part of this important conversation.This podcast is produced by the Knowledge Matters Campaign. You can learn more about our work at www.knowledgematterscampaign.org and follow us on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Search the knowledgematters hashtag and join this important conversation. If you'd like to get in touch with Natalie, you can contact her through her website, www.nataliewexler.com. Production by Sarah Gilmore and Aidan Shea. Original music and sound engineering by Aidan Shea. Narration recorded at Bamboo Recording Studios.
In the second episode of "The Knowledge Matters Podcast: Reading Comprehension Revisited", host Natalie Wexler dives into persistent misconceptions about reading comprehension that have pervaded the education system for decades. Unpacking the fact that teachers have often believed they were teaching comprehension when, in fact, they weren’t, Natalie explores the overlooked importance of knowledge in reading comprehension and its profound and under-recognized impact on student literacy. This is particularly significant for students from historically disadvantaged groups.Featuring prominent reading researcher, Dr. Hugh Catts – a professor of communication science and disorders at Florida State University – this episode explains that reading comprehension is not a set of discrete skills that can be applied to any text. Instead, Natalie and Hugh explain that comprehension is deeply intertwined with the reader's prior knowledge about the topic and the world in general, along with the vocabulary that grows alongside that knowledge. This means that teaching reading comprehension as a set of abstract skills, often at the expense of subjects like history and science, can lead to students struggling to understand texts at higher grade levels. And while standardized reading comprehension tests purport to measure comprehension skills, they often end up assessing whether students have the knowledge and vocabulary to understand the test passages.It’s crucial to teach kids to decode, and the attention being focused on that issue is hugely important. But unless we also start building knowledge and vocabulary in the early grades, many students will hit a wall at higher grade levels, when texts become more complex.For more information about the information in this episode, including links to studies and pictures of the infographics mentioned, visit the episode webpage on the Knowledge Matters Podcast website.This podcast is produced by the Knowledge Matters Campaign. You can learn more about our work at www.knowledgematterscampaign.org and follow us on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Search the knowledgematters hashtag and join this important conversation. If you'd like to get in touch with Natalie, you can contact her through her website, www.nataliewexler.com. Production by Sarah Gilmore and Aidan Shea. Original music and sound engineering by Aidan Shea. Narration recorded at Bamboo Recording Studios.
Welcome to the inaugural episode of the six-part Knowledge Matters Podcast series, "Reading Comprehension Revisited," where education writer and host, Natalie Wexler, tackles one of the most pressing issues in education: the reading crisis. Natalie poses essential questions: Why do students from low-income backgrounds typically score lower on reading tests? Why do improvements in the early grades fade out as students advance to higher levels? And most significantly, why haven't substantial investments in education reform delivered expected results? The answer lies in a longstanding but misguided emphasis on teaching reading comprehension skills in isolation rather than building students’ knowledge of the world. In this first episode Natalie introduces the roots of America’s hidden reading crisis, and the urgent need to revisit our approach to teaching reading comprehension.For more information about the information in this episode, including links to studies and pictures of the infographics mentioned, visit the episode webpage on the Knowledge Matters Podcast website.This podcast is produced by the Knowledge Matters Campaign. You can learn more about our work at www.knowledgematterscampaign.org and follow us on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Search the knowledgematters hashtag and join this important conversation. If you'd like to get in touch with Natalie, you can contact her through her website, www.nataliewexler.com. Production by Sarah Gilmore and Aidan Shea. Original music and sound engineering by Aidan Shea. Narration recorded at Bamboo Recording Studios.
In Episode 3 of "The Knowledge Matters Podcast: Reading Comprehension Revisited" you’ll hear from three teachers who’ve experienced the before and after of the shift to using a knowledge-building curriculum in their classrooms.Abby Boruff, Deloris Fowler, and Kyair Butts are three classroom teachers who are, in some ways, very different. They teach different ages, and different subjects, in different parts of the country, but in other ways they have a lot in common. All three were skeptical when their schools switched to new knowledge-building literacy curricula. Curricula like these give all children in the classroom access to the same complex, grade-level texts, building their knowledge and vocabulary through read-alouds and discussion, instead of limiting them to books they can decode themselves.At first Abby, Deloris, and Kyair worried that the curriculum would be too challenging, too restrictive of their autonomy, or that the topics wouldn’t interest their students. And, the biggest challenge of all, as Deloris explains, was not understanding “the why” of the changes they were making. But once they saw the dramatic benefits for their students, that “why” became clear and all three came to embrace a new approach to teaching literacy.For more information about the information in this episode, visit the episode webpage on the Knowledge Matters Podcast website.This podcast is produced by the Knowledge Matters Campaign. You can learn more about our work at www.knowledgematterscampaign.org and follow us on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Search the knowledgematters hashtag and join this important conversation. If you'd like to get in touch with Natalie, you can contact her through her website, www.nataliewexler.com. Production by Sarah Gilmore and Aidan Shea. Original music and sound engineering by Aidan Shea. Narration recorded at Bamboo Recording Studios.
In the last episode of "The Knowledge Matters Podcast: Reading Comprehension Revisited", you heard from three teachers – Abby, Deloris, and Kyair – who talked about their experiences using some of the knowledge-building literacy curricula that have recently been developed. In Episode 4, you’ll hear from them again, and you’ll meet Cassidy Burns, a 3rd grade teacher from Louisiana. They describe how these newer curricula incorporate writing instruction, and how that differs from the standard approach.In the standard approach to literacy, writing is often kept separate from reading, just as both of those things are kept separate from building students' knowledge of the world. When it's time for writing, students generally drop whatever they've been learning about, and try to respond to a disconnected writing prompt about, for example, a personal experience, or a topic in a separate writing curriculum with its own content. But the evidence indicates that students learn best when reading and writing are connected to each other. And both should be connected to a curriculum that is rich in content.Writing instruction can be a game changer at all grade levels. It can help  identify the misunderstandings or gaps in background knowledge that are preventing students from doing grade level work and also make it easier for students to learn and retain new information. As Abby, Deloris, Kyair, and Cassidy will tell you, it is not only possible to teach writing this way, it’s preferable – for students and for teachers.  In this episode you’ll hear how knowledge-building has changed their approach to teaching writing, and the difference it made in their classrooms.For more information about the information in this episode, visit the episode webpage on the Knowledge Matters Podcast website.This podcast is produced by the Knowledge Matters Campaign. You can learn more about our work at www.knowledgematterscampaign.org and follow us on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Search the knowledgematters hashtag and join this important conversation. If you'd like to get in touch with Natalie, you can contact her through her website, www.nataliewexler.com. Production by Sarah Gilmore and Aidan Shea. Original music and sound engineering by Aidan Shea. Narration recorded at Bamboo Recording Studios.
So far in "The Knowledge Matters Podcast: Reading Comprehension Revisited", we've heard from classroom teachers about their experiences making the shift from the standard approach to reading comprehension – which focuses on having kids practice supposedly general skills like “finding the main idea” – to a newer approach. That new approach involves building children's knowledge of the world so they can better understand what they're reading. In this episode, we'll look at the experience of shifting to the new approach from the perspective of a school or district leader.Educators who have been through that shift say that strong leadership is crucial. Teachers can do a lot to build students’ knowledge within their own classrooms, but they can't control what's happening in the classroom next door. And to become fully literate, many students need a curriculum that builds knowledge in a logical, coherent way across grade levels. Only a leader can put that kind of system in place.In this episode you’ll meet two leaders who’ve done exactly that: Brent Conway – Assistant Superintendent in Pentucket, MA, and Dr. LaTonya Goffney –  Superintendent of the Aldine Independent School District, TX. Brent and LaTonya will talk about what motivated them to initiate the change, how they navigated the challenges, and what they saw happen in classrooms after the switch. Change is hard, but, as you’ll hear in this episode, it can be worth the effort.For more information about the information in this episode, visit the episode webpage on the Knowledge Matters Podcast website.This podcast is produced by the Knowledge Matters Campaign. You can learn more about our work at www.knowledgematterscampaign.org and follow us on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Search the knowledgematters hashtag and join this important conversation. If you'd like to get in touch with Natalie, you can contact her through her website, www.nataliewexler.com. Production by Sarah Gilmore and Aidan Shea. Original music and sound engineering by Aidan Shea. Narration recorded at Bamboo Recording Studios.
American education has a number of serious problems – and our failure to start building kids' knowledge early is a fundamental one. By now you know that reading comprehension is complicated and as you’ll hear, so is the explanation for what has gone wrong with the way American schools have approached it. In the sixth and final episode of "The Knowledge Matters Podcast: Reading Comprehension Revisited", Natalie will explain how we ended up in a place it’s not clear anyone wanted to go, in the grip of a reading crisis that goes far beyond the important issue of how we teach students to decode. Not only do two thirds of students test below the proficient level in reading, many Americans lack vital knowledge about the world they live in. For example, scores on national tests in American History hit a new low in 2022: only 14% of eighth graders scored proficient or above, and 40% scored below the "basic" level. Scores in civics are only slightly better. And students don’t necessarily learn more about these subjects after eighth grade: one survey, for example, found that 11% of US adults haven't heard of or aren't sure if they've heard of the Holocaust. For millennials, the figure is 22%.Closing knowledge gaps is important for several reasons. It's important for the untold numbers of students whose potential remains to be unlocked – students who might otherwise go through school and life, feeling like they’re failures, when in fact it's the system that has failed them. It's important for society, which will otherwise be deprived of those students’ potential. And it's important for democracy, which depends on a citizenry that can understand the world well enough to make informed decisions. Because, as Spring Cook, the educator you met in Episode 1 put it: It is a matter of equity, it's a matter of democracy, and when we're able to give students those skills and that knowledge at an early age, then think what a better society will have. For more information about the information in this episode, visit the episode webpage on the Knowledge Matters Podcast website.This podcast is produced by the Knowledge Matters Campaign. You can learn more about our work at www.knowledgematterscampaign.org and follow us on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Search the knowledgematters hashtag and join this important conversation. If you'd like to get in touch with Natalie, you can contact her through her website, www.nataliewexler.com. Production by Sarah Gilmore and Aidan Shea. Original music and sound engineering by Aidan Shea. Narration recorded at Bamboo Recording Studios.
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