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Institute for Language & Education Policy

The Trouble with SIOP(R): How a Behaviorist Framework, Flawed Research, and Clever Marketing Have Come to Define - and Diminish - Sheltered Inst

The Trouble with SIOP(R): How a Behaviorist Framework, Flawed Research, and Clever Marketing Have Come to Define - and Diminish - Sheltered Inst

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Among all the commercial "learning systems" on the market today, how many are advertised as "research-based?" Perhaps it would be easier to count those that are not. Such claims are so widespread that they are seldom taken seriously by experienced educators. At times, however, marketing becomes clever enough to cut through the skepticism. The more extravagant the promises, it seems, the more credible the product becomes. This book tells the story of one such case: the Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol, or SIOP.(R)

Imagine a program developed by an obscure research center. SIOP starts out as a modest tool for evaluating the effectiveness of instruction for children whose English is limited, but soon morphs into something much more ambitious. It now purports to be a detailed "lesson planning and delivery approach" for grades K-12, aligned with state standards and tests. Simultaneously, it outlines a comprehensive design for teacher training and evaluation. Acquired by a major publisher, SIOP is advertised as "field tested ... scientifically validated ... a proven pedagogical approach to teaching both content knowledge and language skills that] has helped to instruct millions of students." The program's market is expanded far beyond the classrooms of English language learners. It is promoted as an effective model for English-proficient students as well, appropriate not only for K-12 but also for early childhood education, foreign language instruction, GED and adult English programs, and even two-way bilingual education.

There are old-time patent medicines that made fewer claims. Is SIOP a truly miraculous pedagogy - good for whatever ails you? Or is it a classic example of "research-based" hype?

The Trouble with SIOP(R) was inspired by a chorus of complaints from teachers, who are increasingly required to apply the model by top-down directives. Recognizing that SIOP has thus far faced limited critical scrutiny, authors James Crawford and Sharon Adelman Reyes set out to determine:

First, is this rigid approach, which requires teachers to incorporate "30 features and eight components" into every lesson, necessary to foster English acquisition and academic achievement? Or does SIOP, as a classic transmission model, impose a straitjacket on creative teaching and learning? Are there better ways to "shelter" and "scaffold" instruction?

Second, does this heterogeneous mixture of methodologies and strategies reflect a coherent educational philosophy, consistent with research on second language acquisition? Or is SIOP essentially a grab-bag of "best practices," with a heavy emphasis on behaviorist methods?

Finally, does research on this program support the lavish claims made on its behalf? Or is the What Works Clearinghouse at the U.S. Department of Education correct in concluding that none of the studies conducted thus far have demonstrated SIOP's effectiveness?

The answers provided by The Trouble with SIOP(R) should interest those concerned not only with the education of English language learners, but also with the pernicious impact of commercial pedagogies in American classrooms.

Author: Sharon Adelman Reyes, James Crawford
Publisher: Institute for Language & Education Policy
Published: 02/13/2015
Pages: 106
Binding Type: Paperback
Weight: 0.34lbs
Size: 9.02h x 5.98w x 0.22d
ISBN: 9780986174704

About the Author

James Crawford, former Washington editor of Education Week, is an independent writer and advocate on issues affecting English language learners. He is the founding president of the Institute for Language & Education Policy. Previously he served as executive director of the National Association for Bilingual Education. He is the author of numerous publications, including Educating English Learners, Language Loyalties, Hold Your Tongue, and At War with Diversity. Currently he is president of DiversityLearningK12, a consulting group that provides professional development, keynote presentations, program design, educational publishing, and related services.

Crawford has given keynote speeches and other invited presentations at professional conferences, universities, and school districts in more than 30 states and several foreign countries.

Sharon Adelman Reyes is treasurer of the Institute for Language & Education Policy and program director for DiversityLearningK12. She holds a Ph.D. in curriculum design from the University of Illinois at Chicago, where she specialized in multicultural and bilingual education. Over a career spanning more than 35 years, she has worked as a teacher, principal, curriculum specialist, district administrator, university professor, and educational researcher. She has taught at the elementary, secondary, and university levels and is a recipient of the Kohl International Prize for Exemplary Teaching. Reyes is author of Engage the Creative Arts: A Framework for Sheltering and Scaffolding Instruction for English Language Learners. She is coauthor of three other books: Diary of a Bilingual School, Teaching in Two Languages: A Guide for K-12 Bilingual Educators, and Constructivist Strategies for Teaching English Language Learners. She is lead editor of La Palabra Justa: An English-Spanish / Español-Inglés Glossary of Academic Vocabulary for Bilingual Teaching & Learning.

Since 1999, Reyes has worked directly with K-12 schools serving low-income communities to improve curriculum and instruction in ESL, dual immersion, transitional bilingual education, and literacy. Her consulting has included developing, guiding, and evaluating programs; providing teachers with field support and professional development workshops on site; and working closely with school administrators to facilitate these efforts.

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