Social Oxygen is progressing toward a book about teaching and learning by a former scientist. The first of three sections is almost finished with its third (I think) major revision. Reviewers helped identify areas that required clarity, expansion, and reduction. In this process, I’ve rediscovered an old truth about writing.
Writing a book about teaching and learning for scientists and their students in education and sociology is fundamentally different from writing a textbook for classroom teachers.
Both the approach and style of presentation are different. Scientists write for each other and their students. They follow established patterns of formats and vocabulary for describing what they observe and what they do to change those observations.
Writing scientific descriptions for teachers of what teachers and learners do during instruction forms a hybrid of challenges for honoring scientific descriptions that teachers will apply.
Teachers, many more than I’ve counted, have told me over the decades that when they read a book about teaching or learning, they expect to find something they can use or adapt immediately to make their existing instruction easier, more efficient, and more effective. If they don’t find it in the packaging, title, or first few paragraphs, they move on to another task unless someone plans to test them on the subject. Then, a few in each class will read for more than to pass that test.
Textbook writers and publishers hold their attention with familiar vocabulary, illustrations, and diagrams that refer to familiar practices by others who appear to hold similar interests. One education textbook editor told me that the standard in the industry was then not to include more than 15 percent new content in a manuscript. More than that reduces the likelihood of adoption of those texts by professors for classes. Even attempts at novel titles and claims of “new” evidence, theories, or programs seldom receives more than a raised eyebrow among most of the 6.2 million US educators.
Respectfully, public school educators are busy people. What remains a puzzle is how to present scientific descriptions for teachers to use without watering it down to the point where its use results in the familiar distribution of academic performance by K12 students: some learn a lot, most learn some, and a few learn the least.
For five decades, scientists have described how teachers can, when they choose to do so, change that distribution. Describing those data requires writers, publishers, and professional development faculty and consultants to change more than 15 percent of new content for teachers to read, assimilate, and use. Social Oxygen is an effort to provide teachers with the vocabulary and steps for all of their students to learn all instructed lessons.