The Muddler Hypothesis

“You muddled it!” is not a term that I would want applied to me. And yet, I just had the opportunity to read a landmark new study on the importance of SLOW in teaching using comprehensible input, and how “You muddled it!” is indeed a term that may apply to me as a teacher.
In a word, this $2.3M, five year, longitudinal study showed that 92% of the teachers tested abandon the TPRS method because they consistently spoke too fast in their classrooms. Nationwide, 60 first year TPRS teachers were tested each year for five years, totalling 300 teachers, and, according to the study, only 40 were still doing the method at the end of the five year period.
Isolating the single factor of SLOW in the study was the brainchild of researcher Bennie Iko K’Ration. She explained: “I thought it would be a good idea to see if, when teachers using TPRS don’t go SLOW enough, it makes them quit comprehensible input instruction in their classrooms.”
K’Ration turned out to be right. She explained that, even among the remaining 40 teachers still using TPRS in their classrooms, follow up studies showed that 29 of them hate the method because they can’t go slowly enough and they can’t understand why, according to the data, they “suck at the method” and why their kids “don’t understand shit”.
K’Ration went on to explain: “They muddle it! They go to all these trainings and all those conferences. They read blogs. They are sick individuals. All they need to do is SLOW down, but they can’t! They muddle it when they go into their classrooms simply because they can’t apply the Amy Teran Formula of SLOW – SLOWER – SLOWEST: COMPREHENSIBLE! It’s pathetic.”
K’Ration had to be restrained when concluding that only eleven of the original 500 teachers in the study, which was underwritten by the Mel and Belinda Gates Foundation, were successful with TPRS, uncharacteristically yelling, “When a teacher muddles it by going too SLOW, the students can’t understand, and all of Ray Blaine’s and Gross Susie’s hard work goes out the window! This is bullshit! This study cost me five years of research and I will personally crawl into cyberspace and come out of the computer monitor of any new TPRS teacher who doesn’t go SLOW enough and beat their ass! I mean it. I’m a researcher and I can do it. I will tell those teachers once and for all to “Stop muddling and SLOW down so you don’t piss off your kids and ruin your careers! AGH!”



9 thoughts on “The Muddler Hypothesis”

  1. In addition to the ten-finger comprehension check, I need to train myself to ask slow enough: thumbs up or down.
    I never know how slow is slow enough. Can’t wait to get back on Tuesday and meet Spanish one for the first time in a few years and see what happens wih their brains.

  2. Love this! I’m processing my take-aways from NTPRS before school starts and SLOW was my first one. This gives me extra motivation to focus on it because I felt like I was given a chance at making it past the five year burn-out mark for new teachers when I found TPRS last year… but now there’s another five year mark to focus on even with TPRS.
    What is so magical/detrimental about the five year mark in education?

  3. In California at least, five years is the first time the credential must be renewed. I think the statistic “within the first five years” represents the number of teachers who do not renew their credential and have therefore left the public school (and probably the teaching profession).
    My first year in the public school was a nightmare. I am credentialed in German, World History and Music. I taught two Spanish classes, two different math classes and an ELD class. If I were not born to be a teacher, I almost certainly would have quit.

  4. The key to slow enough is comprehension checks.
    Not the hold up your fingers which tells the teacher a bit but not much.
    Instead, do a comprehension check about every 3 questions or so. Comprehension checks take one of these three forms:
    1. What did I just say?
    2. What did I just ask?
    3. What does ____ mean?
    Try it. You will then see EXACTLY where your kids are getting flummoxed. Most often it will be due to speed, proper nouns, or not getting the question word.

  5. Susie and Ben, may I re-post this comment so that I can find it again? Or Ben, could you please put it as a main post, or link it to both SLOW and a new category, “Comprehension Checks”?
    Thank you, thank you. It is what I needed to be reminded of. I think I finally get SLOW, thanks to the barometer teacher at NTPRS for whom I waited 3 seconds between words and then had such overwhelming, happy response from other students, who reported complete comprehension, when I thought they were going to be bored. Comprehension, as it turns out, is almost never boring. It is, instead, that delightful feeling of success.
    But in order to know what’s happening, I need to check comprehension in the way Susie recommends.
    Y’all rock!

    1. Yeah I’ll put it up here as a separate blog entry and create those categories. It’s funny, isn’t it, Michele, that we have to go to NTPRS and present to groups of 50 teachers to force us to go slowly enough – it’s like they are teachers checking out the method so we can’t lose any of them or they won’t grasp what we are dealing with here. But then we go back and risk going too fast for our own students! It was a great conference and here Susie clears up the entire thing about comprehension checks in one little comment – three little questions. I’m with you, we need to make this a blog post and thus be able to reference it via the categories and via the search function, which doesn’t happen with comments.

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