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Volume 52, Number 27   March 28, 2005         

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People on Campus

Stanley Pogrow: 'An educational find'
Photo of Stanley Pogrow
When it comes to innovative teaching methods, Professor Stanley Pogrow has some pretty "hot" ideas. Years ago, as a new teacher in the New York City public school system, he found his open-ended questions or any questions that required abstract thinking were often met with blank stares. Pogrow realized that many students lacked a key ingredient in achieving academic success: the critical thinking skills necessary to engage in a thoughtful conversation.

He set out to change that when he developed Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS), a specialized program for accelerating the learning of economically disadvantaged and learning disabled students in grades four through eight. The program, which enjoyed its first surge of popularity in the 1980s, trains teachers to help develop their students' conversational skills in intensive question and answer sessions before or after school.

"People worry about drop-outs. I worry about the drop-ins: talented and bright students who don't speak up," says Pogrow. He points out that by the time children reach the age of four, those from economically disadvantaged families have averaged 40 million fewer verbalizations than those whose parents are in higher income brackets.

"Teachers need to step back and like a parent create an environment where kids can talk about ideas, practice moment to moment, learn how to have a conversation," he says.

Last fall Pogrow joined the faculty of SFSU's doctorate program in urban leadership to address another important issue in public education: a shortfall of school superintendents across the nation. A partnership with the University of California, Berkeley, Cal State East Bay and San Jose State University, the program prepares students for careers as urban public school superintendents as thousands of these leaders are now at or approaching retirement age.

"Professor Pogrow is an educational find for the department, College of Education and the University," says Professor Marilyn Stepney, chair of the department of administration and interdisciplinary studies. "His is a nationally recognized voice that readily takes on the difficult educational issues. He brings another important dimension to the department's development of educational leaders for the Bay Area."

Previously a professor of teaching and teacher training at the University of Arizona, Pogrow says he's enjoying his new students and colleagues in San Francisco. In his spare time, he likes to ski and play tennis, but he's most passionate about traveling. Three things he'd take to a desert island? "A jet, a pilot and lots of fuel."

Recently Pogrow merged his love for travel and his passion for education when he brought the HOTS program to a group of teachers in the Cherkassy region of Ukraine. The professor, who plans on returning in the near future, is confident that a successful group of teachers and trainers will be able to bring thinking skill development techniques to both orphanages and high poverty public schools in the developing country.

At home, the current focus on testing in the classroom nationwide has made HOTS a tough sell these days, but Pogrow hopes the tide will turn.

"Test scores are an illusion. If an employer is looking to hire those who do well on state tests, that's great but [employers aren't concerned with test scores]. The thinking is that these kids are not doing well, let's give them more of the same. But they need something different. The best way to get test scores up is to develop creativity in thinking."

-- Adrianne Bee

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Last modified March 28, 2005, by the Office of Public Affairs & Publications