Reinventing The Curriculum Wheel: The Continuing Story of Dr. Steve Ingersoll

Saturday , 31, May 2014 2 Comments

When you’re an optometrist in the charter school business and your business model is based on selling parents eyeglasses for their children and curing them of ADHD with your own personal brand of vision therapy, it becomes necessary to also develop curriculum that supports the education concepts of that model. Dr Ingersoll claims to have done just that with a web-based tool called Icon Curriculum Mapping.

Curriculum mapping for members of the education profession means a system of developing a model of the curriculum for a given subject and grade that can be used to review and modify content and assessment by the teacher as they teach. For people unfamiliar to what the process looks like, it will have learning outcomes, state education content standards, materials used, and a process of instruction and assessment plotted out on a grid of columns and rows.

Is this what Dr. Ingersoll developed with his curriculum mapping software? Not even close. He’s used a term that means one thing for educators and attached it to something completely different. According to Ingersoll, this is what a curriculum map is:

Icon Curriculum Mapping is a system of reorganizing lesson content and delivery from traditional “part to whole” to “whole to part” methodology to better match human thinking. Lessons are organized in non-linear iconic arrays called image maps. Image maps represent whole units as visual mnemonic devices that provide an organizing framework into which lesson details are linked.

Non-linear arrays … maps representing units as visual mnemonic devices that provide a framework into which lesson details are linked. Could the doctor be talking about concept maps? Let’s see what else Dr. Ingersoll has to say about his model compared to traditional teaching methods, which apparently never use graphic organizers according to him.

Contrast the structure of Icon Curriculum Maps methodology with traditional school instructional methods, which teach in text symbols, not images, part-to-whole, and in linear outlines.

So the doctor claims traditional schools don’t use concept maps – or as he calls them, curriculum maps – but Icon Curriculum Mapping does because that is how humans actually think and learn. It may help to read up on Ingersoll’s idea of how people learn, and why his way is better than research-based, professionally developed teaching methods and curriculum currently being used in schools he doesn’t own.

The problem according to Ingersoll is lesson content is presented in linear language-based part to whole text symbols, and we don’t think that way, we think in pictures. What he means is when children first learn to read, they master letter recognition and sounds, then words through phonics instruction and we’re wasting their time. Children are better off learning in a non-linear fashion, and we should be using pictures instead of text symbols. An example he gives is a face clock verses a digital clock. In order to read the time on a face clock, you have to look at the whole clock first, and then look at where the hands are pointing on the clock to tell time. With a digital clock, that’s not necessary and you only need to look at the part that is showing the time. This is why learning with a face clock (whole to part) is better than a digital clock (part to whole). Another example, when you look at a chair, you don’t look at just the legs, then the back, and finally the seat, you look at the entire chair. Traditional education according to Ingersoll forces the child to only look at the chair back without looking at the seat and legs.

The demonstration video on the Icon website doesn’t offer a glimpse of what these curriculum image maps look like, but the doodles that change in the website’s header seem to be the images used in the software, based on the few examples that are publicly available. These images then are the “face clock” whole to part curriculum that children need to learn, because it better matches their thinking.

There is no research offered that demonstrates the effectiveness of this curriculum. No publicly available peer review exists. So how do educators know this system actually works? Academic test scores at Ingersoll’s charter schools that use this curriculum software and Integrated Visual Learning curriculum materials exclusively are below the state average.

It’s especially troubling when excellent, research-based graphic curriculum exists that’s widely used in Special Education programs in Michigan public schools and only costs half the price of Icon Curriculum Mapping. Does Ingersoll’s curriculum work well? Feedback from current or former teachers of his charter schools could be really helpful to better understand how this system works.

Which then brings up the question, just how well does Steve Ingersoll’s charter schools accommodate special learners?

2 thoughts on “ : Reinventing The Curriculum Wheel: The Continuing Story of Dr. Steve Ingersoll”
  • Kathleen Ducharme says:

    While I totally agree with your points about the education model developed by Dr. Ingersoll, I need to say GTA has planned and implemented accommodations for our children. All three of our kids are advanced learners with one being dyslexic. GTA has gone above and beyond to meet our children’s educational needs with planned, established interventions that are evaluated at scheduled intervals.

    Our children attended school at a different district and we have researched most of the schools in the area. We are certain no other school is willing nor able to meet our children’s needs like GTA has and continues to do.

    Learning by GTA students is measured by the MEAP and biannual NWEA testing. I do not have cumulative data in front of me. I believe GTA students score highly on these tests.

    • says:

      The issue with these EMOs is they have to turn a profit, that means prepayment, in the case of Ingersoll’s Smart Schools, or Mark Noss’s Full Spectrum Management, or the school makes regular payments to the EMO. That’s Michigan taxpayer money that’s supposed to be spent educating your children going into profits for these companies. Charter schools run with this system are getting ripped off.

      I’ve seen charter schools focus on agriculture, science, technology or fine arts, but selling glasses and claiming to cure ADHD? I can’t help but get the feeling Ingersoll’s charter schools exist to sell glasses at taxpayer expense.

      We all want the best schools for our children. Public Schools are required by law to use every penny of taxpayer money for the purpose of education. Charter schools operate with much less oversight, and that’s costing taxpayers money.

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