Public and Professional Discourse (Part 3)
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Developing Effective Messages
by W. Gary Martin
Case study: Skill vs. understanding
- Their argument: “You have to learn skills first. Then you can learn
how to use them.”
- Our first try: BASICS PLUS
- “We agree you need to know the basics, but we want more than that….”
- Weakness: The point of agreement is that students need the basics.
- Second try: THE NEW BASICS
- “Students today need different mathematics to compete…”
- Weakness: Aren't the basics the basics?
- “Number crunching is not enough…”
- This was the most quoted line from the PSSM roll out, picked
up by major market media
- A simple, memorable, believable premise
Case Study: Calculators
- Their message: “No calculators until grade 8. They will rot the students’
brains and make them lazy.”
- Our message…(with apologies to Gary Larson)
- What we say:
"Students need to learn how to use calculators effectively as a means
to enhance their learning, not necessarily all the time."
- What they hear:
"Students need to blah blah use calculators
blah blah blah blah blah blah all the time."
- The solution is not obvious...
A Potential Confounding Factor
- Will the public messages play with our professional audience?
- Will unintended meanings be read?
- Example from PSSM roll out:
- The goal was to produce a more balanced message, to position NCTM as
a reasonable group
- The media's interpretation: “NCTM backs off on reform”
- The reaction from the field was predictable
- We need to develop messages that are SIMPLE, not SIMPLISTIC:
- Easy language
- Easy to understand
- But not cutting off multiple interpretations
- Keeping multiple audiences in mind.
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