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Interview with Noel K. Jones, June 2, 2003 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Title:
Interview with Noel K. Jones, June 2, 2003
Date:
June 2, 2003
Description:
Dr. Noel K. Jones, associate professor in the department of curricular studies in the Watson School of Education, is retiring in June 2003. He came to UNCW in 1977. In his interview, Dr. Jones discusses his education and professional background before coming to UNCW. He discusses his philosophy of teaching and learning, and how it has evolved with his experience. He describes the Reading Recovery program, which he established at UNCW, and currently serves as University Trainer. (According to the Reading Recovery website, "Reading Recovery is a highly effective short-term intervention of one-on-one tutoring for low-achieving first graders.") Dr. Jones discusses the philosophy of Reading Recovery, his experiences teaching children and training teachers, and his travel associated with the program. Dr. Jones also comments on other issues facing American education, such as the teacher shortage.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee: Jones, Noel K. Interviewer: Lack, Adina Date of Interview: 6/2/2003 Series: Voices of UNCW

Riggins: Good afternoon. Today is June 2, 2003. My name is Adina Riggins. I’m the archivist and special collections librarian and I’m here to interview Noel Jones again, part II of an interview series that we started in April. We are going to continue some of the discussion that we had earlier.

Dr. Jones, is there any particular way you’d like to start off today? I’ll give you the choice.

Jones: Well I guess I can plead that it’s advanced age that makes me forget what we talked about last time, but we did want to talk a little bit about the School of Education and teaching education and how that may have changed over time. I’d like to talk a little about some of my work at the university that’s not been in the School of Education like university committees and things of that kind.

Riggins: Great. Well let’s start off with the first point that you raised. You started teaching at UNCW in 1977. What was the situation like facing teachers at that time?

Jones: Well the teachers in this region didn't seem to have very wide acquaintance with currents of education going on nationally. I had had an opportunity to participate in projects nationally when the Great Society programs came on under Johnson and Kennedy to be with a group of teachers at Stanford in the 1960’s looking at changes in education and how they were affecting the country and so on.

I had taught in California, the Midwest and the east. When I came down here, the teachers in the public schools knew very little about what changes were underway nationally and internationally in education. Everything was pretty much teaching according to tradition and according to patterns established by their textbooks and so on.

I think UNCW has made a big difference in that regard. The graduate program here has really opened people’s eyes a great deal to many of the things going on in the country. At the time that I came here, UNCW’s teaching staff was just beginning to expand from a group of five to at that time almost doubling in the early years I was here and since that time has grown steadily since then.

Initially the faculty who were full time faculty did regular teaching supervision in schools. We had a concept of teacher centers whereby we would work with a designated school in a region like Duplin County or New Hanover County and a faculty member would cultivate that school in some ways, clustering placement of student teachers in that school, getting to know the faculty so we could place the teachers well and so on.

I was heavily involved in that in Duplin County. I think we did a really remarkable job, but we didn't really have any institutional support. It was simply what you as an individual faculty member could do to bring this about. Nowadays we’re trying to do some of the same things with stronger support to institutionalize some of those ideas.

I would go out almost once a week to see student teachers and work with that school. Nowadays supervision has been pulled back drastically to be minimal influence for the university faculty member. They see the students four to six times a year and in fact we’ve kind of given over the task of most of the teacher training and the major influence on the teacher still comes from the public school teacher. So the school education degree of influence is not perhaps as strong as it should be.

On the other hand, we’re trying to work very much harder on methods courses for the undergraduates so that we get a very strong field experience guided by the university faculty before student teaching begins. That’s an effort that’s just gotten underway and needs to be cultivated and expanded because it’s going to be terribly important. Schools of education are under intense attack by claiming that they don’t have a major effect on teaching skills and differences.

Riggins: What do these critics suggest?

Jones: They say that students need a great deal more content, that we have people out there teaching social studies and science that don’t know the content which is partially true. They don’t value the technology of teaching. What we know about teaching and learning as a discipline of study is greatly undervalued and unappreciated. Everyone thinks they can walk in right off the street and teach kids and in a way they can or they can go in and hold class.

They can’t do the kind of teaching and learning that’s needed to really bring the majority of kids along really well and they can’t do the kind of teaching that is necessary for children who have difficulty in the most difficult cases. At the same time, they also probably don’t do well with the advanced students who need to be really challenged and brought forward. Although it looks like people can just teach by the seat of their pants so to speak, we find out it’s more difficult than that.

I entered the profession on that basis actually by walking in from a history major at an ivy league college to teach English in a high school prep school. When I think back on all the mistakes I made, it’s pretty pathetic. The kids did not know how to write. I demanded they write. I graded their essays, wrote red marks all over them, but I didn't teach them to write. I didn't know how to do that. I’m sure I made a lot of good moves here and there with what I did as a teacher, but I didn't make nearly enough good moves as one can do when they know what they’re doing.

Riggins: What about teaching on the college level? Do you find that a lot of people could benefit from knowing about the art of teaching? I guess with we have a Center for Teaching Excellence here on campus.

Jones: We do, yes and UNCW has really tried to work in that direction for some time. But when you really think about it, people are not prepared to teach by their disciplinary study. As a matter of fact even in the School of Education, many people are not prepared to teach the disciplinary study you do as a graduate student. My educational background was all graduate work taken in California first just to get certified as a teacher. I didn't value those courses highly at all. I thought they were what I would call Mickey Mouse courses and I don’t think I took much away from them actually.

The graduate work was much more in the vein of content learning. I mean I studied linguistics, cognitive psychology, curriculum theory, all those sorts of things, but very little that I studied really directly taught me how to in fact to analyze the content I needed to teach and represent it to students in ways that became really interesting and exciting. Actually the curriculum work I did at Cornell was clearly in that line.

But it’s hard work and most university faculty have very little background in that. Even many people in the School of Education have a somewhat limited background.

Riggins: Has it changed for some of the new people coming in?

Jones: Perhaps so, but I think what needs to change is two things. One I think teacher preparation institutions like the doctoral programs really ought to think hard about how they prepare people to become professors of education and strengthen them in a couple of ways. One would be strengthen them as researchers and secondly to really have them think about the task of teaching, both the science and the art because I think you have to admit that there are elements of both.

Then the other change that I’d like to see made would be in the schools of education themselves like at UNCW. When I came here and it’s not changed terribly much since, each faculty member is hired as if they were trained to do the job and what you get is feedback as to whether people like it or not based upon a number of agendas which those people have. Students come into education having learned in the basic studies and they’re appetite is for very structured courses that tell them exactly how many points they have to earn to get an A so they know they’re on course with that.

So they start to teach in a different way. To have them apply what they’re learning and to teach and to be reflective about their learning and so on, they’re not necessarily happy right away. They have to shift their mode of learning. What I think has been difficult for the School of Education to deal with is that the university’s parameters are established to reward the individual for individual achievement which means that you’re in a competitive situation.

In education strength is going to come through collaborative and cooperative work, people working together to design programs, people working together to design courses, to design field experiences that complement courses. So a lot of collaborative work has to go on. The university’s reward system doesn’t particularly…isn’t structured to recognize that. Not only that but even the structures of work within the school have really not allowed enough collaboration, dialogue or discussion among faculty.

In the School of Education, we’re very lucky because people do work together well. We understand each other. We get to know each other marginally from a distance and we’re tolerant. So we like each other, we get along. We don’t confront each other very much. We don’t have the in depth dialogues about teaching and learning that could really benefit all of us I believe.

As I was saying, the opportunities for collaboration are probably there, but your time gets so taken up with your teaching and project work. Most everyone in the School of Education gets involved in things beyond their own teaching and learning, not just their writing and research, but also projects such as my involvement in reading recovery or Dr. Hayes involvement in comprehensive school reform.

Riggins: Is that Andrew Hayes?

Jones: Andrew and Hathia. Dr. Walker’s been involved in international exchanges with Japan. Dr. Bartolome has been involved in international exchanges with Ecuador. Everybody has had projects which are very valuable to the university but it makes it more and more difficult to do some of the kinds of collaboration for teaching and learning within the school that I mentioned.

Riggins: The collaboration that you refer to, what is that? What kind of collaboration have you done?

Jones: Well the language and literacy faculty has worked together quite closely over the years especially in the graduate program. I think we’ve made a really significant change into a strong graduate program that affects our students. Initially the graduate program was a collection of courses and it was conceived as a set of core or theoretical courses followed by sets of courses that made application and methodology.

We soon discovered that students really learn theory much better in conjunction with discussions of application and practice. So we wanted to lure those lines of distinction. We also found our students were simply taking the courses academically to memorize things to pass the comprehensive exam and I don’t think we were really changing the way they thought about literacy and the way they taught in the field.

So we really applied some of the ideas that each of us brought to the table. I brought ideas through reading recovery in terms of learning through dialogue and discussion. We decided to put in a one hour seminar along with each of the four core courses, core in the sense that they were critical, specialized courses for language and literacy, not limited just to conceptual foundations.

We also built in as many real projects as we could for students so they would be engaged with children or with learners or with classrooms in developing projects. With that and the introduction of portfolios for students to keep collecting and thinking and writing about what they’re learning, we think we make real significant changes in students’ understandings, attitudes and theories as they go through the program.

I think we have a much greater impact on students in changing how they view literacy and so on. It’s only partial of course. Their learning must continue well beyond their work here. But we try to set the basis for that and the expectation that they should be lifelong learners and they should continue to be involved with professional development and read professionally and so on and I think we’ve had about as much success as you could have in a Master’s degree program in doing that.

I think we’ve made a real difference there. We’re now beginning to focus on the undergraduates in trying to build viable field experiences that in conjunction with the language and literacy courses. That’s not easy to do because it’s labor intensive. It means that we have to work with a school to be receptive to us and to understand what we’re doing. It means we have to work together logistically to schedule the activities of two institutions at the same time.

It means that we have to work within, to bend the parameters of the university’s schedule to fit a much more busy, active practicum schedule of the field and yet at the same time accommodate students’ other academic time so it’s all…takes a lot of time to work these things out.

Riggins: For students who have a specialty in language and literacy, can undergraduates specialize?

Jones: No, we don’t have undergraduate specialization in that. I think that’s too early. I really think there’s something to be said about being a generalist. There’s a lot to learn about the whole breadth of the elementary school. We’re really dealing with elementary certification primarily and special education certification and middle school, middle school being sort of a transition point between elementary and high school, but with many more elements of education, elementary philosophy perhaps than the old junior high schools used to have, for example.

So we’re really looking at the crunch of faculty time to develop the kind of field experiences that are necessary to be meaningful and yet if we don’t do that, it wouldn’t be effective.

Riggins: The field experiences, are those different from student teaching?

Jones: Yes, we want this to be…see basically if you pick up a college textbook on the teaching of reading, teaching of science, especially the teaching of reading and language arts, it’s more about the teaching of reading than it is training of how to teach it. When you really get down to how do you actually teach this, you don’t really pick that up from a typical course. The only way to get that how to across is to get the students out there trying it and then give them some feedback about what they’re particularly trying to do.

When you say trying, there’s a number of activities for teaching reading. For example, you may be doing an activity like introducing new vocabulary for students. They would do it typically the way of what’s been happening to them for years in schools which is not very effective. If you want it to be effective, it’s better to have them learn how to do it, go try it and then look at what happens when the students get feedback, see what the students did or did not get out of it, try it again, polish up your efforts and so on.

That’s what really works in learning to teach. But there’s almost no place in education in my career where that kind of thing is happening intensively except in the reading recovery program where you in fact teach children behind a one way screen and people watch you and they talk about the lesson in progress, not to criticize you particularly but to learn…the ones doing the talking are learning about their own teaching as they watch a lesson in progress.

A great deal more of that could be done in undergraduate preparation. Of course technology can help and we need to see some connections to schools that can bring live ____ classrooms right into our classrooms here so we can see things happening and dissect them, talk about them as they go on. It’s a very, very confusing environment though and students don’t see what’s happening easily with whole class teaching by import so it has to be carefully or gradually introduced.

Riggins: Well I can imagine. Did you have a role with the establishment of the graduate program in language and literacy?

Jones: Yes, not the beginnings of the program, the very first program was planned almost before I was getting here. I started teaching in the graduate program I think the second year I was here. The courses had been described by that time, I taught curriculum and I taught language development. When we developed the reading program, we followed somewhat the same model. We didn't break the mold, initially.

We used core courses like human learning and development, curriculum, etc., and then we had a few methods classes on top of it. Dr. Hayes, Dr. Walker and I particularly were very dissatisfied with what we were seeing. Diane Stephens when she was here was a major contributor as well as Dr. Bartolome. We decided to make some changes. We really did quite a bit of review and research about this and proceeded.

We asked our students lots of questions, our graduates. We asked key people in the field. We thought about ideas from reading recovery professional development which is so strong and tried to utilize some of that. We thought about everything we knew and redesigned the program. I think that we’ve done has made a major difference and I do think I’ve had a major role in that.

Riggins: Did you teach in other graduate programs? I know that students can be in all different areas.

Jones: Well the courses I taught were curriculum which initially occasionally used to have some of the supervisor students and even a few of the administrative people in there. Of course we’ve always had some special education students in our literacy courses as well and some who are majoring in elementary education as a graduate program.

The language and literacy Master’s has become probably one of the most popular and probably has had as many or more students in UNCW graduate school than almost any other program. Perhaps now the biology and marine science may have gone beyond us, but we were leading most programs in Arts and Sciences, quite considerably.

Riggins: Admitting as many as…?

Jones: We’ve often had classes of 20 to 25 in the graduate program. We’ve been graduating last spring, we graduated 13 or 14. This year we graduated, I think, 10 or 12. Quite a few students are going through the program.

Riggins: I knew a student who was in secondary, interested in secondary education and she actually did the Master’s in language and literacy.

Jones: Elizabeth Pearson.

Riggins: Pearson, yes, yes. I guess she left the field for a while.

Jones: We get to know our students really well in the program because I usually would have them in three different courses before they’re finished. So we know them very well. We do see the change in the students.

Riggins: I’m sure, going through a graduate program. It’s very different. Well what do you think about the teacher shortage? I know you addressed it some in the first tape, but what do you hear from alumni? Are your alumni sticking with the field or does it vary?

Jones: The problem with teacher shortage is teacher retention. We get plenty of people going into teaching. We get plenty of people going out of teaching. They don’t stay. The reason they don’t stay is that the conditions are bad. Things have been done recently, there was a national report recently for five recommendations about teachers to enhance teacher supply.

One of those was to raise standards, standards have been raised. One of those was to increase pay, pay has gone up markedly. I couldn’t believe the salaries I was quoted when I left California to go to the Ozarks. I absolutely didn't believe it until I got there. Mentoring in schools and things of this kind have been recognized. One thing that hasn’t changed is the thing that probably has the biggest influence on teacher retention, that is the conditions of teaching.

Teachers are thrown into situations that are almost impossible with very little support and asked to somehow cope with those conditions and learn to deal with it the best way they can. If we keep doing that, we will simply not be able to supply our schools with decent faculty. This has happened particularly in the most difficult schools. Let’s say for example, I’ll quote a city in North Carolina, I won’t even name it! It’s one of our larger cities.

Many, many good schools are in the suburban areas, principals who are very knowledgeable, build up a group of teachers that like being there. When you’re in a community, sort of a suburban community and the children walk to school, you know your clientele. It’s pleasant to teach there. You get good support.

But with current social conditions, schools in the inner city have almost regressed into a de facto segregation of 99%. Not just that they’re ethnically African American schools, but they’re primarily poor children, from poor families. So you have the most chaotic situation, the least kind of support for what’s going on, conditions of teaching that are atrocious and no support.

So the teachers try to avoid being placed there. They hire new ones to come into teach. They’re horrified by what they see and they leave and the turnover is tremendous. It just becomes a zoo. You can’t work that way. Somebody has got to begin to upset the continuum of those situations and at least give enough strong, strong support so they have an organized way to teach and support for teachers to start to make a difference. People recognize that but when it comes time to put the money into it, the priority never seems to be high enough to do that right.

So that’s where we stand with the teacher shortage. In many, many areas in suburban regions where schools are rather stable and well-controlled and so on, education is going quite well and the teachers stay and teachers do pretty darn good things. We’ve got to solve that problem because there’s going to be more and more poor people in schools and more and more crowding of inner city schools.

What seems to be happening is that at least people suspect that’s what behind the federal initiatives for education is really an effort to allow people to get out of those schools, middle class people to leave those schools and just let them become ….

Riggins: Through school vouchers and things like that?

Jones: Yes. Now what I’m hearing and reading and what I’m thinking is that our society is going to be terribly, terribly weakened if we don’t do something about our poor students, poor people, that the real strength of a nation is how well its least favorite student, populace of citizens do educationally and socially. If we don’t close those gaps, it’s going to have terribly serious consequences for us as a nation overall.

Riggins: The bottom will fall out.

Jones: Right and I think it’s been shown by some recent educational research that if you really worked hard to close those gaps and bring the lower people up, it has tremendously positive benefits for all of society, but we don’t seem to be operating on that agenda at this time.

Riggins: You’re right. Politicians always find other priorities. That’s for sure. You were mentioning that you were on the curriculum committee. Was that with Watson School of Education or with the university as a whole?

Jones: That was the university curriculum committee back in the early 1980’s when actually the major change was made in which basic studies were mounted here at UNCW. It was probably the largest change that has been made in basic studies program. At the time that I joined the committee we were being asked to reconsider the program. Provost Cahill had put some parameters on what we could do to change which was probably wise.

He suggested that we needed to leave in place the basic structure of distributing courses across several areas like humanities, natural sciences, biological sciences and so forth. So we worked with that, but as we got into discussion, it seemed to me quite apparent that there are competing philosophies and theories about what basic studies ought to do at a university. It should not be a matter of one chosen over the other, but somehow serving perhaps all of those notions.

One notion of course is that the students need to learn basic skills, basic cognitive skills like writing, reading, mathematics and so on. Of course we have our introductory courses in math and writing for those purposes. Another theory is that students ought to be introduced to the major cultural knowledge of our very diverse culture. Some of the notion of distributing courses across history, philosophy, literature, tend to represent that notion.

Another way to look at it would be instead of just making sure they know about Shakespeare and facts about things like that is that they learn key concepts of the various disciplines of inquiry academically. They ought to learn key concepts of economics, physical sciences, chemical sciences and so on and so forth and really have some understanding of what we might call the structures of the disciplines of knowledge.

Another approach to basic studies might be that all of these courses would help develop the students’ ability to learn how to learn in university environments. Many of our students come from high school only knowing how to memorize. They don’t really know how to learn concepts meaningfully. They don’t how to learn in laboratory situations and so on. So basically the idea that I tried to introduce to the curriculum committee at that time was that courses had to be proposed for basic studies and come to a committee and be subject to negotiation and debate.

Now just the very nature of the debate and discussion and the dialogue would probably allow for introduction of all of these ideas, different ideas about what basic studies ought to be. Some courses for example are included like women’s studies or African American studies which are really sort of a different view saying that the courses we study at the university ought to set value position for a student.

That’s another idea that needs to be entertained as a basis for some of the work in basic studies. So basically we try to set an area whereby courses would be proposed for basic studies, come to the committee for dialogue and discussion and then go to the senate where there would be further dialogue although one wonders how much…senators are a large body for terribly productive exchange. It’s good for picking out the weaknesses and things of that kind. It’s something that needs to be done.

What was difficult was that departments were left to propose their courses and if it was a multiple section course like American history one would think the department would engage in dialogue about exactly what this course would represent and so on. Instead the culture at the university at the time was basically that the university professor is assigned to teach a course and he teaches as he wishes.

So the various sections of history courses or literature courses might differ extensively according to the professor. Maybe that’s useful for basic studies, but it seems to be…we were trying to get enough dialogue that it would reflect back to the departments and the faculty and their thinking.

Riggins: Did it go forward?

Jones: Well in a way it did, but in a way it has not also. I think we basically did require the course be proposed to the committee and discussed and approved and then brought to the senate. But I don’t think the process of review is strong enough to be assured that significant debate always goes on. Let’s put it that way.

Riggins: When you were on the curriculum committee, when you joined it, was there already a basic studies program in place?

Jones: There was but it was simply almost numerical. People would just simply take the introductory courses in most disciplines. Those were not designed for anything except for the introductory for sociology assuming that you would want to major in sociology. They didn't really look at it in terms of saying we know you folks aren’t going to major in sociology, but here are some of the key ideas that we think are interesting to you that you’ll find useful in your own social life and personal development for example.

When I was at Harvard I took courses by some people renowned in their fields who had really simply introduced a course to us to give us an introduction to important ideas. For example, Harlow Shapley is a name most people would recognize in astronomy at least if they were older than 60 or so. Shapley taught a course for us that was sort of playful course in what he called cosmography.

He was talking about the relative sizes of bodies within the universe and very interesting ratios and relationship between ants and their temperature and planets in their orbits and so on and so forth. It was very interesting and intriguing. It certainly wetted your interest in studying and reading about science topics. He introduced a lot of key concepts that you wouldn’t have known or understood otherwise. But it certainly was not a preparation for astronomy as a field for study necessarily. Some courses like that I think would be really strong here at UNCW.

Now we have a tendency to be developing courses for our honor students. I’m not sure that the thinking about what should be an honors course has been really well delineated, and so on. I don’t see why a course for honor students needs to be any different from a course for other students themselves.

There may need to be an opportunity to pursue some special projects within courses or beyond courses for an honor student. I think that’s highly justified, but making a section of courses that separate students out is something that I question personally because I find that there’s so much interaction between students of all kinds intellectually that they can learn from each other. Many honor students can learn a lot from students who are not honor students in terms of how they think and what they about and what their attitudes and values are to be productive. I personally have not favored an elitist honors program that separates students, but we’ve gone that direction.

Riggins: I suppose there are different ways you can take an honors program in a university.

Jones: Yes, I took honors at Harvard, but courses were not different. You simply did a seminar, a special seminar for honors and you did a special project and you took an exam, but courses were with everybody else. Of course, that was a different environment itself, but even in the public schools we find children who are low achievers don’t do well in courses where the high achievers are taken out. They need the higher achievers for them as models and it doesn’t hurt the high achievers or hold them back to be placed in _____ classes. It seems to be the best for all concerned in the elementary phase.

Now you do have difficulties when you come to high school when people are on very different tracks in terms of their skills in mathematics and things of that kind. I think other accommodations can be made for a lot of those things. Certainly at college I think you can have courses for all students and make them productive.

Riggins: Well I remember in elementary school there are reading groups. Are there still reading groups?

Jones: These days we still recommend small focus groups for reading who are reading at relatively the same level, but those groups don’t stay together for anything else. When it’s time to do other activities, the kids are in mixed _____. They don’t have any sense of being better or worse than others. They may feel oh he reads better than I do, but they know they can do other things better than the other kid. The groups don’t stay static because the kids don’t stay static.

So you don’t get the same kind of snobbery and discrimination and stigma attached to reading either better or worse than others. So it can be done and still keep…one of the biggest problems in reading education in public schools is teachers have kids reading things that are too hard for them. And nowadays there’s been a great tendency to go back to whole class teaching to try to avoid the stigma of the small grouping. What happens then is the work is too hard for a third of the kids. When it’s too hard, they don’t like to read, they don’t learn to read, the teachers read the books to them and they’re not learning.

It’s a terrible situation. When you get to high school and middle school the same thing is happening with teachers. Circumvent reading because they say the kids cannot read and understand so they don’t make them read to learn. They have them listen to learn and so on instead so literacy does not improve.

Riggins: Certainly something to think about. What other committees did you serve on that stand out either in the Watson School of Education or at the university?

Jones: Well in the Watson School of Education, we’ve done many things. Most recently worked on as chairing the committee to define the exit criteria for the School of Education. Worked on many things for student teaching, teacher evaluations, things of that kind, program development, curriculum development.

In the university itself I’ve been on faculty senate a number of years and I’ve been on the evaluation committee, calendar committee and two or three ad hoc committees as well. Once I got into reading recovery, I’ve been really taken out of the university scene fairly largely.

Riggins: You’ve been able to skip the other ones.

Jones: Yes, I served on search committees even for deans. In the last 10 years, I haven’t done as much of that.

Riggins: Let’s discuss some of the people that stand out. I’ve interviewed a number of people in this project. Do you remember Dr. Doss?

Jones: Oh yes, right. Calvin Doss was an amazing man. He took a very particular role as the one who knew all of the ins and outs of legislation, rules of relative teaching and so on. He was our main man as far as a conduit to the Department of Public Education and licensure and so on. We really appreciated that very much. He was very student friendly, very faculty friendly. Just a fine person that made the Department of Education at that time a much friendlier place for everyone.

Riggins: He was great to interview. Of course he didn’t speak so well of himself. He was quite modest, but he did mention he was associate dean at one point and he worked closely with the humanity colleges.

Jones: Yes he did, but we really counted on Calvin to know the answers to our advisement issues and transfer issues, all of those things. It saved us a lot of grief and worry and we really appreciated that. Roy Harkin was the person who recruited me here. Roy’s attitude, along with being very persistent, he was very, very friendly and showed a real interest in me and that made the difference.

I think I mentioned on the other tape that my coming here depended a great deal on Roy’s interest. Then of course I met the Hayes’, Hathia and Andy Hayes. I actually co-taught a class with Andy the first year I was here. I had background work in curriculum so it was interesting to see what his notions and structures of ideas about curriculum. Andy was very, very instrumental in the whole notion of instructional design as a core for educational preparation.

I still think that needs to be tinkered with somewhat, but it’s really what we know as educators how to do so that’s been a tremendous application. Andy is just a tremendous analyst and thinker as well. I mean he’s got an analytic mind that is exceptional and I’ve profited greatly from knowing him and Hathia who has been my colleague in literacy education and whom I’ve always been able to bounce ideas off of. So those have been key people for me.

Jim Applefield in elementary education has been a very good colleague, a real good thinker. We’ve really profited working with him on projects. Jim has really enhanced our thinking on so many things. The people in special education have been very good to work. We haven’t had as much conversation about our differences and how we approach certain things, but we’ve always worked together well and we respect their understanding and knowledge. I think they respect ours.

So there have been a number of people I have enjoyed working with over this period of time. Of course we’ve enjoyed the library. The library has been a wonderful thing here at UNCW. Jean Hugeleau was a special friend. I haven’t know Sherman Hayes nearly as well, but we feel the library support, people that I talk to at places like Ohio State and other places are jealous of some of the things I tell them about what we have in terms of library support here at UNCW.

Riggins: We always want to hear what you need, and try and help you.

Jones: Technology, Bob Tyndall, has been a major player in the School of Education. Bob is a tremendous resource in getting resources for the School of Education.

Riggins: When he was dean?

Jones: When he was dean, yes. Now in terms of technology, he’s doing much the same thing. We get excellent technology support here as well. So it has been a good place to work.

Riggins: Did you get to know either of the chancellors at all, Dr. Wagoner or Dr. Leutze?

Jones: I met with both of them but I have not gotten to know them terribly well. I met with Charles Cahill as provost.

Riggins: Oh he was great. I interviewed him. He was at one point, was he acting chair of the Department of Education?

Jones: He was probably acting dean. I enjoyed working with him when I was on the curriculum committee. He was a very fair man in his thinking. Would really consider ideas and would be a very fair audience. I really appreciated his open-mindedness and attitude as well as his hard decisions he would have to make.

I haven’t known the administration as well since I’ve been in reading recovery because it’s taken me so far outside of the university. At the same time, I think I’ve brought some recognition to UNCW through that work because I am known, at least in literacy circles, reading recovery, quite broadly.

Riggins: Reading recovery, do they pay for part of your salary?

Jones: No, they don’t. The university has supported that and that’s been a very strong contribution. We have raised money initially through a grant to get people to begin the program and then through training fees primarily for the rest of the time and then from the conference that I run, that’s helped generate some fees as well. Reading recovery has paid for travel that is more extensive than most even from my own professional development.

I attend at least four meetings a year that are professional development meetings, sometimes five. Then in addition, I do all the local travel to districts that are affiliated with UNCW to meet with those people, so on and so forth. It has taken me away from the university scene considerably.

Riggins: If you can talk a little bit about the meeting you were just attending, after our last interview.

Jones: Well yes, we went to London. This was my first chance to go overseas actually except to Hawaii. This was a meeting of the international trainers of reading recovery. Morrie Clay, the founder of the program, was there of course. Trainers from New Zealand, Australia, Britain, Canada, the United States and Denmark. Trainers are being trained in Denmark now to translate reading recovery into Danish which will be the fourth language.

Reading recovery has been translated into Spanish. We have a program in this country called (Spanish name) which is reading recovery converted to Spanish, and we have one in French and I’m sorry to say I can’t tell you its name in French. That’s being implemented in French Canadian districts in the maritime provinces and Quebec. There may be a move to translate into Irish as time goes on because northern Ireland is fully implemented. Ireland itself is talking about the program so it’s beginning to spread to other nations as well.

Riggins: That’s wonderful.

Jones: We met for four days in London, two days to establish an international structure to begin to take over the role that the founder of the program has had. That role has included a number of things such as surveying the research in a number of fields of knowledge to glean what is relevant to early literacy education and teaching professional development and school reform and school change which reading recovery represents and allow us ways of working together internationally and so on.

So that structure was put in place in that time thanks to a lot of prior lay work by a number of people. And then we met for two days as the North American trainers group. We have developed a long range five year plan which we’re almost coming to the end of so we need to redo another plan. Then by doing things like meeting as work groups, people are going to Dallas for four days which I did in January of this year to work on one particular topic and develop some materials and policies and procedures.

We’ve worked on a very ambitious growth plan and will continue to do that. So reading recovery actually sets the example in lots of ways as a program that continues to reinvent itself and re-improve its design as we go. It’s been recognized that way by a Nobel physicist, Ken Wilson of Ohio State University who had written a book on redesigning programs. He said the only one he could find in education that qualifies as actually having a built in redesign process is the reading recovery program. That’s what we do in meetings like that.

Of course I did enjoy going to the Tower of London and taking a cruise on the Thames and a few things like that as well. We work hard when we go to those meetings.

Riggins: Right, there probably wasn’t much time, but at least you got a little in since you said it was your first time abroad ever. Can you say a few words about the transition to the new building? I suppose you’re retiring just before it will be available.

Jones: Actually my understanding is that none of the old furniture goes. Everything is going to be new. You just take your books and your files and take your materials and go put them away over there which is going to be quite interesting so I’m going to have the unenviable task of destroying a lot of materials that won’t go over there. Some of it that I’ve collected will go with my replacement, Barbara Honchell. But there’s a lot of stuff to sort out and get rid of before that as well. It will be quite interesting.

Riggins: She’s a professor as well?

Jones: She’s now an assistant professor here in her first year of appointment. She’ll be on leave next year training to be a trainer in reading recovery. So she’ll be back here sporadically, but primarily she’ll be on leave through the whole series of studies at Ohio State University.

Riggins: That’s an exciting time with the new building. I know you were saying some people are critical of schools of education so I hope that doesn’t generate any criticism.

Jones: We’re really better situated than most. I mean we’ve been working on the issues that education is being criticized about and we do a better job than most I think. Yet there’s still considerable room for improvement in many of those directions.

Riggins: If you can say a bit about what areas of scholarship and writing have you participated in.

Jones: Well I started out being quite eclectic. I taught curriculum theory here. When I went to Cornell, I was coming from the position of a reading curriculum director in the Board of Public Schools and wanted to focus on reading but Cornell didn't have a reading program per se. It was really a matter of my getting that focus through several departments in the university.

Their psychology department had some major figures in reading research, a major reading literacy project had been done there. I studied with those people. They’re cognitive psychologists, psychology and language people were first rate. There were people in linguistics that were important people in child development, language development and also some in research.

Because I chose to committee chairman to a curriculum man, I focused on curriculum as well. As I got into my own further research and dissertation work, I was really interested in the issue of how children learn to read and how language issues are related to that. I’ve been very interested in language development issues in relation to early literacy for a long time. I presented on topics like that and I’ve done a little publication in the area of phonological development.

It was very clear to me from my own dissertation research that phonological awareness is a key factor in learning to read. Now that’s become a very hot topic, a very popular topic. People have actually abandoned the notion that the child’s syntactic ability and vocabulary knowledge is really critical.

Fluency with language is almost more important than any knowledge of literacy. The child who has a strong language ability, the ability to argue, reason, negotiate with language is almost invariably going to have good phonemic awareness and phonological awareness and also have all the tools of comprehension and language structure. That really enables him to read easily.

Riggins: If we can just pause for a moment, I want to make sure we have enough room on this tape before going over.

I’m continuing with Dr. Noel Jones, and we’re talking about your areas of research during your time here at UNCW.

Jones: Yes, I was talking about language development and its relationship to literacy. I’m tempted to attempt to write an articl which I might call, “The Magic Third Floor,” about our granddaughter.

Our granddaughter is learning to read. We raised her from day one so she was raised with elderly grandparents as parents and younger uncles who were very important in her life. She was very strong in language development. We would read to her a lot. She loved books, she loved to be read to. She loved to be told stories.

We’ve got this old house in Maine. I was busy painting woodwork and painting a lot so I would tell her stories, repeating the Grimm’s fairy tales and things of that kind. We had a tape recorder with tape recorded books and she’d listen to those things. But she also loved to role play. She’d come down to dinner at night and we’d role play through the whole dinner. She’d play the part of the teacher and telling us about Tommy and Susie or two children in her class and so on.

She didn't play with lots of other kids because up in the summer we were kind of isolated, but she did so much creative play and imaginative play and role play and so much reading and listening to stories and language interaction, that that was her strength. When she got to kindergarten she was in a mixed K1 kindergarten and learned to read in kindergarten.

First grade became a horrible experience. We pulled her out of school. She didn't attend first grade. She was old enough she didn't have to go. She went to second grade. Third grade became a bad experience and she missed most of it. But she’s working her doctorate now. She was a very good reader. She loved to read. It was very easy for her. The reason was because she had the ability to mentally represent things and to role play and she had very strong language abilities.

Nowadays the children who come to school from families like that are ready to dig into literacy and phonics and they do well with it. Children who come to school without that background are lacking in that and instead of getting schooling that will encourage them for imaginative play and language development, what they get is learning letter names, sounding letters and things of that kind. So they fall further and further behind.

It’s really very, very important for those kids to get the kind of language stimulation that the children from the more advantaged homes get. It’s not that they don’t have the linguistic structure. The academic linguist will argue that they can do complex sentences as well as any other child which is true. But if you listen to the conversational interchange with those children, they’re not accomplished in taking someone else’s idea, responding and building on it, qualifying it, getting their idea understood.

All of those kinds of things that happen in homes where that language interchange goes on. They’re not good at representing what happened to them in a narrative account. All of those kinds of things. So reading cannot become the easy mental operation that it can for kids who come from that background. We need to recognize that and build on that language strength for these kids at the same time that we build of course the ability to deal with the whole alphabetic principle and sound symbol association and so on.

We’re very hyper about that in this country. We’ve got to develop that skill by six, six and a half years of age whereas in Norway they don’t even start school until they’re seven for example. It’s a cultural thing that the priorities are that high. We suffer a little bit in this country from hyper-attention to independent decoding and a very early stage. We’d be better off giving much more attention to linguistic abilities early and some language development.

Riggins: Right and that might be more fun for the child too.

Jones: That’s true, it would be. There’s lots of examples of places where that does go on and goes on well. You see in fact that the children are doing very well. We have some classrooms in North Carolina using a very rich classroom environment with the kind of small group teaching I talked about. Lots of interaction among the children throughout the day. Lots of responsibility on the child.

They have to be accountable for things they’re supposed to do. They have to sign off to show they did it, keep their own records. I’m talking kindergarten, first grade children. These are young children learning to be self-regulated in the school day and talking together a great deal and so on.

What we find happening is that the children who come into those classrooms with very little English, who learn English as a second language, their learning was much faster in those classrooms compared to the traditional classrooms. It’s because they talk with children all the time. We also find that the low progress children tend to do very well in those classes. Those classes still have reading recovery for the very lowest children.

Actually the need becomes less and the children who are in difficulty are less in difficulty than they would be ordinarily. So the very strong classrooms build the language capability at the same time that they build a very strong knowledge of the language system and how it relates to letters and spelling and so on.

Riggins: I hope that I get a chance to see that article. I’ll send you my card, and certainly, keep it in mind!

Jones: We’re also working on a research project in children’s ______ ability in relation to learning to read. We have a wonderful data base in reading recovery. Every child who enters the program has entering scores on six measures that are sent to a national data base. We get data at the beginning of the program, at mid-year and at the end of the year. Dr. Applefield and I are giving one additional measure to these children on arriving at the beginning of the year, middle of the year.

We’re fortunate, we also have a random sample of children, a sample of children randomly selected from the first grade classrooms that these other children are in. So we are able to look at children who start the year as a very low progress children as well as a group that represents a random sample of first grade children.

Because we are able to simply collect the data and put it in with data that’s automatically being collected on other things, we’ll have some very interesting correlations and things to examine. We won’t be able to report it until next year, but the potential for using that data base is very high for researchers affiliated with reading recovery as UNCW is.

Riggins: Do you plan to work on these articles then in your retirement?

Jones: I do at this point, yes. One never knows. I might switch to something else or join the Peace Corps.

Riggins: Right, change fields.

Jones: Well it’s been delightful talking with you. I pity anyone who has to listen to this too long!

Riggins: No, don’t! I really appreciate your coming in and coming back. I certainly learned a lot and we’ll have the transcript too so people can read it as well. I will certainly be in touch. Thank you for coming in.

Jones: Thank you for doing this.

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