Friday, February 5, 2010

Fidelity to What?

I was talking with a colleague about the concept of fidelity. I walked away wondering about what teachers were being asked to act with fidelity for. Is it fidelity (which means faithfulness to a belief or cause, demonstrated by continued loyalty) to a concept? a research agenda? a procedure? a program? or a script?

If I am "fidel" does that mean I am being asked to stop questioning things? to blindly accept what others have deemed is good for my students? to accept what others have said is effective?

At one extreme, this notion seems to go against every democratic ideal we have. At the other extreme, it seems to imply teachers should just shut up and do what they are told. How do the program creators know what works for all kids, so well, that it should just be followed and not questioned?

The question for me seems, "At what level are we being asked to follow with fidelity?" I can see asking teachers to work within the parameters of my framework for the Reading Workshop, namely the essentials for a reading workshop - to include a literate environment, reading aloud, interactive discussions, lessons in comprehension, reading assessment, and independent reading. If teachers are doing these things, does that mean they are doing the Reading Workshop with fidelity? How my control must be exercise over all teachers to say they are applying a program with fidelity? We need to begin asking what we are being asked to do.