This review focuses on the intrinsic character of academic work in elementary and secondry schools and the way that work is experienced by teachers and students in classrooms. The first section contains a review of recent research in cognitive psychology on the intellectual demands of the tasks contained in the school curriculum, with particular attention to the inherent complexity of most of the tasks students encounter. The findings of this research are brought to bear on the issue of direct versus indirect instruction. The second section is directed to studies of how academic work is accomplished in classroom environments. Classrooms appear to shape the content of the curriculum in fundamental ways for all students and especially those who find academic work difficult. In addition, the processes that are likely to have the greatest long-term consequences are the most difficult to teach in classrooms. The paper concludes with an analysis of issues related to improving instruction and extending current directions in research on teaching.
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