22 September 2014

Items to Share: 21 September 2014

Education Focus
  • Minorities | Sam Shepherd On being a cyclist. 'Read [this post] through to the end and it gives you a feeling for what it must be like when it’s not a lifestyle choice which is being discriminated against, but some central part of who you are. I wonder how much starker and more intense are those emotions, how much more savage the final radicalisation might become.[...] But I have a little insight, which I hope is a start.'
  • Does Discussion Make a Difference? | Faculty Focus 'When faced with conceptual problems, students need the opportunity to practice solving them. The value of that practice is enhanced when in addition to finding the answer, students talk to one another about the problem and how they arrived at their answers. What’s most encouraging in this study is the documentation that discussion not only leads more of them to the correct answer, it improves their ability to explain why the answer is correct.' And...
  • How to get students to participate in discussion 'The reading has been assigned. You have prepared the questions, in advance. As you ask them, you are met by blank stares. This week on Teaching in Higher Ed: How to get students to participate in discussion with Dr. Stephen Brookfield.'
  • Does the student a) know the answer, or are they b) guessing? 'Central Queensland University has weighed up the advantages and limitations of multiple choice and has decided to abolish them from all exams. This is for two reasons: firstly, because of the potential impact of guessing; and secondly, because of the lack of authenticity in the method of answering the question.' But...
  • Games in the Classroom (Reading List) –  The Chronicle of Higher Education 'There are lots of enthusiasts for games in the classroom out there (myself included, of course) and tons of great places to start if you’re interested in learning more about bringing games into education. These are only the tip of the iceberg–there’s a particularly rich conversation in game studies surrounding serious and persuasive games, which is decidedly interwoven with educational games.'
Other Business

  • BPS Research Digest: The 10 most controversial psychology studies ever, digested 'Controversy is essential to scientific progress. As Richard Feynman said, "science is the belief in the ignorance of experts." Nothing is taken on faith, all assumptions are open to further scrutiny. It's a healthy sign therefore that psychology studies continue to generate great controversy. Often the heat is created by arguments about the logic or ethics of the methods, other times it's because of disagreements about the implications of the findings to our understanding of human nature.' 
  • ‘The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace,’ by Jeff Hobbs - NYTimes.com 'There are places in America where life is so cheap and fate so brutal that, if they belonged to another country, America might bomb that country to “liberate” them. This book is a mesmeric account of such a place — a ghetto near Newark — that asks the consummate American question: Is it possible to reinvent yourself, to sculpture your own destiny?'
  • 3quarksdaily: Ig Nobels: British researchers take coveted science humour prize 'The nation can hold its head up high. Once again, researchers in Britain have been honoured with that most coveted of scientific awards, the Ig Nobel prize. [ ] Not to be confused with the more prestigious – and lucrative – prizes doled out from Stockholm next month, the Ig Nobels are awarded for science that makes people laugh and then makes them think.'  

15 September 2014

Iterms to Share: 14 September 2014

Education Focus
  • Game designers are beating teachers at their own game (The Conversation) 'Why do kids prefer playing video games to doing homework? The easy answer is - it’s more fun to play games than do homework. The real answer is much harder to stomach - game designers have become better at education than schools.'
  • Why Most Behaviour Management Advice Doesn’t Work | Scenes From The Battleground 'I’ve worked at a lot of different schools, and learnt that my effectiveness at behaviour management seems to vary massively between the schools. [...] This is why I am outraged about many of those snake oil salesm[e]n who offer individual teachers a “magic bullet” solution to behaviour, usually built around platitudes about winning kids over.'
Other Business
  • The myth about social mobility in Britain: it’s not that bad, says new report (Stephen Gorard for the Conversation) 'Considerable effort and funding is [...] being put into a solution to a problem that does not appear to exist – perhaps because good news in not so popular as bad. But there is a real opportunity cost. Real problems for the most educationally disadvantaged in the UK, such as adults without prior qualifications and low levels of literacy, are being ignored.'
  • Creativity Creep - The New Yorker  'To today’s creativity researchers, the “self-styled creative person,” with his inner, unverifiable, possibly unproductive creativity, is a kind of bogeyman; a great deal of time is spent trampling on the scarf of the lone, Romantic genius. Instead, attention is paid to the systems of influence, partnership, power, funding, and reception that surround creativity—the social structures, in other words, that enable managers to reap the fruits of creative labor.' This piece is a useful counterpoint to Ken Robinson's waffle.

08 September 2014

Items to Share: 7 September 2014

Education Focus
  • #ResearchED – Everything you know about education is wrong | David Didau: The Learning Spy (Conference presentation, 6 September 2014) 'At this point I ran through some of the compelling reasons there might be to indicate that we’re all wrong, all the time. We considered various physiological and psychological blind spots all of which prevent us from perceiving reality as it really is and from spotting where we’ve gone wrong. As Henri Bergson said, “The eyes see only what the brain is prepared to comprehend.” The most alarming of these intellectual confounds is the bias blindspot; the fact that even when we understand our limitations we still fail to spot the flaws in our thinking.'
  • A Post About ESOL for Non-ESOL People | Sam Shepherd 'ESOL is not literacy. Literacy is not ESOL. There may be some similarities in subject and on methodology, and things both fields can learn from each other, but the overlap is pretty small. What an ESOL learner has to learn about grammar is far far more profound than what a literacy learner needs to learn. Word order, tense structure, a good working vocabulary of a few thousand words( things like that, things which are, for the majority of adult literacy learners, already developed. Learning a language is not the same as learning to read and write in a language you already know.
      • Cherry Picking | Webs of Substance  More on the argument about direct teaching and inquiry-based, constructivist methods—fraught as usual with straw people and mutual deafness, and lousy research methods. Even so, a good overview of the debate, with some good thoughts about the differences between HE and schooling.  And:
      • Inquiry | Webs of Substance 'As Pinker suggests with respect to maths, it is apparent that anything worth doing requires a lot of hard work which is not immediately rewarding. This is why people tend to do better in life if they can defer gratification. In addition, until you know something about an area of study then you are unlikely to find it particularly interesting. [...] Interest grows with knowledge. And it is one of progressive education’s deep ironies that the things children really do have an innate interest in – the existence of aliens, dinosaurs, battles, king and queens, foul diseases, space, whether there’s a God – tend to get displaced from Inquiry based programmes in favour of those wet paper towels.'
        • Those Magical and Mysterious Learning Moments | Faculty Focus 'Reinsmith notes that learning moments cannot be forced. “… not even the most outstanding teacher can summon a learning moment. The most we can do is fashion a context for them.” He thinks we do that by avoiding rigidity and fostering “a sense of ease; where a certain lightness, even playfulness reigns.” Reinsmith recommends that we “… stay open, keeping our minds nimble. Most of all we must learn to abandon what we thought was important and surrender to [learning moments] serendipitous nature. Put succinctly, teachers … must learn to live on the balls of their feet, expecting the unexpected.”' 
        • Comparing uni grades: is a distinction always a distinction? 'Perhaps the biggest concern for students in higher education aside from the cost is their grades. Grades influence retention and attrition rates, scholarships, future employability and a sense of identity and self-worth. But how can a student be sure that the distinction they received is comparable to the distinction their mate received at the university down the road? Or even in the next class?
        Other Business
        • A Giant Appears At The Edge Of An African Roadway : Krulwich Wonders... : NPR '...this is what a public sculpture should be: It should shift, play and be continuously engaging. Time robs most monuments of their original significance. [...] the Statue of Liberty was originally built as an anti-slavery message, a statement by republican France that it was siding with the Union and emancipation. There is, he says, a "broken slave shackle around Liberty's foot" that is now hardly noticed,'
        • What's a Metaphor For? - The Chronicle Review - The Chronicle of Higher Education 'Writing about metaphor is dancing with your conceptual clothes off, the innards of your language exposed by equipment more powerful than anything operated by the TSA. Still, one would be a rabbit not to do it in a world where metaphor is now top dog, at least among revived rhetorical devices with philosophical appeal. ' 
        • The Case of the Sinister Buttocks – Lingua Franca - Blogs - The Chronicle of Higher Education (Geoffrey Pullum) 'The common mature musicians also the recent liturgy providers are looking to satisfy additional Herculean, personalised liturgies to tarry fore of the conflict. [...] this strange sentence['s...] reference to musicians and liturgies might suggest a musical or religious theme. But no, this sentence, in a senior thesis submitted by an undergraduate to a London-area university, purported to be about business information systems.'

        01 September 2014

        Items to Share: 31 August 2014

        Education Focus
        • Inquiry | Webs of Substance 'As Pinker suggests with respect to maths, it is apparent that anything worth doing requires a lot of hard work which is not immediately rewarding. This is why people tend to do better in life if they can defer gratification. In addition, until you know something about an area of study then you are unlikely to find it particularly interesting. [...] Interest grows with knowledge. And it is one of progressive education’s deep ironies that the things children really do have an innate interest in – the existence of aliens, dinosaurs, battles, king and queens, foul diseases, space, whether there’s a God – tend to get displaced from Inquiry based programmes in favour of those wet paper towels.
        • Does It Help to Know History? [newyorker.com] '[T]he best argument for reading history is not that it will show us the right thing to do in one case or the other, but rather that it will show us why even doing the right thing rarely works out. The advantage of having a historical sense is not that it will lead you to some quarry of instructions, the way that Superman can regularly return to the Fortress of Solitude to get instructions from his dad, but that it will teach you that no such crystal cave exists. What history generally “teaches” is how hard it is for anyone to control it, including the people who think they’re making it.'
        • Individual Learning Plans: Scratching an old itch | Sam Shepherd '[W]hile there may be a little motivational/engagement value to target setting for some learners, there is actually very little in general educational literature supporting their use, and nothing at all in second language acquisition/learning theory which suggests that they have any value whatsoever. Simply: there is no evidence that target setting works.'
        • How to handle bullies [theconversation.com] 'The experts generally agreed on which were effective and ineffective strategies. There was consensus that the same strategies were appropriate for all types of bullying. They rated strategies such as talking to family members or professionals outside school, talking to teachers and counsellors at school and using the school’s anti-bullying and harassment policies and procedures as the most effective. [...] Least effective were denying that the bullying was happening, using drugs to avoid the pain or staying away from school. However, it was found that seriously bullied students reported they would not use the strategies the “experts” thought were effective. Instead, they would use strategies such as avoidance and denial.'
        Other Business
        • Against Empathy | Boston Review (Paul Bloom) 'Most people see the benefits of empathy as too obvious to require justification. This is a mistake.' Useful distinction between cognitive empathy and emotional empathy.
        • How neuroscience is being used to spread quackery in business and education [theconversation.com] 'The phrase ["cargo-cult science"] has since been used to refer to various pseudo-scientific fields such as phrenology, neuro-linguistic programming, and the various kinds of alternative therapies. Practitioners of these disciplines may use scientific terms, and may even perform research, but their thinking and conclusions are nonetheless fundamentally scientifically flawed.
        • Environmental Enrichment May Help Treat Autism — and Help Us All - Scientific American 'After six months, all of the children were evaluated by assessors with no knowledge of their group assignment. We found that 42% of the enriched children showed a clinically significant improvement in their autism symptoms, according to the Childhood Autism Rating Scale, while only 7% of those receiving standard care did. In addition, the cognitive score of the enriched children (measured with the Leiter International Performance Scale – Revised) was more than 10 points higher than those receiving standard care. We have now repeated and extended the original study with many more children.' Yes, but; why publish in Scientific American, with no link to any peer-reviewed evidence?

        25 August 2014

        Items to Share: 24 August 2014

        Education Focus
        • On observation rubrics [Pragmatic Education] 'The problem is, we are asking the wrong question. Debates over ‘what makes a good teacher?’ and ‘what makes an outstanding teacher?’ or even ‘what makes good teaching?’ are circular. There are as many possible answers as there are teachers in the world. Instead, we should be asking: how can observations most help improve our teaching? Not by grading or quantifying or judging. Observations most improve teaching when they are disconnected from performance management, appraisal and pay, and only formative. Observations most help when they are low-stakes, frequent and give one clear, prioritised, next-step piece of feedback.'
        • Curriculum Matters | Webs of Substance 'I am deeply skeptical about attempts to teach children to learn how to learn by emphasising their ‘learning muscles’ or exhorting them to have a ‘growth mindset’ or whatever. What is clear is that an excellent preparation for learning new things in the future is to acquire plenty of knowledge in the present. We then have mental landscapes into which to slot and assimilate the new knowledge when it comes along.'
        • The Future of College? - The Atlantic 'The system had bugs—it crashed once, and some of the video lagged—but overall it worked well, and felt decidedly unlike a normal classroom. For one thing, it was exhausting: a continuous period of forced engagement, with no relief in the form of time when my attention could flag or I could doodle in a notebook undetected. Instead, my focus was directed relentlessly by the platform, and because it looked like my professor and fellow edu-nauts were staring at me, I was reluctant to ever let my gaze stray from the screen. [...]. I was forced, in effect, to learn. If this was the education of the future, it seemed vaguely fascistic. Good, but fascistic.' The Minerva initiative
        • What Do You Do on the First Day of Class? | Vitae 'The first day of class always ended right after we did our introductions. Students were much more talkative on the way out than they were on the way in, so I guess that was a good sign. As an added bonus, I used the note cards to call roll for a few weeks until I memorized their names. It’s much easier to remember the name of a student when you know she likes Wes Anderson movies.'
        • Why Students Should Own Their Educational Data – Wired Campus - Blogs - The Chronicle of Higher Education 'It’s not that people don’t have particular habits and styles of learning. Intuitively of course that sounds right. I prefer visual information over other kinds. [Learning style theory] comes from analyzing a population and trying to parse out different ways of learning over a population. But when you apply it to one individual it doesn’t hold. You can’t start with averages, it doesn’t work. We couldn’t do better approaches to individuals back in the day because we just didn’t have enough data.
        • BBC Radio 4 - The Educators - Episode guide This is shaping up to be an interesting series: Sarah Montague interviews eight figures prominent in education thinking at the moment; first up is Sir Ken (still a bit vague), followed by John Hattie—who is not that far from Ken in the final analysis. Well worth listening to.
        • Draft bill of research rights for educators - Daniel Willingham 'When I talk to educators about research, their most common complaint (by a long shot) is that they are asked to implement new interventions (a curriculum, a pedagogical technique, a software product, whatever), and are offered no reason to do so other than a breezy “all the research supports it.” The phrase is used as a blunt instrument to silence questions. As a scientist I find this infuriating because it abuses what ought to be a serious claim—research backs this—and in so doing devalues research.'
        • We try to fix too many social problems through exams [theconversation.com] (Dennis Hayes) '[R]ecent governments have seen education as the place to engage in social engineering to solve a range of social and political problems. These include everything from radicalisation, obesity, homophobia, smoking, binge drinking, drug taking, criminality, anti-social behaviour and saving the planet. [...] That strategy, which results from the inability of politicians to resolve those problems in the grown-up world, has led to education being seen as more important than it is.'
        • How a bigger purpose can motivate students to learn: [Carnegie News]: 'A few years ago, psychologist David Yeager and his colleagues noticed something interesting while interviewing high school students in the San Francisco Bay Area about their hopes, dreams and life goals. It was no surprise that students often said that making money, attaining fame or pursuing a career that they enjoyed were important to them. But many of them also spoke of additionally wanting to make a positive impact on their community or society — such as by becoming a doctor to take care of people, or a pastor who “makes a difference.” What’s more, the teens with these “pro-social” types of goals tended to rate their schoolwork as more personally meaningful.'
        Other Business (mainly about writing and grammar again)
        • What’s Up With That: Why It’s So Hard to Catch Your Own Typos | Science | WIRED 'You have finally finished writing your article. You’ve sweat over your choice of words and agonized about the best way to arrange them to effectively get your point across. You comb for errors, and by the time you publish you are absolutely certain that not a single typo survived. But, the first thing your readers notice isn’t your carefully crafted message, it’s the misspelled word in the fourth sentence.'
        • Steven Pinker: 10 'grammar rules' it's OK to break (sometimes) | Books | The Guardian 'How can you distinguish the legitimate concerns of a careful writer from the folklore and superstitions? These are the questions to ask. Does the rule merely extend the logic of an intuitive grammatical phenomenon to more complicated cases, such as avoiding the agreement error in "The impact of the cuts have not been felt"? Do careful writers who inadvertently flout the rule agree, when the breach is pointed out, that something has gone wrong? Has the rule been respected by the best writers in the past? Is it respected by careful writers in the present?'
        • 250 years of English grammar usage advice: HUGE database includes history of "hopefully" and others '[N]ewer usage guides tend to discuss a greater number of usage problems than older ones do. This suggests that more usage problems are "discovered" than disappear, either by being "forgotten" about or resolved. Furthermore, the database mainly contains usage problems relating to grammatical issues rather than word-choice or spelling. It seems then, that grammatical issues don’t easily "go out of fashion," something that happens more easily with problems of word choice, spelling or pronunciation.'
        • APA Style Blog: How to Use the New DOI Format in APA Style 'Have you noticed that references in most recently published journal articles end with a string of numbers and letters? That odd-looking item is the article’s digital object identifier (DOI), and it may just be the most important part of the reference. The DOI is like a digital fingerprint: Each article receives a unique one at birth, and it can be used to identify the article throughout its lifespan, no matter where it goes.'