20 April 2015

Items to Share: 19 April 2015

Education Focus
  • QTLS | Sam Shepherd Is it worth bothering to claim Qualified Teacher (Learning and Skills) status?
  • How to Teach Adults: Get a Job; Plan Your Class; Teach Your Students; Change the World - Boing Boing '[A] lot of instruction amounts to giving students the confidence to slog on when they're in the wilderness, and to impart big-picture, overarching wisdom about the subject that they can use as a pole star while they are on their long march. But there are also the "stupid writer tricks": clever gimmicks and techniques that work reliably, produce quick dividends, and which can be transmitted quickly and relatively painlessly. These are just as important as the big picture stuff and not just because of how they boost morale. Anyone can learn and apply these techniques and produce readable material, but becoming an expert requires that you transcend them through extended practice, reflection and refinement.'
  • In praise of Teaching as a Subversive Activity | Improving Teaching 'Writing in the late 1960s, [Postman and Weingartner,] the authors of Teaching as a Subversive Activity worked from two assumptions: society’s survival is under threat and something may – perhaps – be done about it. In response, they set out to challenge the foundations of the education system and invited teachers to reimagine schools to benefit students and society.'
  • Why is this reading so hard? | patter 'Getting into a new area or mode of thinking is actually a bit like getting to know a new physical location. When you arrive in a new city you don’t expect to know how to get around straight away. You don’t expect to know a new place in the way you know your own home environment. You understand that you have to make several trips before you have a sense of what is where, and how to get from one place to another without looking at a map for general directions and/or reassurance.'
Other Business
  • The Golden Ratio: Design's Biggest Myth | Co.Design | business design 'In the world of art, architecture, and design, the golden ratio has earned a tremendous reputation. Greats like Le Corbusier and Salvador DalĂ­ have used the number in their work. The Parthenon, the Pyramids at Giza, the paintings of Michelangelo, the Mona Lisa, even the Apple logo are all said to incorporate it. It's bullshit. The golden ratio's aesthetic bona fides are an urban legend, a myth, a design unicorn. Many designers don't use it, and if they do, they vastly discount its importance. There's also no science to really back it up. Those who believe the golden ratio is the hidden math behind beauty are falling for a 150-year-old scam.' 
  • A Certain Closeness – Lingua Franca - Blogs - The Chronicle of Higher Education 'Taking advice on usage from Word is like taking advice on investments from Bernie Madoff. The grammar-checking tool is a chaotic, unreliable, inconsistent, brain-dead piece of junkware. It can’t tell what’s grammatical and what isn’t, yet still it presumes to query every passive or split infinitive, and advise you falsely on when to use an indefinite article and hundreds of other points.'
  • WHO announcement on withheld clinical trials, and my commentary in PLoS Medicine – Bad Science 'This week there was an amazing landmark announcement from the World Health Organisation: they have come out and said that everyone must share the results of their clinical trials, within 12 months of completion, including old trials (since those are the trials conducted on currently used treatments). This is great news, but it’s not enough. The WHO announcement was in PLoS Medicine, with a commentary from WHO staff explaining their reasoning (it’s very good) and a commentary from me, explaining why we need to audit missing data, and act on that audit data.'

13 April 2015

Items to Share: 12 April 2015

Education Focus
  • 8 Tips for Arguing about Education | Filling the pail 'Let’s be clear: the point in engaging in a debate about education is not to get someone to admit that they are wrong. Few people have the self-confidence to be able to do this. Minds do change as a result of such discussions but usually over the course of many. It takes time and you’re unlikely to get any credit. Instead, you should be engaging in order to test out your own ideas. Do they stand up to scrutiny? Is there something you can learn? Is there a well-known criticism of your position that you need to take into account? To do this, you need to accept the right of others to challenge you.'
  • Schools and the Mindless Mindset Meritocracy | SurrealAnarchy  'Mindset attracts schools because in a kingdom of the blind the one eyed man would be king. We think: ‘ah our kids can get higher grades if they have a growth mindset; our kids can be ‘kings’ and our school lauded as ‘kingmaker’! But in a kingdom of growth mindset ‘where all schools do it’ all the iniquities and inequalities remain. If I was to practise as much as Usain Bolt I doubt I would ever be as fast as him, even with the same coaching I would not be his equal.'
  • Paulo Freire: Pedagogy of the Oppressed [digitalcounterrevolution.co.uk] 'Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed remains an inspiring work. The banking model of education he set himself against is now being replaced by an online shopping model of education (learning as the active, personal acquisition of disposable stuff you can find online), but what really inspires in Freire’s pedagogy has as much to say about the latter as Freire himself had to say about the former.'
  • A New Kind of Learning — The Synapse — Medium 'The program, part of a new institute in Paris called “Centre de Recherche Interdisciplinaire” (or Center for Research and Interdisciplinarity), has an equally vague sounding name: Interdisciplinary Approaches to Life Sciences. At first, the entire approach seems rather unfocused and a failure waiting to happen. In my 2nd year Master (called an “M2” here, in France), there are students from varying disciplines, not only in Biology, but Mathematics, Physics, and even Design. Last year, there was a student in Philosophy! All of us learn the same things, in the same classes, though it may seem like we don’t learn anything at all, especially considering our various interests and expertise.The trick is thatwe, as students, define what we want to learn. [   ] The curriculum isn’t catered for the students by the teachers, but rather by the students for the students. Of course, there are some guidelines, some limitations, but overall, we teach ourselves what we really want to learn and what we’re really curious about.
  • Should all university lectures automatically be recorded? [theconversation.com]  'Universities across the world are considering whether to start automatically recording lectures. Some students are voting for it. And the IT industry has created some seductive products to record lectures, a process also known as “lecture capture”. Some onlookers expect a hesitant response from the higher education sector, which is often portrayed as cautious about taking up educational technologies. [...] Yet lobbing new resources into complex settings deserves caution. Our universities are rich human ecosystems and, as such, they can prove fragile in the face of interventions. A new technology such as the automatic recording of lectures does not just add something good to the learning context – it re-configures it, but in uncertain ways.'
  • How Assignment Design Shapes Student Learning | Faculty Focus 'every kind of assignment influences the shape of learning. So, what would you say about how you’ve constructed exam experiences in your courses? Are they shaping learning in the ways you want? I once observed an instructor who, on the first day of class, asked students, “Are you worried about what’s going to be on the final?” Heads nodded. “Well, no worries in this course. You’ll find the final attached to the syllabus.” It was a page of essay questions. “You’ll be writing responses to some of those questions on the final and we’ll be dealing with content throughout the course that you can be using in your answers.” Would that approach change the way students take notes throughout the semester? Would it enable instructors to ask a different kind of exam question? Would students prepare for the final differently?'
  • Donald Clark Plan B: Sir Ken Robinson: ‘Creative’ with the truth? 'So often in education, shallow unsubstantiated TED talks replace the real work of researchers and those who take a more rigorous view of evidence. Sir Ken Robinson, is, I suspect, the prime example of this romantic theorising, Sugata Mitra the second. Darlings of the conference circuit, they make millions from talks but do untold damage when it comes to the real word and the education of our children.'
  • Those were the days… | dancing princesses 'Forty years ago I signed up to study an A Level in English Literature at my local FE College. I liked reading, but I wasn’t sure about the ‘Literature’ part, and was looking forward to finding out how it was different from ordinary books. My teacher had a kindly smile and twinkly eyes, and he seemed to know I was keen although I was painfully shy and never dared to ask or answer a question in class. Instead of directing a series of Socratic questions to probe and challenge, he let me be, and he certainly didn’t make me engage in embarrassing group-work or keep switching activities to maintain a brisk pace.'
  • When 140 Characters Isn't Enough: The birth of a zombie statistic [Sam Freedman] 'Last week the "i" newspaper splashed on a startling statistic: "40% of teachers leave within one year". It has since been repeated in the Guardian, Times, Mail, Observer and probably hundreds of other places. [...] The only problem is that it's entirely untrue. 9% of teachers leave in their first year [...] It's been 9 or 10% a year every year for the last 20 years. This isn't particularly interesting; it isn't news; but it is true.
Other Business

06 April 2015

Items to Share; 5 April 2015

A fairly fallow week this week...

Education Focus
  • Can you win at anything if you practise hard enough? - BBC News 'If you had enough practice, advice and expert training, could you become a success at anything? How much is achievement based on natural ability and how much hard work? For instance, could an "unco-ordinated computer geek" become a table-tennis star in one year? In an international experiment, a table-tennis coach gave an "unsporty" adult an hour's coaching every day for a year in a bid to make him one of the top table tennis players in Britain.'  Related post here.
  • Will at Work Learning: People remember 10%, 20%...Oh Really? 'People do NOT remember 10% of what they read, 20% of what they see, 30% of what they hear, etc. That information, and similar pronouncements are fraudulent. Moreover, general statements on the effectiveness of learning methods are not credible---learning results depend on too many variables to enable such precision. Unfortunately, this bogus information has been floating around our field for decades, crafted by many different authors and presented in many different configurations, including bastardizations of Dale's Cone.' My own take is here.
  • Does engagement actually matter? | David Didau: The Learning Spy 'I’m not saying engagement and motivation don’t matter at all – clearly they are important in all sorts of contexts – but the idea that there is any kind of direct link to achievement appears to be dubious. If you want to engage students because you want them to be more engaged, fine. But if you believe that engagement will automatically lead to better results you may well be mistaken.'
  • Make 'em laugh: the humorous path to academic success [theconversation.com] 'Maybe academics themselves need to take a serious look at what frustrates them and what (perhaps simultaneously) makes them laugh. The best jokes always contain important insights, and that is as true in academia as anywhere. Humour broadens the audience for scientific research, and can show how science is relevant to our world. It also reminds scientists and their audience how fun science can be. An academic joke could start the journey towards tenure or a Nobel Prize. Or, if not, at least one can enjoy levitating frogs.'
  • Adult education needs an urgent and radical rethink [theconversation.com] 'Somewhat apologetically, business secretary Vince Cable has started a consultation for employers and further education providers to review the country’s vocational education system. Such rethinking will not be enough to save adult education. What is needed is a re-imagining of adult education, before it is too late. A narrow, though important concentration on skills and economic improvement represents a short-sighted vision, as adult education is much more than that.'
 Other Business

30 March 2015

Items to Share: 29 March 2015

Education Focus

  • Donald Clark Plan B: The fake 'Wellness' cult in education and the workplace 'In all of these cases an unwelcome, and I suspect, unintended consequence, of all of this happiness, mindfulness and wellness effort, is a condescending attitude towards the rest of us who ‘don’t get it’ or ‘don’t live up to these standards’. There is a smugness about the whole affair, a stink of righteousness. It’s the modern equivalent of a meme-inspired cult, a touch of the Temper[a]nce movement and smattering of Scientology.' And Ecclestone K and Hayes D (2008) The Dangerous Rise of Therapeutic Education is worth reading in a similar vein.
  • Skills rhetoric doesn’t make the cut | 157 Group 'Saving adult education is more than about protecting what there is – it is about shaping what it can be in the future.' More on the coming decimation of adult education. (The 157 group lobbies on behalf of Further Education.)
  • #TLAB15: A flash of light | Those that can…'The theme of the day was ‘all in the mind’, and, powerfully, it brought together teachers with experts from other fields to share their research in a clear and accessible format which gave so many ideas and insights into how we – teachers and students – and the cultural, environmental and relational factors which influence this. Below, I have highlighted some of my key ‘take-home’ moments for the day...'
  • What is the point of praise? | Sandagogy '[T]he Year 13 students who were part of my focus group were adamant that they did not want or need praise from their teachers! They were also very clear that they did not find praise helpful and implied that praise is not always used for valid purposes by teachers, for example you were more likely to receive praise if you had a poor mark. Yet from my own informal classroom observations I have witnessed the positive effect that written praise has had on students and the responding increase in motivation and self-esteem.
  • Left Brain – Right Brain: This idea must die | teflgeek 'Blakemore states that the idea of left and right brain separation arose out of studies done in the sixties and seventies on people who had had surgery to divide their brains. Snip. In that scenario, the left and right hemispheres can no longer physically communicate with each other and some brain functions are inevitably degraded as a result. [ ] For everybody else though? No matter how analytical or creative we are being – we use both sides of our brains. All the time.'
  • Donald Clark Plan B: 7 reasons: Why we need to kill boring ‘learning objectives’! 'At the end of this course you will….” zzzzzzzzz……. How to kill learning before it has even started. Imagine if every movie started with a list of objectives; “in this film you will watch the process of a ship sail from Southampton, witness the catastrophic effect of icebergs on shipping, witness death at sea but understand that romance will be provided to keep you engaged”. Imagine Abraham Lincoln listing his objectives before delivering the Gettysburg Address. Imagine each episode of Breaking Bad starting with its objectives. It makes NO sense.'
  • The Research That Never Was | Sam Shepherd [Sam would like to do some research to test an intervention:] 'The intervention, and those who know me will now groan, is the setting of SMART targets for learning. I know, I’m like a stubborn dog with a particularly juicy slipper on this, but do bear with me. You see, that research would never happen. Smart targets are an integral part of the individual learning plan, and as such, are pretty much unassailable. After all, they tick every ideological and performance management box: achievement of the target runs the argument, supplies evidence of individual student learning. Criticism of the target is seen as criticism of the concept that the learning of the individual is crucial.'
  • Yeah, but what about the visual learners? | barrynsmith79's Blog 'Spelling tests in MFL – I think they went out of fashion didn’t they? Most of you reading this probably can’t recall a time when they were ever in fashion. To be fair, it was a bit draconian expecting kids to get the spelling right and take pride in their work. You know, actually checking what they’d written. Yeah, spelling tests, they’re boring, they are'

  • Umberto Eco's How To Write a Thesis: A Witty, Irreverent and Highly Practical Guide Now Out in English | Open Culture 'I wish, [...] that as a onetime (longtime) grad student, I had had access to the English translation, just published this month, of Umberto Eco’s How to Write a Thesis, a guide to the production of scholarly work worth the name by the highly celebrated Italian novelist and intellectual. Written originally in Italian in 1977, before Eco’s name was well-known for such works of fiction as The Name of the Rose and Foucault’s Pendulum, How to Write [a] Thesis is appropriately described by MIT Press as reading: “like a novel”: “opinionated… frequently irreverent, sometimes polemical, and often hilarious.”
Other Business
  • Bryan Appleyard » Blog Archive » Hell Is Not Other People Review of 'The Village Effect: Why Face to Face Contact Matters' by Susan Pinker. 'Total assets amounting to trillions of dollars depend on you not believing a word of this book. What The Village Effect shows, in a nutshell, is that “we’re lonelier and unhappier than we were in the decades before the internet age”. Life online goes against human nature, providing only a thin, fake version of real contact, real life. We should — we must — turn away from the seductions of Silicon Valley. [ ] Susan Pinker [...] is a developmental psychologist turned author and journalist. This book, being research heavy and stylistically light and readable, draws on both aspects of her career. But, though pleasantly mild-mannered in tone, it is an urgent polemic directed at the virtualisation of our lives.'

25 March 2015

On cuts

 Ouch! (Tips via Jim Crawley; thanks!)

Government cuts could ‘decimate’ adult education by 2020, AoC warns (FE week)

Association of Colleges warns of the end of adult education and training provision by 2020
The Skills Funding Agency’s response to the Skills Funding Letter 2015 to 2016 which has now been published.

National Institute of Adult and Continuing Education: