09 September 2013

Items to Share: 8 September

Education Focus

  • Is Inquiry The Magnum Principium of Teaching? "In our view inquiry is the sin[e] qua non of experiential teaching and learning. When teachers advocate inquiry, they are talking about a philosophy of teaching and learning that is rooted in social constructivism and humanism. Inquiry evokes a sense of wonder..." Persuasive. But here's the other side... Discovery-based Ignorance : The Last Word On Nothing It's all very well but not if the foundation of sheer accurate knowledge is not there. Discuss!
  • The Promise and Peril of Outcomes Assessment - Commentary - The Chronicle of Higher Education The US system of HE even now allows far more autonomy to individual professors than the UK, but there is concern about the consistency of standards and the value of qualifications--hence this debate. "[H]ow much the students' outcome scores represent growth or improvement over where they began is anyone's guess. Indeed, there is scattered evidence suggesting that, when it comes to mathematical competency, American college students show a net decline from the beginning to the end of college. [...] Even if more colleges use before-and-after assessments to measure change over time, the data are of limited usefulness unless the college has some way of knowing why some students learned more than others."
  •  Book review: "It's the curriculum, stupid" - Daniel Willingham It's Willingham week! "[T]here is a primary postulate running through the psyche of Koreans, Finns, and Poles when it comes to education: an expectation that the work will be hard. Everything else is secondary. So anything that gets in the way, anything that compromises the work, will be downplayed or eliminated. [...] Several consequences follow from this laser-like focus on academic rigor. For example, if schoolwork is challenging kids are going to fail frequently. So failure necessarily is seen as a normal part of the learning process, and as an opportunity for learning, not a cause of shame.
  • Social Loafing (a.k.a. free-loading) and its implications for the use of groupwork in class. As ever, little consideration is given to the demands of different kinds of content, but a useful discussion-starter.
  • Best of the APA Style Blog: 2013 Edition  Good grief--how geeky can you get? But if you are embarking on a course which uses Harvard/APA (yes I know they're obscurely different) this may actually be a useful resource.
  • A Masterclass In Physics "Today I'll walk into a classroom of advanced undergraduate physics students and begin teaching them about the stars. It will take 13 weeks, beginning with the basic principles of astrophysics and ending with the structure of the Milky Way. I will chart that path, as I do every year, by kickin' it old school with chalk on a blackboard. And today, as I do every year, I'll wonder if I'm doing the right thing."
Other Business
  • Why the other queue always seem to move faster than yours « Mind Hacks "Sometimes I feel like the whole world is against me. The other lanes of traffic always move faster than mine. The same goes for the supermarket queues. While I’m at it, why does it always rain on those occasions I don’t carry an umbrella, and why do wasps always want to eat my sandwiches at a picnic and not other people’s?"
  • Logo, Bullshit & Co., Inc. | Information Architects  "Everybody likes logos. Everybody wants their own logo. Everybody wants to make their own logo. Everybody has a computer and some fonts. Anybody can make a logo. What makes designers think they are so special?" Reads like special pleading to me.
  • Kevin Rudd Does a Jed Bartlett  A propos the West Wing clip I mentioned last week--here is Kevin Rudd (then current, but now former Australian PM) doing it for real. (Thanks to Iain Dale for the original link, but his post on it seems to have disappeared.)
  • The Social Life of Genes: Shaping Your Molecular Composition "Your DNA is not a blueprint. Day by day, week by week, your genes are in a conversation with your surroundings. Your neighbors, your family, your feelings of loneliness: They don’t just get under your skin, they get into the control rooms of your cells. Inside the new social science of genetics." A really interesting corrective to the "it's all in the genes" perspective. Incidentally, I've just finished Jesse Prinz on Beyond Human Nature in the same broad area of argument (Penguin, 2013: please buy from your local independent bookshop!)
  • Schneier on Security: Our Newfound Fear of Risk "We're afraid of risk. It's a normal part of life, but we're increasingly unwilling to accept it at any level. So we turn to technology to protect us. The problem is that technological security measures aren't free. They cost money, of course, but they cost other things as well. They often don't provide the security they advertise, and -- paradoxically -- they often increase risk somewhere else. This problem is particularly stark when the risk involves another person: crime, terrorism, and so on. While technology has made us much safer against natural risks like accidents and disease, it works less well against man-made risks."

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