30 September 2014

Items to Share; 28 September 2014

Apologies for lateness.

Education Focus
  • Course Content: Why Don't We Teach the Telephone Book? | Faculty Focus '... It is difficult or impossible to get students to want to learn course material if they do not see a practical use for it. Unfortunately, many college and university courses cover information that most students do not need to know and will never need to know, although many of my colleagues find that very difficult to admit."
  • Shoot the elephant: The Ofsted report into low-level disruption. - Tom Bennett - TES Community 'Behaviour. It's always been about behaviour. From the day I stepped into a classroom, the biggest obstacle I faced in getting students from average A to brilliant B was how they behaved, or didn't. [The serious offenders aren't] the biggest problems for teaching; the Kryptonite for learning was the low-evel stuff – the chatting, the sullen refusals, the phones, the rocking, the headphones, paper-throwing. Everything that doesn't look like anything special in description, but collectively erodes the lesson like a universal solvent.' 
Other Business

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?