09 December 2013

Items to Share: 8 December

Education Focus:

Knowledge vs. Skills
  • What I now tell my students about knowledge | Webs of Substance 'You might think this is a bit of a stretch but consider this: the evidence for transferrable skills is pretty limited. Yes, such skills do exist but they are far less facilitative than you might think. On the other hand, background knowledge enables reading and comprehension - something essential to future learning. Background knowledge enables critical thinking.' 
  • Why we shouldn’t close down the skills-knowledge debate | Pragmatic Education 'The point of this blogpost is to challenge those calls to move beyond the knowledge versus skills debate and its polarising binaries. I would urge those who make them to rethink these calls, and those who hear them to resist them. We are yet to excavate the full insight from the rich seam of the knowledge and instruction side of the debate. Cognitive science, international comparisons and statistical meta-analyses are not going to go away, and as they become increasingly sophisticated, we must not preclude thinking through this tension carefully.' 
  • What’s Essential in the Education Debate Part 2: Reason [A sort of meta-contribution to the substantive debate linked to above—about how it should be conducted.] 'As well as those who have no enthusiasm for truth in education debate, there are also those with no particular regard for rational argument. At its core, the issue is still the same one of truth. If claims are contradictory, arguments fallacious or inferences poorly thought out then false claims can be supported as easily as true ones. Those expecting to argue over education should be familiar with the most common informal fallacies, or at the very least be willing to look them up when required, yet I still encounter those who think it unfair or underhand to point out that their argument is invalid.'
  • Literature and Bureaucracy by Tim Parks | The New York Review of Books 'If I were asked what was the greatest problem in the university I work in today, I would definitely say bureaucracy: in particular, the obsession with codifying, regulating, recording, reviewing, verifying, vetting, and chronicling, with assessing achievement, forecasting achievement, identifying weak points, then establishing commissions for planning strategies for regular encounters to propose solutions to weak points, and further commissions empowered to apply for funding to pay for means to implement these solutions, and so on.'
Other Business
  • The Golden Mean: a great discovery or natural phenomenon? 'The Golden Mean – also known as the Golden Section or the Divine Proportion – is a mathematical concept that is typically traced to the 15th century, a period in which geometry served both practical and symbolic purposes. It is a ratio that defines a recurring relationship between a larger element and a smaller subset of that element.'
  • Simplifiers and Optimizers, by Dilbert creator Scott Adams - Boing Boing 'Some people are what I call simplifiers and some are optimizers. A simplifier will prefer the easy way to accomplish a task, while knowing that some amount of extra effort might have produced a better outcome. An optimizer looks for the very best solution even if the extra complexity increases the odds of unexpected problems.'
  • Why it's time to lay the selfish gene to rest – David Dobbs – Aeon 'if merely reading a genome differently can change organisms so wildly, why bother rewriting the genome to evolve? How vital, really, are actual changes in the genetic code? Do we even need DNA changes to adapt to new environments? Is the importance of the gene as the driver of evolution being overplayed?' (Robust comments follow) 
  • Home And Wet Andrew Sullivan gets all nostalgic (?) about the resilient persistence of old England.
  • The Practice of Advent [Experimental Theology] Richard Beck meditates on this first season of the liturgical year; it's not just about advent calendars, it's about gearing up to Christmas spiritually, and although Beck doesn't mention it, anticipating Judgement:The Collect for Advent: Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness and to put on the armour of light, now in the time of this mortal life, in which your Son Jesus Christ came to us in great humility; that on the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

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