How many mistakes can you find in this video?

This video is going viral, but while it sounds and looks great, the amount of mistakes in the movie is too difficult too count.

As Casper pointed out on Twitter the opening quote is already something Einstein never said, followed by the school kills creativity-meme, crude comparisons.

But the biggest surprise comes in the end where suddenly the question is asked how to make education more effective and efficient? For most people this won’t sound bizarre, but it is to me because it’s actually the same fallacy he accuses the education system for. Hidden in the video is a very neoliberal, hyper-individualistic point of view.

At the same time he handy forgets or cherrypicks all the good stuff education has done, even the role education has played in getting him where he is now.

Is education perfect as it is? Surely not.

Is the caricature you get in this video correct? Luckily not.

Will this video be shared a lot? For sure.

Will it help education? Not so sure…

P.S.: a little extra bit. This TED-Ed lesson seems pretty appropriate to combine with this video:

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On feedback: how students engage with feedback is as important as its content

This study actually didn’t surprise me at all, not so illogical for a review study. Still it’s something worth repeating: the key message from the study is that effective feedback needs to be a dialogue – not a one-way communication.

From the press release (bold by me):

Getting feedback on assignments is a key part of the learning process for students, and optimising its effectiveness is particularly important in an era of rising tuition fees and concern among universities about student satisfaction levels and their impact on league table rankings.

The systematic review, which looked at evidence from 195 different studies published since 1985, revealed that learners’ engagement with feedback is often poor, with many students failing to look at written feedback or only looking at it once. The review acknowledges that there are a range of reasons why students fail to engage effectively with feedback — for example, they may find it difficult to understand, may not know how to use it, may not feel capable of changing what they do, or may lack motivation to engage with the advice they receive.

The review found that students’ use of feedback is influenced not just by what advice is given, but also by various characteristics of the sender and receiver, and characteristics of the learning context. For example the modular structure of many degree courses means that students can perceive feedback on one assignment as irrelevant if they have now moved onto a new module.

One of the main recommendations to emerge from the review was that when educators try to improve students’ use of feedback, they should first focus on the skills that their students will need in order to engage effectively. The authors identified a number of crucial learning skills and suggested that multiple interventions are likely to be needed to successfully improve all of these skills.

Based on this research, the Developing Engagement with Feedback Toolkit has been created to help educators and students overcome some of the key barriers to engagement with feedback. Including a feedback guide for students, the toolkit suggests running feedback workshops, and using a feedback portfolio aimed at enabling students to see how feedback influences their progression.

The review’s lead author, Dr Naomi Winstone from the University of Surrey, commented, “It’s very clear that receiving feedback shouldn’t be the end of the process: it should be the starting point.

“What we’ve proposed is that students will often need support in developing the necessary skills for using feedback well. Making space within the curriculum to specifically focus on these skills could help more students to make better use of the advice they receive.”

Abstract of the study (open access!!!):

Much has been written in the educational psychology literature about effective feedback and how to deliver it. However, it is equally important to understand how learners actively receive, engage with, and implement feedback. This article reports a systematic review of the research evidence pertaining to this issue. Through an analysis of 195 outputs published between 1985 and early 2014, we identified various factors that have been proposed to influence the likelihood of feedback being used. Furthermore, we identified diverse interventions with the common aim of supporting and promoting learners’ agentic engagement with feedback processes. We outline the various components used in these interventions, and the reports of their successes and limitations. Moreover we propose a novel taxonomy of four recipience processes targeted by these interventions. This review and taxonomy provide a theoretical basis for conceptualizing learners’ responsibility within feedback dialogues and for guiding the strategic design and evaluation of interventions.

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Another day, another replication

It has been a very busy day as the academic year has started again with some intense teaching sessions for fresh soon to be teachers on my schedule. That’s why I haven’t shared this new example of replication study tackling a famous insight from psychology yet. And that’s a pity, because the study is mentioned in Nature (yeah!) and was conducted by a team from the KULeuven (a Belgian University and while being patriotic is the least Belgian one can act, still yeah!!).

From the article discussing the replication in Nature:

Physiologist Ivan Pavlov conditioned dogs to associate food with the sound of a buzzer, which left them salivating. Decades later, researchers discovered such training appears to block efforts to teach the animals to link other stimuli to the same reward. Dogs trained to expect food when a buzzer sounds can then be conditioned to salivate when they are exposed to the noise and a flash of light simultaneously. But light alone will not cue them to drool.

This ‘blocking effect’ is well-known in psychology, but new research suggests that the concept might not be so simple. Psychologists in Belgium failed to replicate the effect in 15 independent experiments, they report this month in the Journal of Experimental Psychology1.

“For a long time, you tend to think, ‘It’s me’ — I’m doing something wrong, or messing up the experiment,’” says lead author Tom Beckers, a psychologist at the Catholic University of Leuven (KU Leuven) in Belgium. But after his student, co-author Elisa Maes, also could not replicate the blocking effect, and the team failed again in experiments in other labs, Beckers realized that “it can’t just be us”.

The scientists do not claim that the blocking effect is not real, or that previous observations of it are wrong. Instead, Beckers thinks that psychologists do not yet know enough about the precise conditions under which it applies. (read more)

Abstract from the study:

With the discovery of the blocking effect, learning theory took a huge leap forward, because blocking provided a crucial clue that surprise is what drives learning. This in turn stimulated the development of novel association-formation theories of learning. Eventually, the ability to explain blocking became nothing short of a touchstone for the validity of any theory of learning, including propositional and other nonassociative theories. The abundance of publications reporting a blocking effect and the importance attributed to it suggest that it is a robust phenomenon. Yet, in the current article we report 15 failures to observe a blocking effect despite the use of procedures that are highly similar or identical to those used in published studies. Those failures raise doubts regarding the canonical nature of the blocking effect and call for a reevaluation of the central status of blocking in theories of learning. They may also illustrate how publication bias influences our perspective toward the robustness and reliability of seemingly established effects in the psychological literature.

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How a selfie can make you feel happier (study)

To many people selfies are sign of the present narcissism. And pictures like this don’t help it:

But this new study does give some consolation: regularly snapping selfies with your smartphone and sharing photos with your friends can help make you a happier person.

Wait, this is the opposite of the idea that social media can make you more depressed? Well, we already saw it is a bit more complicated than that. This new study is quite interesting and has both a lot of data and a very limited amount of people involved. The latter is the weakest element of this study, imho.

From the press release:

By conducting exercises via smartphone photo technology and gauging users’ psychological and emotional states, the researchers found that the daily taking and sharing of certain types of images can positively affect people. The results of the study out of UCI’s Donald Bren School of Information & Computer Sciences were published recently in the Psychology of Well-Being.

“Our research showed that practicing exercises that can promote happiness via smartphone picture taking and sharing can lead to increased positive feelings for those who engage in it,” said lead author Yu Chen, a postdoctoral scholar in UCI’s Department of Informatics. “This is particularly useful information for returning college students to be aware of, since they face many sources of pressure.”

These stressors — financial difficulties, being away from home for the first time, feelings of loneliness and isolation, and the rigors of coursework — can negatively impact students’ academic performance and lead to depression.

“The good news is that despite their susceptibility to strain, most college students constantly carry around a mobile device, which can be used for stress relief,” Chen said. “Added to that are many applications and social media tools that make it easy to produce and send images.”

The goal of the study, she said, was to help researchers understand the effects of photo taking on well-being in three areas: self-perception, in which people manipulated positive facial expressions; self-efficacy, in which they did things to make themselves happy; and pro-social, in which people did things to make others happy.

Chen and her colleagues designed and conducted a four-week study involving 41 college students. The subjects — 28 female and 13 male — were instructed to continue their normal day-to-day activities (going to class, doing schoolwork, meeting with friends, etc.) while taking part in the research.

But first each was invited to the informatics lab for an informal interview and to fill out a general questionnaire and consent form. The scientists helped students load a survey app onto their phones to document their moods during the first “control” week of the study. Participants used a different app to take photos and record their emotional states over the following three-week “intervention” phase.

Subjects reported their moods three times a day using the smartphone apps. In evening surveys, they were asked to provide details of any significant events that may have affected their emotions during the course of the day.

The project involved three types of photos to help the researchers determine how smiling, reflecting and giving to others might impact users’ moods. The first was a selfie, to be taken daily while smiling. The second was an image of something that made the photo taker happy. The third was a picture of something the photographer believed would bring happiness to another person (which was then sent to that person). Participants were randomly assigned to take photos of one type.

Researchers collected nearly 2,900 mood measurements during the study and found that subjects in all three groups experienced increased positive moods. Some participants in the selfie group reported becoming more confident and comfortable with their smiling photos over time. The students taking photos of objects that made them happy became more reflective and appreciative. And those who took photos to make others happy became calmer and said that the connection to their friends and family helped relieve stress.

“You see a lot of reports in the media about the negative impacts of technology use, and we look very carefully at these issues here at UCI,” said senior author Gloria Mark, a professor of informatics. “But there have been expanded efforts over the past decade to study what’s become known as ‘positive computing,’ and I think this study shows that sometimes our gadgets can offer benefits to users.”

Abstract of the study:

Background
With the increasing quality of smartphone cameras, taking photos has become ubiquitous. This paper investigates how smartphone photography can be leveraged to help individuals increase their positive affect.

Methods
Applying findings from positive psychology, we designed and conducted a 4-week study with 41 participants. Participants were instructed to take one photo every day in one of the following three conditions: a selfie photo with a smiling expression, a photo of something that would make oneself happy and a photo of something that would make another person happy.

Findings
After 3 weeks, participants’ positive affect in all conditions increased. Those who took photos to make others happy became much less aroused. Qualitative results showed that those in the selfie group observed changes in their smile over time; the group taking photos to improve their own affect became more reflective and those taking photos for others found that connecting with family members and friends helped to relieve stress.

Conclusions
The findings can offer insights for designers to create systems that enhance emotional well-being.

 

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Just a little reminder if you’re into UDL: learning styles don’t exist

The past few days my post on Universal Design for Learning has been visited quite a lot, partly because of this post by Greg Ashman. I was asked by colleagues by my own institute to factcheck their document on UDL. The first thing I got rid of was the unnecessary and incorrect brain explanation that is often used when UDL is being discussed. Luckily my colleagues didn’t make another mistake often made…

When I worked on my first post on UDL I also discovered that a lot of people talk about something very specific in which people may vary: learning styles. I don’t want to link to any document as a kind of scapegoat, but just combine UDL with learning styles in Google and you’ll find many, even very recent documents.

So just to be clear: learning styles don’t exist.

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Funny on Sunday: the newest hype from Apple

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What do you get if a cognitive psychologist reads Jo Boaler

This tweet is an example of great myth busting:

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Four requests of education journalists 

Greg makes some fair points here!

Filling the pail

Dan Willingham recently took to his blog to admonish the New York Times for publishing a very silly piece of education journalism. I thought it might be helpful to set out my own requests of education journalists.

1. Avoid Finnish time travel

Finland had a great deal of success early this century in international PISA tests. This sparked a lot of edu-tourism where delegations of worthies descended on the country to figure out how they did it. Breathless reports abounded.

A number of myths have sprung up about Finland. To many, it is seen as a progressive paradise. But it isn’t. And it’s results have significantly declined since the early 2000s. There are two key points to note.

Firstly, Finland is not that progressive. It has academic and vocational streams that kick-in at age 16. The academic stream is considered more prestigious and the effects of this wash back into…

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Stimulating creativity effectively… via explicit instruction

This in given limitations well-designed Dutch study by van de Kamp et al that I found via Dylan William may well be the opposite of what you would expect if I ask you how to promote creativity. Instead of discovery learning and brainstorming, the pupils received explicit instruction on metacognition.

And what are the conclusions?

Albeit statistically medium effects, we think we have found important effects on the three indicators of divergent thinking, taken into account the short span of the intervention of the experimental condition of just 50 min and the complexity of the process of enhancing original ideas. The intervention focused on students’ metacognitive knowledge and metacognitive skills in creative processes and the divergent thinking activities and strategies used in these processes. Due to the molar characteristic of the intervention—an explicit metacognitive strategy instruction on divergent thinking—it is impossible to single out one specific element as the element that might have caused the effect.

In the experimental condition, students were stimulated through explicit instruction to focus on a better representation of their mental model on creativity and divergent thinking—i.e., the meta-level—and were explicitly stimulated through activities to focus on monitoring and control of their divergent thinking surpassing students’ idiosyncratic perceptions of creativity that could hamper students’ divergent thinking. Divergent thinking activities and the generation of original ideas were explained, discussed and modeled, by using and illustrating the two dimensions of the matrix (Table 1). In this intervention lesson, students also learned about metacognitive skills for regulation, related to their own metacognitive monitoring and control processes of the specific and rather complex divergent thinking activities and strategies. Students from the experimental condition were stimulated to deliberately use divergent thinking strategies in real world exercises (Table 3, lesson phase 8) and to monitor and control their generation processes (Table 3, lesson phase 8 and 9).

Students from the comparison condition were stimulated to apply brainstorming activities related to their own visual art products (Table 4, lesson phase 5) without teachers explaining metacognitive knowledge about divergent thinking and without explicit stimulation to monitor their generation processes. In the intervention lesson of the comparison condition, students were brainstorming and reflecting on the content of the theme of ‘Time-grasping’ and they were able to learn by exercising, evaluation and feedback, to focus on activities at object-level: creating ideas for their individual photography series.

In sum, in the redesigned intervention lesson of the experimental condition, three aspects were added: (1) knowledge about twelve specific activities in divergent thinking (2) knowledge about strategies of divergent thinking aimed at generation through remoteness and through abstractness (3) an instructional design focusing on enhancement of students’ metacognitive knowledge and skills to regulate—monitor and control—these complex divergent thinking processes aimed at generating original ideas.

Still we do need to bear in mind that we know that brainstorming as such is often one of the worst ways to get creative.

Abstract of the study:

Visual arts education focuses on creating original visual art products. A means to improve originality is enhancement of divergent thinking, indicated by fluency, flexibility and originality of ideas. In regular arts lessons, divergent thinking is mostly promoted through brainstorming. In a previous study, we found positive effects of an explicit instruction of metacognition on fluency and flexibility in terms of the generation of ideas, but not on the originality of ideas. Therefore, we redesigned the instruction with a focus on building up knowledge about creative generation strategies by adding more complex types of association, and adding generation through combination and abstraction. In the present study, we examined the effects of this intervention by comparing it with regular brainstorming instruction. In a pretest–posttest control group design, secondary school students in the comparison condition received the brainstorm lesson and students in the experimental condition received the newly developed instruction lesson. To validate the effects, we replicated this study with a second cohort. The results showed that in both cohorts the strategy instruction of 50 min had positive effects on students’ fluency, flexibility and originality. This study implies that instructional support in building up knowledge about creative generation strategies may improve students’ creative processes in visual arts education.

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Is age-based curriculum appropriate? Study says no.

There is a  newBest Evidence in Brief and this time I want to pick this meta-study from this great newsletter:

A study co-authored by Johns Hopkins professor Jonathan Plucker has found that age-based curriculum in the U.S. leaves millions of students unchallenged.

The study, which was published online by the Institute for Education Policy at our own Johns Hopkins School of Education, investigates the number of students that perform above grade level. The authors looked at both nationwide and state-specific testing data, including the NWEA Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) and the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

The research uncovered the following conclusions:

  • Very large percentages of students are performing above grade level. According to the report, five different data sets from five distinct assessment administrations provide consistent evidence that many students perform above grade level.
  • Large percentages of students are performing well above grade level. Using MAP data, the researchers estimate that 8-10% of Grade 4 students perform at the Grade 8 level in reading/English/language arts, with 2-5% scoring at similar levels in math. Relying specifically on the MAP data, one out of every ten fifth graders is performing at the high school level in reading, and nearly one child in 40 at this age is performing at the high school level in math.

According to the report, the evidence suggests that between 15% and 45% of students enter the late-elementary classroom each fall already performing at least one year ahead of expectations. The authors say, “Clearly, either something is wrong with how grade-level performance is determined, or the K-12 educational system should be providing a different educational environment to meet the learning needs of many American students. Our findings suggest that a great many students could benefit from whole-grade or single-subject acceleration.”

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