The Growth Mindset Problem (Carl Hendrick)

We discuss Growth Mindset also in our new Myths book out later this year, but Carl has done a great job.

Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice

This appeared in Aeon, March 11, 2019

“Dr Carl Hendrick is the co-author of What Does This Look Like In The Classroom: Bridging The Gap Between Research And Practice (2017). He holds a PhD in education from King’s College and lives in Berkshire, England where he teaches at Wellington College. He is currently writing a book with Professor Paul Kirschner on foundational works in education research.”

Over the past century, a powerful idea has taken root in the educational landscape. The notion of intelligence as something innate and fixed has been supplanted by the idea that intelligence is instead something malleable; that we are not prisoners of immutable characteristics and that, with the right training, we can be the authors of our own cognitive capabilities.

Nineteenth-century scientists including Francis Galton and Alfred Binet devoted their own considerable intelligence to a quest to classify and understand human cognitive ability. If…

View original post 3,269 more words

Leave a comment

Filed under Education

Funny (or rather a bit poetic) on Sunday: A Space Dogyssey

Leave a comment

Filed under Funny

Why do parents choose for free schools? Perceptions about the social mix

This is an American study, but I do recognize elements also that I saw in other countries.

From the press release:

Perceptions about the social mix and environment of local mainstream schools motivate parents to choose Free Schools for their children, a new study published in the Cambridge Journal of Education finds. A ‘traditional’ approach to education and smaller class sizes also make such schools more appealing to parents.

Dr. Rebecca Morris of the University of Warwick and Dr. Thomas Perry of the University of Birmingham surveyed 346 Free School and non-Free School parents of Year 7 children, then conducted 20 follow-up interviews with Free School parents. The data was collected in 2013-2014, three years after the introduction of the English Free Schools policy that allowed the establishment of new autonomous schools, funded by the state but proposed, developed and run by external sponsors.

The researchers found that academic quality and school performance were the central focus for both Free School and non-Free School parents in choosing their child’s school. However, as the newly-opened Free Schools had no ‘hard’ performance data or inspection reports available at the time, the study highlighted how parents used proxies – environment and ethos, curriculum, size and social mix – to assess potential academic quality and school suitability for their child.

‘Not liking other schools’ was an ‘important’ or ‘very important’ motivator for 80.1% of Free School parents, compared with 60.4% of non-Free School parents. While negative perceptions of other local state schools led some parents to choose a Free School, others drew positive comparisons with private or grammar schools, models that they perceived to be successful and desirable.

The avoidance of certain areas or groups of children was also important to some Free School parents. A muddied distinction between school performance and student composition emerged, with parents, in some cases, understanding the two issues synonymously.

Almost two thirds (61.0%) of Free School parents said that a traditional approach to schooling – the promotion of traditional values, an academic curriculum, a smart school uniform and strict discipline – was ‘very important’ to them, compared with just over one third (34.3%) of non-Free School parents. School size was also ‘very important’ to 61.0% of Free School parents but just 24.3% of non-Free School parents.

“Since the introduction of the Free Schools programme there have been concerns that the new schools are more likely to attract more advantaged parents and have the potential to contribute to further social segregation between schools,” the authors said.

“The preferences of many parents for features which make Free Schools socially distinctive or for having an advantaged social intake lend support to these concerns. There is a danger that such impressions of social distinction contribute to a less inclusive school environment and lead to increased clustering of certain groups of children within different schools.”

Abstract of the study:

This study examines parental choice preferences following the introduction of the Free Schools policy in England. It reports on two phases of data collection: first, the analysis of factors that Free School and non-Free School parents reported as important in informing their choices; and, second, findings from semi-structured interviews with parents of children attending a Free School. The findings show that Free School parents’ choices were mostly influenced by similar factors to those of parents elsewhere. There were, however, some notable exceptions, particularly in relation to school size, ethos and curriculum. The analyses also highlight how the lack of information available led parents to use proxies to assess potential academic quality and school suitability for their child. The tensions that exist for parents in exercising choice within this new context and the implications for school intakes and diversity within the system are discussed.

Leave a comment

Filed under At home, Education, Research

Is planning only related to the prefrontal cortex? No!

Quite often you hear people say that the prefrontal cortex (PFC) is key for planning, and that because of the different way the PFC works with adolescents is the reason they often are bad at planning. But maybe we need to change the textbooks, because as always it’s a bit more complicated than that. Cue this new study by Vikbladh et al published in Neuron, that shows that the hippocampus also plays a role.

The summary of the study:

Little is known about the neural mechanisms that allow humans and animals to plan actions using knowledge of task contingencies. Emerging theories hypothesize that it involves the same hippocampal mechanisms that support self-localization and memory for locations. Yet limited direct evidence supports the link between planning and the hippocampal place map. We addressed this by investigating model-based planning and place memory in healthy controls and epilepsy patients treated using unilateral anterior temporal lobectomy with hippocampal resection. Both functions were impaired in the patient group. Specifically, the planning impairment was related to right hippocampal lesion size, controlling for overall lesion size. Furthermore, although planning and boundary-driven place memory covaried in the control group, this relationship was attenuated in patients, consistent with both functions relying on the same structure in the healthy brain. These findings clarify both the neural mechanism of model-based planning and the scope of hippocampal contributions to behavior.

Leave a comment

Filed under Psychology, Research

Does including arts make science more accessible for children who struggle?

This new Johns Hopkins University concludes states that incorporating the arts–rapping, dancing, drawing–into science lessons can help low-achieving students retain more knowledge and possibly help students of all ability levels be more creative in their learning. This study does tick a lot of boxes as it is a randomized controlled trial with a clever design, but I do have some concerns.

What did the different groups had to do?

In the control condition, students displayed knowledge by completing a chart or presenting the information orally, whereas in the arts-integrated treatment condition they displayed knowledge through a variety of arts-based activities such as dance, tableaux, singing, or drawing. In the control condition, students expanded on their understanding of vocabulary by writing a sentence using the target word, whereas in treatment they demonstrated their understanding of the vocabulary by taking visual notes, which entailed drawing sketches and writing notes. To reinforce content, students in the control condition engaged in choral reading of specific passages; in the treatment condition, they sang a song or a chanted a rap. Essentially, we designed conventional lessons to match the modality of presentation of the arts-integrated lessons and the modality of student products. For example, instead of displaying knowledge by designing a collage of living and non-living things, students in the conventional conditional categorized living and non-living things in a simple chart. Students in both conditions displayed their knowledge through categorization of living and non-living things with a final product on paper, but the conventional condition student product was a traditional chart whereas the arts-integrated student product was a categorized collage. In conventional lessons, choral reading of a science text utilizes the same modality as singing, oral production of words while reading the words, but choral reading excludes the artistic factors of tonality, tune, and rhythm. A read-aloud, aka choral reading, of a science text does not include any arts-based activities, which is why we used this matched-modality activity for the delivery of content for conventional lessons when songs were utilized in the arts-integrated condition.

The researchers are a bit too optimistic imho concerning transfer as it’s not significant – and I’ve reviewed a lot of research on this topic not to be surprised -, but they do seem to find a positive effect of incorporating arts for the kids who have just basic reading skills, although the results are a bit mixed when looking at the other students:

This did make me wonder if some other elements can’t explain these results. E.g. if the basis reading group pupils had indeed trouble with reading for learning, the help of making a song or rap song about it, could help them remember stuff that they had trouble to read in the first place?

Examples of activities in the arts-integrated classes include rapping or sketching to learn vocabulary words, and designing collages to separate living and non-living things. These activities were matched in the conventional classrooms with standard activities such as reading paragraphs of texts with vocabulary words aloud in a group and completing worksheets.

But isn’t this a bit of a strange comparison? Reading paragraphs of texts with vocabulary words aloud in groups, well there wasn’t probably much thinking involved. And as Willingham stated ‘Memory is the residue of thought’. The completing worksheets would probably be more about thinking, but the collages were hopefully also.

A big limitation of the study is imho that the teachers teaching the different groups were different. The researchers did try to surpass this:

For example, the Chemistry units were taught by four teachers; two who taught in the arts-integrated condition and two who taught in the control condition in session 1. In session 2, the teachers taught the reversed condition to a different group of randomized students. This was done for all curricular units

But as session 1 seems to have a big impact on the knowledge of session 2, a teacher effect can still be present for sure as the amount of teachers was limited.

So, I do think this is a very interesting study but more research is needed.

From the press release:

Incorporating the arts–rapping, dancing, drawing–into science lessons can help low-achieving students retain more knowledge and possibly help students of all ability levels be more creative in their learning, finds a new study by Johns Hopkins University.

The findings were published on Feb. 7 in Trends in Neuroscience and Education and support broader arts integration in the classroom.

“Our study provides more evidence that the arts are absolutely needed in schools. I hope the findings can assuage concerns that arts-based lessons won’t be as effective in teaching essential skills,” says Mariale Hardiman, vice dean of academic affairs for the School of Education at the Johns Hopkins University and the study’s first author.

While research already shows that the arts improve students’ academic outcomes and memory, it remains unclear whether general exposure to the arts, adding arts to lesson plans, effective instruction, or a combination are responsible for these benefits, says Hardiman.

“When we talk about learning, we have to discuss memory. Children forget much of what they learn and teachers often end up reteaching a lot of content from the previous year. Here we’re asking, how exactly can we teach them correctly to begin with so they can remember more?”

In this study, the research team sought to determine whether an arts-integrated curriculum had any direct effects on learning, specifically students’ memory for science content.

Throughout the 2013 school year, 350 students in 16 fifth grade classrooms across six Baltimore, Maryland schools took part in the study. Students were randomly assigned into one of two classroom pairs: astronomy and life science, or environmental science and chemistry.

The experiment consisted of two sessions, each lasting three to four weeks, in which students first took either an arts-integrated class or a conventional class. In the second session, students received the opposite type of class; thus, all students experienced both types and all eleven teachers taught both types of classes.

Examples of activities in the arts-integrated classes include rapping or sketching to learn vocabulary words, and designing collages to separate living and non-living things. These activities were matched in the conventional classrooms with standard activities such as reading paragraphs of texts with vocabulary words aloud in a group and completing worksheets.

The research team analyzed students’ content retention through pre-, post-, and delayed post-tests 10 weeks after the study ended, and found that students at a basic reading level retained an average 105 percent of the content long term, as demonstrated through the results of delayed post-testing. The researchers discovered that students remembered more in the delayed post-testing because they sang songs they had learned from their arts activities, which helped them remember content better in the long term, much like how catchy pop lyrics seem to get more and more ingrained in your brain over time.

This addresses a key challenge and could be an additional tool to bridging the achievement gap for students who struggle most to read, says Hardiman, because most conventional curriculum requires students to read to learn; if students cannot read well, they cannot learn well.

The research team also found that students who took a conventional session first remembered more science in the second, arts-integrated session and students who took an arts-integrated session first performed just as well in the second session. While not statistically significant, the researchers suggest the possibility of students applying the creative problem-solving skills they learned to their conventional lessons to enhance their learning.

Looking forward, Hardiman hopes that educators and researchers will put their fully-developed intervention to use to expand on their study and improve understanding of arts integration in schools.

“Our data suggests that traditional instruction seems to perpetuate the achievement gap for students performing at the lower levels of academic achievement. We also found that students at advanced levels of achievement didn’t lose any learning from incorporating arts into classrooms, but potentially gained benefits such as engagement in learning and enhanced thinking dispositions. For these reasons, we would encourage educators to adopt integrating the arts into content instruction,” says Hardiman.

Abstract of the study:

Strong correlational evidence suggests that involvement in the arts improves students’ academic outcomes and memory of learning events [1–3]. It is unclear whether the improved outcomes are the result of general exposure to the arts, the integration of arts into content instruction, the use of effective instructional practices, or a combination of these factors. Moreover, as a growing number of studies suggest that arts-integrated pedagogy enhances learning, few empirical studies have explicitly examined the direct effect of an arts-integrated curriculum on learning and specifically on students’ memory for non-arts academic content. Thus, this study sought to determine the effects of arts-integrated lessons on long-term memory for science content. We hypothesized that embedding arts-based activities into conventionally taught lessons would produce learning outcomes as good as or better than traditional instruction. This paper describes the results of a randomized control trial that measured retention of science content using arts-integrated science units and matched units employing convention science instruction. The study was conducted in 16 fifth-grade classrooms in an urban mid-Atlantic school district.

Leave a comment

Filed under Education, Pop Music, Research

A great presentation by Dorothy Bishop on insights from psychology on lack of reproducibility

1 Comment

Filed under Psychology, Research, Review

Funny on Sunday: Mr Tim Apple and Mr. Im Peach

This cartoon by Lectrrr is a great find:

Leave a comment

Filed under Funny

New publication: The Science of Early Learning (Deans for Impact)

I saw the announcement yesterday, and you can now download this new publication by Deans for Impact yourself here.

This is the short introduction:

How do young children develop their sense of self? How do they learn to understand what they read, and express their ideas in writing? How do they develop abstract knowledge of mathematical concepts?

These questions and others are explored in Deans for Impact’s publication, The Science of Early Learning. This report summarizes current cognitive-science research related to how young children — from birth to age eight — develop skills across three domains: agency, literacy, and numeracy. This document is intended to serve as a resource to anyone who is interested in our best scientific understanding of how young children develop control of their own behavior and intentions, how they learn to read and write proficiently, and how they develop the ability to think mathematically.

Although The Science of Early Learning is not intended to cover every aspect of early learning and development, it may be considered a starting point for educators, teachers, parents, and caregivers who wish to explore principles of learning science as they relate to young children. Deans for Impact intends to incorporate these principles into the work we do with programs that prepare early-childhood educators, and we hope this resource will be broadly useful to the education community

1 Comment

Filed under Education, Research, Review

Test anxiety and performance in high-stakes testing (Best Evidence in Brief)

There is a new Best Evidence in Brief with among others, this study

A study published in Contemporary Educational Psychology suggests that the relationship between test anxiety and performance in high-stakes tests is positive, but the relationship varies for students with different achievement levels.

Yao-Ting Sung and colleagues at the National Taiwan University used data from 1,931 Taiwanese ninth graders from 37 schools. The Basic Competence Test (BCTEST) was used to benchmark their achievement. The BCTEST is a high-stakes test for Taiwan junior-high school students, determining to which high schools with different levels of prestige and tuition fees they will be admitted. Subjects in the test included Mandarin, English, Mathematics, Social studies, Science and Writing. Test anxiety was measured by the examination stress scale.
Findings include:

  • The overall relationship between text-anxiety and learning achievement in high-stakes testing was positive (r =+0.18).
  • Lower levels of test-anxiety were found among high-achievement and low-achievement students while higher levels of test-anxiety were found among moderate-achievement students.
  • For higher achievement students, the relationship between text-anxiety and achievement in high-stakes testing was found to be negative (r = -0.16), while for the group of students with lower achievement, a positive relationship was found (r= +0.22).

Leave a comment

Filed under Education, Research

Brains of girls and boys develop more alike than previously thought, so cognitive differences are probably more nurture than nature

This is a very interesting new Dutch study by Wieringa et al with an even more interesting conclusion:

In conclusion, the results of this study do not support the hypothesis of sex difference in cortical development trajectories. The only structure showing a sex difference in cortical maturation did not relate to sex differences in cognition. We did, however, extend previous findings of greater variability in male brain structure by showing greater male than female variability in cortical develop- ment. Observed performance differences in cognition may be related to training and educational experiences, an important question to address in future research.

Does this mean that there are no differences between the brains of boys and girls? No, there are, e.g. males brains are bigger on average and there is more variance in brain structure with males than females. But the most important finding of this study is this:

These results show that sex differences in variance are present in the absence of average sex differences in brain structure. Furthermore, behavioral outcomes favored girls for reading and boys for mental counters working memory, but these results were not consistently related to brain development trajectories. The latter finding may suggest that average sex differences in cognition are more strongly related to experience than biological predispositions.

Does this mean more nurture than nature? See also:

Taken together, we observed sex differences in behavioral cognitive performance and sex difference in brain variance, but no evidence for a relation between these two patterns.

I do think there is still also a possible nature-part than can be overlooked: the part that was inherited. But gender differences in this case do seem more nurture than nature.

Abstract of the study:

Although male brains have consistently reported to be 8–10% larger than female brains, it remains not well understood whether there are differences between sexes (average or variance) in developmental trajectories. Furthermore, if sex differences in average brain growth or variance are observed, it is unknown whether these sex differences have behavioral relevance. The present longitudinal study aimed to unravel sex effects in cortical brain structure, development, and variance, in relation to the development of educationally relevant cognitive domains and executive functions (EFs). This was assessed with three experimental tasks including working memory, reading comprehension, and fluency. In addition, real-life aspects of EF were assessed with self- and parent-reported Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Function scores. The full data set included 271 participants (54% female) aged between 8 and 29 years of which three waves were collected at 2-year intervals, resulting in 680 T1-weighted MRI scans and behavioral measures. Analyses of average trajectories confirmed general age-related patterns of brain development but did not support the hypothesis of sex differences in brain development trajectories, except for left banks STS where boys had a steeper decline in surface area than girls. Also, our brain age prediction model (including 270 brain measures) did not indicate delayed maturation in boys compared with girls. Interestingly, support was found for greater variance in male brains than female brains in both structure and development, consistent with prior cross-sectional studies. Behaviorally, boys performed on average better on a working memory task with a spatial aspect and girls performed better on a reading comprehension task, but there was no relation between brain development and cognitive performance, neither for average brain measures, brain age, or variance measures. Taken together, we confirmed the hypothesis of greater males within-group variance in brain structures compared with females, but these were not related to EF. The sex differences observed in EF were not related to brain development, possibly suggesting that these are related to experiences and strategies rather than biological development.

1 Comment

Filed under Education, Psychology, Research