My new book “The Ingredients for Great Teaching” is out now in Europe!

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This study made me wonder if I’m preaching to the choir or singing from the rooftops?

Sometimes a study makes you think. Not because it’s complex or because it’s wrong, but because… well it hits close to home. Isabelle Côté is an SFU professor of marine ecology and conservation and an active science communicator whose prime social media platform is Twitter just like me. Ok, I have a bit more followers than her but my subject is maybe a bit more broad than that from the author of this new study. She wanted to know if her followers are mainly scientists or non-scientists – in other words was she preaching to the choir or singing from the rooftops?

From the press release:

Côté and collaborator Emily Darling set out to find the answer by analyzing the active Twitter accounts of more than 100 ecology and evolutionary biology faculty members at 85 institutions across 11 countries.

Their methodology included categorizing followers as either “inreach” if they were academics, scientists and conservation agencies and donors; or “outreach” if they were science educators, journalists, the general public, politicians and government agencies.

Côté found that scientists with fewer than 1,000 followers primarily reach other scientists. However, scientists with more than 1,000 followers have more types of followers, including those in the “outreach” category.

Twitter and other forms of social media provide scientists with a potential way to share their research with the general public and, importantly, decision- and policy-makers. Côté says public pressure can be a pathway to drive change at a higher level. However, she notes that while social media is an asset, it is “not likely an effective replacement for the more direct science-to-policy outreach that many scientists are now engaging in, such as testifying in front of special governmental committees, directly contacting decision-makers, etc.”

Further, even with greater diversity and reach of followers, the authors concede there are still no guarantees that Twitter messages will be read or understood. Côté cites evidence that people selectively read what fits with their perception of the world, that changing followers’ minds about deeply held beliefs is challenging.

“While Twitter is emerging as a medium of choice for scientists, studies have shown that less than 40 per cent of academic scientists use the platform,” says Côté.

“There’s clearly a lot of room for scientists to build a social media presence and increase their scientific outreach. Our results provide scientists with clear evidence that social media can be used as a first step to disseminate scientific messages well beyond the ivory tower.”

I do agree with some of the conclusions, although I’ve experienced that it can differ from niche to niche. E.g. my wife is also a scientist who blogs with a lot colleagues on early education. For them to get real outreach, they don’t need to use twitter, but both Facebook and Pinterest are great drivers for their outreach-audience of practitioners. It’s just one example, but I do think that different audiences often use different social media platforms thus maybe making this study interesting to replicate in other fields of science. Oh, and the answer for myself? As I have a bit more than 1000 followers I’m pretty convinced I’m doing both.

Abstract of the study:

There have been strong calls for scientists to share their discoveries with society. Some scientists have heeded these calls through social media platforms such as Twitter. Here, we ask whether Twitter allows scientists to promote their findings primarily to other scientists (“inreach”), or whether it can help them reach broader, non-scientific audiences (“outreach”). We analyzed the Twitter followers of more than 100 faculty members in ecology and evolutionary biology and found that their followers are, on average, predominantly (∼55%) other scientists. However, beyond a threshold of ∼1000 followers, the range of follower types became more diverse and included research and educational organizations, media, members of the public with no stated association with science, and a small number of decision-makers. This varied audience was, in turn, followed by more people, resulting in an exponential increase in the social media reach of tweeting academic scientists. Tweeting, therefore, has the potential to disseminate scientific information widely after initial efforts to gain followers. These results should encourage scientists to invest in building a social media presence for scientific outreach.

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Funny on Sunday: that day in the library

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Holding Donors Accountable

Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice

The sad story that Washington Post journalist Valerie Strauss tells about the recent RAND report on improving teacher effectiveness, an effort partially funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation–$215 million of a half-billion dollar project–is neither the first (nor the last) failure in donor funding. After all, philanthropists take moderate to great risks in funding projects that promise high returns (as do  venture capitalists) and such ventures do fail. Here is the background story for the Intensive Partnerships for Effective Teaching.

Based upon the extensive research of Tom Kane, professor of Economics and Education at Harvard University, the premise of the project was that a multi-measure evaluation system of teachers anchored in student test scores (and peer evaluators) would sort out “effective” from ineffective teachers of low-income students in five districts and charter school networks. Districts and charter schools would then staff classrooms with “effective” teachers–the “good” teachers–and their…

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While writing…

As some of you may know, Paul, Casper and myself are very busy working on the follow up book on urban myths about learning and education. The past few weeks I’ve read so many sources and so many papers my head is spinning.

But there is one thing I really want to share. In our previous book we’ve debunked a lot of old theories but in writing this book I also discovered that sometimes people already new where it’s at even over a 100 years ago and it seems that what have happened ever since is people trying to show the original insights to be incorrect. Without much success, btw.

Compare it with the forgetting curve by Ebbinghaus. We know how fast one forgets and that you need to start studying in time, but still… students keep postponing their study time.

Maybe it’s human not to accept an insight, could well be. But somehow it’s sad if you need to debunk something by writing that somebody in 1901 probably was correct and still is, despite the many attempts to prove him wrong.

Sorry that I’m a bit vague in this post, but as long our work isn’t reviewed yet, I’m very hesitant to share anything concrete.

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Domain-Specific Knowledge: 1, Domain-Independent Skills: 0

3-Star learning experiences

Mirjam Neelen & Paul A. Kirschner

In both the workplace and education, there’s a lot of talk about so-called ‘domain-independent skills’, also called ‘generic’ or ‘transferable’ skills. In general, the perceived need for those skills is based on the premise that we currently live in a knowledge-based new economy, and the associated pressures for lifelong learning as well as the maintenance of employability that come with that require something different than ‘simple knowledge’.  More specifically, in the context of the workplace, the idea is that organisations change so fast and are so complex that it’s no longer feasible to know what kind of domain-specific knowledge and skills people need (they’ll be outdated as soon as you’ve learned them, is the idea) and therefore, it’s better to focus on more generic skills so that people are more flexible and can more easily adapt to change. BruceElkin.com put it forward as follows

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Funny on Sunday: what if guitarists were like DJs

Ehm, ok, this is maybe a bit too much incrowd but I do think it’s hilarious.

But it could be worse… what if educational scientists were guitar players

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Are narcissist doing better in school?

This study is interesting, although I do think there is one element that makes me wonder for the rest of the paper:

But hey, maybe that could well be the reason for the reversed Flynn-effect?

From the press release:

Dr Kostas Papageorgiou, Director of the InteRRaCt lab in the School of Psychology at Queen’s University Belfast, has discovered that adolescents who score high on certain aspects of subclinical narcissism may be more mentally tough and can perform better at school.

The findings are the result of an international collaboration, which included Professor Yulia Kovas, Director of InLab at Goldsmiths University of London (UK); as well as leading experts from King’s College London, Manchester Metropolitan University, Huddersfield University and the University of Texas at Austin, USA.

In the study, 340 adolescent students, taking part in the Multi-Cohort Investigation into Learning and Educational Success study (MILES), were recruited from three different Italian high schools in the Milan Province. They took part in two assessment waves.

The research has been published in Personality and Individual Differences.

Dr Papageorgiou explains: “Narcissism is considered as a socially malevolent trait and it is part of the Dark Triad of personality traits — narcissism, psychopathy and Machiavellianism.

“Previous studies indicate that narcissism is a growing trend in our society but this does not necessarily mean that an individual who displays high narcissistic qualities has a personality disorder. In our research, we focused on subclinical or “normal” narcissism. Subclinical narcissism includes some of the same features of clinical syndrome — grandiosity, entitlement, dominance, and superiority.

“If you are a narcissist you believe strongly that you are better than anyone else and that you deserve reward. Being confident in your own abilities is one of the key signs of grandiose narcissism and is also at the core of mental toughness. If a person is mentally tough, they are likely to embrace challenges and see these as an opportunity for personal growth.”

Dr Papageorgiou’s research suggests that in some ways, narcissism might actually be a positive attribute. He says: “People who score high on subclinical narcissism may be at an advantage because their heightened sense of self-worth may mean they are more motivated, assertive, and successful in certain contexts.

“Previous research is our lab has shown that subclinical narcissism may increase mental toughness. If an individual scores high on mental toughness this means they can perform at their very best in pressured and diverse situations.

The research suggests that the relationship between narcissism and mental toughness could be one of the personality mechanisms that leads to variation in school achievement. However, at this stage, the findings have mainly theoretical rather than applied implications.

Dr Papageorgiou explains: “It is important that we reconsider how we, as a society, view narcissism. We perceive emotions or personality traits as being either bad or good but psychological traits are the products of evolution; they are neither bad nor good — they are adaptive or maladaptive. Perhaps we should expand conventional social morality to include and celebrate all expressions of human nature.”

Dr Papageorgiou is continuing this research and will explore if subclinical narcissism decreases symptoms of psychopathology through mental toughness.

Abstract of the study:

Mental toughness has been associated with optimal performance across diverse contexts including academic achievement. MT is positively associated with subclinical narcissism. Cross-sectional research reported that high narcissism may contribute indirectly to enhanced positive outcomes, through MT. This study is the first to explore longitudinally the development of the association between MT, narcissism and achievement in a sample of adolescents. MT correlated positively with narcissism and predicted a small percentage of the variation in school achievement. Narcissism did not correlate significantly with school achievement. However, subclinical narcissism exerted a significant positive indirect effect on school achievement through MT. The findings suggest that the relationship between narcissism and MT could be one of the non-cognitive mechanisms that underlie individual variation in school achievement.

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Follow your passion? Well, maybe that’s not the best advice…

It’s a study related to growth mindset, but before you start shouting ‘debunked‘ (check Dweck’s reply), the study is not about applying a growth mindset approach but all about how people think about passion being nature or nurture and the consequences of these views on giving up. And it seems people who think that passion is something magical placed in you (nature) will quit faster than people who think you can develop a passion for something.

From the press release:

As the world becomes increasingly interdisciplinary, having diverse interests can help people make important connections across fields, such as between the Arts and Sciences. A new study by Yale-NUS College Assistant Professor of Psychology Paul A O’Keefe and colleagues suggests that one’s belief about the nature of interests might prevent those insights from happening. Those who endorse a “fixed theory” about interest tend to think of it as something already there that simply needs to be found. Therefore, they are unlikely to stray beyond the interests they already have. By contrast, those with a “growth theory” tend to believe that interests can be developed and cultivated. The common advice to “find your passion” supports a fixed theory and may eventually be limiting.

Dr O’Keefe collaborated with Stanford University Professor Carol S Dweck, a psychologist known for her work in fixed and growth theories, as well as Associate Professor Gregory M Walton, also from Stanford. While fixed and growth theories about intelligence–beliefs about the malleability of intellectual abilities–have been heavily researched, applying this idea to people’s interests is a new area of investigation. The team’s research is forthcoming in Psychological Science, in which they examined the implications of fixed and growth theories of interest.

The research is of particular relevance to countries like Singapore, where students typically begin to specialise early in their education. Such early specialisation might discourage a growth theory by limiting the exploration of academic interests. However, since 2006, Singapore’s education system began requiring GCE A-level students to take at least one contrasting subject for admission into one of the six local autonomous universities. Research investigating a growth theory of interest will become more important in terms of understanding how to encourage students to explore new or different topics and value them more.

Across five studies, the team showed that a fixed theory, as compared to a growth theory, causes people to be less receptive to topics that are outside their existing interests. For example, in one study, the researchers recruited undergraduates with a well-established interest in either the Arts or the Sciences. Then, they had the students read two academic articles, one appealing to each of the two academic areas. Those led to endorse a fixed theory, as compared to a growth theory, reported less interest in the article outside of their established interest.

The researchers also found that fixed and growth theories influence one’s motivational expectations for pursuing their interests and passions. In one study, the researchers sparked students’ interest in astrophysics by having them watch a fun, animated video on the topic. Then, participants read a challenging academic article on the same topic. Those with a fixed theory reported losing more interest in the topic once engaging in it became difficult, as compared to those with a growth theory. This is because people with a fixed theory tend to expect that pursuing a newly discovered interest will be relatively easy, and might give up on it when engaging in it becomes difficult. They may come to believe that it was not a true interest after all.

The finding that a growth theory can make people more open to new interests, and that it can help sustain their interest despite difficulties, has important implications. Dr O’Keefe highlighted that in an increasingly complex and interconnected world, viewing interests as developable is important for encouraging innovation as new and interdisciplinary solutions are needed. Believing one’s interests are fixed might hinder exploration into other areas.

Instead of finding your passion, the researchers suggest that people should develop their passion.

“Encouraging people to develop their passion can not only promote a growth theory, but also suggests that it is an active process, not passive. A hidden positive implication of a growth theory is the expectation that pursuing one’s interests and passions will be difficult at times because people are less likely to give up on them when faced with a challenge,” Dr O’Keefe explained.

Dr O’Keefe is currently researching the impact of fixed and growth theories of interest in Singapore schools, as well as how teaching students to develop a growth theory can improve their learning and achievement.

Abstract of the study:

People are often told to find their passion as though passions and interests are pre-formed and must simply be discovered. This idea, however, has hidden motivational implications. Five studies examined implicit theories of interest—the idea that personal interests are relatively fixed (fixed theory) or developed (growth theory). Whether assessed or experimentally induced, a fixed theory was more likely to dampen interest in areas outside people’s existing interests (Studies 1–3). Those endorsing a fixed theory were also more likely to anticipate boundless motivation when passions were found, not anticipating possible difficulties (Study 4). Moreover, when engaging in a new interest became difficult, interest flagged significantly more for people induced to hold a fixed than a growth theory of interest (Study 5). Urging people to find their passion may lead them to put all their eggs in one basket but then to drop that basket when it becomes difficult to carry.

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Asking Different Questions about Personalized Learning (Leigh McGuigan)

Something to chew on for a while…

Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice

Leigh McGuigan worked in district leadership roles in New York, Chicago, and Cleveland, He is now CEO and co-founder of Vertus High School. Addressed to Rick Hess, head of educational policy at the American Enterprise Institute, this letter appeared May, 30, 2018.

Dear Rick,

I appreciated the recent blog posts from Larry Berger, Joel Rose, and Jonathan Skolnick on getting real about personalized learning. I loved their straight talk about the challenges of “engineering,” the need to rethink classrooms, and how to get students to “eat their vegetables.” But I wanted to raise a different issue based on our experience at Vertus High School, a blended high school for at-risk boys in upstate New York. Our students arrive at our door very far behind. Most do not know basic math, cannot recognize an adverb, and have never met an engineer. But when they graduate, most will go…

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Funny on Sunday: are you in a film noir?

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by | July 1, 2018 · 7:33 am