Schools That Integrate Technology: Silicon Valley

Interesting observations and insights!

Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice

As complex as it is for an individual teacher to integrate daily use of high-tech devices into routine classroom practices, technology integration at a school level is even more complex. A classroom teacher with 25-35 students can alter the structures of her classroom and create a culture of learning, achievement and mutual respect. Hard as that is, it is do-able. I and many others have profiled teachers who have created such classrooms.

Imagine, however, schools with 30 to 100 classrooms and getting all of those teachers to work together to create school-wide infrastructure and a learning, achieving, and respectful culture–across scores of classrooms that seamlessly integrates computers to achieve the school-site’s goals. A complex task with many moving parts that is fragile yet strong. It does happen but remains uncommon.

I have observed a few schools in Silicon Valley that have integrated new technologies across the entire school requiring teachers…

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Genetics, personality traits and education, a new study

Although we’ve seen recently that grit isn’t maybe that important as predictor for academic success, this new study examined how personality traits that are – maybe – relevant to education such as grit are heritable and they seem to be. Even more so: while most studies on heritability aren’t as deterministic as most people think, this twins and triplets study does try to tell us that training such traits could be pretty difficult although not impossible.

From the press release (bold by me):

Character traits, such as grit or desire to learn, have a heavy hand in academic success and are partially rooted in genetics, according to a psychology study at The University of Texas at Austin.

Though academic achievement is dependent on cognitive abilities, such as logic and reasoning, researchers believe certain personality and character traits can motivate and drive learning.

In a study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, UT Austin psychology associate professor Elliot Tucker-Drob found that genetic differences among people account for about half of the differences in their character, and that the remaining variation in character was influenced by environmental factors occurring outside of the home and school environments.

“Until now, parenting and schooling have been suggested by research as likely explanations for character, but our study suggests otherwise,” said Tucker-Drob, who examined how genetic and environmental factors influence character and its relation to academic achievement using data from 811 third- to eighth-grade twins and triplets.

Twin studies, such as the Texas Twin Project at the UT Austin Population Research Center and Department of Psychology, compare similarities of identical and fraternal twins to estimate genetic influences on personality, interests, school grades and behavior problems. By comparing siblings, researchers learned that outside of what could be genetically explained, variance in a child’s character could be attributed to unshared environmental effects, ruling out experiences shared by siblings such as parenting and attending the same school.

“As with intelligence and personality, genetics form a sizable part of the basis for character,” said Tucker-Drob, co-director of the Texas Twin Project. He and his colleagues examined seven educationally relevant character measures that represented work ethic, enjoyment or desire to learn, attitudes toward education, and self-appraised abilities. The researchers also assessed how character measures were associated with the “big five” personality traits — openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism — which have been used in past research to predict academic achievement.

In the study, genetics accounted for 69 percent of a person’s general character, with 31 percent of variance accounted for by environmental influences. Furthermore, each character measure was heavily correlated with openness and conscientiousness, which were 48 and 57 percent heritable respectively.

Character measures promoting intellectual curiosity, such as intellectual self-concept, were linked more heavily to openness, which showed sizable associations with academic achievement; those representing work ethic, such as grit, associated more with conscientiousness, which was modestly correlated with academic achievement.

“This may indicate that aspects of character that are associated with interest and desire to learn may be stronger drivers of academic achievement than aspects of character associated with diligence and hard work,” said Tucker-Drob, noting that one way genes influence academic achievement is by influencing aspects of character that are relevant for learning.

Because character was not found to be systematically associated with the family environment, “programs to improve character will need to be creative,” said co-author and psychology associate professor Paige Harden, co-director of the Texas Twin Project. “Interventions will need to introduce experiences that are not already varying across families, in order to positively affect children’s character and ultimately their academic achievement.”

Abstract of the study:

Researchers and the general public have become increasingly intrigued by the roles that systematic tendencies toward thinking, feeling, and behaving might play in academic achievement. Some measures of constructs belonging to this group have been well studied in genetics and psychometrics, while much less is known about measures of other such constructs. The current study focuses on 7 character traits prominently featured in influential intervention-oriented and/or socialization theories of academic achievement: grit, intellectual curiosity, intellectual self-concept, mastery orientation, educational value, intelligence mindset, and test motivation. In a population-based sample of 811 school-aged twins and triplets from the Texas Twin Project, we tested (a) how each measure relates to indices of the Big Five personality traits, (b) how the measures relate to one another, (c) the extent to which each measure is associated with genetic and environmental influences and whether such influences operate through common dimensions of individual differences, and (d) the extent to which genetic and environmental factors mediate the relations between fluid intelligence, character measures, verbal knowledge, and academic achievement. We find moderate relations among the measures that can be captured by a highly heritable common dimension representing a mixture of Openness and Conscientiousness. Moreover, genetically influenced variance in the character measures is associated with multiple measures of verbal knowledge and academic achievement, even after controlling for fluid intelligence. In contrast, environmentally influenced variance in character is largely unrelated to knowledge and achievement outcomes. We propose that character measures popularly used in education may be best conceptualized as indexing facets of personality that are of particular relevance to academic achievement.

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Funny on Sunday: try to catch the PokemonGo-catchers

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What PokemonGo tells us about education?

Absolutely nothing.

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Best evidence in brief: Do teachers get better with more experience?

I don’t want to know what you will think about our family, but my wife and I had some discussion lately about the role of experience in the effectiveness of teachers – we do other topics too, trust me. Luckily there is now a new research review mentioned in the new Best Evidence in Brief :

The Learning Policy Institute has published a review of research into teacher effectiveness as teachers become more experienced. The review takes advantage of advances in research methods and data systems that have allowed researchers to more accurately answer this question. Specifically, by including teacher fixed effects in their analyses, researchers have been able to compare a teacher with multiple years of experience to that same teacher when he or she had fewer years of experience.

The report reviews 30 studies published within the last 15 years that analyze the effect of teaching experience on student outcomes in the United States. The review concludes that:

  • Teaching experience is positively associated with student achievement gains throughout a teacher’s career. Gains in teacher effectiveness associated with experience are most steep in teachers’ initial years, but continue to be significant as teachers reach the second, and often third, decades of their careers.
  • As teachers gain experience, their students not only learn more, as measured by standardized tests, they are also more likely to do better on other measures of success, such as school attendance.
  • Teachers’ effectiveness increases at a greater rate when they teach in a supportive and collegial working environment, and when they accumulate experience in the same grade level, subject, or district.
  • More experienced teachers support greater student learning for their colleagues and the school as a whole, as well as for their own students.

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Trouble at work? Blame your parents…?

“Hey, we’ve got another study to write a press release about”

“What’s it about?”

“Leader-follower relationships and attachment theory”

“Attachment theory? Ah, this means parents and parenting style!”

“Yes, but isn’t this research a bit far fetched and purely correlational?”

“Probably, but who cares.”

“And didn’t the 152 employees had to fill in a questionnaire about their attachment as an adult today rather than they have to say anything about their childhood?”



“Don’t worry, let me do this press release:”

“It seems cliché, but, once again, we end up blaming mom for everything in life,” said Harms while laughing. “It really is about both parents, but because mothers are typically the primary caregivers of the children, they usually have more influence on their children.”

Harms, an assistant professor in management at UA’s Culverhouse College of Commerce, studied manager-employee relationships in the workplace and found a link between parenting styles and workplace behaviors. His new research is published in the journal Human Relations.

Harms and his colleagues studied how so-called attachment styles impact how employees react to their supervisors. Their research was based on the work of John Bowlby, an early psychoanalyst, who argued that the way parents treat their offspring could have long-term implications for how their children approach relationships. In particular, the work focused on how parents acted when their infants cried out for help.

“You’ll see this in almost any parenting book you buy,” said Harms. “Should you let the baby cry, or should you rush to comfort them?”

Babies learn over time that when they feel abandoned or threatened they can either count on their parent to come to their rescue right away or they need to escalate to high levels of distress in order to get attention. Or, on the flip side, if babies learn that parents are simply not a reliable source of comfort, they stop making overt appeals for help.

Individuals with reliable parents view others as potential sources of support. Those individuals with unreliable parents tend not to see parents as sources of support. These people are often categorized as having anxious or avoidant attachment depending on the style they adopted to cope with distress.

“Anxiously attached people genuinely want to be loved, but they are nervous that the important people in their lives won’t return their affection,” explained Harms. “So, they overreact anytime they think their relationships are threatened. They use guilt and extreme emotional displays so that others will stay near and reassure them. They get really upset and can’t turn it off. On the other hand, avoidant people feel, ‘I don’t want to love you, and you don’t need to love me. So just leave me alone.’ You won’t find these people weeping over broken relationships.”

Harms and his colleagues speculated that individuals may transfer this pattern of thinking into the workplace and, in particular, that it may influence one’s relationship with one’s boss.

“Your boss is sort of like your parent,” said Harms. “They’re the ones who can take care of you, they’re supposed to train you and support you. This is especially true for individuals new to the workforce.”

Their research also finds that the way bosses treated their subordinates impacted some, but not all, employees.

“Essentially, we figured that bosses would matter less to individuals with secure or avoidant attachment styles,” said Harms. “Secure individuals have a long history of caring relationships, so they have other people who they can fall back on. And avoidant individuals just simply don’t care. It was the anxiously attached individuals we were most interested in.”

Their findings showed that when anxious followers were paired with supportive leaders, they were perfectly fine. But when they were paired with distant, unsupportive leaders, the anxiously attached employees reported higher levels of stress and lower levels of performance.

“They felt threatened,” said Harms. “Their deep-seated anxieties leak out, and it starts to preoccupy them in an unhealthy way.”

In general, avoidant individuals reported lower levels of stress but also less willingness to help co-workers.

“Good boss, bad boss. Whatever. They just don’t care. They just want to do their job and go home,” said Harms.

So, would the working world be a better place if parents just hugged their kids more?

“Probably,” said Harms, “but we can make a difference even if people come into the workplace with insecurities. Our research shows that a mother or father figure later in life can provide that needed love and support, even in the context of the workplace.

“Ultimately, though, the relationship between a manager and their subordinates has to be like a parent-child relationship in another way,” said Harms. “You can provide attention and support early, but the sign of a mature relationship is that you trust one another to the point where managers can trust their subordinates to let them be autonomous, and subordinates can act without seeking permission. In other words, you graduate and move out of the house.”

Abstract of the study:

The current study utilizes attachment theory to understand how leader–follower relationships impact emotional and behavioral outcomes in the workplace. Specifically, we examine the roles of two dysfunctional attachment styles – anxious and avoidant attachment – as determinants of trust in leaders, stress and citizenship behaviors. Results showed that followers with anxious attachment orientations reported experiencing more stress, whereas followers with avoidant attachment orientations were less likely to engage in organizational citizenship behaviors. Moreover, we found that the relationship between attachment orientations and workplace outcomes are mediated by affective and cognitive trust. However, these negative outcomes only occur when the follower has a leader with an avoidant attachment orientation. Implications for training, selection, job design and understanding leader–follower dynamics are discussed.

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Funny on Sunday: conflict of interest…

Found this conflict of interest via a tweet by Stuart Ritchie:

Not funny enough? Wait for the subject of the paper:

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An update to the learning pyramid

Every week I receive a couple of questions about the often shared learning pyramid. Most of the time because somebody shared it on a social media platform. That’s why I made this short overview to share yourself when people spread the Loch Ness monster of education:

The Loch Ness Pyramid of Education


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To Grit or Not to Grit: That’s the Question

Good overview by Myriam and Paul of several studies I also blogged about earlier.

Paul A. Kirschner & Mirjam Neelen

Like deliberate practice (see our previous blog), grit is one of those buzzwords used a lot by many but understood by few. Grit – in relation to learning – was introduced by Angela Lee Duckworth and her colleagues in 2007 and 2009. They defined grit as the ‘passion and perseverance’ needed to achieve long term goals. And although grit might be important, as goes for deliberate practice it’s not always well understood or applied.

What is grit?

Duckworth defines grit as perseverance and passion. She and her colleagues also emphasise that it’s more than just being resilient when, for example, something that you are trying to accomplish seems to fail.

Grit entails working strenuously toward challenges, maintaining effort and interest over years despite failure, adversity, and plateaus in progress. The gritty individual approaches achievement as a marathon; his or her advantage is stamina…

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Art therapy can help reducing psychological problems in Syrian refugee children

This is a pilot study with a very specific group, Syrian refugee children living in Turkey, so we can’t use this study to generalize. Still this study shows that group art therapy has promise in reducing a wide range of psychological symptoms commonly experienced by refugee children. Do note also that this was measured twice not long after the group art therapy, so the study also doesn’t tell us much about the long term effects.

From the press release:

Numerous studies have shown that refugee children are at high risk of a broad range of psychological problems including depression, behavioural problems, aggression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). With almost 1.5 million refugee children from Syria currently living in Turkey, effective programmes to improve their mental health are sorely needed.

This study assessed whether group art therapy could reduce psychological symptoms in 64 Syrian refugee children (aged 7-12) who were living in Istanbul. Arabic speaking interviewers used standard questionnaires and scales to assess the children’s traumatic experiences and to measure levels of depression, PTSD, and anxiety — both before and one week after — the five-day art therapy programme. The therapy used the Skills for Psychological Recovery programme to help children improve their problem solving skills, express and manage their feelings, and increase their social engagement and self-esteem through, art, dancing, and music.

At the start of the study, over half the children (35) were deemed at high risk of developing PTSD, around a quarter (14) already had PTSD symptoms, about a fifth (10) showed severe levels of depression and state (current) anxiety symptoms (6), and almost a third (13) had severe levels of trait anxiety symptoms (general tendency to be anxious; table 3).

One week after the programme, children reported significant improvements in trauma, depression, and trait-anxiety symptoms. No significant improvement was noted in state anxiety symptoms (table 4 and figure 1).

This study draws attention to the psychological impact of the refugee crisis on Syrian children and presents a potentially effective therapy. However, the authors caution that because of the limited number of participants and lack of control group, larger studies will be needed before definitive conclusions can be made about the therapy’s effect on reducing psychological symptoms in refugee children.

Abstract of the study:

This study first examined the prevalence of psychological symptoms among Syrian refugee children (N = 64) and assessed the effect of an art therapy intervention on post-traumatic stress, depression and anxiety symptoms. The Stressful Life Events (SLE) Questionnaire was used to measure stressful and traumatic experiences. The main outcome measures were UCLA Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Parent version, Child Depression Inventory and State-Trait Anxiety Scale. After the baseline assessment, a five-day art therapy intervention, which is based on Skills for Psychological Recovery, was implemented. Findings of the study indicated that 60.3% (N = 35) of Syrian children who participated had high risk to develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) according to the SLE scale. The 23.4% of the children had PTSD symptoms while the 17.6% showed severe depression symptoms. Moreover, the 14.4% of the children showed severe levels of state anxiety symptoms and the 31.1% showed severe levels of trait anxiety symptoms. Findings of the study indicated that trauma, depression and trait anxiety symptoms of children were significantly reduced at the post-assessment. However, for state anxiety scores, significant differences between pre- and post-assessments did not appear. Therefore, it could be said that art therapy may be an effective method to reduce post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and trait anxiety symptoms among refugee children.

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