Giving talks in the US in February!

I received some requests already for giving talks in the US, and I really like doing this. Do be able to still teach and do research while giving talks in the US there are two options.

Option 1: Yesterday I gave a first talk via Zoom to a group of teachers in the US. It was a new experience to me, but the teachers of Chesterton’s Kent School let me know afterwards they really enjoyed it.

Option 2: I’ll be coming to the US in February 2019 for a first little tour of talks. If interested, check this or mail Desmond:

Leave a comment

Filed under Education, On the road

Best Evidence in Brief: Does personality matter for effective teaching and burnout?

There is a new Best Evidence in Brief with among others, this study (with bold by me):

Lisa Kim and colleagues recently conducted a meta-analysis to try to identify whether personality characteristics are associated with effective teaching.

The study, which was published in Educational Psychology Review, looked at 25 studies (total number of participants = 6,294) that reported on relationships between five teacher personality traits (openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and emotional stability) and two teacher job-related outcomes (teacher effectiveness and burnout).

Overall, the results showed that teacher personality may be associated with teacher effectiveness and job burnout. For teacher effectiveness, extraversion was found to have the largest effect size (+0.17), and agreeableness the lowest (+0.03). The characteristic most associated with less teacher burnout was emotional stability (effect size =+0.21), and openness had the smallest effect size (+0.04). However, as the effect sizes for burnout were very small, the authors suggest that the results should be approached with caution.

The researchers also looked at whether the source of the teacher personality report (i.e., self-report vs. other-report) and educational level had any moderating effects on the relationship between personality and job-related outcomes. The findings indicated that other-reports of teacher personality were more strongly associated with effectiveness and burnout than self-reports. There were no differences in the strength of the associations between the educational levels.

Leave a comment

Filed under Education, Research, Psychology

Casper Hulshof talking about “Voodoo, rats and… growth mindset”

I don’t think it’s a secret anymore, but Paul, Casper and myself have been working on a new Myth book. The Dutch version due to be published in February, meanwhile we are working on the English version to be published later this year. Casper did this talk on one of the chapters at ResearchED Netherlands:

Leave a comment

Filed under Education, Myths, Psychology, Research

A study I forgot to blog about: the 8 hour sleep challenge

Sleep is key for learning. Nothing new there. But how can we get students to sleep more? Bring in the 8 hour sleep challenge. It worked, but there is more to it (and the study had a relatively small test group).

From the press release:

Students given extra points if they met “The 8-hour Challenge” — averaging eight hours of sleep for five nights during final exams week — did better than those who snubbed (or flubbed) the incentive, according to Baylor University research.

“Better sleep helped rather than harmed final exam performance, which is contrary to most college students’ perceptions that they have to sacrifice either studying or sleeping. And you don’t have to be an ‘A’ student or have detailed education on sleep for this to work,” said Michael Scullin, Ph.D., director of Baylor’s Sleep Neuroscience and Cognition Laboratory and assistant professor of psychology and neuroscience in Baylor’s College of Arts & Sciences.

While students who successfully met the sleep challenge received extra points, the “mini-incentive” was not included in the analysis of how well they performed on the finals, stressed Elise King, assistant professor of interior design in Baylor’s Robbins College of Health and Human Sciences.

“They didn’t just perform well because they received extra points,” she said. “Students know that sacrificing sleep to complete school work is not a healthy choice, but they assume they don’t have a choice, often remarking that there aren’t enough hours in the day for coursework, extracurriculars, jobs, etc. This removes that excuse.”

Research participants included undergraduate interior design students and students in upper-level psychology and neuroscience classes. While the psychology classes emphasized education about sleep, the interior design students did not receive any formal training in sleep. Those who opted to take the challenge wore wristband sleep-monitoring devices for five days to ensure accurate study results.

“The students didn’t need the extra credit to perform better, and they weren’t really better students from the get-go,” Scullin said. “If you statistically correct for whether a student was an A, B, C, or D student before their final exam, sleeping 8 hours was associated with a four-point grade boost — even prior to applying extra credit.”

The collaborative interior design study — “The 8-Hour Challenge: Incentivizing Sleep During End-of-Term Assessments — was published in the Journal of Interior Design. Scullin’s study of psychology students — “The 8-Hour Sleep Challenge During Final Exams Week” — was published in Teaching of Psychology.

Poor sleep is common during finals as students cut back on sleep, deal with more stress, use more caffeine and are exposed to more bright light, all of which may disrupt sleep. Fewer than 10 percent of undergraduates maintain the recommended average of 8 hours a night or even the recommended minimum of 7 hours, previous research shows.

But with incentives, “we can potentially completely reverse the proportion of students meeting minimum sleep recommendations — 7 hours a night — from fewer than 15 percent up to 90 percent,” Scullin said. “Half of students can even meet optimal sleep recommendations of 8 to 9 hours.”

* PSYCHOLOGY STUDENTS

In the study of psychology students, 34 students in two undergraduate courses could earn extra credit if they averaged 8 hours of sleep during final exams week or at least improved upon their sleep from earlier in the semester.

The 24 who opted to take the challenge averaged 8.5 hours of sleep, with 17 meeting the goal. On the final exam, students who slept more than 8 hours nightly performed better than those who opted out or slept less than 7.9 hours. (The incentive was 8 points — the equivalent of 1 percent of a student’s overall class grade.)

“It’s worth noting that one student who had a D-plus grade before the final but slept more than 8 hours a week during finals week, remarked that it was the ‘first time my brain worked while taking an exam,'” Scullin said.

* INTERIOR DESIGN STUDENTS

In the interior design study challenge, students earned credit (10 points on a 200-point project) if they averaged 8 or more hours a night but received no grade change if they averaged 7 to 7.9 hours a night.

Of the 27 students enrolled in the program, 22 attempted the challenge. Compared with a group of 22 students who did not try for the extra points, very few (9 percent) averaged 8 hours or even 7 hours (14 percent).

The 8 hour challenge increased the percentage of 8 and 7 hour sleepers to 59 percent and 86 percent respectively. Students who took part in the challenge slept an average of 98 minutes more per night compared to students who were not offered the incentive but were monitored.

“Critically, the additional sleep did not come at a cost to project performance,” King said. “Students who showed more consistent sleep performed better than those who had less consistent sleep. And students who achieved the challenge performed as well or better than those who did not take the challenge.”

In a study of sleep and creativity done in 2017, King and Scullin found that interior design students with highly variable sleep habits — cycling between “all-nighters” and “catch-up” nights — had decreased cognition in attention and creativity, especially with major projects. Design students customarily complete finals projects rather than final exams.

“Whether or not they ‘pull an all-nighter,’ when students cut their sleep, the effects are obvious,” King said. “They have trouble paying attention during class, and they aren’t as productive during studio time.”

She noted that there is a cultural acceptability — at least in design professions — related to sleep deprivation, thanks in part to the notion of the “tortured artist” who finds inspiration in the wee hours.

“Some fields might find it unprofessional, but for many years, in design, sacrificing sleep was viewed as a rite of passage. That’s something we’re trying to change,” King said. “Even during stressful deadline weeks, students can maintain healthy sleep habits.”

“To be successful at the challenge, students need to manage their time better during the day. Getting more sleep at night then allows them to be more efficient the next day,” Scullin said. “By training students in their first year of college, if not earlier, that they can sleep well during finals week without sacrificing performance, we may help to resolve the ‘global sleep epidemic’ that plagues students in America and abroad.”

Abstract of the study:

Many students and educators know that sleep is important to learning, yet there exists a gap between their knowledge and behavior. For example, fewer than 10% of students sleep 8 hr before final exams. In the context of two undergraduate courses on sleep (N = 34), students could earn extra credit if they averaged ≥8.0 hr of sleep during final exams week. Sleep/wake patterns were monitored objectively using actigraphy. The 24 students who opted in to the challenge averaged 8.5 hr of sleep (n = 17 succeeded). Short sleep (≤6.9 hr) occurred on only 11% of nights, significantly less than early-semester baseline (51%) and comparison group (65%) data. On the final exam, students who slept ≥8.0 hr performed better than students who opted out or slept ≤7.9 hr, even after controlling for prefinal grades. The 8-hr sleep challenge provides proof of principle that many students can maintain optimal sleep while studying, without sacrificing test performance.

Leave a comment

Filed under At home, Education, Research

Funny on Sunday: A Brief History of Philosophy

Found this via Steve Stewart-Williams:

Leave a comment

Filed under Funny

Deconstructing Constructivism: A Widely Misunderstood and Misapplied Theory of Learning

Good overview, but I wouldn’t call constructivism a theory of learning as such, as it’s more a theory or even better a philosophy about knowledge with as basic question if there is even such a thing as truth as everybody is constructing his or her own knowledge. I also would describe Piaget rather as an inspiration for e.g. Bruner.

Mr. G Mpls

When I completed my teacher licensure coursework only a few years back, I would have characterized myself as a die-hard believer in John Dewey, Alfie Kohn, flexible seating and student-centered learning.  I believed children learned best by doing, that teacher-talk should be limited in a “readers/writers/math workshop,” and that group work and personalized technology were the future of education.

I didn’t realize it at the time – probably because my teaching philosophy was identical to much of my cohort – but I was unwittingly indoctrinated in the educational progressive’s interpretation of constructivism. I assumed what I was being taught in teacher training was best practice, until I started reading books that were not on any of my syllabi. 

I was able to gain some perspective and insight into the history of this philosophy of teaching after reading Education is Upside-Down by Eric Kalenze. In his book, Kalenze traces the…

View original post 1,937 more words

Leave a comment

Filed under Education

Can you train executive functions? A second meta-analysis says…

In 2015 I wrote this blogpost on a meta-analysis on the training of executive functions. The results were a bit depressing. Today I found a new meta-analysis via Jeroen Jansen and the results… are again not that good and it all has to do with one of the key concepts in education: transfer.  The meta-analysis was based on 38 studies with 47 contrasts.

I’ll first share with you the abstract of the study:

In the present meta-analysis we examined the near- and far-transfer effects of training components of children’s executive functions skills: working memory, inhibitory control, and cognitive flexibility. We found a significant near-transfer effect (g+ = 0.44, k = 43, p < .001) showing that the interventions in the primary studies were successful in training the targeted components. However, we found no convincing evidence of far-transfer (g+ = 0.11, k = 17, p = .11). That is, training a component did not have a significant effect on the untrained components. By showing the absence of benefits that generalize beyond the trained components, we question the practical relevance of training specific executive function skills in isolation. Furthermore, the present results might explain the absence of far-transfer effects of working memory training on academic skills (Melby-Lervag & Hulme, 2013; Sala & Gobet, 2017).

So, this study is not that surprising as it states that near transfer can happen more easily, far transfer is far more difficult (pun intended). But the consequences of this finding can be pretty big:

The most important aim of the present meta-analysis was to gain a deeper understanding of whether and to what extent the different components of executive functions are trainable and whether train- ing a specific executive function has an ameliorating effect on other main executive function components. This is of crucial importance because in the long run the main aim of training executive functions skills is to improve children’s everyday functioning; for example, academic and social skills as well as emotion regulation. These complex skills are not supported by one sole executive function but generally rely on the interplay among most of them.

So to be clear the study doesn’t say that executive functions can’t be trained, or…

Overall, we found a significant, medium-sized near-transfer effect. However, no far-transfer effect appeared. More specifically, there were significant near-transfer effects on all three components: a moderate-sized effect on working memory and small-sized effects on inhibition and cognitive flexibility. In contrast, no far-transfer effects were found on working memory, inhibitory control, or flexibility. The finding that there was a significant near-transfer effect excludes the possibility that the interventions in the primary studies were not effective in training the components that they targeted. Instead, performance on the components that were trained did significantly improve, however, these gains did not transfer to the untrained components.

But what does this mean?

The lack of far-transfer effect found in the present meta-analysis even within the set of executive function skills makes it—though logically not impossible—still highly unlikely that training unique executive functions could have measurable ameliorating transfer effect on more distantly related and complex constructs, such as academic and social skills (Blair & Razza, 2007) that rely just as much on the trained executive function component as on the other untrained and largely unaffected components. The results of the present meta-analysis therefore provide a possible explanation for the previously found absence of far-transfer effects of working memory trainings on academic skills.

So what do we need to do?

The present meta-analysis shows that there are limited practical benefits— other than on the trained component— of training single executive function components in childhood. Thus, it might be more advisable, both in the educational and in the clinical practice, to use approaches that target multiple executive function components.

But maybe the most important question is in the end of the meta-analysis:

“The lack of causal evidence for significant relationships among the three core components might contradict accounts of executive functions as a single construct.”

So maybe you can’t train ‘executive functions‘, but you can train an executive function.

1 Comment

Filed under Education, Research, Review

Qualitative study: how managerialism in UK schools erodes teachers’ mental health and well-being

I have been a full day at a very interesting conference about data and educational policy, but than you read this study and you remember some of the teachers you know who had a burnout lately. There are always real people behind the data! This study is a qualitative study in which the researchers try to understand what can worsen mental health and well-being of teachers.

From the press release:

Performance targets, increased workload, curriculum changes and other bureaucratic changes are eroding teachers’ professional identity and harming their mental health, a new study in Educational Review finds.

The study’s authors interviewed 39 teachers across England and Wales who had experienced long term absence from work due to mental health problems, and six head, deputy and assistant head teachers who had dealt with mental health problems among staff.

The teachers cited constant, complex change in educational policies, target-led performance, lack of managerial support and heavy workload as causes of increased stress and anxiety. They spoke of disillusionment, loss of self-esteem and feelings of failure, leading some to take early retirement or, in one case, attempt suicide due to pressure of work.

Many believed that the focus on targets and results is fundamentally altering the teacher’s role as educator and getting in the way of the pupil-teacher relationship, ultimately harming the learning opportunities and failing to address the psychological needs of children. Job satisfaction is also being eroded by bureaucratic demands, with excessive paperwork and pressure to improve results adding to teachers’ already heavy workloads.

Difficulties with leadership and management styles were widespread, with many teachers feeling they were under constant scrutiny and pressure to perform to unrealistic expectations. Although conscious of the pressures on school managers to successfully implement new policies, teachers felt excluded from the process and ill-equipped to make the required changes.

This managerialist approach to education and the consequent loss of decision-making about classroom practice left many teachers with doubts about their role. Most felt that they were failing the children and themselves by no longer being able to encourage active learning in the classroom.

The study’s Principal Investigator, Gerry Leavey, Director of the Bamford Centre for Mental Health & Wellbeing at Ulster University said: “The destruction of self-esteem and effectiveness, combined with the despair of an externally constructed failure permeated most of our interviews with teachers. Their comments express a tension between the old view of what it means to be a teacher – commitment, service to the school and pupils’ learning – and the new managerialist view – accountability, performativity and meeting standards in a new, corporate world.”

“This tension is often internalised and impacts on teachers’ identity. It often pits taking care of themselves and the non-academic needs of pupils against management duties and targets. Too often, this leads to stress and mental health problems. Too many good teachers are leaving the profession through ill-health”.

Dr Barbara Skinner, an educationalist at Ulster University, added that: “Educational reforms, and the rigidly prescribed organisational and management structures that accompany them, should be weighed against their impacts on professional identity and personal well-being. We also need better evidence-based interventions to promote teacher well-being”

Abstract of the study:

In Europe, well-being in the workplace has increasing prominence in the policy and research agenda, and education is a key context in which the challenge of occupational stress has been reported. Traditionally, the ethos in school settings could be said to be shaped by the vocational motivation of employees; that is, a commitment to a social benefit through the development, support and improvement of the pupils, and this commitment used to override workplace challenges and help teachers deal with stress. This article argues that teachers’ commitment is being eroded by the impact of bureaucratic changes at management level, such as the setting of performance targets, increased workload, increased accountability and changes in the curriculum. This in turn impacts on their professional identity and can negatively affect their mental health and well-being. The current article describes a qualitative study undertaken among 39 teachers and 6 school leaders across England and Wales in which we sought to understand, through interviews, the contextual workplace experiences of teachers who experienced work-related stress. Policy developments in education and management implementation of these developments and the consequent erosion of teacher autonomy dominated the narratives. We examine how managerialism can relate to a loss of commitment, professional identity, self-confidence and vulnerability to stress, anxiety and depression. This article proposes that educational reforms, and the rigidly prescribed organisational and management structures that accompany them, need to be weighed against their impacts on professional identity and personal well-being.

1 Comment

Filed under Education, Research

Again: inquiry-based approach and PISA-data

I discovered that my version of this graph has been shared quite a lot:

Now Dirk Van Damme shared a new study based on UK PISA-data. The study in short:

  • Enquiry teaching methods are a popular approach to science instruction.
  • The link between enquiry instruction and science achievement has previously been investigated using PISA.
  • These studies have been limited by PISA’s cross-sectional design.
  • We present new evidence using longitudinal PISA data from in England.
  • We find frequent use of inquiry instruction is not associated with higher achievement.

Abstract of the study:

Inquiry-based science teaching involves supporting pupils to acquire scientific knowledge indirectly by conducting their own scientific experiments, rather than receiving scientific knowledge directly from teachers. This approach to instruction is widely used among science educators in many countries. However, researchers and policymakers have recently called the effectiveness of inquiry approaches into doubt. Using nationally-representative, linked survey and administrative data, we find little evidence that the frequency of inquiry-based instruction is positively associated with teenagers’ performance in science examinations. This finding is robust to the use of different measures of inquiry, different examinations/measures of attainment, across classrooms with varying levels of disciplinary standards and across gender and prior attainment subgroups.

 

2 Comments

Filed under Education, Research

Interesting new study: immigrant kids deliberately build STEM skills

I’m involved in a research project related to STEM and hard to reach groups of children, making this study quite interesting for us, although it’s quite possible that this can be heavily influenced by country factors.

From the press release:

U.S. immigrant children study more math and science in high school and college, which leads to their greater presence in STEM careers, according to new findings from scholars at Duke University and Stanford University.

“Most studies on the assimilation of immigrants focus on the language disadvantage of non-English-speaking immigrants,” said Marcos Rangel, assistant professor at Duke’s Sanford School of Public Policy. “We focus instead on the comparative strength certain immigrant children develop in numerical subjects, and how that leads to majoring in STEM subjects in college.”

About 20 percent of U.S.-born college students major in STEM subjects. Yet those numbers are much higher among immigrants — particularly among who arrive the U.S. after age 10, and who come from countries whose native languages are dissimilar to English, Rangel said. Within that group, 36 percent major in STEM subjects.

“Some children who immigrate to the U.S., particularly older children from a country where the main language is very dissimilar to English, quite rationally decide to build on skills they are relatively more comfortable with, such as math and science,” said Rangel.

Those older immigrant children take more math and science courses in high school, the authors found. Immigrant children arriving after age 10 earn approximately 20 percent more credits in math-intensive courses than they do in English-intensive courses.

This focus continues in college, where immigrant children are more likely to pursue science, technology, engineering and math majors. Those majors, in turn, lead to careers in STEM fields. Previous research has shown that immigrants are more highly represented in many STEM careers.

“Meaningful differences in skill accumulation … shape the consequent contributions of childhood immigrants to the educated labor force,” the authors write.

Abstract of the study:

We provide empirical evidence of immigrants’ specialization in skill acquisition well before entering the US labor market. Nationally representative datasets enable studying the academic trajectories of immigrant children, with a focus on high-school course-taking patterns and college major choice. Immigrant children accumulate skills in ways that reinforce comparative advantages in nonlanguage intensive skills such as mathematics and science, and this contributes to their growing numbers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) careers. These results are compatible with well-established models of skill formation that emphasize dynamic complementarities of investments in learning.

1 Comment

Filed under Education, Research

Funny on Sunday: very recognizable…

Leave a comment

Filed under Funny