Author Archives: Pedro

Where Are the Learning Sciences in Learning Analytics Research?

3-Star learning experiences

Mirjam Neelen & Paul A. Kirschner

In his LAK 2016keynote in Edinburgh Paul Kirschner answered the question ‘What do the learning sciences have to do with learning analytics (LA)?’ with a firm: ‘Just about everything!’ He also noted that in most LA projects and studies, the learning scientist and learning theories are conspicuously absent, which often lead – in his words – to dystopian futures.

The trigger to write this blog was far and foremost a statement that Bart Rienties made in his keynote at EARLI17 (summary and slides here), in which he said that research shows that learning design[1] (LD) has a strong impact on learner behaviour, satisfaction, and performance. This, in itself, isn’t earth shocking for us (we’d expect effective LD; that is LD based on evidence from learning sciences, to positively impact learning and ineffective LD to harm it). However, it’s of tantamount importance…

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by | October 20, 2017 · 6:39 am

2 relevant items in Best Evidence in Brief: no effect mindfulness & effect sizes

There is a new Best Evidence in Brief (they have a blog now too) and this time it was too difficult to pick just one item, so I had to pick two.

The first one is on effect sizes in educational research:

What difference does it make?
We regularly quote effect sizes in Best Evidence in Brief as a measure of the impact of an intervention or approach. But what is the impact of a normal school year on children, and how much of that impact is due to the school? A study by Hans Lutyen and colleagues, published in School Effectiveness and School Improvement, attempts to find out.
The study analyzed 3,500 students from 20 mostly independent (private) English primary schools on four different learning outcomes. These measures, part of the Interactive Computer Adaptive System (InCAS), were reading, general math, mental arithmetic, and developed ability, the last of which measures items such as vocabulary and non-verbal pattern recognition.
Children were measured on these outcomes from Years 1 to 6 (Kindergarten to 5th grade in the U.S.). Using a regression-discontinuity approach that exploited the discontinuity between the youngest students in one year and the oldest students in the year below, the researchers were able to identify the overall progress of the children, and the extent to which this was a result of the impact of the school.
The results showed a declining impact of a school year as children got older. The effect size of Year 1 ranged from +1.18 for mental arithmetic to +0.8 for general math. By Year 6, effect sizes varied from +0.88 for general math to +0.49 for reading and developed ability.
The effect of schooling itself accounted for an average of between 23.5% and 43.4% of this impact across the four measures. Put another way, the effect size of schooling in Year 1 ranged from +0.55 for reading to +0.31 for developed ability. By Year 6, effect sizes had fallen to between +0.27 for general math and +0.08 for reading and developed ability.
The researchers suggest that, when setting benchmarks for educational interventions, it is not only important to consider the phase of the educational career, but also the specific measure.

The second is on the effect of mindfulness in secondary education (check this post too):

Impact of secondary school mindfulness programs
Catherine Johnson and colleagues carried out a randomized controlled evaluation of a secondary school mindfulness program (called “.b mindfulness” for “Stop, Breathe and Be!”) to measure impact on self-reported measures of anxiety, depression, weight/shape concerns, well-being, and mindfulness.
Five hundred and fifty-five students in four secondary schools in South Australia participated (mean age = 13.44 years). Students were assigned using a cluster (class-based) randomized controlled design to one of three conditions: the nine-week mindfulness curriculum, the nine-week mindfulness curriculum with parental involvement, or a control (business-as-usual) curriculum.
The evaluation found no differences between the mindfulness groups with or without parental involvement and the control group at post-intervention or at the six and twelve month follow-up. The researchers conclude that further research is required to identify the optimal age, content, and length of programs delivering mindfulness to teenagers.

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New study on the relative age effect and ADHD

I’m sure you already heard about the relative age effect, if not it describes “a bias, evident in the upper echelons of youth sport and academia, where participation is higher amongst those born early in the relevant selection period (and correspondingly lower amongst those born late in the selection period) than would be expected from the normalised distribution of live births.” (wikipedia) And a new study shows a possible link to ADHD-diagnosis.

From the press release:

Younger primary school children are more likely to be diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) than their older peers within the same school year, new research has shown.

The study, led by a child psychiatrist at The University of Nottingham with researchers at the University of Turku in Finland, suggests that adults involved in raising concerns over a child’s behaviour – such as parents and teachers – may be misattributing signs of relative immaturity as symptoms of the disorder.

In their research, published in The Lancet Psychiatry, the experts suggest that greater flexibility in school starting dates should be offered for those children who may be less mature than their same school-year peers.

Kapil Sayal, Professor of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry at the University’s School of Medicine and the Centre for ADHD and Neurodevelopmental Disorders Across the Lifespan at the Institute of Mental Health in Nottingham, was the lead author on the study.

He said: “The findings of this research have a range of implications for teachers, parents and clinicians. With an age variation of up to 12 months in the same class, teachers and parents may misattribute a child’s immaturity. This might lead to younger children in the class being more likely to be referred for an assessment for ADHD.

“Parents and teachers as well as clinicians who are undertaking ADHD assessments should keep in mind the child’s relative age. From an education perspective, there should be flexibility with an individualised approach to best meets the child’s needs.”

Evidence suggests that worldwide, the incidence of ADHD among school age children is, at around five per cent, fairly uniform. However, there are large differences internationally in the rates of clinical diagnosis and treatment.

Although this may partially reflect the availability of and access to services, the perceptions of parents and teachers also play an important role in recognising children who may be affected by ADHD, as information they provide is used as part of the clinical assessment.

The study centred on whether the so-called ‘relative age effect’ – the perceived differences in abilities and development between the youngest and oldest children in the same year group – could affect the incidence of diagnosis of ADHD.

Adults may be benchmarking the development and abilities of younger children against their older peers in the same year group and inadvertently misinterpreting immaturity for more serious problems.

Previous studies have suggested that this effect plays an important role in diagnosis in countries where higher numbers of children are diagnosed and treated for ADHD, leading to concerns that clinicians may be over-diagnosing the disorder.

The latest study aimed to look at whether the effect also plays a significant role in the diagnosis of children in countries where the prescribing rates for ADHD are relatively low.

It used nationwide population data from all children in Finland born between 1991 and 2004 who were diagnosed with ADHD from the age of seven years – school starting age – onwards. In Finland, children start school during the calendar year they turn 7 years of age, with the school year starting in mid-August. Therefore, the eldest in a school year are born in January (aged 7 years and 7 months) and the youngest in December (6 years and 7 months).

The results showed that younger children were more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than their older same-year peers – boys by 26 per cent and girls by 31 per cent.

For children under the age of 10 years, this association got stronger over time – in the more recent years 2004-2011, children born in May to August were 37 per cent more likely to be diagnosed and those born in September to December 64 per cent, compared to the oldest children born in January to April

The study found that this ‘relative age affect’ could not be explained by other behavioural or developmental disorders which may also have been affecting the children with an ADHD diagnosis.

However, the experts warn, the study did have some important limitations – the data did not reveal whether any of the young children were held back a year for educational reasons and potentially misclassified as the oldest in their year group when in fact they were the youngest of their original peers.

The flexibility in school starting date could explain why the rate of ADHD in December-born children (the relatively youngest) were slightly lower than those for children born in October and November.

And while the records of publicly-funded specialised services which are free at the point of access will capture most children who have received a diagnosis of ADHD, it will miss those who were diagnosed in private practice.

Abstract of the study published in The Lancet:

Background
Findings are mixed on the relationship between attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and younger relative age in the school year. We aimed to investigate whether relative age is associated with ADHD diagnosis in a country where prescribing rates are low and whether any such association has changed over time or relates to comorbid disorders (eg, conduct disorder [CD], oppositional defiant disorder [ODD], or learning disorder [LD]).

Methods
We used nationwide population-based registers to identify all Finnish children born between Jan 1, 1991, and Dec 31, 2004, who were diagnosed with ADHD from age 7 years onwards (age of starting school). We calculated incidence ratios to assess the inter-relations between relative age within the school year, age at ADHD diagnosis, and year of diagnosis (1998–2003 vs 2004–11).

Findings
Between Jan 1, 1998, and Dec 31, 2011, 6136 children with ADHD were identified. Compared with the oldest children in the school year (ie, those born between January and April), the cumulative incidence of an ADHD diagnosis was greatest for the youngest children (ie, those born between September and December); for boys the incidence ratio was 1·26 (95% CI 1·18–1·35; p<0·0001) and for girls it was 1·31 (1·12–1·54; p=0·0007). The association between relative age and age at ADHD diagnosis reflected children diagnosed before age 10 years, and the strength of this association increased during recent years (2004–11). Thus, compared with children born between January and April, for those born between May and August, the ADHD incidence ratio was 1·37 (95% CI 1·24–1·53; p<0·0001) and for those born between September and December, the incidence ratio was 1·64 (1·48–1·81; p<0·0001). The relative age effect was not accounted for by comorbid disorders such as CD, ODD, or LD.

Interpretation
In a health service system with low prescribing rates for ADHD, a younger relative age is associated with an increased likelihood of receiving a clinical diagnosis of ADHD. This effect has increased in recent years. Teachers, parents, and clinicians should take relative age into account when considering the possibility of ADHD in a child or encountering a child with a pre-existing diagnosis.

 

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Udacity isn’t about education but about job training

Past week I had the pleasure to attend a talk by Eric Schmidt, top leader from Alphabet/Google in the Netherlands. One of the more interesting things he said was a seemingly contradiction: after several pleas for teaching how to code in school, he ended his talk by saying that soon AI would make coding obsolete.

There was also another talk at the event by Clarissa Shen from Udacity. Her talk gave me an important insight: the present courses delivered by the platform aren’t about education, it’s all about job training.

What is the difference? Biesta has described 3 goals of education: subjectification (personal development), qualification and socialisation. If you go to a school or university you’ll get elements that lead to qualification. Good, but most of the time even when discussing qualification in regular education., it will be more than learning only stuff that is related to a particular job.

What Shen described was only a narrow part of what can be regarded as qualification from the three tasks by Biesta, so don’t call Udacity and it’s nano-degrees education, call it what it is: job training.

Oh, btw, I enjoyed reading this related post at Inside Higher Ed.

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Reducing racial bias in children (for 2 months)

A new study with young children shows a technique to reduce racial bias in young children (4 to 6 year olds), well the key element is repetition.

From the press release:

We tend to see people we’re biased against as all the same. They are “those people.” Instead of thinking of them as specific individuals, we lump them into a group. Now an international team of researchers suggests that one way to reduce racial bias in young children is by teaching them to distinguish among faces of a different race.

The study, published in the journal Child Development, is the first to show a lasting effect – and in kids young enough to not be too set in their ways.

It is co-authored by researchers from the University of California San Diego, the University of Toronto, the University of Delaware, l’Université Grenoble Alpes in France, and Hangzhou Normal University and Zhejiang Normal University in China.

Two 20-minute sessions with 4- to 6-year-old Chinese children, in which they were trained to identify black male faces as individuals, reduced implicit bias in the children for at least two months.

Key to reducing the bias? The repeat session.

“A single session had minimal immediate effects that dissipated quickly. The lesson didn’t stick. But a second session a week later seemed to act like a booster shot, producing measurable differences in implicit bias 60 days later,” said Gail Heyman, a professor of psychology in the UC San Diego Division of Social Sciences and a senior co-author on the study.

Kang Lee, of the University of Toronto and also a senior co-author, said, “We know from other research that preferences for your own race develop in early childhood. Our method has the advantage of being suitable for very young children, and it also improves children’s ability to recognize faces, which is an important social skill in and of itself.”

First author on the study is Miao K. Qian, of Hangzhou Normal University and the University of Toronto.

The researchers are careful to note that racial bias is complicated. For starters, psychologists think there may be at least two different types of bias: implicit bias, or the extent to which we have subconscious negative and positive associations with different races, and explicit bias, or preferences we’re more aware of and can (if we’re not being guarded) articulate. Implicit bias may have perceptual roots, arising from greater exposure to people of your own race, while explicit bias may be learned socially from adults and peers. Then there’s the question of behavior. How implicit or explicit bias translates into biased behavior is a subject yet to be fully explored.

“We think that reducing implicit racial bias in children could be a starting point for addressing a pernicious social problem,” Heyman said. “But it is not the complete answer to racial discrimination or to systemic, structural racism.”

The researchers worked with 95 children in an eastern city in China. All the kids were Han Chinese and, according to their guardians’ reports, none had direct interaction with any non-Asian people prior to the study. As with most longitudinal studies, there was attrition among participants for a number of reasons, with a final sample, at day 70, of 50.

To measure bias, the researchers used their own Implicit Racial Bias Test (or IRBT), which they’ve validated in a previous paper with subjects in China and Cameroon. The IRBT is a preschool-friendly adaptation of the implicit association test (or IAT). The logic of the two tests is similar: People are quicker to associate positive attributes with members of their own race than with those of another racial category. A difference in response time is taken as a measure of implicit bias. One advantage of the IRBT, the researchers say, is that it uses only pictures instead of words: simple and intuitive smiley and frowny icons that subjects are asked to pair with neutral faces of their own race or a different one.

After measuring the children’s levels of pro-Asian/anti-black bias by calculating how quick they were to pair a frowny or smiley icon with a black male vs. an Asian male face, the researchers assigned them randomly to three different training groups. One group saw black male faces, a second group saw white male faces, and a third group saw Asian male faces. These last two groups were controls to see if learning to differentiate among faces of any race, different from one’s own or the same, produced results that generalized to a third.

Individuation training consisted of learning to identify five different faces that had been numbered 1 through 5, starting with just two faces and working up to five. Training continued until the child correctly matched all five faces with their numerical “names.” This took 20 minutes on average.

There were two training sessions a week apart. A day after each training, children took the implicit racial bias test again. They were tested for bias a final time 60 days after the second training.

The results: Only the training to distinguish among black faces reduced pro-Asian/anti-black bias. Training on white faces or Asian ones didn’t make a difference. Reduction in bias was most significant after the second session and it had a longer-lasting effect than had been documented before.

The researchers are now working with a larger, more diverse group of children in Toronto over a longer term. If their intervention to reduce implicit racial bias is effective in that setting as well, they hope to develop a more consumer-friendly version of their training sessions: a fun, gamified app that could be used in schools and at home.

Abstract of the study:

This study tracked the long-term effect of perceptual individuation training on reducing 5-year-old Chinese children’s (= 95, Mage = 5.64 years) implicit pro-Asian/anti-Black racial bias. Initial training to individuate other-race Black faces, followed by supplementary training occurring 1 week later, resulted in a long-term reduction of pro-Asian/anti-Black bias (70 days). In contrast, training Chinese children to recognize White or Asian faces had no effect on pro-Asian/anti-Black bias. Theoretically, the finding that individuation training can have a long-term effect on reducing implicit racial bias in preschoolers suggests that a developmentally early causal linkage between perceptual and social processing of faces is not a transitory phenomenon. Practically, the data point to an effective intervention method for reducing implicit racism in young children.

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Funny on Sunday: when do you know it’s time to graduate

Check PhD Comics:

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“The Dance of Ideology” (Charles Payne)

Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice

A sociologist from the University of Chicago, Charles Payne has taught and worked in urban schools for decades. Based upon his work in Chicago schools and many experiences in urban districts, Payne authored So Much Reform, So Little Change (2008). In the following excerpt from that book, Payne distills the basic assumptions that drive school reformers (including educators) from both the political left and right. He believes that the history of urban school reform and the current context calls for rethinking both sets of ideas in trying to improve big city schools.

…For progressives, [their] ideas include the following Holy Postulates:

  1. Thou Shalt Never Criticize the Poor. It is okay to imply that the poor have agency but agency only to do good. If the poor do anything that’s counterproductive, it is only because of the inexorable weight of oppression, which leaves them no choice. We do not talk about…

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Modern speedreading apps don’t help comprehension

Do you know Tsundoku? It’s a Japanese word to describe the pile of books that lays beside your bed that you should read. It is acquiring reading materials but letting them pile up in one’s home without reading them. If only you could read a bit faster, maybe that could help?

I’m sorry, but the answer seems to be ‘no’ as this new study by Acklin and Papesh shows:

Despite the claims of companies marketing speed-reading tools (e.g., Spritz), our results clearly demonstrated comprehension deficits after rapid presentation of text passages. Consistent with pre- vious research (e.g., Juola et al., 1982), RSVP text presentation led to comprehension scores well be- low those obtained after static reading, regardless of whether the presentation rate was 700 or 1,000 wpm.

The test group wasn’t that big, as forty-two undergraduate psychology students from Louisiana State University with a mean age of 20 years (SD = 2.36) and an average of 14.8 (SD = 1.27) years of education participated in this study for partial course credit. Still the results seem quite damning.

Abstract of the study:

New computer apps are gaining popularity by suggesting that reading speeds can be drastically increased when eye movements that normally occur during reading are eliminated. This is done using rapid serial visual presentation (RSVP), where words are presented 1 at a time, thus preventing natural eye movements such as saccades, fixations, and regressions from occurring. Although the companies producing these apps suggest that RSVP reading does not yield comprehension deficits, research investigating the role of eye movements in reading documents shows the necessity of natural eye movements for accurate comprehension. The current study explored variables that may affect reading comprehension during RSVP reading, including text difficulty (6th grade and 12th grade), text presentation speed (static, 700 wpm, and 1,000 wpm), and working memory capacity (WMC). Consistent with recent work showing a tenuous relationship between comprehension and WMC, participants’ WMC did not predict comprehension scores. Instead, comprehension was most affected by reading speed: Static text was associated with superior performance, relative to either RSVP reading condition. Furthermore, slower RSVP speeds yielded better verbatim comprehension, and faster speeds benefited inferential comprehension.

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Daniel Willingham’s cool reading facts 1: Writing is a recent technology

How cool is this, Daniel Willingham is publishing a series of 5 short videos on reading, Cool Reading Facts. The first, just up, is titled “Writing is a Recent Technology.” Daniel will publish one each day this week.

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Funny on Sunday: try underscore…

 

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