Category Archives: Education

The New Stupid Replaces the Old Stupid (Rick Hess)

Can’t believe this interview is almost 10 years old…

Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice

From an interview conducted in 2009 with Rick Hess, then Resident Scholar at The American Enterprise Institute. I have lightly abridged the interview. The original article upon which this interview is based is here.

Q: Rick, you recently published an article in Educational Leadership
arguing that the ways in which we rely on data to drive decisions in
schools has changed over time. Yet, you note that we have unfortunately only
succeeded in moving from the “old stupid” to the “new stupid.” What do you do
you mean by this?

A: A decade ago, it was only too easy to find education leaders who dismissed
student achievement data and systematic research as having only limited utility
when it came to improving schools. Today, we’ve come full circle. You can’t
spend a day at an education gathering without hearing excited claims about
“data-based decision making” and “research-based practice.” Yet these…

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Sad thing we still have to discuss this: spanking does more harm than good

It seems so obvious, but a new study confirms that spanking children is a bad idea and even harmful for children on a more global scale than previously known.

From the press release:

Most research on how spanking affects children has involved studying families in high-income countries, such as the United States and Canada, but less was known about how spanking affects children in low- and middle-income countries–or developing countries.

Spanking is one of the most common forms of child discipline used by parents worldwide.

The new international research used data collected by UNICEF in 62 countries–representing nearly one-third of the world’s countries–and demonstrated that caregivers’ reports of spanking were related to lower social development among 215,885 3- and 4-year-old children.

A parent or caregiver was asked in person if the child gets along well with other children; if the child hits, kicks or bites others; and if the child gets distracted easily. The question about spanking concerned the physical discipline used within the last month with the child or their sibling.

One-third of the respondents indicated they believed physical punishment is necessary to bring up, raise or educate a child properly. Among the children studied, 43 percent were spanked, or resided in a home where another child was spanked.

A child’s social development suffered in both cases in which he or she was spanked or during times when a sibling had been spanked, the study showed.

“It appears that in this sample … spanking may do more harm than good,” said Garrett Pace, the study’s lead author and a doctoral student of social work and sociology.

Pace also noted that “reductions in corporal punishment might do a great deal to reduce the burden of children’s mental health and improve child development outcomes globally.”

More effort to create policies that discourage spanking has occurred globally. In fact, 54 countries have banned the use of corporal punishment, which can only benefit children’s well-being long term, Pace and colleagues said.

Abstract of the study:

Spanking is one of the most common forms of child discipline used by parents around the world. Research on children in high-income countries has shown that parental spanking is associated with adverse child outcomes, yet less is known about how spanking is related to child well-being in low- and middle-income countries. This study uses data from 215,885 children in 62 countries from the fourth and fifth rounds of UNICEF’s Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS) to examine the relationship between spanking and child well-being. In this large international sample which includes data from nearly one-third of the world’s countries, 43% of children were spanked, or resided in a household where another child was spanked, in the past month. Results from multilevel models show that reports of spanking of children in the household were associated with lower scores on a 3-item socioemotional development index among 3- and 4-year-old children. Country-level results from the multilevel model showed 59 countries (95%) had a negative relationship between spanking and socioemotional development and 3 countries (5%) had a null relationship. Spanking was not associated with higher socioemotional development for children in any country. While the cross-sectional association between spanking and socioemotional development is small, findings suggest that spanking may be harmful for children on a more global scale than was previously known.

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Very interesting and relevant talk by Robert A. Bjork on learning, memory and forgetting (and how bad we are in judging effective learning)

H/T to @triciatailored

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Why and How to Use Worked Examples in the Workplace

3-Star learning experiences

Mirjam Neelen & Paul A. Kirschner

worked example 1You want to prepare a recipe that involves carrying out a number of steps. How do you do that? You usually begin with step 1 and work through the steps to the last step. If you prepare the recipe again and again, you probably don’t have to look at the recipe for certain steps (e.g., you know that you have to whisk the egg-water mixture) and so forth until you can prepare the recipe without looking at it. This is a specific type of learning with what is known as a worked example.

Learning through worked examples is a very effective way to learn how to carry out a task or solve a problem in an area where they have little prior knowledge (aka ‘novices’). For knowledge workers in the workplace, however, this learning strategy is under-utilised. This is unfortunate because integrating worked examples…

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Low-cost tutoring boosted struggling students’ math results (Best Evidence in Brief)

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

An evaluation in the UK of the Education Endowment Foundation trial of Tutor Trust’s affordable instruction project found that low-cost tutoring in small groups increased math scores for disadvantaged students who are working below age-expected levels in math.
One hundred and five schools in Manchester and Leeds with double the average numbers of disadvantaged students participated in the effectiveness trial of the Tutor Trust project from September 2016 until July 2017. The aim of the project is to improve the math achievement of disadvantaged students by providing small-group tutoring sessions with trained university students and recent graduates.
Year 6 students (ages 10-11) who were struggling with math were selected by their teacher to receive extra support from Tutor Trust tutors, should their school be randomly allocated to the intervention group. The selected students in the intervention schools received 12 hours of additional instruction, usually one hour per week for 12 weeks, in groups of three. Students in the control schools continued with normal teaching. Achievement was measured using Key Stage 2 math scores (standardized tests in the UK).
 The report found that children who received tutoring from Tutor Trust progressed more in math compared to children in control schools (effect size = +0.19). Among children eligible for free school meals, the effect size was +0.25. There was also some evidence that students with lower prior achievement tended to benefit more from the tutoring.

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What do you need to succeed in life?

The answer is of course sheer luck, besides talent and intelligence. This new systematically review doesn’t say intelligence and talent aren’t needed, but suggests that non-cognitive skills can also be important, although there are also some serious warning lights surrounding the existing body of evidence.

From the press release:

The study, published in the journal Nature Human Behaviour is the first to systematically review the entire literature on effects of non-cognitive skills in children aged 12 or under, on later outcomes in their lives such as academic achievement, and cognitive and language ability.

“Traits such as attention, self-regulation, and perseverance in childhood have been investigated by psychologists, economists, and epidemiologists, and some have been shown to influence later life outcomes,” says Professor John Lynch, School of Public Health, University of Adelaide and senior author of the study.

“There is a wide range of existing evidence under-pinning the role of non-cognitive skills and how they affect success in later life but it’s far from consistent,” he says.

One of the study’s co-authors, Associate Professor Lisa Smithers, School of Public Health, University of Adelaide says: “There is tentative evidence from published studies that non-cognitive skills are associated with academic achievement, psychosocial, and cognitive and language outcomes, but cognitive skills are still important.”

One of the strongest findings of their systematic review was that the quality of evidence in this field is lower than desirable. Of over 550 eligible studies, only about 40% were judged to be of sufficient quality.

“So, while interventions to build non-cognitive skills may be important, particularly for disadvantaged children, the existing evidence base underpinning this field has the potential for publication bias and needs to have larger studies that are more rigorously designed. That has important implications for researchers and funding agencies who wish to study effects of non-cognitive skills,” says Professor Lynch.

Abstract of the study:

Success in school and the labour market relies on more than high intelligence. Associations between ‘non-cognitive’ skills in childhood, such as attention, self-regulation and perseverance, and later outcomes have been widely investigated. In a systematic review of this literature, we screened 9,553 publications, reviewed 554 eligible publications and interpreted results from 222 better-quality publications. Better-quality publications comprised randomized experimental and quasi-experimental intervention studies (EQIs) and observational studies that made reasonable attempts to control confounding. For academic achievement outcomes, there were 26 EQI publications but only 14 were available for meta-analysis, with effects ranging from 0.16 to 0.37 s.d. However, within subdomains, effects were heterogeneous. The 95% prediction interval for literacy was consistent with negative, null and positive effects (−0.13 to 0.79). Similarly, heterogeneous findings were observed for psychosocial, cognitive and language, and health outcomes. Funnel plots of EQIs and observational studies showed asymmetric distributions and potential for small study bias. There is some evidence that non-cognitive skills associate with improved outcomes. However, there is potential for small study and publication bias that may overestimate true effects, and the heterogeneity of effect estimates spanned negative, null and positive effects. The quality of evidence from EQIs underpinning this field is lower than optimal and more than one-third of observational studies made little or no attempt to control confounding. Interventions designed to develop children’s non-cognitive skills could potentially improve outcomes. The interdisciplinary researchers interested in these skills should take a more strategic and rigorous approach to determine which interventions are most effective.

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Are You a Visual or an Auditory Learner? It Doesn’t Matter (Daniel Willingham)

On repeat…

Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice

“Daniel T. Willingham (@DTWillingham) is a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia and the author, most recently, of The Reading Mind: A Cognitive Approach to Understanding How the Mind Reads.”

This appeared October 4, 2018 in the New York Times.

You must read this article to understand it, but many people feel reading is not how they learn best. They would rather listen to an explanation or view a diagram. Researchers have formalized those intuitions into theories of learning styles. These theories are influential enough that many states (including New York) require future teachers to know them and to know how they might be used in the classroom.

But there’s no good scientific evidence that learning styles actually exist.

Over the last several decades, researchers have proposed dozens of theories, each suggesting a scheme to categorize learners. The best known proposes that some…

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Going viral… in academia? Prestige rules most of the time

This study actually answers a question that I’ve had for quite a while: how come some ideas move through academia even if they’re not that good, while great insights sometimes seem to take ages to get around. This new study from Allison Morgan and her colleagues suggests something that is both close related to epidemiology and memes, but it has most to do with… prestige – and once and a while with the quality of the idea.

From the press release:

How ideas move through academia may depend on where those ideas come from–whether from big-name universities or less prestigious institutions–as much as their quality, a recent study from the University of Colorado Boulder suggests.

The new research borrows a page from epidemiology, exploring how ideas might flow from university to university, almost like a disease. The findings from CU Boulder’s Allison Morgan and her colleagues suggest that the way that universities hire new faculty members may give elite schools an edge in spreading their research to others.

In particular, the team simulated how ideas might spread out faster from highly-ranked schools than from those at the bottom of the pile–even when the ideas weren’t that good. The results suggest that academia may not function like the meritocracy that some claim, said Morgan, a graduate student in the Department of Computer Science.

She and her colleagues began by drawing on a dataset, originally published in 2015, that described the hiring histories of more than 5,000 faculty members in 205 computer science programs in the U.S. and Canada.

That dataset revealed what might be a major power imbalance in the field–with a small number of universities training the majority of tenure track faculty across both countries.

“This paper was really about investigating the implications of the imbalance,” Morgan said. “What does it mean if the elite institutions are producing the majority of the faculty who are, in turn, training the future teachers in the field?”

To answer that question, the researchers turned the 2015 dataset into a network of connected universities. If a university placed one of its Ph.D. students in a job at another school, then those two schools were linked. The resulting “roadmap” showed how faculty might carry ideas from their graduate schools to the universities that hired them.

The researchers then ran thousands of simulations on that network, allowing ideas that began at one school to percolate down to others. The team adjusted for the quality of ideas by making some more likely to shift between nodes than others.

The findings, published in October in the journal EPJ Data Science, show that it matters where an idea gets started. When mid-level ideas began at less prestigious schools, they tended to stall, not reaching the full network. The same wasn’t true for so-so thinking from major universities.

“If you start a medium- or low-quality idea at a prestigious university, it goes much farther in the network and can infect more nodes than an idea starting at a less prestigious university,” Morgan said.

That pattern held up even when the researchers introduced a bit of randomness to the mix–allowing ideas to pop from one end of the network to another by chance. That simulated how university departments might learn about an idea through factors other than hiring, such as journals, conferences or word of mouth.

The results seem to paint a dim picture of academia, said study coauthor Samuel Way, a postdoctoral research associate in computer science. He explained that recent sociological research demonstrates that workplaces benefit by having a lot of diversity–whether in gender, race or in how employees are trained.

“If you have five people who all have the exact same training and look at the world through the same lens, and you give them a problem that stumps one of them, it might stump all of them,” Way said.

He added that it may be possible for the academic world to blunt the impact of the sorts of biases the team revealed, including by adopting practices like double-blind peer review–in which the reviewers of a study can’t see the names or affiliations of the authors.

“In a setting like science where it’s incredibly difficult to come up with an objective measure of the quality of an idea, double-blind peer review may be the best you can do,” Way said.

The study did, however, contain a bit of good news: The bias toward big-name universities mattered a lot less for high-quality ideas. In other words, great thinking can still catch fire in academia, no matter where it comes from.

“I think it’s heartwarming in a way,” Morgan said. “We see that if you have a high-quality idea, and you’re from the bottom of the hierarchy, you have as good a chance of sending that idea across the network, as if it came from the top.”

Abstract of the study:

The spread of ideas in the scientific community is often viewed as a competition, in which good ideas spread further because of greater intrinsic fitness, and publication venue and citation counts correlate with importance and impact. However, relatively little is known about how structural factors influence the spread of ideas, and specifically how where an idea originates might influence how it spreads. Here, we investigate the role of faculty hiring networks, which embody the set of researcher transitions from doctoral to faculty institutions, in shaping the spread of ideas in computer science, and the importance of where in the network an idea originates. We consider comprehensive data on the hiring events of 5032 faculty at all 205 Ph.D.-granting departments of computer science in the U.S. and Canada, and on the timing and titles of 200,476 associated publications. Analyzing five popular research topics, we show empirically that faculty hiring can and does facilitate the spread of ideas in science. Having established such a mechanism, we then analyze its potential consequences using epidemic models to simulate the generic spread of research ideas and quantify the impact of where an idea originates on its longterm diffusion across the network. We find that research from prestigious institutions spreads more quickly and completely than work of similar quality originating from less prestigious institutions. Our analyses establish the theoretical trade-offs between university prestige and the quality of ideas necessary for efficient circulation. Our results establish faculty hiring as an underlying mechanism that drives the persistent epistemic advantage observed for elite institutions, and provide a theoretical lower bound for the impact of structural inequality in shaping the spread of ideas in science.

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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:

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Are the youngest in class more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD? (Best Evidence in Brief)

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

Findings from a study published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry suggest that children who are the youngest in their classroom are more likely to be diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) than their older classmates.
Martin Whitely and colleagues conducted a systematic review of 22 studies that examined the relationship between a child’s age relative to their classmates and their chances of being diagnosed with, or medicated for, ADHD. Seventeen studies (with a total of more than 14 million children) found that it was more common for the youngest children in a school year to be diagnosed as ADHD than their older classmates. This effect was found for both countries that have a high diagnosis rate, like the USA, Canada and Iceland, and countries where diagnosis is less common, like Finland and Sweden.
The researchers suggest that some teachers may be mistaking normal age-related immaturity of the youngest children in their class for ADHD, and that these findings highlight the importance of being aware of the impact of relative age and give the youngest children in class the extra time they may need to mature.

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