Category Archives: Review

Infographic by Oliver Caviglioli and Paul Kirschner: the case for fully-guided instruction

Oliver Caviglioli The same guy who designed the great study method posters by the learning scientists worked now together with Paul Kirschner on this infographic which you can download here!


Filed under Education, Review

Interesting read: What Works Can Hurt: Side Effects in Education

I’ve been working on a new book, due out January 2018, about teaching and my first chapter – already read by my publishers – has quite some in common with this new blog post and article by Yong Zhao: What Works Can Hurt: Side Effects in Education.

This is the abstract of the actual paper (you can download the actual article also in this blog post):

Medical research is held as a field for education to emulate. Education researchers have been urged to adopt randomized controlled trials, a more ‘‘scien- tific’’ research method believed to have resulted in the advances in medicine. But a much more important lesson education needs to borrow from medicine has been ignored. That is the study of side effects. Medical research is required to investigate both the intended effects of any medical interventions and their unintended adverse effects, or side effects. In contrast, educational research tends to focus only on proving the effectiveness of practices and policies in pursuit of ‘‘what works.’’ It has generally ignored the potential harms that can result from what works. This article presents evidence that shows side effects are inseparable from effects. Both are the outcomes of the same intervention. This article further argues that studying and reporting side effects as part of studying effects will help advance education by settling long fought battles over practices and policies and move beyond the vicious cycle of pendulum swings in education.

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Filed under Education, Review

Interesting read: Why global education rankings don’t reveal the whole picture

What if… you took socio-economic backgrounds of countries into account when you make rankings of educational systems?

This is exactly what Daniel Caro and Jenny Lenkeit did, you can read all about it here.

But the rankings sure look different:

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Filed under Education, Review

Best evidence in brief: What works for bullying prevention?

There is a new Best Evidence in Brief and I’m sure many teachers and parents alike want to read this study:

Child Trends has released a new policy brief on preventing bullying and cyberbullying. The report provides information on the current state of bullying research using data from the U.S Department of Education, journal articles, and existing research by Child Trends, and provides recommendations for addressing and preventing bullying behavior.

The report notes that while many bullying prevention programs and strategies are available, evidence of their effectiveness has been mixed, and most have never been rigorously evaluated. Based on the existing research, the report provides the following recommendations:

  • Include cyberbullying as part of a broader approach to bullying prevention. Strategies targeting cyberbullying alone without addressing the broader issue of bullying are unlikely to be effective. Similarly, monitoring students’ social media accounts is likely to be an ineffective use of resources without additional efforts to encourage more civil behavior online and in person.
  • Support the development of evidence-based approaches through dedicated funding for research. Such investments should also examine interventions, such as integrated student supports, for students who are targeted by bullying or witness it.
  • Discourage approaches that lack evidentiary support, criminalize youth, or remove youth from school. Research shows that anti-bullying assemblies, speakers, and campaigns are not effective at preventing bullying, nor are zero-tolerance policies that remove students from school and do not address the underlying causes of bullying behavior.

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Filed under Education, Research, Review

What I learned about autonomy from Richard Ryan (cfr Deci & Ryan) yesterday

Yesterday I had the pleasure to attend a public lecture by Richard Ryan at Ghent University. Ryan is famous for his work with Deci on the Self Determination Theory (SDT).

For the people who don’t know this theory, a short reminder:

Yesterday Ryan gave an overview, but when he discussed Autonomy he suddenly said something that I thought was really important for education:

So: SDT is no excuse for e.g. letting children learn without guidance or structure. Ryan made it very clear later on in his talk that autonomy within structured classes was the most effective – he also mentioned scaffolding in this case.

I did notice that most of the time Ryan mentioned links between this motivation-theory and wellbeing. He did mention a link between performance for bankers and the theory (but on the slide you could see this correlation was much smaller than on feelings of wellbeing) and the only time the effect on learning was mentioned, was in what I discussed above.

He did also say this, which is a very nice quote:

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Filed under Education, Psychology, Research, Review

My keynote presentation for researchED Haninge #rEDHan


Filed under Education, Review

Interesting read: A Mindset “Revolution” Sweeping Britain’s Classrooms May Be Based On Shaky Science

Growth and fixed mindset are all the rage, but this article by Tom Chivers shows something else: the research behind it contains worrying errors.

An excerpt from the article:

But the striking effects in Dweck’s findings have surprised psychologists. Timothy Bates, a professor of psychology at the University of Edinburgh, told BuzzFeed News that the “big effects, monstrous effects” that Dweck has found in the 1998 study and others are “strange – it’s an odd one to me”.

Bates told BuzzFeed News that he has been trying to replicate Dweck’s findings in that key mindset study for several years. “We’re running a third study in China now,” he said. “With 200 12-year-olds. And the results are just null.

“People with a growth mindset don’t cope any better with failure. If we give them the mindset intervention, it doesn’t make them behave better. Kids with the growth mindset aren’t getting better grades, either before or after our intervention study

Dweck told BuzzFeed News that attempts to replicate can fail because the scientists haven’t created the right conditions. “Not anyone can do a replication,” she said. “We put so much thought into creating an environment; we spend hours and days on each question, on creating a context in which the phenomenon could plausibly emerge.

“Replication is very important, but they have to be genuine replications and thoughtful replications done by skilled people. Very few studies will replicate done by an amateur in a willy-nilly way.”

Nick Brown, a PhD student in psychology at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, is sceptical of this: “The question I have is: If your effect is so fragile that it can only be reproduced [under strictly controlled conditions], then why do you think it can be reproduced by schoolteachers?”

And Nick Brown did much more, you can read it here.


Filed under Education, Myths, Research, Review

Lillienfeld on microaggression, still a long way to go for research.

When a researcher who has had a big influence on my personal work – Lilienfeld because of this book – writes something about a theme that has been a worry for me lately – microaggressions, programs against microagrrassion, but also safe zones and the thin line between censorship and free speech- , it would be a mistake not to share this – open access – article on this blog.

If you wonder what’s it all about:

Microaggressions are typically defined as subtle snubs, slights, and insults directed toward minorities, as well as to women and other historically stigmatized groups, that implicitly communicate or at least engender hostility.

The article in itself is not against the idea of microaggression as such, but it does warn that the present scientific evidence is weak.

This quote from the conclusion describes the position of Lilienfeld quite nicely:

I encourage microaggression researchers to continue their scholarly inquiries while substantially tempering their assertions, especially those concerning (a) the causal association between microaggressions and adverse mental health and (b) the presumed effectiveness of microaggression intervention efforts. The MRP has generated a plethora of theoretically and socially significant questions that merit thoughtful examination in coming decades. But it is not close to being ready for widespread real-world application.

This the abstract of the paper:

The microaggression concept has recently galvanized public discussion and spread to numerous college campuses and businesses. I argue that the microaggression research program (MRP) rests on five core premises, namely, that microaggressions (1) are operationalized with sufficient clarity and consensus to afford rigorous scientific investigation; (2) are interpreted negatively by most or all minority group members; (3) reflect implicitly prejudicial and implicitly aggressive motives; (4) can be validly assessed using only respondents’ subjective reports; and (5) exert an adverse impact on recipients’ mental health. A review of the literature reveals negligible support for all five suppositions. More broadly, the MRP has been marked by an absence of connectivity to key domains of psychological science, including psychometrics, social cognition, cognitive-behavioral therapy, behavior genetics, and personality, health, and industrial-organizational psychology. Although the MRP has been fruitful in drawing the field’s attention to subtle forms of prejudice, it is far too underdeveloped on the conceptual and methodological fronts to warrant real-world application. I conclude with 18 suggestions for advancing the scientific status of the MRP, recommend abandonment of the term “microaggression,” and call for a moratorium on microaggression training programs and publicly distributed microaggression lists pending research to address the MRP’s scientific limitations.

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Filed under Education, Myths, Research, Review

A review of 1 on 1 laptops in education shows… that much more and better research is needed

At first when I read this new study by Binbin Zheng, Mark Warschauer Chin-Hsi Lin, Chi Chang, I thought based on the abstract that there was finally great news for EdTech in education:

Over the past decade, the number of one-to-one laptop programs in schools has steadily increased. Despite the growth of such programs, there is little consensus about whether they contribute to improved educational outcomes. This article reviews 65 journal articles and 31 doctoral dissertations published from January 2001 to May 2015 to examine the effect of one-to-one laptop programs on teaching and learning in K–12 schools. A meta-analysis of 10 studies examines the impact of laptop programs on students’ academic achievement, finding significantly positive average effect sizes in English, writing, mathematics, and science. In addition, the article summarizes the impact of laptop programs on more general teaching and learning processes and perceptions as reported in these studies, again noting generally positive findings.

But hold your horses, when you start reading the actual article there is sadly enough much less reason to be happy, imho. Check this conclusion, bold by me:

Contrary to Cuban’s (2003) argument that computers are “oversold and underused” (p. 179) in schools, laptop environments are reshaping many aspects of education in K–12 schools. The most common changes noted in the reviewed studies include significantly increased academic achievement in science, writing, math, and English; increased technology use for varied learning purposes; more student-centered, individualized, and project-based instruction; enhanced engagement and enthusiasm among students; and improved teacher–student and home–school relationships. Contrary to Mayer’s argument that educational technology is a neutral tool indifferent to its use (Veronikas & Shaughnessy, 2005), laptop computers have specific affordances that make certain uses and outcomes likely, such as the ease with which they can be used for drafting, revising, and sharing writing, and for personal access of information.

Though our analysis corroborates and extends many of the positive conclusions from earlier syntheses of one-to-one computing, it is far from the last word on this topic, in part because a disproportionate amount of the research to date on this topic consists of small case studies in one or a handful of schools. The number of studies identified that deployed rigorous experimental or quasi-experimental methods was small, making meta-analysis difficult, and making it impossible for us to conduct moderator analyses. In addition, studies on this topic have largely done a poor job of assessing learning outcomes that are not well-captured by current iterations of standardized tests. As the United States and other countries move to more sophisticated forms of standardized assessment, these new measures may be better aligned with the learning goals believed to be associated with laptop use.

The falling price of hardware, software, and wireless access; the increasing digital literacy of teachers, students, and parents; the growing sophistication of educational technology applications; and the rising need for computers to be used in student assessment all suggest that one-to-one laptop programs are going to continue to expand in K–12 schools. This, in turn, should encourage larger, better-funded, and longer studies that can more systematically identify what works, what does not, for what purposes, and for whom in the one-to-one laptop classroom.

Actually I think that the second paragraph makes the first one way too strong. So I do think that the debate between Kozma and Clark hasn’t been decided yet. In itself, this review study is an interesting read also when discussing e.g. inequality.


Filed under Education, Research, Review, Technology

100 years of on the effects of ability grouping and acceleration on K–12 students’ academic achievement

This new review study by Saiying Steenbergen-Hu, Matthew C. Makel, Paula Olszewski-Kubilius published in Review of Educational Research looked at two meta-analyses on ability grouping and acceleration and I am personally glad because the insights in our book are confirmed.

Abstracts of studies are sometimes not so good, but this is a clear summary:

Two second-order meta-analyses synthesized approximately 100 years of research on the effects of ability grouping and acceleration on K–12 students’ academic achievement. Outcomes of 13 ability grouping meta-analyses showed that students benefited from within-class grouping (0.19 ≤ g ≤ 0.30), cross-grade subject grouping (g = 0.26), and special grouping for the gifted (g = 0.37), but did not benefit from between-class grouping (0.04 ≤ g ≤0.06); the effects did not vary for high-, medium-, and low-ability students. Three acceleration meta-analyses showed that accelerated students significantly outperformed their nonaccelerated same-age peers (g = 0.70) but did not differ significantly from nonaccelerated older peers (g = 0.09). Three other meta-analyses that aggregated outcomes across specific forms of acceleration found that acceleration appeared to have a positive, moderate, and statistically significant impact on students’ academic achievement (g = 0.42).

From the conclusion:

Stanley (2000, p. 221) said that education should “avoid trying to teach students what they already know.” Based on the nearly century’s worth of research findings presented here, we believe that the data clearly suggest that ability grouping and acceleration are two such strategies for achieving this goal. The current findings will not settle all controversies on the philosophy of education. Nevertheless, we believe that they help clarify the academic effects of ability grouping and acceleration. Regardless, the conversation needs to evolve beyond whether such interventions can ever work. There is not an absence of evidence, nor is there evidence of absence of benefit. The preponderance of existing evidence accumulated over the past century suggests that academic acceleration and most forms of ability grouping like cross-grade subject grouping and special grouping for gifted students can greatly improve K–12 students’ academic achievement.


Filed under Education, Research, Review