Lectures are rubbish, right?

Interesting post on reporting bias, but with enough caution in all directions!

Filling the pail

The key difference between lecturing and explicit instruction is that explicit instruction is highly interactive. I advocate for explicit instruction and I am prepared to accept that non-interactive lecturing is a bit rubbish. The reasons are intuitive enough. If you think you might be called upon to respond then you are more likely to pay attention.

This is such an important idea that it is one of the basics that I look for when observing lessons. I do not believe that lesson observation is valid for making many inferences, but I do think you can look for a few key conditions: students complete tasks that teachers set, students don’t talk while the teacher is talking and questioning of the students by the teacher is frequent and unpredictable from the students’ perspective. I don’t really mind how teachers achieve this but I do think it is a prerequisite for effective teaching.

I…

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Funny on Sunday: Geology in the Library

Found this cartoon via this tweet, and it’s true: it’s normal!

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Eurydice comparative report on education policy and the role of evidence

There is a new Eurydice report and while the topic is very relevant and interesting, I do think it’s only a start.

What is it all about?

Having a solid evidence base is essential for effective policy-making in the education sector. In practice the mechanisms used to support evidence-based policy-making differ significantly between countries.

This report describes the mechanisms and practices that support evidence-based policy-making in the education sector in Europe. It provides an initial mapping of a complex area. It compares institutions and practices in evidence-based policy-making, as well as the accessibility, and mediation, of evidence. The report also presents more detailed information, with specific examples of the use of evidence in policy formulation for each individual country.

Information was provided by Eurydice National Units and covers the 28 EU Member States as well as Bosnia and Herzegovina, Switzerland, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Montenegro, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Norway, Serbia, and Turkey.

I suggest you do read the full report, but for who wants to know the main conclusion:

There are two main findings arising from this initial mapping of support mechanisms for evidence- based policy-making. First, most countries reported official arrangements with a large variety of organisations which could potentially provide evidence. However, these arrangements ranged from strict rules prescribed in legislation to more loose guidelines about who should provide evidence and who should be consulted during the policy-making process. Second, there were both internal and external knowledge brokers who were given the task of interpreting evidence and mediating between research providers and policy-makers. However, only about a third of the countries reported such arrangements and so they are not in the majority.

If you want to know why I am still hungry for – much – more check this:

The limited scope of this report did not allow for a detailed examination of evidence-based policy- making, but it raised some questions that could be explored in more detail in the future. For example, how does the type of political system affect the way in which support mechanisms for evidence-based policy-making develop? There may be differences depending on the complexity of the system (one level vs multi-level governance). Moreover, a more detailed picture could be formed by examining a limited number of case studies in a more comprehensive way. Also, the question of how evidence influences policy could be examined in more detail.

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Student Teacher Ratings: Males Are Brilliant, Females Are Bossy!

Paul A. Kirschner & Mirjam Neelen

Many schools involve their students in teacher ratings. The question is if that’s a good idea.

For both teacher appointment and evaluations of their functioning, subjective judgments play an increasing role. Is this good practice to have students rate their teachers, just like that? Are these evaluations as done by a teacher’s colleagues or students reliable? Recently, Bob Uttl and colleagues published a wonderful meta-analysis on this topic.

While many feel that students can reliably rate the quality of their teachers and that they should have a strong voice in things such as tenure, there are many studies that suggest that such ratings to evaluate teacher quality are NOT the way to go. In spite of this, for example, the National Action Committee for Students (LAKS; a Dutch advocacy group for secondary school students and their rights[1]) writes in their…

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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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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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A different tune on personality: personality traits ‘contagious’ among children

Last semester I explained to my students that there are different views on personality: dynamic versus static theories which could be summed up by the simple question “can you ever change your partner?”. This new study by Michigan State University psychology researchers is rather in the dynamic area as it shows that when preschoolers spend time around one another, they tend to take on each others’ personalities. Guess you are already looking at your kids in a whole different way…

From the press release:

The study, published online in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, suggests personality is shaped by environment and not just genes.

“Our finding, that personality traits are ‘contagious’ among children, flies in the face of common assumptions that personality is ingrained and can’t be changed,” said Jennifer Watling Neal, associate professor of psychology and co-investigator on the study. “This is important because some personality traits can help children succeed in life, while others can hold them back.”

The researchers studied two preschool classes for an entire school year, analyzing personality traits and social networks for one class of 3-year-olds and one class of 4-year-olds.

Children whose play partners were extroverted or hard-working became similar to these peers over time. Children whose play partners were overanxious and easily frustrated, however, did not take on these particular traits. The study is the first to examine these personality traits in young children over time.

Emily Durbin, study co-investigator and associate professor of psychology, said kids are having a bigger effect on each other than people may realize.

“Parents spend a lot of their time trying to teach their child to be patient, to be a good listener, not to be impulsive,” Durbin said. “But this wasn’t their parents or their teachers affecting them – it was their friends. It turns out that 3- and 4-year-olds are being change agents.”

Abstract of the study:

Children enter preschool with temperament traits that may shape or be shaped by their social interactions in the peer setting. We collected classroom observational measures of positive emotionality (PE), negative emotionality (NE), effortful control (EC), and peer social play relationships from 2 complete preschool classrooms (N = 53 children) over the course of an entire school year. Using longitudinal social network analysis, we found evidence that children’s traits shaped the formation of play relationships, and that the traits of children’s playmates shaped the subsequent development of children’s own traits. Children who exhibited high levels of NE were less likely to form social play relationships over time. In addition, children were more likely to form play relationships with peers who were similar to their own levels of PE. Over the course of the school year, children’s level of PE and EC changed such that they became more similar to their playmates in levels of these traits. Finally, we observed moderate to strong rank-order stability of behavioral observations of PE, NE, and EC across the school year. Our results provide evidence for the effects of traits on the formation of play relationships, as well as for the role of these play relationships in shaping trait expression over time.

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Funny on Sunday: is it a bird, a plane or superman (how to tell)

Source: xkcd.com

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Classroom Seating: A Clue to Teacher Beliefs about Learning (Angela Watson)

Very interesting post!

Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice

Angela Watson is an experienced elementary school teacher, coach, and blogger (see here). She offers pros and cons of various ways to arrange a classroom leaving it up to readers which configuration of desks best reflects their beliefs in teaching and learning and the realities of managing a crowd of students.

How to furnish and arrange existing furniture in a classroom is a peek into the heart and mind of a teacher’s ideology of how students learn best and watching them at the same time.

Watson offers teachers various options to consider. Moreover, she recommends changing seating arrangements over the course of the school year as classroom norms evolve, content and skills shift, and relationships with students mature.

Although she speaks to mostly elementary school teachers, I have seen thousands of middle and high school classrooms where seating arrangements vary including options that Watson evaluates.

There are several basic…

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My keynote presentation for researchED Haninge #rEDHan

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