Does phonics help or hinder comprehension?

Sometimes it seems the reading wars just can’t be solved, despite the many clear pieces of evidence such as mentioned in this great post.

thinkingreadingwritings

A recent TES article headlined “Call for researchers to highlight negative ‘side effects’ of methods like phonics” drew a predictable response. Though the article supplied not one piece of evidence to support the assertion that phonics had “negative side effects”, and despite the academic quoted having zero background or expertise in reading science, tweets and comments celebrated this damning of the barbaric practice of phonics in schools.

Both the article and the responses illustrates the strong prejudices that have to be overcome before early reading instruction is universally of sufficient quality to ensure that we really are a literate society – i.e. one in which all school leavers have good, not just functional or non-functional, reading and writing skills. But – does phonics help or hinder comprehension? Is it merely, as Michael Rosen and his followers have characterised it, “barking at print”? It seems to me that this question is at…

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Interesting: famous Milgram-experiment has been successfully replicated

It has been a topic that has been fascinating me for quite a while now: are the insights from the famous Milgram-experiment valid or not. Why I have been questioning this, is because there has been criticism lately:

…several scholars raised new criticisms of the research based on their analysis of the transcripts and audio from the original experiments, or on new simulations or partial replications of the experiments. These contemporary criticisms add to past critiques, profoundly undermining the credibility of the original research and the way it is usually interpreted. That Milgram’s studies had a mighty cultural and scholarly impact is not in dispute; the meaning of what he found most certainly is.

BPS Digest sums up the most important modern criticisms:

  • When a participant hesitated in applying electric shocks, the actor playing the role of experimenter was meant to stick to a script of four escalating verbal “prods”. In fact, he frequently improvised, inventing his own terms and means of persuasion. Gina Perry (author of Behind The Shock Machine) has said the experiment was more akin to an investigation of “bullying and coercion” than obedience.
  • A partial replication of the studies found that no participants actually gave in to the fourth and final prod, the only one that actually constituted a command. Analysis of Milgram’s transcripts similarly suggested that the experimenter prompts that were most like a command were rarely obeyed. A modern analogue of Milgram’s paradigm found that order-like prompts were ineffective compared with appeals to science, supporting the idea that people are not blindly obedient to authority but believe they are contributing to a worthy cause.
  • Milgram failed to fully debrief his participants immediately after they’d participated.
  • In an unpublished version of his paradigm, Milgram recruited pairs of people who knew each other to play the role of teacher and learner. In this case, disobedience rose to 85 per cent.
  • Many participants were sceptical about the reality of the supposed set-up. Restricting analysis to only those who truly believed the situation was real, disobedience rose to around 66 per cent.

But now there is a new – successful but again partial- replication of the famous experiment, the research appears in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science. Still, one could ask again if some of the criticisms aren’t still valid also for the new replication – they do imho.

From the press release:

“Our objective was to examine how high a level of obedience we would encounter among residents of Poland,” write the authors. “It should be emphasized that tests in the Milgram paradigm have never been conducted in Central Europe. The unique history of the countries in the region made the issue of obedience towards authority seem exceptionally interesting to us.”

For those unfamiliar with the Milgram experiment, it tested people’s willingness to deliverer electric shocks to another person when encouraged by an experimenter. While no shocks were actually delivered in any of the experiments, the participants believed them to be real. The Milgram experiments demonstrated that under certain conditions of pressure from authority, people are willing to carry out commands even when it may harm someone else.

“Upon learning about Milgram’s experiments, a vast majority of people claim that ‘I would never behave in such a manner,’ says Tomasz Grzyb, a social psychologist involved in the research. “Our study has, yet again, illustrated the tremendous power of the situation the subjects are confronted with and how easily they can agree to things which they find unpleasant.”

While ethical considerations prevented a full replication of the experiments, researchers created a similar set-up with lower “shock” levels to test the level of obedience of participants.

The researchers recruited 80 participants (40 men and 40 women), with an age range from 18 to 69, for the study. Participants had up to 10 buttons to press, each a higher “shock” level. The results show that the level of participants’ obedience towards instructions is similarly high to that of the original Milgram studies.

They found that 90% of the people were willing to go to the highest level in the experiment. In terms of differences between peoples willingness to deliver shock to a man versus a woman, “It is worth remarking,” write the authors, “that although the number of people refusing to carry out the commands of the experimenter was three times greater when the student [the person receiving the “shock”] was a woman, the small sample size does not allow us to draw strong conclusions.”

In terms of how society has changed, Grzyb notes, “half a century after Milgram’s original research into obedience to authority, a striking majority of subjects are still willing to electrocute a helpless individual.”

Abstract of the study:

In spite of the over 50 years which have passed since the original experiments conducted by Stanley Milgram on obedience, these experiments are still considered a turning point in our thinking about the role of the situation in human behavior. While ethical considerations prevent a full replication of the experiments from being prepared, a certain picture of the level of obedience of participants can be drawn using the procedure proposed by Burger. In our experiment, we have expanded it by controlling for the sex of participants and of the learner. The results achieved show a level of participants’ obedience toward instructions similarly high to that of the original Milgram studies. Results regarding the influence of the sex of participants and of the “learner,” as well as of personality characteristics, do not allow us to unequivocally accept or reject the hypotheses offered.

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How to get kids to eat more healthy in school?

When I went to school, there were still nuns who cooked dinner for us and I remember one nun in particular who could look at you in way you sure would eat all of your vegetables. Well, that was one way of making sure we all ate more healthy at school. 1Brigham Young University researcher is trying to nail down how to get kids more salad without that special look.

From the press release:

Thanks to a national initiative, salad bars are showing up in public schools across the country. Now a Brigham Young University researcher is trying to nail down how to get kids to eat from them.

BYU health sciences professor Lori Spruance studies the impact of salad bars in public schools and has found one helpful tip: teens are more likely to use salad bars if they’re exposed to good, old-fashioned marketing. Students at schools with higher salad bar marketing are nearly three times as likely to use them.

“Children and adolescents in the United States do not consume the nationally recommended levels of fruits and vegetables,” Spruance said. “Evidence suggests that salad bars in schools can make a big difference. Our goal is to get kids to use them.”

Some 4,800 salad bars have popped up in public schools around the country according to the Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools initiative. About 50 percent of high school students have access to salad bars at schools, 39 percent of middle school kids and 31 percent of elementary school children.

Spruance’s study, published in Health Education and Behavior, followed the salad bar usage of students in 12 public schools in New Orleans. Spruance and coauthors from Tulane University administered surveys to the students and tracked the school environment through personal visits.

Not only did they find better marketing improved salad bar usage among secondary school students, but they also found female students use salad bars more often than male students, and children who prefer healthy foods use them more frequently.

“The value of a salad bar program depends on whether students actually use the salad bar,” Spruance said. “But few studies have examined how to make that happen more effectively.”

Some examples of successful salad bar marketing efforts included signage throughout the school promoting the salad bar, information in school publications and newsletters, and plugs for the salad bar on a school’s digital presence.

Spruance suggests that schools engage parents in their efforts to improve the school food environment–such as reaching out to parents through newsletters or parent teacher conferences. Of course, she says, offering healthy options at home makes the biggest difference.

“It takes a lot of effort and time, but most children and adolescents require repeated exposures to food before they will eat them on their own,” Spruance said. “If a child is being exposed to foods at home that are served at school, the child may be more likely to eat those fruits or vegetables at school.”

Spruance’s research builds off of previous studies that show students are more likely to use salad bars if they are included in the normal serving line.

Guess the nun and that special look is maybe still the best option…

Abstract of the study:

Background. Consumption levels of fruits and vegetables (F/V) among children/adolescents are low. Programs like school-based salad bars (SB) provide children/adolescents increased F/V access.

Aims. The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between SB use and individual and school-level factors among elementary and secondary school students in New Orleans public schools.

Method. Twelve schools receiving SB units from the Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools Campaign participated in this study. Self-reported data were collected from students (n = 1,012), administrators (n = 12), and food service staff (n = 37). School environmental data were obtained through direct observation. Generalized estimating equation regression methods were used to develop a multilevel model including both school-level (e.g., length of lunchtime, SB marketing, vending machines) and individual-level (e.g., sex, food preferences, nutrition knowledge) effects.

Results. Female students had higher odds of using the SB compared to males. Students with healthier food preferences had higher odds of using the SB than those who reported less healthy food preferences. Within the multilevel model for all students, only sex and healthy food preferences remained significant. In a multilevel model assessing secondary students only, student encouragement toward others for healthy eating and school-based SB marketing were significantly related to SB use.

Conclusions. Little research has examined factors related to school-based SB use. These findings suggest recommendations that may help improve student use of SBs. For example, increasing the promotion of SB, particularly in secondary schools, might encourage their use among students.

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This is a great video that shows novices and experts learn in a different way

We all learn in a different way, not because of learning styles, but e.g. because our differences in prior knowledge. This video illustrates this nicely:

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Post 2000 on The Economy Of Meaning!

Wow, this is it: post 2000 on The Economy Of Meaning.

This means:

  • 188 Funny on Sundays,
  • Over 400.000 views,
  • A still growing amount of daily visitors,
  • international translations of our work,
  • and much, much more.

What have been the most popular posts, you ask?

Thank you all very much for visiting this blog so often, to inspire me, to challenge me and to share fun!

It’s a pleasure and an honor!

Cu down the road,

Pedro

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Funny on Sunday: if you love a good spy story… (+ one extra)

And as an extra, for the few people who didn’t see it yet, this is the funniest thing I’ve seen in ages:

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Children prefer reading on paper, more technology means less reading.

This new study that I found via Casper Hulshof examined how the access to eReaders, computers and mobile phones influenced the children’s book reading frequency.

In short:

  • Children underutilised devices for recreational book reading, even when daily book readers, which means that children prefer paper over screens for reading.
  • Reading frequency was less when children had access to mobile phones.
  • Reading in general was less when children were given access to more digital devices.

Abstract of the study:

Regular recreational book reading is a practice that confers substantial educative benefit. However, not all book types may be equally beneficial, with paper book reading more strongly associated with literacy benefit than screen-based reading at this stage, and a paucity of research in this area. While children in developed countries are gaining ever-increasing levels of access to devices at home, relatively little is known about the influence of access to devices with eReading capability, such as Kindles, iPads, computers and mobile phones, on young children’s reading behaviours, and the extent to which these devices are used for reading purposes when access is available. Young people are gaining increasing access to devices through school-promoted programs; parents face aggressive marketing to stay abreast of educational technologies at home; and schools and libraries are increasingly their eBook collections, often at the expense of paper book collections. Data from the 997 children who participated in the 2016 Western Australian Study in Children’s Book Reading were analysed to determine children’s level of access to devices with eReading capability, and their frequency of use of these devices in relation to their recreational book reading frequency. Respondents were found to generally underutilise devices for reading purposes, even when they were daily book readers. In addition, access to mobile phones was associated with reading infrequency. It was also found that reading frequency was less when children had access to a greater range of these devices.

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Cognitive Load Theory Unsuitable for Accelerated Expertise?

A response to “Accelerated Expertise: Training for High Proficiency in a Complex World”

 Mirjam Neelen & Paul A. Kirschner

This blog started as a review of the book “Accelerated Expertise”[1], by Robert Hoffman and colleagues by Mirjam and evolved into a response from both of us to the authors’ claim that cognitive load theory (CLT) is unsuitable for the concept of accelerated expertise. We’ll start by explaining what the authors say that accelerated expertise is. Then we’ll discuss some of the learning strategies recommended by them to accelerate expertise development in organisations and then we’ll move on to discussing the statements that the authors make with regards to CLT and where we think they miss the point.

What is accelerated expertise?

While the authors use the terms accelerated learning/proficiency/expertise the book is basically about accelerating learning in order to first achieve high proficiency and then expertise.

Accelerated…

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New study confirms: cyberbullying rarely occurs in isolation

It’s something I’ve known from other studies, but this new research from the University of Warwick, published in European Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, confirms it: cyberbullying is mostly an extension of playground bullying — and doesn’t create large numbers of new victims.

In short:

  • Cyberbullying doesn’t create large numbers of new victims
  • Most bullying is face-to-face – with cyberbullying used as a modern tool to supplement traditional forms
  • 29% of UK teenagers reported being bullied – only 1% were victims of cyberbullying alone
  • Bullying intervention strategies should focus on traditional bullying as well as cyberbullying

From the press release:

Professor Dieter Wolke in the Department of Psychology finds that although cyberbullying is prevalent and harmful, it is a modern tool used to harm victims already bullied by traditional, face-to-face means.

In a study of almost 3000 pupils aged 11-16 from UK secondary schools, twenty-nine percent reported being bullied, but one percent of adolescents were victims of cyberbullying alone.

During the survey, pupils completed the Bullying and Friendship Interview, which has been used in numerous studies to assess bullying and victimization.

They were asked about direct victimisation (e.g., “been hit/beaten up” or “called bad/nasty names”); relational victimization (e.g., “had nasty lies/rumours spread about you”); and cyber-victimization (e.g., “had rumours spread about you online”, “had embarrassing pictures posted online without permission”, or “got threatening or aggressive emails, instant messages, text messages or tweets”).

All the teenagers who reported being bullied in any form had lower self-esteem, and more behavioural difficulties than non-victims.

However, those who were bullied by multiple means – direct victimisation, relational victimisation and cyber-victimisation combined – demonstrated the lowest self-esteem and the most emotional and behavioural problems.

The study finds that cyberbullying is “another tool in the toolbox” for traditional bullying, but doesn’t create many unique online victims.

As a result, Professor Wolke argues that public health strategies to prevent bullying overall should still mainly focus on combatting traditional, face-to-face bullying – as that is the root cause of the vast majority of cyberbullying.

Professor Wolke comments:

“Bullying is a way to gain power and peer acceptance, being the ‘cool’ kid in class. Thus, cyber bullying is another tool that is directed towards peers that the bully knows, and bullies, at school.

“Any bullying prevention and intervention still needs to be primarily directed at combatting traditional bullying while considering cyberbullying as an extension that reaches victims outside the school gate and 24/7.”

Abstract of the study:

Cyberbullying has been portrayed as a rising ‘epidemic’ amongst children and adolescents. But does it create many new victims beyond those already bullied with traditional means (physical, relational)? Our aim was to determine whether cyberbullying creates uniquely new victims, and whether it has similar impact upon psychological and behavioral outcomes for adolescents, beyond those experienced by traditional victims. This study assessed 2745 pupils, aged 11–16, from UK secondary schools. Pupils completed an electronic survey that measured bullying involvement, self-esteem and behavioral problems. Twenty-nine percent reported being bullied but only 1% of adolescents were pure cyber-victims (i.e., not also bullied traditionally). Compared to direct or relational victims, cyber-victimization had similar negative effects on behavior (z = −0.41) and self-esteem (z = −0.22) compared to those not involved in bullying. However, those bullied by multiple means (poly-victims) had the most difficulties with behavior (z = −0.94) and lowest self-esteem (z = −0.78). Cyberbullying creates few new victims, but is mainly a new tool to harm victims already bullied by traditional means. Cyberbullying extends the reach of bullying beyond the school gate. Intervention strategies against cyberbullying may need to include approaches against traditional bullying and its root causes to be successful.

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New website for Evidence-based education: Evidence for ESSA

Evidence for ESSA, is a free web-based resource that provides easy access to information on programs that meet the evidence standards defined in the American Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The website is designed for education leaders at the state, district, and school levels, to provide information to state chiefs, superintendents, principals, teachers, parents, and anyone else interested in which programs meet the ESSA evidence standards.

While this website is aimed at educators in the United States, I do think it can be interesting to a global audience as the website reviews math and reading programs for grades K to 12 to determine which meet the strong, moderate, or promising levels of evidence defined in ESSA (additional subject areas will be added later). The site provides a one-page summary of each program, including a program description, brief research review, and practical information on costs, professional development, and technology requirements. It is easily searchable and searches can be refined for particular groups (such as African Americans, Hispanics, or English Learners); communities (urban, suburban, or rural); and program features (such as technology, cooperative learning, or tutoring). Evidence for ESSA directs users to the key studies that validate that a program meets a particular ESSA standard. 

The mission of Evidence for ESSA is to provide clear and authoritative information on programs that meet the ESSA evidence standards and enable educators and communities to select effective educational tools to improve student success.

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