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We join spokes together in a wheel, but it is the emptiness of the center hole that makes the wagon move.
We shape clay into a pot, but it is the emptiness inside that holds whatever we want.
If college professors spent less time lecturing, would their students do better?
A three-year study examining student performance in a “flipped classroom” — a class in which students watch short lecture videos at home and work on activities during class time — has found statistically significant gains in student performance in “flipped” settings and significant student preference for “flipped” methods.
The study, provided exclusively to The Atlantic, is one of the first to examine a “flipped” classroom in the current state of its technology. Russell Mumper, a Vice Dean at the University of North Carolina’s Eshelman School of Pharmacy, conducted the study, and two separate articles based on its findings are now in press in the journals Academic Medicine and The American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education. The education technology company Echo360, whose technology was used in the classes examined, funded the study with a $10,000 grant.
The study examined three years of a foundational pharmaceutics course, required for all doctor of pharmacy (Pharm.D.) students attending UNC. In 2011, Mumper taught the course in a standard, PowerPoint-aided lecture format. In 2012 and 2013, he taught it using “flipped” methods. Student performance on an identical final exam improved by 2.5 percent between 2011 and 2012—results now in press at Academic Medicine—and by an additional 2.6 percent in 2013. Overall, student performance on an identical final exam improved between 2011 and 2013 by 5.1 percent.
Students also came to prefer the flipped model to the lecture model. While 75 percent of students in 2012 said, before Mumper’s class, that they preferred lectures, almost 90 percent of students said they preferred the flipped model after the class.
“As I always like to say, we flipped their preference,” Mumper told me. “They went from largely wanting and valuing lectures to just the opposite.”
Read more. [Image: Echo360]
I think it is time to flip conferences, too. Instead of having presentations (lectures) take up most of the time, and discussion sandwiched in the interstices — at meals, breaks, and after hours — we should record the lectures (presentations) and have people watch them before the event. Then, when they come to the conference people can spend the time when they are all together in one place digging into the ideas, hacking things, creating new next steps.
This will happen, but will take a decade.
Elizabeth Weil, Self-Regulation: American Schools Are Failing Nonconformist Kids
In a professor’s office during my freshman year of college, I had to do it yet again: defend my decision to study elementary education. My professor—someone who, of course, was an educator—asked why I would want to teach young children and suggested that I might want to consider doing something else with my talents, that I could do so much more than be “just” a teacher.
Since a teacher’s intelligence is too often assumed to correlate with the age of her students, I’m not surprised that I’ve encountered so many stunned “why?” comments over the years, questions I never would have heard if I’d decided to be a doctor or an investment banker. They reflect a pervasive and poisonous view that teachers, and especially teachers in public elementary schools, should not have come from the tops of their classes or have graduated from elite universities.
Unfortunately, that perception is too often true. According to recent SAT data, test scores of prospective teachers ranked 16th out of 20 professions, and about one-third of teachers scored in the bottom one-fourth of SAT test-takers. It should come as little surprise, then, that less than 10 percent of teachers in this country graduate from our highly selective colleges and universities.
» via The Chronicle of Higher Education (Subscription may be required for some content)
This is one of the three places that education in the US needs to be revamped.
1. Stop building the curriculum around testing.
2. Get the very brightest to teach, pay them well, and let them decide how to do their jobs.
3. Teach our kids to read, to think, and equal parts science and arts.
The most fundamental part of human life is human connection. It’s so pervasive and influential that we are truly like the fish in the sea, unaware of the water we swim in. We are completely oblivious to how much human connection defines us, partly because so much of what goes on between people is at the subconscious level, but also because of cultural gaps: the physics of people hasn’t percolated out into broad usage, and the premises of individuality still hold sway.
Also, the cognitive impacts of human interaction are small in any short period of time, and while these interactions shape our minds the change can be overlooked, or attributed to other factors.
The following story has to do with the value of talking to young children, which is massive: that exposure to language is perhaps the single largest determinant of a baby’s capacity to learn later in life. But the great majority of American parents are unaware of that, so we have a huge divergence of behaviors, so the most well-off babies will hear literally tens of millions more words than the poorest.
Tina Rosenberg, The Power Of Talking To Your Baby
The Providence Talks program will be based on research by Betty Hart and Todd R. Risley at the University of Kansas, who in 1995 published a book, “Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American Children.” (see here for a summary.) Hart and Risley were studying how parents of different socioeconomic backgrounds talked to their babies. Every month, the researchers visited the 42 families in the study and recorded an hour of parent-child interaction. They were looking for things like how much parents praised their children, what they talked about, whether the conversational tone was positive or negative. Then they waited till the children were 9, and examined how they were doing in school. In the meantime, they transcribed and analyzed every word on the tapes — a process that took six years. “It wasn’t until we’d collected our data that we realized that the important variable was how much talking the parents were doing,” Risley told an interviewer later.'By age 3, a poor child would have heard 30 million fewer words in his home environment than a child from a professional family. And the disparity mattered: the greater the number of words children heard from their parents or caregivers before they were 3, the higher their IQ and the better they did in school. TV talk not only didn’t help, it was detrimental.'
All parents gave their children directives like “Put away your toy!” or “Don’t eat that!” But interaction was more likely to stop there for parents on welfare, while as a family’s income and educational levels rose, those interactions were more likely to be just the beginning.
The disparity was staggering. Children whose families were on welfare heard about 600 words per hour. Working-class children heard 1,200 words per hour, and children from professional families heard 2,100 words. By age 3, a poor child would have heard 30 million fewer words in his home environment than a child from a professional family. And the disparity mattered: the greater the number of words children heard from their parents or caregivers before they were 3, the higher their IQ and the better they did in school. TV talk not only didn’t help, it was detrimental.
Hart and Risley later wrote that children’s level of language development starts to level off when it matches that of their parents — so a language deficit is passed down through generations. They found that parents talk much more to girls than to boys (perhaps because girls are more sociable, or because it is Mom who does most of the care, and parents talk more to children of their gender). This might explain why young, poor boys have particular trouble in school. And they argued that the disparities in word usage correlated so closely with academic success that kids born to families on welfare do worse than professional-class children entirely because their parents talk to them less. In other words, if everyone talked to their young children the same amount, there would be no racial or socioeconomic gap at all. (Some other researchers say that while word count is extremely important, it can’t be the only factor.)
While we do know that richer, more educated parents talk much more to their children than poorer and less educated ones, we don’t know exactly why. A persuasive answer comes from Meredith Rowe, now an assistant professor at the University of Maryland. She found that poor women were simply unaware that it was important to talk more to their babies — no one had told them about this piece of child development research. Poorer mothers tend to depend on friends and relatives for parenting advice, who may not be up on the latest data. Middle-class mothers, on the other hand, get at least some of their parenting information from books, the Internet and pediatricians. Talking to baby has become part of middle-class culture; it seems like instinct, but it’s not.
So, the best thing we can do to raise the learning capacity of Americans is not standardized testing in schools, but convincing mothers, fathers, and other caregivers to speak more to children in their very youngest years. And turn off the TV.
I am happy that this research is being circulated in policy circles, but the immense barriers to deep cultural change makes it likely that not enough can be done to have a big impact.
The Finnish government surprised itself by creating a school system that produces very well-educated students, when all it set out to do was create equal educational opportunity. Eliminating the barriers to success — including poorly-paid teachers, educational competition, and private schools — turns out to be huge.
The answers Finland provides seem to run counter to just about everything America’s school reformers are trying to do.
For starters, Finland has no standardized tests. The only exception is what’s called the National Matriculation Exam, which everyone takes at the end of a voluntary upper-secondary school, roughly the equivalent of American high school.
Instead, the public school system’s teachers are trained to assess children in classrooms using independent tests they create themselves. All children receive a report card at the end of each semester, but these reports are based on individualized grading by each teacher. Periodically, the Ministry of Education tracks national progress by testing a few sample groups across a range of different schools.“Accountability is something that is left when responsibility has been subtracted.” - Pasi Sahlberg
As for accountability of teachers and administrators, Sahlberg shrugs. “There’s no word for accountability in Finnish,” he later told an audience at the Teachers College of Columbia University. “Accountability is something that is left when responsibility has been subtracted.”
For Sahlberg what matters is that in Finland all teachers and administrators are given prestige, decent pay, and a lot of responsibility. A master’s degree is required to enter the profession, and teacher training programs are among the most selective professional schools in the country. If a teacher is bad, it is the principal’s responsibility to notice and deal with it.
And while Americans love to talk about competition, Sahlberg points out that nothing makes Finns more uncomfortable. In his book Sahlberg quotes a line from Finnish writer named Samuli Paronen: “Real winners do not compete.” It’s hard to think of a more un-American idea, but when it comes to education, Finland’s success shows that the Finnish attitude might have merits. There are no lists of best schools or teachers in Finland. The main driver of education policy is not competition between teachers and between schools, but cooperation.
Finally, in Finland, school choice is noticeably not a priority, nor is engaging the private sector at all. Which brings us back to the silence after Sahlberg’s comment at the Dwight School that schools like Dwight don’t exist in Finland.
"Here in America," Sahlberg said at the Teachers College, "parents can choose to take their kids to private schools. It’s the same idea of a marketplace that applies to, say, shops. Schools are a shop and parents can buy what ever they want. In Finland parents can also choose. But the options are all the same."
Since the 1980s, the main driver of Finnish education policy has been the idea that every child should have exactly the same opportunity to learn, regardless of family background, income, or geographic location. Education has been seen first and foremost not as a way to produce star performers, but as an instrument to even out social inequality.
In the Finnish view, as Sahlberg describes it, this means that schools should be healthy, safe environments for children. This starts with the basics. Finland offers all pupils free school meals, easy access to health care, psychological counseling, and individualized student guidance.
In fact, since academic excellence wasn’t a particular priority on the Finnish to-do list, when Finland’s students scored so high on the first PISA survey in 2001, many Finns thought the results must be a mistake. But subsequent PISA tests confirmed that Finland — unlike, say, very similar countries such as Norway — was producing academic excellence through its particular policy focus on equity.
That this point is almost always ignored or brushed aside in the U.S. seems especially poignant at the moment, after the financial crisis and Occupy Wall Street movement have brought the problems of inequality in America into such sharp focus. The chasm between those who can afford $35,000 in tuition per child per year — or even just the price of a house in a good public school district — and the other “99 percent” is painfully plain to see.
This message will be nearly impossible for the educational policy folks in the US to assimilate, simply because it cuts across so many US biases. Just the example of eliminating a competition-focused culture, where everything is evaluative in supposedly ‘objective’ ways, but which restricts teachers and student’s actual inquiry into subject matter and tailored learning.
Add this to ed the $1.6T estimated in 2010 to upgrade out aging infrastructure (bridges, roads, interstates, railroads, and ports, and you can see what the Federal government should do. We should borrow the money — interest rates are at an all-time low for the US right now — and rebuilt the US infrastructure for the 21st century, including new schools.
Aaron Bady, cited by Maria Bustillos in Venture Capital’s Massive, Terrible Idea For The Future Of College
Shimon Waronker sounds like a fascinating character. Grew up in South America, became a US Army Intelligence officer, is an observant Jew of the Chabad-Lubavich movement, and then became a NYC school teacher, and studied at the New York City Leadership Academy.
And now he wants to transform American education, based on modern thoughts about human collaboration:
David Brooks, The Relationship School
He has a grand theory to transform American education, which he developed with others at the Harvard School of Education. The American education model, he says, was actually copied from the 18th-century Prussian model designed to create docile subjects and factory workers. He wants schools to operate more like the networked collaborative world of today.
He talks fervently like a guerrilla leader up in the mountains with plans to take over the whole country. For the grandly titled New American Academy, he didn’t invent new approaches, as much as combine ones from a bunch of other schools.
Like the Waldorf schools, teachers move up with the same children year after year. Like Hogwarts, students are grouped into Houses. Like Phillips Exeter Academy, students are less likely to sit at individual desks than around big tables or areas for teacher-led discussions.
The students seem to do a lot more public speaking, with teachers working hard to get them to use full sentences and proper diction. The subjects in the early grades (the only ones that exist so far) are interdisciplinary, with a bias toward engineering: how flight, agriculture, transportation and communications systems work. The organizational structure of the school is flattened. Nearly everybody is pushed to the front lines, in the classroom, and salaries are higher (master teachers make $120,000 a year).
The New American Academy takes a different approach than the other exciting new education model, the “No Excuses” schools like Kipp Academy. New American is less structured. […]
The New American Academy has two big advantages as a reform model. First, instead of running against the education establishment, it grows out of it and is being embraced by the teachers’ unions and the education schools. If it works, it can spread faster.
Second, it does a tremendous job of nurturing relationships. Since people learn from people they love, education is fundamentally about the relationship between a teacher and student. By insisting on constant informal contact and by preserving that contact year after year, The New American Academy has the potential to create richer, mentor-like or even family-like relationships for students who are not rich in those things.
Waronker is situating these children in a social context that is unlike the conventional US school, which is more or less a factory in which the children are the products being stamped out. Instead, they are embedded in a social network — a culture — where learning is the central theme.
And of course, recruiting the best and the brightest — $120K will go a long way to getting brainiacs involved — is not an anomaly: we should have brilliant people teaching in the US, not people who couldn’t do anything else.
- Jonah Lehrer, Classroom Creativity via The Frontal Cortex
(via Alex Tabarrok)