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When children are simply taught

studies have found that when children are simply taught, they don’t explore and test multiple hypotheses

[In one study of preschoolers,] an experimenter held a toy that had four tubes. Each tube did something different — for instance, one lit up and one made a squeaking sound.

In one case, the experimenter accidentally made the toy squeak by bumping into it and then left the room. The children experimented with the toy and figured out the three other features.

But when the experimenter made the toy squeak on purpose and then handed it to a child, he or she simply repeated what the experimenter did and never explored the toy’s other features.

via http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/02/science/scientific-inquiry-among-the-preschool-set.html

“Time on task” is less important for higher-level understanding and creativity

the nature of the task helps to determine the relationship between time and achievement. It turns out that more hours are least likely to produce better outcomes when understanding or creativity is involved. “How much is learned by rote is a direct function of time and effort,” acknowledges literacy expert Frank Smith. “But when the learning is meaningful we learn much faster. . . . Having to spend long periods of time in repetitive efforts to learn specific things is a sign that learning is not taking place, that we are not in a productive learning situation.”

Sure enough, researchers have found that when children are taught to read by focusing on the meaning of the text rather than primarily on phonetic skills, their learning does “not depend on amount of instructional time.” In math, too, even the new-and-improved concept of “engaged” [time on task] is directly correlated to achievement only if both the activities and the measure of achievement are focused on rote recall. By contrast, there is no “linear positive relationship for higher level mathematics activities, including mathematical applications and problem solving.”

Alfie Kohn via http://www.joebower.org/2012/08/limits-of-time-on-task.html

Teachers are only part of the student learning equation

Here’s a slightly-modified version of a comment I left over at The Des Moines Register regarding teachers’ impacts on student learning outcomes…

Sure, what happens in the classroom matters. But peer-reviewed research shows over and over again that between 2/3 and 4/5 of student achievement is based on non-school factors. Schools only contribute about 20% to 33% to students’ overall learning outcomes.

In addition, teachers are only part of the school equation. They’re the most important part, but non-teacher factors such as administrators, curriculum, other students in the school, available learning resources, and so on also impact student achievement. So teachers are responsible for about half (or so) of the school impact, but the rest lies outside their domain.

When you add all of this up, good teachers clearly are absolutely critical to student academic success. But their overall impact on student learning falls around 10% to 17%. Other in-school and out-of-school factors account for the rest. What this means is that – the occasional tale of heroic, exceptional teachers and schools aside – we should be making state and national policy based on what the research shows generally occurs, not exceptions, anecdotes, personal intuition, or unsubstantiated policy/political claims. And we definitely should not be holding teachers 100% accountable for outcomes for which they’re only 1/6 to 1/10 influential.

We need a much broader (and smarter) conversation about what it means to educate our nation’s children.

Image credit: Bigstock, Teacher and students

About those PISA scores…

Here are PISA scores for 15-year-olds as typically presented by politicians. When you see these, it’s easier for Americans to be more alarmist (oh no, others are ahead of us!).

Average scores

AveragePISAscores 

Percentage of high scorers

 PercentagePISAhighscorers

But we also should look at the data another way.

Number of high scorers

NumberPISAhighscorers

Our size benefits us, and we need to remember that too. [of course we have many more LOW scorers as well…]

More data at American Achievement in International Perspective.

What does the research say about school one-to-one computing initiatives?

CastleLogo 300dpi 400pixels

Today’s resource is a re-issue of an older version. Last November we rolled out our first CASTLE brief. We’ve now got a new, much better template for our briefs so here’s the revised edition, authored by Dr. Nick Sauers, 1to1 Schools, and myself:

If you downloaded the old one, please use this one instead! Our second brief is in the works and, as the CASTLE Briefs web page notes, we’re actively soliciting ideas and authors. If you’re interested, get in touch!

[Continuing what I hope will be a month-long wave of resources for school leaders and the programs that prepare them…]

Focusing on superintendents: 5 technology leadership articles from AASA

AASA logo

Kicking off what I hope is an awesome, seemingly-endless month of resources for school leaders and the programs that prepare them, today I thought I’d share 5 technology leadership articles from AASA’s School Administrator magazine. All 5 focus on superintendents and feature either my thinking or my research.

  1. Blocking the future (May 2008). Superintendents may not have all the answers but they should at least have the right mindset. Are your leaders’ primary orientations toward enabling or blocking? 
  2. Rethinking technology restrictions in school (April 2012). Prohibition (i.e., overly-restrictive technology filtering and blocking) doesn’t work, whether for alcohol or school technology. It’s also inconsistent with how administrators approach non-technology-related school discipline issues.
  3. Responsibility for asking the right questions (November 2007). Superintendents may not be technology-savvy themselves, but that doesn’t mean they can’t ask better questions.
  4. The most important tool you probably don’t know (September 2011). RSS readers can be incredibly powerful tools for superintendents’ professional and personal learning.
  5. Online credentials: A state of wariness (September 2010). More teachers are getting their principal credentials from online Educational Leadership programs. But are they able to get jobs? This article highlights some of my research and was authored by my primary research partner and CASTLE Co-Director, Dr. Jayson Richardson.

Happy reading!

The promise of the digital

The promise of the digital is not in the way it allows us to ask new questions because of digital tools or because of new methodologies made possible by those tools. The promise is in the way the digital reshapes the representation, sharing, and discussion of knowledge.

Mark Sample via http://journalofdigitalhumanities.org/1-1/conversations/building-and-sharing-when-youre-supposed-to-be-teaching-by-mark-sample/.

What should I ask principals of problem-based learning schools? [HELP WANTED]

I want to interview principals of schools that are dedicated to problem-, inquiry-, and/or challenge-based learning. You know, schools like those in the New Tech, Expeditionary Learning, Big Picture, and other similar networks. In particular, I’m interested in how they’re balancing their hands-on, student-directed learning missions with the demands of NCLB, AYP, and other external accountability policy mechanisms.

Do they care about accountability assessments? Do they even pay attention to them? How do their students do on those exams? And so on…

We’re creating our interview protocol right now. What would YOU ask them related to implementation, instruction, curriculum, and/or assessment? Thanks for any suggestions you can provide!

Connected learning resources and infographic

Fresh from the Digital Media & Learning conference in San Francisco are two new web resources, Connected Learning and the Connected Learning Research Network. The work is centered around three learning principles and three design principles:

Learning principles

  • Interest-powered. Interests power the drive to acquire knowledge and expertise. Research shows that learners who are interested in what they are learning, achieve higher order learning outcomes. Connected learning does not just rely on the innate interests of the individual learner, but views interests and passions as something to be actively developed in the context of personalized learning pathways that allow for specialized and diverse identities and interests.
  • Peer-supported. Learning in the context of peer interaction is engaging and participatory. Research shows that among friends and peers, young people fluidly contribute, share, and give feedback to one another, producing powerful learning. Connected learning research demonstrates that peer learning need not be peer-isolated. In the context of interest-driven activity, adult participation is welcomed by young people. Although expertise and roles in peer learning can differ based on age and experience, everyone gives feedback to one another and can contribute and share their knowledge and views.
  • Academically oriented. Educational institutions are centered on the principle that intellectual growth thrives when learning is directed towards academic achievement and excellence. Connected learning recognizes the importance of academic success for intellectual growth and as an avenue towards economic and political opportunity. Peer culture and interest-driven activity needs to be connected to academic subjects, institutions, and credentials for diverse young people to realize these opportunities. Connected learning mines and translates popular peer culture and community-based knowledge for academic relevance.

Design principles

  • Shared purpose. Connected learning environments are populated with adults and peers who share interests and are contributing to a common purpose. Today’s social media and web-based communities provide exceptional opportunities for learners, parents, caring adults, teachers, and peers in diverse and specialized areas of interest to engage in shared projects and inquiry. Cross-generational learning and connection thrives when centered on common interests and goals.
  • Production-centered. Connected learning environments are designed around production, providing tools and opportunities for learners to produce, circulate, curate, and comment on media. Learning that comes from actively creating, making, producing, experimenting, remixing, decoding, and designing, fosters skills and dispositions for lifelong learning and productive contributions to today’s rapidly changing work and political conditions.
  • Openly networked. Connected learning environments are designed around networks that link together institutions and groups across various sectors, including popular culture, educational institutions, home, and interest communities. Learning resources, tools, and materials are abundant, accessible and visible across these settings and available through open, networked platforms and public-interest policies that protect our collective rights to circulate and access knowledge and culture. Learning is most resilient when it is linked and reinforced across settings of home, school, peer culture and community.

Infographic

Below is an infographic made by Dachis Group that highlights these essential components of connected learning. What if every learning environment was centered around these principles?

Connected Learning