01 September 2015

Items to Share: 31 August 15

Bit later than usual but includes the Bank Holiday

Education Focus
  • The sticky problem of threshold concepts in music | Musings of a music teacher 'Meyer and Land identify 'threshold concepts as portals that ‘open up a new and previously inaccessible way of thinking about something’. Basically, these are the points at which students tend to become stuck, and if they remain stuck, they will not be able to progress further in their understanding. Identifying what they are is of enormous help in planning a good curriculum and sound teaching. [...] Of course, this got me thinking about what threshold concepts there might be in music. Where to start? With what music actually is?...' '
  • Research-based Principles of Instruction Applied to Workplace Learning  [3-star Learning Experiences] While it has been shown that there is absolutely no evidence in the scientific literature to support the idea that 70% of what we learn is via experiential learning, 20% learning from others and 10% formal learning (see De Bruyckere et al. in their Urban Myths about Learning and Education – Myth 3) it is of course true that informal learning and learning from and with others is very important, especially in the workplace. When we focus on social and experiential learning, it often remains unclear if employees are learning effectively, despite 360 performance reviews and subjective (manager and L&D professionals) opinions. Therefore, exploring to what extent proven instructional principles can be applied to the informal and non-formal ways of learning in the workplace, can contribute to making learning professionals more aware of what they need to be aware of, so to speak.
Other Business

  • We’re All in Agreement, Right? - The Chronicle of Higher Education '[I]n these many hours of symposia, colloquia, and assorted fora, I’ve begun to dread a particular, coercive punctuation that has taken hold among the most-practiced speakers. [...] The problem is clear to everyone, right? So the only question is how to deal with it, OK? [...] I speak, of course, of those up-lilting, faux-interrogative, consensus-faking capstones to otherwise unsupported statements.'

17 August 2015

Items to Share: 16 August 2015

Education Focus
  • Compliance by website Mary Beard on schools' response to the requirement to inculcate ‘British values’
  • It’s Harder Now to Change Students’ Lives, but No Less Important - Commentary - The Chronicle of Higher Education 'The forms, norms, and assessments that define higher education are becoming ever more routinized — for the students, faculty, administrators, and accrediting agencies. A Big Mac in Maine looks pretty similar to one in Oregon. The textbook being used for a class in Psychology 101 in New Jersey is probably the same one being used for a class in Psychology 101 in Iowa. Fast-food nation and higher education are becoming ever more homogeneous, and it’s not surprising that students are less engaged. Why should they be? Generic only goes so far.'
  • Chinese School: Whole-Class Identity | @jonbprimary 'We need a discussion about what kind of ‘learning environment’ teachers want to make within their classrooms, and joining children with their fellow classmates is an important topic to discuss. My argument is that this can only be done [...] by tying together school, local, and ultimately national identity, along with the class unit.'

10 August 2015

Items to Share: 9 August 2015


Education Focus
  • Donald Clark Plan B: Understanding Carol Dweck - queen of growth mindsets 'Hattie confirms that Dweck’s research is exactly what has been found to have a significant effect on learner performance and she has similar theories to Black & Wiliam research and recommendations on feedback. The work of Anderson on deliberate practice can also be seen as an extension of her theories. Teachers, in particular, have found her recommendations ethical, practical and leading to marked changes in motivation and improved results.' And Clark has been busy this week:
  • Donald Clark Plan B: ‘The Strange Case of Rachel Doleza’: why diversity training does more harm than good  'The bottom line is that the vast majority of diversity courses are useless, especially when driven by HRs perception of avoiding prosecution. The problem centres around courses run in response to legislative and external pressures. Kalev found that , "Most employers….force their managers and workers to go through training, and this is the least effective option in terms of increasing diversity. . . . Forcing people to go through training creates a backlash against diversity." 'And even more...
  • Donald Clark Plan B: 3 fallacies about exaggerated teacher impact in education (Pasi Sahlberg) This is an old tale – the search for a silver bullet in education swings towards single, simplistic causes, that are not supported by research but popularized by cherry picked ideas from countries and reports that suit your political ideology or professional pride. When it comes to education we can’t let either ideological politicians or teacher lobbying define the future. We must objectify, as much as we can, through research, then focus on change.
  • What Kind of Feedback Helps Students Who Are Doing Poorly? [Faculty Focus] '[S]tudents perform poorly in our courses for a variety of reasons. Here are some students you’ve likely encountered over the years, as well as a few ideas on the type of feedback that best helps them turn things around.'
  • Want to raise the quality of teaching? Begin with academic freedom | Times Higher Education 'So let’s explain to our students and their parents that they will not be best served by league tables that smother the knowledge and creativity of their teachers, or which skew their education. They need something better than teaching by regulation. Let’s defend this academic freedom, not for the sake of academia but for the sake of future generations of students.'
  • The Dangerous Fantasy of Generalised Understanding | The Traditional Teacher '[T]he supposedly ‘higher’ cognitive phenomenon which is labelled understanding actually means more detailed and more complex knowledge, as well as the knowledge of how one fact links to another. At the highest level, this detailed and complex knowledge, along with the knowledge of relevant connections, is achieved by experts over many years of study. [ ] In contrast, the type of abstract of conceptual knowledge which is often labelled ‘understanding’ is low on detail. It might be termed generalised knowledge, and it is actually much quicker to master than the large amounts of detail which a genuine expert has at his fingertips. It’s so short on content that you might even learn it through group work, with a few prods to point you in the right direction.' (Read in conjunction with a related link from last week.)
Other Business
  • Hospital checklists are meant to save lives — so why do they often fail? : Nature News & Comment 'In 2007 and 2008, surgical staff at eight hospitals around the world tested the checklist in a pilot study1. The results were remarkable. Complications such as infections after surgery fell by more than one-third, and death rates dropped by almost half. The WHO recommended that all hospitals adopt its checklist or something similar, and many did. The UK National Health Service (NHS) immediately required all of its treatment centres to put the checklist into daily practice; by 2012, nearly 2,000 institutions worldwide had tried it. The idea of checklists as a simple and cheap way to save lives has taken hold throughout the clinical community. It has some dynamic champions, including Atul Gawande, a surgeon at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, who led the pilot study and has spread the word through talks, magazine articles and a best-selling book, The Checklist Manifesto (Metropolitan, 2009). But this success story is beginning to look more complicated: some hospitals have been unable to replicate the impressive results of initial trials.'

05 August 2015

Items to Share: 2 August 2015

Apologies for running late!


Education Focus
  • Is ‘understanding’ a thing? | Clio et cetera 'I have no doubt at all that some will take issue with this, and it is not at all my intention to play down the importance of learning about abstract or disciplinary concepts: to the contrary, I think learning about these things is very important. What I want to suggest, however, is that we need to employ a version of Ockham’s Razor when talking about curriculum and assessment. It is already hard enough! Making ‘understanding’ a thing serves to obfuscate what we are actually talking about. If we mean ‘knows how to do or apply something’, then we are talking about knowledge, or knowing how. Otherwise, we are almost certainly talking about ‘knowing-that’ at a variety of levels of complexity.'

  • Everything Is Problematic, University Explains -- NYMag 'The University of New Hampshire has a “Bias-Free Language Guide.” As the document assures its readers, it “is not meant to represent absolute requirements of language use.” [...] So the guide should be understood not as an attempt at censorship, which would be illegal, but as a cutting-edge statement of p.c. language norms. It indicates that the list of terms that can give offense has grown quite long indeed.' (The guide has now apparently been retracted.)

  • The importance of rubrics in higher education advances | Higher Education Academy '[T]he common understanding of the word rubric [...] is essentially any set of criteria [...] which assists in measuring engagement of students with the learning outcomes and aims of teaching. [...] if properly constructed, the use of rubrics can have a number of benefits for learning and teaching at a higher education level. One of the main benefits highlighted, was that rubrics help to ensure that the assessment of engagement with teaching material is carried out in a clear, open and fair manner. With a well constructed rubric, any assessment represents the learning and teaching that has been undertaken, and it is clear to both staff and students how any engagement will be measured, from the outset of learning process.'
  • Narrative in the Classroom | Vitae '[W]ork to integrate storytelling into your lectures. Research the history of your discipline so you can tell the stories of great discoveries. Frame important concepts not just in terms of abstract ideas, but also in terms of the specific problems those concepts were introduced to solve. Create mysteries for your students: Present a problem and introduce protagonists in search of a solution. The essential engine of a narrative — “what’s going to happen next?” — is a great weapon in any teacher’s arsenal.'



  • Why blog your field work? | patter 'A lot of people tell me that they are worried about posting about research that is so clearly work in progress. But I want to convince you that there are some good reasons to do so, particularly if you’re doing qualitative work with real live people.

  • Principled Assessment Design by Dylan Wiliam | The Wing to Heaven 'Last year I read Principled Assessment Design by Dylan Wiliam, which is [...] helpful for anyone looking to design a replacement for national curriculum levels. [I]t packs a lot in – there are useful definitions and explanations of validity, reliability, and common threats to validity. There are two areas in particular I want to comment on here: norm-referencing and multiple-choice questions. These are two aspects of assessment which people are often quite prejudiced against, but Wiliam shows there is some evidence in favour of them.'

  • Have I Become an Educated Rita? - Advice - The Chronicle of Higher Education 'I am forced to conclude that whatever creativity I once possessed has been diminished by the process of formal learning. Not long ago I was speaking with a talented student of my own and was dazzled by his ability to make leaps between the contents of his courses and his own varied reading. For him, Alexander the Great and Alexandre Dumas, econometrics and everyday life, existed in the same plane. They spoke to each other and informed each other. I was wowed by the excitement and movement of his thought. But I was also dismayed — because I, too, used to think like that, and it hurt to reflect that I could do so no more. [ ] Some of this intellectual narrowing is, of course, simply endemic to the academic enterprise.'
Other Business
  • The Browser - Accenture And The End Of Appraisal 'In the space of a minute [the head of Accenture] said something wonderful: he is going to free all 330,000 of his staff from the charade of the annual job appraisal. “We are not sure that spending all that time in performance management has been yielding such a great outcome,” he told the Washington Post. “Once a year [I] share with you what I think of you. That doesn’t make any sense. People want to know … am I doing all right? Nobody’s going to wait for an annual cycle to get that feedback.” The most extraordinary thing about this blast of common sense is that it comes from Accenture, which over the years has delivered some world-class, paradigm-busting drivel.'