Friday, January 21, 2011

"Test-taking cements knowledge"

Taking a test . . . actually helps people learn, and it works better than a number of other studying techniques.
It works better than studying and it works better than concept mapping, which is described as "having students draw detailed diagrams documenting what they are learning . . . prized by many teachers because it forces students to make connections among facts."
The Purdue study supports findings of a recent spate of research showing learning benefits from testing, including benefits when students get questions wrong. But by comparing testing with other methods, the study goes further.
“It really bumps it up a level of importance by contrasting it with concept mapping, which many educators think of as sort of the gold standard,” said Daniel Willingham, a psychology professor at the University of Virginia. Although “it’s not totally obvious that this is shovel-ready — put it in the classroom and it’s good to go — for educators this ought to be a big deal.”
Howard Gardner, an education professor at Harvard who advocates constructivism — the idea that children should discover their own approach to learning, emphasizing reasoning over memorization — said in an e-mail that the results “throw down the gauntlet to those progressive educators, myself included.” 
Don't think of it as testing, think of it as "retrieval practice".  After reading a passage, students wrote an essay about the passage from memory, re-read it and then took a test on it.  This group of students scored higher than the other groups who studied or who concept mapped.  The writing seems to have been important, but the critical part was retrieving the information.  Why it works is unclear, but it is speculated that "by remembering information we are organizing it and creating cues and connections that our brains later recognize."

How can schools incorporate these new findings in a way that can raise achievement levels?  What can parents do?

To Really Learn, Quit Studying and Take a Test - NYT

Municipal bonds = mortgage-backed bonds?

The municipal-bond market is in crisis, with prices falling and investors running for cover — and for good reason.

Munis — bonds sold by states, cities, counties and other localities to finance government operations — are in trouble because the Ponzi scheme of Big Government is coming unglued. The markets are merely reflecting this reality, as they always do. . . .

The $3 trillion muni market was once regarded as the safest of all investments because the bonds are backed by government taxes. Now it’s showing all the earmarks of the 2007-08 meltdown. . . .But suppose taxes are so high that people leave cities or states in droves, depleting the pool of revenue need to pay bondholders? Suppose these states have so many other obligations — from federal mandates, massive “guaranteed” pensions to government workers and more — that they can’t or won’t make the vast cuts needed to keep paying on their bonds?
Charles Gasparino in The Coming Municipal Bond Meltdown

Thursday, January 20, 2011

JFK's algebra grades

As a prep student, young John Kennedy earned a grade of 65% the first year he took algebra and a 71% the second year.  It's unclear if 65% was a failing grade that required him to retake the course, but it does look that way.  Later on, he scored 82% on his "Elementary Algebra" college placement test. I suspect he benefited from private tutoring.

You can draw your own conclusions from this information.  It fits into several possible narratives.  And then there's this from the letter JFK's father wrote to Harvard before his son enrolled.
Jack has a very brilliant mind for the things in which he is interested, but is careless and lacks application in those in which he is not interested. This is, of course, a bad fault.
JFK's Unimpressive Harvard Application

I found this on Ann Althouse's blog

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Content knowledge vs creativity, "fuel in the bucket"

Our schools should foster creativity, but they must not short-change the teaching of content knowledge.  Students need the "fuel". 
And while William Butler Yeats was right that “education is not filling a bucket but lighting a fire,” it’s also true that it’s easier to ignite a bonfire if there’s fuel in the bucket.
Nicholas D. Kristof in China's Winning Schools - NYT

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

E-learning in Florida

[O]ver 7,000 students in Miami-Dade County Public Schools enrolled in a program in which core subjects are taken using computers in a classroom with no teacher. A “facilitator” is in the room to make sure students progress. That person also deals with any technical problems.
These virtual classrooms, called e-learning labs, were put in place last August as a result of Florida’s Class Size Reduction Amendment, passed in 2002.
Some parents and students were not informed about this new class structure, and one Miami high school PTA formed a committee to help address any confusion.  Some teachers and parents are skeptical.
But Michael G. Moore, a professor of education at Pennsylvania State University, said programs that combine virtual education and face-to-face instruction could be effective. This is called the “blended learning concept.”
“There is no doubt that blended learning can be as effective and often more effective than a classroom,” said Mr. Moore, who is also editor of The American Journal of Distance Education. He said, however, that research and his experiences had shown that proper design and teacher instruction within the classroom were necessary. A facilitator who only monitors student progress and technical issues within virtual labs would not be categorized as part of a blended-learning model, he said. Other variables include “the maturity and sophistication of the student,” he said.
"Could be effective" - I've heard that before.  I wonder if any rigorous research supports this innovation as an effective teaching strategy.

Florida Has Classes Without Teachers - NYT

Monday, January 17, 2011

Chinese schools

Some pulls from Nicholas D. Kristof 's China's Winning Schools op-ed in the NYT:
  • . . . even in backward rural areas, most girls and boys alike attend high school
  • In my Chinese-American wife’s ancestral village — a poor community in southern China — the peasant children are a grade ahead in math compared with my children at an excellent public school in the New York area.
  • Chinese principals can’t easily dismiss teachers, but they can get extra training for less effective teachers, or if that doesn’t work, push them into other jobs.
  • . . . excellent early childhood education, typically beginning at age 2
  • Colleges are third-rate and should be a national disgrace.
  • Many Chinese complain scathingly that their system kills independent thought and creativity
  • . . . the greatest strength of the Chinese system is the Confucian reverence for education that is steeped into the culture.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

A quiz about college scholarships

What percentage of college students receive private (non-institutional) scholarships totaling $10,000 or more?
   a) 1%
   b) 3%
   c) 7%
   d) 11%

Clue:  The average scholarship is $2,523 per recipient.