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Showing posts from August, 2017

Do We Need More Teachers?

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In a previous post on this blog, "Why Teachers Quit", it is mentioned that research done by the Learning Policy Institute shows that a shortage of about 112,000 teachers is projected in the US by 2018. A report from the American Institutes for Research in Seattle, however, points out that teacher shortages in public schools in the US need to be qualified especially after considering that only half of those who graduate from teaching schools are hired as public school teachers.

The report, published in the journal Educational Researcher, highlights in its abstract that there are indeed shortages, but these shortages are in specific areas and communities:


These findings are, of course, supported by evidence. Shortages are indeed generally found in science and mathematics (STEM), and special education (SPED), as displayed in the following figure (This has always been the case for the past decades):


STEM and SPED vacancies are much more difficult to fill. The other point, that s…

Are We Making Things Worse?

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The narrative is quite familiar. Schools are failing therefore we need to do something. Education, however, is quite complicated and results from interventions often take time to materialize. On the other hand, it is likewise necessary to know if the interventions are not working or even worse, contributing more to the problems. In this regard, sound data and statistical analysis is urgently needed. One study from Rhode Island is one example. The state of Rhode Island decided to identify and categorize its schools acoording to student performance. Based on this categorization, schools are then mandated to implement interventions. Two years have passed and the study finds, "...schools required to implement few interventions performed no differently relative to schools that had no interventions required. Among lower-performing schools, those required to adopt more interventions did worse than schools mandated to implement fewer, including higher student mobility."

This study a…

Teachers' Collective Efficacy and Teacher Expectations

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John Hattie has been collecting results from education research and performing a statistical analysis of factors that may affect learning. His list of influences related to learning now has the following in the top two spots: Teachers' Collective Efficacy and Teacher Expectations. These terms may look like "educational jargon", but we may translate these to something a lot simpler, a "Yes, we can" attitude. Previously in this blog, Hattie's work was mentioned when we compared and contrasted the two roles a teacher could play inside the classroom: activator or facilitator. In this regard, Hattie's work is actually useful since the factors are not too general and these involve specific interventions or methods.


Even with the above limited interpretation of Hattie's work, Neil Brown at King's College, London criticizes Hattie's core approach,
"For example, on page 243, Hattie compares the average effect sizes for the “teacher as activator”…

"Double Dose of Disadvantage"

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"Education for all" means "all". And "all" does not mean only the children in a given classroom or school. All means all. Sadly, inequity often exists between schools. Children born in poverty are at a educational disadvantage because of the limited opportunities they have before they attend school. In terms of vocabulary alone, parents in these homes have lower educational attainment and speak less words to their young children. Making matters worse, there is socio-economic segregation. Children from poor households find themselves living in poor neighborhoods. These children therefore end up attending poor schools. This dramatic inequity in education is highlighted in a recent paper by Neuman, Kaefer and Pinkham, A Double Dose of Disadvantage: Language Experiences for Low-Income Children in Home and School.

The study looks at two neighborhoods: communities of concentrated poverty (i.e., poverty rates over 40%) and borderline communities (i.e., poverty r…

Outrage and Politics

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An in-depth exploration of issues takes quite some time and effort. For most, it is boring especially compared to a quick fix of political bile. The immediate sense of self-righteousness is truly seductive and addictive. The problem, as in any addiction, is that we then fail to engage genuinely in the real issues, making it difficult for all of us to reach a meaningful and productive discussion. The world is facing various threats. There is terror. Such threat is so serious that we are quite ready to accept measures from our leaders that may even curtail our own liberties. In the Philippines, drug abuse is currently considered as the greatest threat to society. With this is mind, one should be able to understand why its current president, Rodrigo Duterte, would say, "The ones who died recently in Bulacan, 32, in a massive raid, that was good. If we could kill another 32 every day, then maybe we can reduce what ails this country." Just imagine, if in either Europe or the Unit…

Deeper Learning Through Worked Examples

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Nowadays, one can search in YouTube to find how a specific do-it-yourself task is done. From fixing appliances to minor renovations, homeowners need not learn by trial and error, saving money and time, and avoiding costly mistakes and grief. Learning through worked examples likewise demands a lower cognitive load than inquiry but objections against this learning method remain. One common complaint is that students only learn superficially through worked examples. Worked examples can indeed appear as mere recipes that one can simply follow without real understanding.  Thus, when facing another task that is not exactly identical to the one illustrated, a transfer of knowledge often fails. Learning through worked examples, however, can drive deeper learning, but this requires proper implementation.

Showing someones how a task is done is effective in learning that specific task. Providing worked examples, that is, demonstrating to students how a particular problem is solved, comes with a …

Charlottesville: Worse Than PISA Or TIMSS

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After scores from the 2009 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) were released, US education secretary Arne Duncan said, "This is an absolute wake-up call for America." The scores do appear mediocre compared to those of other industrialized nations, but it is not as serious as students failing to do simple arithmetic problems such as 2+3. This weekend, however, the state of Virginia witnessed the resurgence of racism. There are now more than 900 hate groups in the United States according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. The "White Supremacy" groups that gathered in Charlottesville believe in the following: (1) Western or European culture is under threat, (2) White people are being oppressed and dispossessed, (3) Diversity is evil and pure "white state" must be established in which all political power are in the hands of white people. Such tenets are outright stupid. These are as bad as stating that 2+3=1. Yet, hundreds of thousands of A…

"Death by PowerPoint"

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Jane Wakefield of BBC wrote two years ago an article "How to avoid 'death by powerpoint'". She listed several images that one should avoid putting into slides. The list she shared was made based on opinions of several powerpoint professionals. These images are: "cogs, images of people holding hands around a globe, stacked pebbles, thumbs up, archery targets (with optional arrow), jigsaw piece being fitted into puzzle, businessperson poised to, run a race, handshakes, rosettes, and groups of businesspeople staring intently at a monitor". Of course, overused images are not the only reasons why a powerpoint presentation can become a disaster. Addition of technology to learning can only be positive if it is done right with cognitive principles in mind.

Richard Mayer enumerates various principles one should consider in multimedia presentation. These principles are all based on evidence. The list is nicely summarized ina chapter in Applying Science of Learning in…