Monthly Archives: April 2017

William A. McEachern on effective teaching

William A. McEachern:

Finding # 1: Students are much more likely to recall information that relates somehow to what they already know or have experienced…

Finding # 2: The key to long-term learning is practicing retrieval. Many experiments have found that learning improves when students actively retrieve information from memory rather than passively reread class notes or textbooks…

Finding # 3: Raise key ideas again and again over time. Retrieval and testing sessions that are spaced out over time are effective for long-term retention and transfer… Teachers should align their presentations, assignments, and tests so that key ideas are recalled frequently throughout the term. And students should space their retrieval sessions over time.

Finding # 4: “Desirable difficulties” foster engagement, which helps students learnDesirable difficulties are challenges introduced during instruction that seem to benefit long-term learning, challenges such as presenting material in different contexts and in different formats. Desirable difficulties may seem to slow the apparent rate of learning in the short run, but they boost long-term retention and transfer…

Myths# 1: The mind works like a memory machine… Instead, new information enters long-term memory only if linked to what’s already known, then retrieved repeatedly over time.

Myth# 2: Testing is not learning but is a mere yardstick to measure how much has been learned… Tests, however, are forced retrieval, and this helps students learn and remember… Frequent, low-stakes, classroom quizzes may be one of the best ways you can help students learn new material.

Myth# 3: Learning depends on a student’s learning stylethere is no evidence that customizing instruction to match a student’s preferred learning style leads to better achievement…

Myth # 4: Your classroom presentation determines how much students learn. What you do in class matters less than what you ask and expect students to do in your course… Remember, it’s less what you teach and more what students do for themselves to learn.

Alex Usher on lessons from Soviet higher education

Alex Usher

2)  The middle-class will pull whatever strings necessary to maintain their kids’ class position.

Khrushchev was not especially happy about the development of a hereditary intelligentsia, which made itself out to morally superior because of its extra years of education. Basically, he felt students were putting on airs and needed to be reminded that all that training they were receiving was in order to serve the working class, not to stand above it. And so, in 1958, he tried to shake things up by slapping a requirement on university admissions that reserved 80 per cent of places to individuals who has spent two years in gainful employment. This, he felt, would transform the student body and make it more at one with the toiling masses.

This has some predictably disastrous effects on admissions, as making people spend two years out of school before taking entrance exams tends to have fairly calamitous effects on exam results. But while the measure did give a big leg up to the children of workers and peasants (their numbers at universities doubled after the change, though many dropped out soon afterwards due to inadequate preparation), what was interesting was how far the Moscow/Leningrad elites would go to try to rig the system in their children’s favour. Some would try to get their children into two year “mental labor” jobs such as working as a lab assistant; others would find ways to falsify their children’s “production records”. Eventually the policy was reversed because the hard science disciplines argued the new system was undermining their ability to recruit the best and brightest. But in the meantime, the intelligentsia managed to keep their share of enrolments above 50%, which was definitely not what Khrushchev wanted.

3) Institutional prestige is not a function of neo-liberalism.

We sometimes hear about how rankings and institutional prestige are all a product of induced competition, neo-liberalism, yadda yadda. Take one look at the accounts of Soviet students and you’ll know that’s nonsense. Prestige hierarchies exist everywhere…

Marguerite Roza on K12 school finance coming out of the dark ages

Marguerite Roza:

Want to know what’s spent per student at a public school near you? Or whether it’s more or less than what’s spent at another school up the road? While it may seem crazy, in most communities you’d need to be a forensic accountant to get answers to such seemingly straightforward questions. That’s because what typically gets tracked and reported in this country is district-level spending. (And even that can take several years to be released to the public.)

But that’s all about to change.

A sleeper provision in the Every Student Succeeds Act—come December 2018—will serve up a motherlode of never-before-available school-level financial data…

Backed with bipartisan support, ESSA’s financial transparency clause calls on states to publicly report spending by school starting in the 2017-18 school year—and do so just six months after the school year ends…The intent was to make spending data public and accessible to communities and school systems, unmasking systemic fiscal inequities among schools in the same district and making it much easier to investigate (and understand) the relationship between school outcomes and school spending…