Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Honebein's Constructivist Principles

Honebein (1996) describes seven goals for the design of constructivist learning environments:
1. Provide experience with the knowledge construction process;
2. Provide experience in and appreciation for multiple perspectives;
3. Embed learning in realistic and relevant contexts;
4. Encourage ownership and voice in the learning process;
5. Embed learning in social experience;
6. Encourage the use of multiple modes of representation;
7. Encourage self-awareness in the knowledge construction process (p.11).

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Lebow's Constructivist Principles

Lebow (1993) has proposed the following "Five Principles Toward a New Mindset," to influence the design of constructivist lesson plans.1- Maintain a buffer between the learner and the potentially damaging effects of instructional practices.2- Provide a context for learning that supports both autonomy and relatedness.3- Incorporate the reasons for learning into the learning activity.4- Support self-regulated learning by promoting attitudes that enable the learner to assume responsibility for learning.5- Strengthen the tendencies of the learner to engage in learning processes, by encouraging exploration of mistakes (Lebow 1993, 5-6).

Monday, June 18, 2012

Ernest's Constructivist Principles

Paul Ernest (1995) in his description of the many schools of thought of constructivism suggests the following implications of constructivism which derive from both the radical and social perspectives:
1. sensitivity toward and attentiveness to the learner's previous constructions;
2. diagnostic teaching attempting to remedy learner errors and misconceptions;
3. attention to metacognition and strategic self-regulation by learners;
4. the use of multiple representations of mathematical concepts;
5. awareness of the importance of goals for the learner, and the dichotomy between learner and teacher goals;
6. awareness of the importance of social contexts, such as the difference between folk or street mathematics and school mathematics (and an attempt to exploit the former for the latter) (p.485).

Vygotsky’s Theory of Learning and Constructivism

Vygotsky’s main concern is that social interaction and social context, a world full of other people, who interact with the child from birth onwards, are essential in the cognitive development. He states that "Every function in the child's cultural development appears twice: first, on the social level, and later, on the individual level; first, between people (interpsychological) and then inside the child (intrapsychological). This applies equally to voluntary attention, to logical memory, and to the formation of concepts. All the higher functions originate as actual relationships between individuals." (Vygotsky, 1978:57).
Next, he points out at the idea that the potential for cognitive development is limited to a certain time span, which he names the “zone of proximal development”. (ZPD) In addition, full development during ZDP depends upon full social interaction. The range of skill that can be developed with adult guidance or peer collaboration exceeds what can be attained alone. It is of very fact that other people play important roles in helping children to learn, providing objects and ideas to their attention, talking while playing and sharing while playing, reading stories, asking questions. In a wide range of ways, adults mediate the world for children and make it possible for them to get access to it. The ability to learn through instruction and mediation is characteristic of human intelligence. By the help of adults children can do and understand more than they can on their own. (Cameron, 2002:5-8) Actually, Vygotsky proposed the notion of the zone of proximal development (ZPD) to give a new meaning to ‘intelligence’. Instead of measuring intelligence by what a child can do alone, Vygotsky suggested that intelligence could better be measured by what a child can do with skilled help.
Vygotsky attempted to shed light on consciousness which develops as a result of socialization. While learning a language the first utterances have a communicational purpose, but once internalized they become “inner speech”. Young children can often be observed talking to themselves and act as if they carry out tasks or play, in what is called private speech. As children get older they gradually speak less and less loud, and differentiate between social speech for others and ‘inner speech’, which continues to play an important role in regulating and controlling behavior. Wertsch (1985) emphasizes that internalization for Vygotsky was not just transfer but also a transformation; being able to think about something is qualitatively different from being able to do it. In the internalizing process, the interpersonal, joint talk and joint activity, later becomes intrapersonal, mental action by one individual. Development can be seen as internalizing from social interaction. Language can grow as the child takes over control of language used initially with other children and adults.
Although Vygotsky’s theory is currently most noted for his central focus on the social, and modern developments are labeled ‘sociocultural theory’, he did not neglect the individual or individual cognitive development.(Cameron, 2002) In Vygotskian terms, language provides the child with a new tool, opens up new opportunities for doing things and for organizing information through the use of words as symbols. The infant begins with using single words, but these words convey whole messages. As the child’s language develops, the whole undivided thought message can be broken down into smaller units and expressed by putting together words that are now units of talk. The word is a recognizable linguistic unit for children in their first language and so they will notice words in the new language. The new language is first used meaningfully by teacher and pupils, and later it is transformed and internalized to become part of the individual child’s language skills or knowledge. Children’s foreign language learning depends on what they experience. Within the ZPD, the broader and richer the language experience that is provided for children, the more they are likely to learn. The activities that happen in classroom create a kind of environment for teaching, and as such, offer different kinds of opportunities for language learning. Part of teaching skill is to identify the particular opportunities of task or activity, and then to develop them into learning experiences for the children. (Cameron, 2002:5-20)
The Social Development Theory of Vygotsky has got many implications in many theories like Social Cognitive Theory, Situated Learning Theory and Constructivism. The key components explained in Vygotsky’s theory have been broadened later by many researchers.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Bruner’s Views on Learning and Constructivism

A major theme in the theoretical framework of Bruner is that learning is an active process in which learners construct new ideas or concepts based upon their current and past knowledge. The learner chooses and permutes the knowledge, constructs hypotheses, makes decisions, and while performing these he relies on his cognitive structuring. His cognitive structure caters for grasping the meaning and organization of the experiences, and enables him to “go beyond the given information”
When the instruction is considered, the instructor should try and encourage the student to discover the principles themselves. This should be achieved through engagement of learners and teacher in an active conversation. Teachers should be able to transform the materials to be learned in such a way that it suits the learners’ cognitive level. The way of presenting the materials should be spiral not linear so that it allows both learners to contemplate and construct gradually upon what they have learned.
Bruner (1966) states that a theory of instruction should address four major aspects: (1) predisposition towards learning, (2) the ways in which a body of knowledge can be structured so that it can be most readily grasped by the learner, (3) the most effective sequences in which to present material, and (4) the nature and pacing of rewards and punishments. Good methods for structuring knowledge should result in simplifying, generating new propositions, and increasing the manipulation of information. In his more recent work, Bruner (1986, 1990, 1996) has expanded his theoretical framework to encompass the social and cultural aspects of learning as well as the practice of law.
Bruner notes that “language is the most important tool for cognitive growth”. He investigated how adults use language to mediate the world for children and help them to solve problems. Talk that supports a child in carrying out an activity, as a kind of verbal version of fine tuned help has been labeled as “scaffolding”. Children need space for language growth. Routines and scaffolding are to types of language-using strategies that seem to be especially helpful in making space for children. Mothers who used scaffolded talk made the children interested in the task, simplified the task by breaking it into smaller steps, kept the child on track onwards completing the task by reminding the child what the goal was, pointed out what was important to do or showed the child other ways of doing the parts of the tasks, controlled the child’s frustration during the tasks, demonstrated an idealized version of the task. Moreover, good scaffolding was tuned to the needs of the child and adjusted as the child became more competent. (Cameron, 2002:8-10)
For the classroom settings ,Wood (1998) suggested that teachers can scaffold children’s learning in various ways: to attend what is relevant, adopt useful strategies, remember the whole task and goals teachers can suggest, praise the significant, provide focusing activities, encourage rehearsal, be explicit about organization, remind, model, provide part-whole activities. Also classroom language and routines occurring everyday can provide opportunities for language development. They would allow the child to actively make sense of new language from experience and provide space for language growth. Routines will open up many possibilities for developing language skills.(Cameron, 2002:8-11)

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Learning Principles in Constructivism

What are some guiding principles of constructivist thinking that we must keep in mind when we consider our role as educators? I will outline a few ideas, all predicated on the belief that learning consists of individuals' constructed meanings.
Learning is an active process in which the learner uses sensory input and constructs meaning out of it. The more traditional formulation of this idea involves the terminology of the active learner (Dewey's term) stressing that the learner needs to do something; that learning is not the passive acceptance of knowledge which exists "out there" but that learning involves the learner s engaging with the world.People learn to learn as they learn: learning consists both of constructing meaning and constructing systems of meaning. For example, if we learn the chronology of dates of a series of historical events, we are simultaneously learning the meaning of a chronology. Each meaning we construct makes us better able to give meaning to other sensations which can fit a similar pattern.The crucial action of constructing meaning is mental: it happens in the mind. Physical actions, hands-on experience may be necessary for learning, especially for children, but it is not sufficient; we need to provide activities which engage the mind as well as the hands (Dewey called this reflective activity.)Learning involves language: the language we use influences learning. On the empirical level. Researchers have noted that people talk to themselves as they learn. On a more general level. There is a collection of arguments, presented most forcefully by Vigotsky, that language and learning are inextricably intertwined. This point was clearly emphasized in Elaine Gurain's reference to the need to honor native language in developing North American exhibits. The desire to have material and programs in their own language was an important request by many members of various Native American communities.Learning is a social activity: our learning is intimately associated with our connection with other human beings, our teachers, our peers, our family as well as casual acquaintances, including the people before us or next to us at the exhibit. We are more likely to be successful in our efforts to educate if we recognize this principle rather than try to avoid it. Much of traditional education, as Dewey pointed out, is directed towards isolating the learner from all social interaction, and towards seeing education as a one-on-one relationship between the learner and the objective material to be learned. In contrast, progressive education (to continue to use Dewey's formulation) recognizes the social aspect of learning and uses conversation, interaction with others, and the application of knowledge as an integral aspect of learning.Learning is contextual: we do not learn isolated facts and theories in some abstract ethereal land of the mind separate from the rest of our lives: we learn in relationship to what else we know, what we believe, our prejudices and our fears. On reflection, it becomes clear that this point is actually a corollary of the idea that learning is active and social. We cannot divorce our learning from our lives.One needs knowledge to learn: it is not possible to assimilate new knowledge without having some structure developed from previous knowledge to build on. The more we know, the more we can learn. Therefore any effort to teach must be connected to the state of the learner must provide a path into the subject for the learner based on that learner's previous knowledge.
It takes time to learn: learning is not instantaneous. For significant learning we need to revisit ideas, ponder them try them out, play with them and use them. If you reflect on anything you have learned, you soon realize that it is the product of repeated exposure and thought. Even, or especially, moments of profound insight, can be traced back to longer periods of preparation. Motivation is a key component in learning. Not only is it the case that motivation helps learning, it is essential for learning. This idea of motivation as described here is broadly conceived to include an understanding of ways in which the knowledge can be used. Unless we know "the reasons why", we may not be very involved in using the knowledge that may be instilled in us. Even by the most severe and direct teaching.

Friday, June 15, 2012

What is Constructivism?

The latest most fashionable word in education is "constructivism," applied both to learning theory and to epistemology---both to how people learn, and to the nature of knowledge. We need to think about our work in relation to theories of learning and knowledge. So, what is constructivism, what does it have to tell us that is new and relevant, and how do we apply it to our work?
As a philosophy of learning, constructivism can be traced at least to the eighteenth century and the work of the Neapolitan philosopher Giambattista Vico, who held that humans can only clearly understand what they have themselves constructed. Many others worked with these ideas, but the first major contemporaries to develop a clear idea of constructivism as applied to classrooms and childhood development were Jean Piaget and John Dewey.
For Dewey education depended on action. Knowledge and ideas emerged only from a situation in which learners had to draw them out of experiences that had meaning and importance to them (see Democracy and Education, 1916). These situations had to occur in a social context, such as a classroom, where students joined in manipulating materials and, thus, created a community of learners who built their knowledge together.
Piaget's constructivism is based on his view of the psychological development of children. In a short summation of his educational thoughts (To Understand is to Invent, 1973), Piaget called for teaches to understand the steps in the development of the child's mind. The fundamental basis of learning, he believed, was discovery: "To understand is to discover, or reconstruct by rediscovery, and such conditions must be complied with if in the future individuals are to be formed who are capable of production and creativity and not simply repetition." To reach an understanding of basic phenomena, according to Piaget, children have to go through stages in which they accept ideas they may later see as not truthful. In autonomous activity, children must discover relationships and ideas in classroom situations that involve activities of interest to them. Understanding is built up step by step through active involvement.
The Russian Lev. S Vygotsky is also important to constructivism, although his ideas have not always been clear to the English-reading public both because of political constraints and because of mistranslations. Some commentators believe that Vygotsky is not a constructivist because of his emphasis on the social context in learning, but others see his stress on children creating their own concepts as constructivist to the core. Mind in the Society (English translation, 1978) is a popularization of some of his ideas for an American audience; also available is a collection of shorter works, The Vygotsky Reader (ed. Rene van der Veer and Jaan Valsiner, 1994). Vygotsky believed that children learn scientific concepts out of a "tension" between their everyday notions and adult concepts. Presented with a preformed concept from the adult world, the child will only memorize what the adult says about the idea. To make it her property the child must use the concept and link that use to the idea as a first presented to her. But the relation between everyday notions and scientific concepts was not a straight development to Vygotsky. Instead the prior conceptions and the introduced scientific concepts are interwoven and influence each other as the child works out her own ideas from the generalizations that she had already and that have been introduced to her.
Constructivism is a theory of knowledge with roots in philosophy, psychology and cybernetics. Such is the definition provided by constructivist's leading theorist, E. von Glasersfeld (1989). As von Glasersfeld (1995) comments:
“Constructivism does not claim to have made earth-shaking inventions in the area of education; it merely claims to provide a solid conceptual basis for some of the things that, until now, inspired teachers had to do without theoretical foundation.”
Von Glasersfeld's musings remind us that theory and practice exhibit a curious interplay which is sometimes unpredictable and, sometimes, unexplainable. His comments remind us as well that constructivism is more than a theory of learning. It is a way of looking at the world that is broad enough to allow for multiple interpretations and yet, defined sufficiently to allow for a perspective that can explain complex and abstract phenomenon and which can guide our actions. We tend to take for granted and accept unquestioningly the use of terms such as 'true', 'real', 'worlds'. Consideration of the complexities behind these everyday words seems far removed from the daily practice of the classroom and more like the fodder of philosophers such as Socrates.
Constructivism reminds us that these are not only important philosophical notions. On the contrary, they can significantly affect how we see the world and, more importantly, how we behave in it. Perhaps an important challenge for educational reform is to begin to question and come to a greater understanding of the philosophy, theory and epistemology that presently informs educational practice. Understanding what our behaviors and practices mean can of times be both revealing, and, hopefully, useful.
Von Glasersfeld (1995) indicates in relation to the concept of reality: "It is made up of the network of things and relationships that we rely on in our living, and on which, we believe, others rely on, too" (p.7). The knower interprets and constructs a reality based on his experiences and interactions with his environment. Rather than thinking of truth in terms of a match to reality, von Glasersfeld focuses instead on the notion of viability: "To the constructivist, concepts, models, theories, and so on are viable if they prove adequate in the contexts in which they were created" (p.7).
If we accept constructivist theory (which means we are willing to follow in the path of Dewey, Piaget and Vigotsky among others), then we have to give up Platonic and all subsequent realistic views of epistemology. We have to recognize that there is no such thing as knowledge "out there" independent of the knower, but only knowledge we construct for ourselves as we learn. Learning is not understanding the "true" nature of things, nor is it (as Plato suggested) remembering dimly perceived perfect ideas, but rather a personal and social construction of meaning out of the bewildering array of sensations which have no order or structure besides the explanations which we fabricate for them.
In general, constructivism tends to be more holistic and less mechanistic than traditional information-processing theories (Cunningham, 1991). People make sense out of their world by taking in information from the environment and assimilating it into their pre-existing schemas and understandings (Bransford & Vye, 1989). Learners undergo conceptual change by directly confronting misconceptions (Wilson & Cole, 1991a). Some constructivists have aligned themselves with the situated cognition movement (Brown, Collins, & Duguid, 1989), asserting that because cognition depends on our experience base, cognitive apprenticeships and other authentic teaching methods are preferable (Clancey, 1992). The roots of many constructivist beliefs are traceable to postmodern philosophies which depart from the rationalist, objectivist, and technocratic tendencies of modern society.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Prissification of Law Profs: Leiter, the Scam-man, and Commentators

I am feeling ashamed of being a law professor right now. First you have the author of the law scam blog who was too prissy to identify himself. Go figure, you're a fucking law professor. What is another law professor going to do to you? Snub you at one of those meetings at which everyone one is looking over everyone elses' shoulders in case there is someone else in the room whose ass it would be better to kiss.

And there was the prissiness of the discussion about what should be made of his effort to be anonymous and other matters already discussed a zillion times. Just replay tape 54. Really is this high school? And then it is followed by even more.

But Brian Leiter takes the cake in this prissing contest. Evidently he is deeply offended and, thus, has launched an extended ad hominen attack on poor timid Mr. Scam-man. Oh, my goodness! For example, according to Mr. Leiter, Mr Scam-man is "notorious in the legal academy." Ouch, now that is big. It's about as important in the scheme of things as being notorious in a Denny's kitchen. And he notes of Mr. Scam-man's accusations, which admittedly are exaggerated, " "None of this warrants the absurdly offensive description of American legal education as a "'scam.'" When was Mr. Leiter appointed the protector of the virtue of American Legal Education. Where was he when Hester needed him? And then, we find that Mr. Scam-man is a "failed academic." I have never actually followed the logic that a "failed academic," even if that is true, cannot observe and report on what he sees. But, if Mr. Scam-man is a failed academic and his record is the standard, he joins 95% of the other law professors who few people know and even fewer people give a rat's ass about what they write or say.

And now a personal note. I really want a comment on this post. And this comment must say this: "Jeff, you've been duped. This was all Performance Art." I really want to believe this because if it is not true, Mr. Scam-man has only scratched the surface and everyone in on this kerfuffle, including me, needs to be spanked just enough to get the priss out.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Law School Scam and Prissiness

I am sure most readers have seen the law school scam blog or read references to it. I agree with much of Mr. Mystery's observations (yes this is way too hush-hush not to be anonymous) except I don't believe law profs are as work averse as he or she suggests. Don't get me wrong; it is a world of little accountability but some do have a conscience.

One of my friends predicts this will become the new bandwagon for law professors resulting in much hand wringing about "what we have done to the students." Maybe my friend is right but, if so, it goes down as just another well ....bandwagon. By that I mean no one was on board on the basis of principle but only became interested when they were sure the wind was blowing the right way. What can I say? Just another example of individual gutlessness.
There are lots of others. I could count on one hand the number of law professors who have raised the issue of exploitation and its racial bias when it comes to college athletes. I guess that bandwagon is stalled.
Another one is the deep concern about diversity. Yes, faculty will argue and spends gallons of stomach acid on how much diversity counts and who to hire for a full time tenure track position. On the other hand, literally thousands of adjuncts, lecturers, and other teachers are hired without even a nod to publicizing the position in order to attract diverse candidates. That bandwagon is also stuck in a rut. The same goes for the salaries of staff people.
As I have written many times before, the best argument against tenure for law professors is that they waste it. Of all the groups I have observed, law profs, men and women, must have the highest level of average prissiness per person.(APPP).

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Economics negative 101

Over on facebook, I ran across this comment on a post about the economics of legal education:

"Legal education in the U.S. could be tweaked, sure. But the biggest problems I see are the absurd increases in number of law schools, class size, and tuition."
The writer is not a "friend" and I do not otherwise know him. I am not picking on him but I think his thoughts may be similar to that of others. That worries me because it seems so off course.
As I understand it the current pressing issue is that law school grads cannot find jobs. So, they invest thousands and end up with a great deal of debt and little or no return on that investment.
The question is whether the problem is more law schools, larger classes, and higher tuition. Unless the law schools are actively misleading investors, what is the connection between any of these and really bad decision making? In my town, there must be 50 people who have invested in selling pizza. If one of them folds, will the reason be that pizza making equipment was too expensive, or readily available? Makes no sense.
I cannot help but wonder if the recent "blaming" trend is the result of finally graduating an age group composed in large part of people who were always over affirmed, could never make mistakes and, thus, cannot handle the criticism the market is offering about their decision making.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Who Pays for Nancy Grace

Went to my gym last night and got on the boring stair machine. It has a TV so I turned it on hoping for a distraction. The person before me was evidently watching Nancy Grace. I did not stay long on that channel but noticed that there is a clock on the screen counting down until the so-called Tot Mom is released. (It seems like that is supposed to be pegorative but I do not get it.)

I had a number of thoughts. Nancy Grace continues to wave a red flag in front of people already upset about the Casey Anthony verdict and she is making a bundle for herself and the network doing it. She may just push it hard enough that she gets someone killed. I am certain that she has already pushed it enough that there will be funds spent to keeping Casey safe. In short, Nancy is exploiting listeners for her own gain and you and I will pay the bill for the consequences. If you think about it, Nancy is asking me and you to subsidize her money-making efforts.

Why isn't Nancy like a polluting factory that is required to clean up or pay for the area it has polluted. I am all for Nancy speaking her mind and as long as she makes money doing it I am sure her shameless sponsors will be for it too. I'd just like Nancy to be around to clean up the mess when the dust settles.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Public Documents: What Does it Mean

Some of the characteristics I have identified of elites is a desire to maintain denyability, the tell half truths, and to volunteer but not ask. This is all below in one of my posts. Clearly though, the desire not create a written record is hardly a characteristics of elitists. It is actually a characteristic of most administrators whose positions are political -- whether an actual politician or just someone trying to please as many people as possible.

This article about a Florida official raises an issue. I understand that documents, other than some exceptions, must be public. On the other hand, is it also required that a document be made in the first place. To me purposely not making a document for fear it will become public defeats the purpose of the law. On the other hand, lawyers and administrators seem not really to worry much about the spirit of the law as long as they can find a way around it.
In one recent experience, I was asked to make an evaluation. So I did and submitted a very long written report. The person to whom is was sent apologized for not letting me know that the written document could be a public record. My response, "I hope so, that is why I wrote it." Several others were asked to make a similar evaluation. This was, by the way, an evaluation including several variables. To my knowledge none of them wrote anything down.
I assume they acted within the law as a technical matter but perhaps not in spirit. But, I do not know.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Impact of the Early College High School Model

Early college high schools are a new and rapidly spreading model that merges the high school and college experiences and that is designed to increase the number of students who graduate from high school and enroll and succeed in postsecondary education.

This article presents results from a federally funded experimental study of the impact of the early college model on Grade 9 outcomes. Results show that, as compared to control group students, a statistically significant and substantively higher proportion of treatment group students are taking core college preparatory courses and succeeding in them. Students in the treatment group also have statistically significantly higher attendance and lower suspension rates than students in the control group.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Effects of the Elements of Reading® Vocabulary Program on Word Knowledge and Passage Comprehension

A cluster randomized trial estimated the effects of a supplemental vocabulary program, Elements of Reading®: vocabulary on student vocabulary and passage comprehension in moderate- to high-poverty elementary schools. Forty-four schools participated over a period spanning 2 consecutive school years. At baseline, 1,057 teachers and 16,471 students from kindergarten, first, third, and fourth grade participated. The schools were randomly assigned to either the primary or intermediate grade treatment group.

In each group, the nontreatment classrooms provided the control condition. Treatment classrooms used the intervention to supplement their core reading program, whereas control classrooms taught vocabulary business-as-usual. The intervention includes structured, weekly lesson plans for 6 to 8 literary words and aural/oral and written language activities providing multiple exposures and opportunity for use.

Hierarchical linear modeling was used to estimate both proximal (Year 1) and distal (Year 2) effects on vocabulary and passage comprehension. The intervention had positive and statistically significant proximal effects but no statistically significant distal effects. The results indicate that the intervention can improve targeted vocabulary and local passage comprehension, but expecting global effects may be overly optimistic.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Is Administration Leaner in Charter Schools?

There is widespread concern that administration consumes too much of the educational dollar in traditional public schools, diverting needed resources from classroom instruction and hampering efforts to improve student outcomes. By contrast, charter schools are predicted to have leaner administration and allocate resources more intensively to instruction.

This study analyzes resource allocation in charter and district schools in Michigan, where charter and tradition public schools receive approximately the same operational funding.

Holding constant other determinants of school resource allocation, the authors find that compared to traditional public schools, charter schools on average spend nearly $800 more per pupil per year on administration and $1100 less on instruction.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Vouchers, Responses and the Test Taking Population: Evidence from Florida

This study analyzes the Florida voucher program that embedded vouchers in an accountability regime. Specifically, it investigates whether threat of vouchers and stigma associated with the Florida voucher program induced schools to strategically manipulate their test-taking population. Under Florida rules, scores of students in several special education and limited English proficient categories were not included in the computation of school grades. Did this induce the threatened schools to reclassify some of their weaker students into these “excluded” categories so as to remove them from the effective test taking pool?

The author finds evidence in favor of strategic reclassification into the excluded LEP category in high stakes grade 4 and entry grade 3; but no evidence that the program led to such reclassification into excluded ESE categories. This is consistent with substantial costs associated with classification into ESE categories during this period.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Homework Distractions

A new regional study by a senior learning researcher and Mississippi State faculty member is the first to link homework distraction to a wide range of variables.
The multi-level analysis by Jianzhong Xu, a professor in the university’s College of Education, examined a range of variables affecting homework distraction, at both the student level and the class level. He hypothesized that homework distraction is affected by such variables as gender, academic achievement and student attitudes toward the work.

A member of the college’s leadership and foundations department, Xu also included numerous types of distractions in his analysis.

“The distractions I considered ranged from the conventional, such as watching television or daydreaming, to the high-tech, such as text messaging and playing video games,” he said.

Xu surveyed 1,800 eighth- and 11th-grade students from nearly 100 classes across the Southeastern United States. Students were asked about the frequency of family help with homework, extracurricular activities and parents’ education levels, among other variables.

Xu, a Columbia University doctoral graduate, said the study found those less likely to be distracted while doing homework scored higher in affective attitude, academic achievement, learning-oriented reasons, homework interest, and adult-oriented reasons.

Most of the variance in homework distraction occurred at the student level, not at the class level, he added.

While it may be a common assumption that many students tend to think of homework as boring, Xu’s investigation indicated affective attitude toward homework, like the favorability of homework as compared with other after-school activities, affect homework distraction the most.

The study also yielded two surprising results:
—Girls were more likely to be distracted than boys; and
—11th graders were more likely to be distracted than younger students while doing homework.

Xu said the study’s results have both research and practical implications.

“This line of research needs to be continued,” Xu said. “Other school levels, how different genders handle distractions and how certain attitudes toward homework play a role in coping with distraction need to be examined.”

Even though the findings show family homework help is not directly related to homework distraction, parents may still play an important role in helping children cope with distraction through influencing their attitudes toward homework. And students can take responsibility toward decreasing distraction while doing their homework by arranging a conducive homework environment and prioritizing and structuring other activities.Justify Full

Monday, June 4, 2012

CDC estimates 1 in 88 children (11.3 per 1,000) has been identified with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD)

This marks a 23% increase since the last report in 2009 and a 78% increase since CDC's first report in 2007. Some of the increase is due to the way children are identified, diagnosed and served in their local communities, although exactly how much is due to these factors in unknown.

The number of children identified with ASDs varied widely across the 14 Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network sites, from 1 in 47 (21.2 per 1,000) to 1 in 210 (4.8 per 1,000).

ASDs are almost 5 times more common among boys (1 in 54) than among girls (1 in 252).

The largest increases over time were among Hispanic children (110%) and black children (91%). Some of this increase is probably due to greater awareness and better identification among these groups. However, this finding explains only part of the increase over time, as more children are being identified in all groups.

There were increases over time among children without intellectual disability (those having IQ scores above 70), although there were also increases in the estimated prevalence of ASDs at all levels of intellectual ability.

More children are being diagnosed at earlier ages—a growing number of them by age 3. Still, most children are not diagnosed until after they reach age 4, even though early identification and intervention can help a child access services and learn new skills.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Postsecondary Enrollment, Graduation Rates, and Student Financial Aid

For those attending public 4-year institutions, average price before aid was approximately $16,900 and net price was about $10,200; for those attending nonprofit 4-year institutions, average price before aid was roughly $32,700 and net price was about $16,700; and for those attending for-profit 4-year institutions, average price before aid was approximately $27,900 and net price was about $23,800, according to new data released by the National Center for Education Statistics.

Enrollment in Postsecondary Institutions, Fall 2010; Financial Statistics, Fiscal Year 2010; and Graduation Rates, Selected Cohorts, 2002-2007 presents findings from the spring 2011 data collection of the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) from the National Center for Education Statistics within the Institute of Education Sciences.

Other findings include:

• In fall 2010, Title IV institutions enrolled 19 million undergraduate and 3 million graduate students. Of the 19 million undergraduates, 56 percent were enrolled in 4-year institutions, 42 percent in 2-year institutions, and 2 percent in less-than-2-year institutions.

• Approximately 58 percent of full-time, first-time students attending 4-year institutions in 2004 who were seeking a bachelor’s or equivalent degree completed a bachelor’s or equivalent degree within 6 years at the institution where they began their studies.

• Overall, first-time undergraduate student 1-year retention rates were higher for full-time students (72 percent) than for part-time students (44 percent).

Saturday, June 2, 2012

5 Years and 900+ Posts on International Higher Education Consulting Blog

Just over five years ago, on February 4, 2007, I decided to start International Higher Education Consulting Blog (aka IHEC Blog) and put up my first post "Initiatives in 2006 to Increase Diversity in Education Abroad". I didn't know what I was doing (a quick look at the URL <> I came up with demonstrates that!) but I knew I wanted to create my own international education space on the internet where I could inform, provoke, engage and archive. I hope I have done that...

IHEC Blog pushed me to create related internet properties and I have enjoyed playing in these spaces as well. I've met many great people along the way. Some I have met in person and for some our paths have yet to cross!

IHEC Blog has gone farther than I ever imagined. Today, IHEC Blog is one of five blogs worldwide selected by the New York Times editors to feed into the 'Headlines Around the Web' area of the International Education section of the New York Times online.

I've been doing much thinking about IHEC Blog the last several months and where to take it next. Any significant changes will come after I complete my dissertation which takes a long time to complete when you have a full-time job and three young children so later in 2012 oR early 2013 is now the target. I do hope to have more guest bloggers and perhaps a regular contributor join the fun [more on this development once finally confirmed] and I'm very excited for this to happen!

Thanks to everyone who has come along for the ride and I look forward to more years to come!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Fidel Castro, Greece, Spain; how education can fix an economy

A friend of mine went to visit Fidel Castro a few years back. (He is not your typical guy and I have no idea how this was arranged.) They got into a conversation about education. My friend mentioned me and Castro asked whether I might want to be the Minister of Education of Cuba. When my friend told me about this, he asked what I would do if I had that job. I replied that I would ask Castro what Cuba wanted to be.My friend found that an odd response. Some days later, Castro shot some people and the U.S. prevented my friend from visiting Castro again so that was the end of that.I was reminded of this incident because, as I write this, I am on a Greek island and, not surprisingly, talk centers on what to do about the economy. Having recently been in Italy and Spain as well, it is obvious to me that the problems these countries are having stem from issues in education.When I say that, the response is usually less than enthusiastic, because it seems an odd idea, so let me explain.When I mentioned what I would want to ask Castro, this is what I had in mind. Education is meant to achieve something, although this is usually forgotten in education reform conversations. The people who designed the U.S. education system around 1900 knew this well. The country needed factory workers, so keeping students “in dark, airless places” doing mindless repetitive work, seemed like a good strategy.Today we have the factory worker strategy still in place, reinforced by a push for standards and multiple choice tests everywhere. The fact that there are no more factories seems to have skipped people’s attention. Also we have a big push for making sure everyone goes to college, despite the fact that college produces students who study what the professors happen to teach which means English, History, Mathematics, Philosophy, Sociology, and any number of subjects that will not make students in any way employable.In the U.S. we have gotten away with this attitude for many years because we simultaneously had a big push by the Defense Department for new technology and thus were able to create Silicon Valley and enable an atmosphere of technological innovation. So while we have no factories, we do lead the world in software. It is almost as if someone in the Defense Department in the 60s and 70s were planning this. (I was there. They were.)Now think about Spain. Its number one industry is tourism. You would think therefore, that in Spain the schools would be pushing hospitality or cooking or hotel design. But they are not. They have their enormous share of useless language and history majors as well and the University establishment works hard to keep things as they have always been.Or think about Greece. Their number one industries are tourism and shipping. I have been an advisor to a Greek shipowner for over a decade now, and I can tell you it isn’t all that easy to learn about shipping in a Greek university. Nor is it easy to learn about tourism, because Greek universities, like those everywhere, are run by people who are worried about insisting that things stay the same so that their professorships are still relevant.What Greece and Spain need to do, what Cuba needed to do, what any country that is not big enough to do everything needs to do, is pick its spots.Universities offering a classical education are fine when only the wealthy elite are being educated. But mass education requires that schools be run people who are trying to educate for the future. This does not mean educating for “21st century skills” whatever that might mean. What is does mean is that schools need to do two things.First, they need to teach general thinking skills, not math, but planning, not literature but judgement, not science but diagnosis.Second, countries need to decide what they want to be when they grow up. Cuba, had I been running the educational show there, would have had to decide what the wanted to be the best at. Biotech or Agriculture or the Technology of cigar making. And they would have had to offer something less than everything under the sun to their students.To fix an economy in the long run requires planning. The planning has to start at the beginning by creating citizens who can both think and find useful employment in the sectors of the economy that the country already has or wants to have. Education is where everything starts. Countries can simply decide to be good at something and make themselves good at it. The U.S. decided exactly that about computer science 40 years ago. But it doesn't require the wealth of the U.S. to do that. Modern educational techniques, especially high quality experiential on line education, can make any country a specialist in any industry that it can realistically dream about.