We all have to make choices. Difficult as they may seem we do manage more or less to cope with the implicated confusions that go along with getting what we want. Game theory puts forward we have great ability in dealing with tricky, intricate dilemmas and get out of them most of the time in a satisfying manner (not all the times though)(1) . How else could we enter a shopping mall willingly or leave a clothes store with the right kind of purchases. We learn to weigh our wishes and wants against the needs and necessities. Admitted, it may take a while before we get the hang of it, but actually it is amazing that in the end we are able (1) . And no, this is not the place to throw in all kinds of prejudices about gender or age related choice behaviors; for instance on shopping (2). Instead, yes, it would be important to raise the issue of making the right choices. Having myriad options how then can we make the right choice; and above all, can there be a right one? (3). In essence this question introduces a third party between you and the issue at hand. Then it becomes not shall I buy this sweater, instead it becomes should I buy it at all? Is it okay if I…. which makes things complicated – especially for the young and ignorant.
This is exactly what was studied in a piece of research on kindergarten children’s choice behavior when having them decide between learn or play. Kids in China and the USA were involved. Opinions were collected which showed that the importance of learning was acknowledged wholeheartedly. But although they were well aware of its importance when it came to choose in actual situations, the kids went for play. Yes, the Chinese kids were more reluctant to give in, but did eventually as well.
Did the kids make the right choice? When taking the third party, i.e., God’s eye, perspective of Right and Wrong, the decision that was made is, may be, hard to defend (however, should they have selected learning?) but the affordances of a direct encounter with an inviting situation demand a careful weighing of options (3) . It is never that we do make decisions in isolation. In this case and for that occasion personal values and autonomy prevailed. Who is to judge what is right or wrong then?
Play or learn: European-American and Chinese kindergartners’ perceptions about the conflict between learning and play. By Jin Li, in British Journal of Educational Psychology (2016), 86, 57–74 © 2015 The British Psychological Society
Wouldn’t it be wonderful when people would actually do what you tell them to do? Well, of course not. It may be a leadership sigh or wishful dream but ultimately it would turn against an effective change. Frankly, it’s impossible to yell your way to success. So, what would it take going together into a desired direction? Is it perhaps by the People’s Will, establishing a kind of populist social contract (what Rousseau -1- had in mind in his version of democracy)? That would essentially mean a ruling of the loudest voices. Or is it better to call in Leviathan in an effort to silence voices and follow the leader for the benefit and safeguard of all (2). The ancient citizens of Athens knew it could be beneficial to have a dictator from time to time to clear the skies. To run a country or a school for that matter requires a careful way of influencing people for the benefit of all – it is a leadership obligation and a responsibility to which they are accountable. Some leaders are good at influencing people and others are simply appalling. Now, book shelves cannot hold the weight of books on leadership and how to get things done, but still it is energizing to keep the key message flourishing: it is all about how to influence people.
A study on leadership styles in different school settings showed some nice examples of what can happen with certain ways of influencing on actual change in teachers. It turned out that informing the thinking and sharing the practice of others were essential. That is to say: through conversation among members explicate and discuss to convince the ‘other’ of the worth of a proposed change. This led the authors to make a distinction between ‘influencing’ and ‘change’ in which influencing is open and transcending, and precedes change of actions. A stress on change without influencing would be really counterproductive.
But often leaders forget this simple message in a hurry to ‘accomplish things’; alas, a ‘first things first’ mentality will get you nowhere (3). Reinterpreting the outcomes of the study one could point to the real meaning of ‘leading’ which is counter to a rushing towards some end but instead far more a ‘shepherding’ of participants to get somewhere together. Put differently, it not so much ‘messaging’ what makes a good leader but ‘assessing opportunities’ to make headway.
The teacher leadership process: Attempting change within embedded systems Kristy S. Cooper, Randi N. Stanulis, Susan K. Brondyk, Erica R. Hamilton, Michael Macaluso, Jessica A. Meier Journal of Educational Change (2016) 17:85–113
Sometimes slow is good. No, this is not about food or cool running, let alone about slow management. It is about learning and the benefits of taking time to come to understand and apprehend. Schools, programs, even expectations tend to rush to outcomes, pupils too. But learning is a verb, an activity to be sustained. Fast learning is an oxymoron. Time to learn is often hindered tough by a widely accepted belief that those who complete a track, or course fast are better, smarter, and successful at learning. Not so. The notion of deep learning (1) captures that nicely. Fast stays on the surface; in depth and inquiry oriented allows to go deep, but it takes also time, and therefore accused of being slow. But that should bother only those who consider the short run.
A study on science learning may have given some evidence on the apparent contraction that slow is better. Students ranging in reading ability and science orientation were given a text that varied in connectivity or coherence. This was arranged by using conjunctions like: because, and, or no connection. The overall finding was that reading ability was the best predictor of speed in test completion. However, the point to be made here is, that student high in science orientation were slower in text comprehension that used ‘because’ statements.
Be-cause? The key is: A causal relation ignites thinking; by probing: what caused what; is that so; how does that came about? “And” is just an enumerator. Some texts put you to think – and/because- only if you have oriented yourself to it. Allowing time for comprehension (2) may on the surface seems a bit slow but essentially it will bear success – you only may have to wait a while to see it happen.
Sophie Susannah Hall, John Malt, Ruth Filik & Kevin B. Paterson (2016). Key skills for science learning: the importance of text cohesion and reading ability, Educational Psychology, 36:2, 191-215,
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01443410.2014.926313
Some things happen above surface, others below, not only metaphorically speaking. This is true for classroom practices as well. There is an overt world of interaction and communication, and a silent, implicit, and covert interplay of carrying out tasks and talks. Practices are not straightforward and up-front but negotiated and constructed (1). All the time. A lot depends on the gatekeepers, the networked key persons in the classroom. The teacher is probably one of them (provided the authority of the classroom rests with hem or her) and furthermore a few ‘star’ pupils. Together they determine quite conspicuously the classroom ecosphere of rules and conventions. This silent social contract, however, has a major impact on effort given to tasks, motivation to participate, and intention to learn. Even up to a point that some pupils are denied full access to the ‘community’.
Of course it has been researched what makes classrooms a place of learning and participation, and what hinders it. A recent study on mathematics learning in Estonia comparing classroom practices with those customary in Russian related schools showed that teacher’s positive support together with a structured classroom atmosphere made the difference in learning outcomes between both groups.
There was, however, one significant finding, not so much highlighted in the article itself that attracts attention. It is the negative impact of indefinite, instable teacher behavior. As if when a teacher is self-doubting about where to go and what to do a classroom ecosphere is created that it ruled by dissimilar conventions and expectations (2). At the surface classroom practices would appear to be functional and targeted but under the surface (some, many, a lot of) pupils have lack of confidence and miss a clear task orientation. It is not always what it seems, certainly when diving a bit deeper into what rules classroom behaviors. It definitely will show when longer being immersed into a class.
Reelika Suviste, Noona Kiuru, Anu Palu & Eve Kikas (2016) Classroom management practices and their associations with children’s mathematics skills in two cultural groups, Educational Psychology, 36:2, 216-235, To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01443410.2014.993927
When you have no idea where to go, you end up places where you do not want to be. Any car driver knows that. It may result in an interesting drive but normally, not on vacation or anything, it would be a foolish thing to do. Ideas, visions, convictions help us to identify and label what we want; thus helping us to formulate and attain objectives to go for (1). So, having a vision makes a (wo)man and gets you where you want. This may be true from a life-orientation perspective but pragmatically it is not easy to forward a vision or idea you have, especially when you have to share them with, or convince other people. Imagine a meeting with colleagues or a get-together with friends, and try to sway them behind a position you take. Then you experience the poverty of sharing ideas in an interactive arena. The things you cherish can be altered by others, captured by another position, or refurbished completely without any reluctance. Ideas or visions beyond the personal realm are shaky elements. Nevertheless, we need them to set up a (shared) route or to point out a (common) direction. And it takes a (wo)man to hold and stick to a vision.
Will it work pragmatically? For instance, take a school principal with strong convictions and a clear vision on the direction and position of his/her school. A positive answer comes from an Israeli study. A small set of high achieving schools were monitored. Talks with school leaders on their orientation on managing the school and with teachers about their satisfaction to work at the school showed that a strong vision by principals was favored highly. Of course, there were other factors that came into play, like: enhancing students’ choice, developing a student-oriented class schedule, organizing an exam system, and mapping each student, but exertion of a strong vison by the principal was paramount.
This is not to question the frequently found conclusion from leadership studies that clarity of vision promotes activity, i.e., get things done (2). It is more about how we attribute having a vision, i.e., how the gap between dedication and decision is resolved. Is it by having a strong person in charge, The Man, or is it essentially The Process of establishing a common language? Any reform at the school is most likely to succeed when all involved adhere to a shared conceptual framework. Not ‘having’ a vision by someone may be the crux but far more mounting a vision that will be recognized. In that respect principals have a great invitational responsibility.
School Success as a Process of Structuration, by Dorit Tubin
Educational Administration Quarterly 2015, Vol. 51(4) 640–674, 2015
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‘Opposites attract’ may sound as a plausible advice used in dating site commercials but would be a questionable approach in education. As a deeply moral enterprise education values sensitivity in teaching and instruction to be adaptive to the learner. This must be since we proclaim that the learner is at the center of the whole enterprise. A crude “pass or fail’; “attained or not”; “true or false” is unlike and in contrast with (good) teaching and (deep) learning (1). “There will always be another approach to reach a good solution” might be the typical reaction by a teacher when a pupil gets stuck in a difficult assignment. Indeed, trying in (a) different way(s) may contribute to consolidation of a learning result. `That is at least what Herbart in his teaching pedagogy advocated (2). There is no good or bad in learning; only multiple ways in which a learning process unfolds to reach acceptable outcomes (3). If this is true than there is no case to be made for teaching aimed at avoiding mistakes. It may be even be a good strategy to create mishaps, perhaps.
So, what to think of a research study in case based learning that offered a course in writing in which both good and bad examples of texts were presented? The assumption was that by contrasting exemplars learners would focus on the essential elements of a good writing piece. It turned out that this contrasting approach was successful in creating good stories by the learners. Students were better able to identify the weak parts in their own writing.
It certainly could be the case that analyzing good and bad exemplars elicits an active comparison and processing. The idea is being advocated quite strongly currently (1). And it may be true that in this way students develop a concrete and fuller understanding of what key criteria are in the assessment of their work. But why then did students learn most about the weak parts of their writing? Is focusing on the “good and the bad” a good strategy? Or is it more that capturing similarities and differences, looking for generalizations, and synthesizing key elements describe the learning process more adequately? It may be not so much the meeting of good and bad but the get-together of multiple perspectives which laid open insights that prospered students.
Contrasting case instruction can improve self-assessment of writing, by Xiaodong Lin Siegler, David Shaenfield, & Anastasia D. Elder. In: Education Tech Research Dev (2015) 63:517–537.
Published online: 20 June 2015, Association for Educational Communications and Technology 2015
Link: DOI 10.1007/s11423-015-9390-9
It is a necessity of life – passing exams. Exams are gatekeepers of a future to be mastered, more often than they are gateways to potential directions in life. So better pass exams than getting blocked by them. Taking exams is a hurdle that needs to be overcome, often at high emotional costs. The idea is of course that previous activity in courses taken in programs offered by schools aids to the successful tackling of the barrier but students know very well that this preparation is certainly not a guarantee. Therefore, as a strategy, it would be better not to take high risks by trying to excel in mastery of knowledge and skills but stay on the safe side of your overall ability record when confronted by the probing eyes of examiners or the nasty queries by supervisors. There exists considerable student knowledge on how to do exams (1). Trusting exams to be a fair and considerate, representative and authentic instrument would help. After all, you would like to know whether it will give an honest and trustworthy exemplification of your current state of abilities. But when you have taken exams before you know better. They often give just an arbitrary, temporary, and partially snapshot of what you would be able to perform or understand normally. It all heavily depends on the selection exam assignments and the ones who are rating it .
A study on evaluating interns abilities after completing their intern program was done to look at different types of exam assignments issued by examiners (from the intern organization) and supervisors (from the teaching organization). It revealed a low correlation between exam methods and between overall ratings done by examiners and supervisors. Different evaluation methods yielded different results, and no significant relation was found between rating by examiners and supervisors.
Knowing this makes one cautious not to step into an exam too lightly by simply performing well or doing one’s utmost in completing assignments. Strategic deliberations take over control: aiming for a minimal overall pass level; concentrating on specific exam tasks while going to underperform on others; selecting a subset of assignments by skipping ambiguous ones. There are numerous exam training courses that will help you out here (2) . Of course at the expense of giving a true, overall and representative depiction of your ability; their ultimate and sole aim is passing, not failing. But is that not in fact stimulating misjudgment?
Exams are too important to fail. But also too important to let misjudgments take over. The study’s finding that different evaluation methods yield different results is not a bad sign in itself; they could be measuring different aspects of performance. Misjudgment of one-sided judgment occurs when only one type of raters uses one type of method, while others are assigned to another method. Better, more balanced measurement occurs when multiple raters are involved in a multiple measurement. The key to acceptance of exams as a dependable measurement approach is that the combined set of evaluation methods goes together with a trustworthy rating of competence. Its steadiness lies in the combination.
Oral Case Examinations for Assessing Intern Competence by Robert W. Goldberg and Kevin R. Young Training and Education in Professional Psychology 2015, Vol. 9, No. 3, 242–247
One of the most successful and effective teaching method goes by the name of “Direct Instruction” short DI. (1) . But it has a bad press. DI stands for introducing a clearly delineated instructional task that will be taught by a teacher, mostly to the whole class, offering plenty of exercises and practicing opportunities, followed by meticulous feedback on results. What is wrong with that? DI was introduced in the sixties of the last century and has since then a long standing history of versions and improvements. It has been implemented in all kinds of subject areas , for different age groups of students, cultural background, and countries all over the world. And it works (2). Several reasons are given as to why: time to learn, immediate feedback, teacher control, opportunity to practice, mastery goals, and also a caring teaching environment (warmth). In that respect DI includes many of the ingredients of a wealth of teaching effect studies.
So what is the complaint? This was carefully sorted out by an Australian study looking for the arguments against DI. Adversaries claim that DI is not suited for all children, it does not address creativity and critical thinking, students do not like it, there are other ways of teaching, and teachers are degraded as technicians.
Now this may all be true (or not, we simply lack the backing evidence of most critiques). Setting aside for a moment the nature and content of critiques and turning to who are issuing the critique would reveal that it comes mostly from educationalist (more specifically educational psychologist in motivation theory). DI is a trusted teaching method for many others: trainers in vocations and organizations, teachers in developing countries, therapists in health care, and coaches in sports. So, we have the strange situation of a teaching method developed by educationalists but then denounces by them, despite the success it has. All would agree on one thing though. DI typically maximizes instruction time – teachers and students are really on task. The core of DI is engagement with the task. When teacher and students do this in a deliberate way, what would be wrong with that?
Source of this article:
Fiona McMullen & Alison Madelaine (2014) Why is there so much resistance to Direct Instruction?, Australian Journal of Learning Difficulties, 19:2, 137-151, DOI:10.1080/19404158.2014.962065
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/19404158.2014.962065
Failure, you want to avoid that! How annoying and discomforting is it to experience that you flopped. A reassuring response would be to say to yourself: well, a lesson learned, or well, that was not the real me, next time better. Or blame it “on the boogie” (1). We all have our motivational and approach-avoiding strategies. The classroom is a place where you become aware how to deal with evaluations of your competence and performance. Mostly in reference to what your peers manage to accomplish (2) . You learn how tricky the balance is between effort and ability, and hot it depends on the (un)fairness of your teacher who does the assessing. On top of that exist parents as a complicating factor; they mostly seem interested in end-results, not the efforts made. It is a delicate thing: dealing with failure. Success breeds success but how do you cope when foreseeing bad results on tests or assignments to be made? Being high in avoidance of failure could mean you are setting your performance goals low and that would imply low attainments as well. Climbing the achievement ladder causes you to make tradeoffs. Now imagine you are not the only one involved in making these tradeoffs but that others, most notably parents, are looking over your shoulder. Suppose they set standards high, for many reasons. Then it becomes really delicate. 10 to 1 that you decide to try to avoid failure.
This is precisely the situation a French study looked into in more detail. The study particularly gauged ‘first generation” students from immigrant backgrounds. Often these students outperform regular students in their school achievement scores (3) and are highly motivated to excel. The study found these students were also high in trying to avoid failure and avoiding high performance goals (being afraid of performing poorly). The study’s contribution is to point out that it is not simply a matter of motivation but clearly one of social belonging and cultural environment of students. Pressure or expectations in your immediate life space are being internalized, as the study suggests, and affects study orientation and motivation.
Apart from the lesson learned that motivation is not merely internal but framed by others and circumstance, a warning is given by the study’s results in that teachers might misinterpret underperforming. Students potentially high in mastery may show a low motivation to perform but while low in setting their performance goals this may be caused by fear of failure. Complex.
When first-generation students succeed at university: On the link between social class, academic performance, and performance-avoidance goals by Mickael Jury,, Annique Smeding , Martine Court, Celine Darnon; Contemporary Educational Psychology 41 (2015) 25–36;
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cedpsych.2014.11.0010361-476X /c 2014 Elsevier Inc.
Teachers resemble performing artists. Teachers too have to get on stage and have to deliver an engaging ‘thing’ before a critical and sometimes distracted audience. Performing can be extremely exhausting. You have to empower yourself with enough energy to give performance a go. The moment before “getting on” can be very stressful. Even experienced performing artists, dancers, show masters, actors, musicians (1) admit they have (often strong) emotions of anxiety and fear before entry for an audience. The strange thing about it is that it does not lessen or disappear with practice or experience. It stays with you no matter how celebrate you are. So how is this with teachers, especially with beginning teachers when they have to prepare for class?
A thorough and enlightening study from Germany gives more background to this. The six authors looked at the interplay of emotional exhaustion, the feeling of self efficacy (“ I am doing fine”) and the professional knowledge of beginning teachers. It turned out that the feeling of being burned out was high among these teachers but it gradually decreased over time. Being exhausted affected their sense of self efficacy (negatively). And unfortunately, being a well-prepared and knowledgeable professional did not help to reduce the dominant feeling of exhaustion (although some signs in the study indicated that it may help a bit).
To deliver requires energy, a lot. Being good, experienced, or qualified does not add much weight to abandon or overcome the exhaustion that is part of being a professional. Knowing this and accepting it might relief a bit the feelings of anxiety that accompany the act of delivery (2) . Apparently performing under pressure is the natural and normal habitat for professionals. But it does not appear that it is being regarded that way that much, both among the professional and the audience. Giving full steam ahead, however, would also imply to accept the energy it consumes.
Beginning teachers’ efficacy and emotional exhaustion: Latent changes, reciprocity, and the influence of professional knowledge By Theresa Dicke, Philip D. Parker, Doris Holzberger, Olga Kunina-Habenicht,
Mareike Kunter, & Detlev Leutnera Contemporary Educational Psychology 41 (2015) 62–72
Link: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cedpsych.2014.11.003 0361-476X/© 2014 Published by Elsevier Inc.