Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Progress Principle

Of all the things that can boost emotions, motivation, and perceptions during a workday, the single most important is making progress in meaningful work. 

Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Learning What Works Through Failure

Misconceptions are a natural phase in the learning process.  Here's  a great quote from Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning about the benefits of failure and problem solving.

It's not the failure, that's desirable, it's the dauntless effort despite the risks, the discovery of what works and what doesn't that sometimes only failure can reveal.  It's trusting that trying to solve a puzzle serves us better than being spoon-fed the solution, even if we fall short in our first attempts at an answer.

Research shows that effort is required for learning to be lasting and durable.  Sweat equity must be paid and the task for teachers is to design learning experiences that allow for productive struggle and determination without leading to frustration and burnout.

Every Child

“I have never encountered any children in any group who are not geniuses. There is no mystery on how to teach them. The first thing you do is treat them like human beings and the second thing you do is love them.”

 Dr. Asa Hilliard

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

It's Always About the Learning

Camarena Elementary is considered a technology school.  Some days I feel like that is unfortunate, because I don't want the perception to be that our focus is primarly on technology.  As the two posts below show, the focus needs to be first, last, and always about  learning.

Words Matter: Let’s Talk About Learning, Not Technology

This summary of phrasing sums up this point of view well.

Technology is a Tool, Not a Learning Outcome

Bill Ferriter's summary helps put learning and technology in their proper place.

2 Class Dojo Points for Bill!!!

At the end of the day, my hope is that our work with students moves the needle forward on learning and we will use any and every technology tool that helps us accomplish that goal.  

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Everything Bad is Good For You

That's the title of an intriguing book by Steven Johnson and appears to be the theme of the science of learning form the authors of Make it Stick.  In my first summay, I described the testing effect and how it is superior to rereading.

The next section of their book describes the antitode to massed practice or blocked practice, the idea of practicing one skill until it is burned into memory - think math homework over the past 50 years.  It turns out that this type of focused and repetitive practice is not as beneficial as we would believe.

The antitode to massed practice  is spaced, interleaved, and varied practice.  It turns out that the goal is to make the practice a little harder to encourage retrieval in a manner that leads to improved descrimination skills.

Spaced Practice - Leaving a little time (at least a day) between practice sessions allows the learner to forget just enough so that it requires effort to retrieve the content.  It is this act of retrieval after a little forgetting that actually impedes the forgetting process.  Daniel Willingham summarizes the studies about massed practice and shares suggested implications here.

Interleaved Practice -  Learning several new and related concepts at the same time is actually slower and feels less productive. Intuitively we all want to practice one thing at a time until it is mastered.  It turns out that for long term benefit, even though we feels like we are not, we are actually benefitting from a less uniform approach to learning new concent.  Instead of learning the formula for area of one shape at a time, it will be better for long term memory to learn the area formula of several different shapes interleaving them together thus solidifying our ability to choose the  right formula when needed.

Varied Pracitce - The authors cited another study that showed two groups who were practicing tossing a beanbag.  One group practiced consistently at three feet. The other group practiced at two and four feet.  They were both tested on a three foot toss and the group that had NEVER practiced on three feet performed better than the group that ONLY practiced on three feet.

My biggest takeaway is that we need to develop practice routines that allow the learner to rehearse the decision making that they will face in an authentic setting.   In closing, the authors spoke about the need to add reflection to all learning expereinces. Asking questions such as What happened?, What did I do?, How did it work out? are invaluable tools to cement learning in every experience.  Finally, we should ask, What should I do next time?