Monday, January 27, 2014

50 myths of popular psychology

This book 2010 by Lilienfeld, S.O., Lynn, S. J. Ruscio, J. and Beyerstein, B.L. came up several times in the reference notes section of the Hattie and Yate’s book ‘visible learning and the science of learning summarised in last week's blog.
The book is in the CPIT library, so dipping in and out of the book over several days provided for some interesting updates of some of my pre/mis-conceptions and food for thought on how to progress with work completed last year on the ‘learning a trade’ project.

In the introduction, the 10 sources of how myths occur are discussed. These sources are efficiency of ‘word of mouth’ information sources; human desire for easy answers and quick fixes; our selective perception and memory; inference of causation from correlation; ‘after this, therefore because of this’ approach to reasoning; exposure to biased samples; reasoning by representativeness; misleading film and media portrayals; exaggeration of kernels of truth; and terminological confusion.

The myths are collated into 11 sections. The following sections are of most interest to educators:
Section 1 on brain power has 5 myths. 2 myths – most people only use 10% of their brain power and some people are left brained, others right brained – would be most relevant. We use large %age of our brains at all times and both brain hemispheres work in synchrony.

Section 2 ‘from womb to tomb’ covers myths on human development and aging. The myth of relevance is the one about playing Mozart to infants to boost intelligence – alas this does not work.

Section 3 covers myths about memory. Here the myth about the brain being like a video recorder is important. Our memories of things pass ARE selective and cannot be relied on.

Section 4 discusses myths on intelligence and learning. In this section, we find out IQ tests actually have some credence; if you are not sure of the answer it might not be the best option to stick to a hunch; dyslexia is not just envisioning words with reversed letters; and the most important, learning styles are critiqued and debunked.

Consciousness, emotions and motivations, interpersonal behaviour and personality and covered in the next 4 sections. Myths of interest are: we are not actually able to learn languages if we listen to the new language while we sleep; men and women communicate in subtly similar and dissimilar ways which are not generalizable to either sex; and inkblots and handwriting do not reveal personality traits.

The postscript is also worth some study. Myth busting pointers are suggested. These are: not to trust ‘gut instinct’, ‘word of mouth’, media coverage, biased samples and in-built human biases. Instead, do ‘due diligence’, check sources and keep an open mind.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Visible learning and the science of how we learn - summary of relevant chapters

Book summary of ‘visible learning and the science of how welearn’ by Professors John Hattie and Gregory Yates (2014) published by Routledge.

This book came up via Google Scholar, just before the Christmas break. I ordered via book depository and it arrived just in time for me to bring along with me on a walking holiday to Golden Bay. NZ summer weather brings the usual mix of rain or showery episodes interspersed with fine, warm days. I dipped into the book whenever we were house-bound by rain.

Back at work, I have worked through the chapters I bookmarked as ones of relevance to vocational education. The topics discussed in the book are related to factors assisting student learning. These factors were identified through a meta-analysis of over 800 quantitative meta-studies. The factors are reported in Hattie’s original book ‘Visible learning’ and extended on for application by teachers in a second book ‘Visible learning forteachers’, summarised in my blog last year.

The factors that assist student learning are derived from studies undertaken in the formalised school education sector from mainly English speaking countries Therefore, the factors are assumed to carry over to adult and vocational education.

Visible learning and the science of how we learn, consists of 31 short chapters organised into three parts: Learning within classrooms, learning foundations and ‘know thyself’. Each chapter is written to be ‘stand alone’ and consists of summaries of relevant theories, study guide questions and reference notes. This structure makes the chapters accessible to students of teaching and laypersons interested in learning more about how people learn. Each reader will find topics of interest amongst the 31 chapters. 

From the perspective of vocational education,  the first section ‘learning within classrooms’ could be useful as ‘conversation starters’ or ‘pre-reading’ for use by teacher educators. The chapters of most interest are:
Chapter 1, ‘why don’t students like learning at school’ – learners’ interests may not always be synchronised with formalised school systems’ outcomes.
Chapter 2 ‘is knowledge an obstacle to teaching? – yes. Experts find it difficult to unravel their tacit knowledge.
Chapter 7 ‘teaching for automaticity in basic academic skill’ – undertaking sufficient practice to move new, ‘foundational’ skills to becoming ‘automatic’ opens up room for progressive learning of complex skills and more difficult conceptualisations.
Chapter 8 ‘role of feedback’ – always important in all aspects of learning. This chapter provides good overview.
Chapters 9 – 11 – ‘acquiring complex skills through social modelling and explicit teaching’ and 3 chapters on expertise are ALL relevant. These four chapters provide good summaries and examples plus up to date reference notes for follow up. As will all the reference notes suggested through the book, most of the references are very pertinent, although some are also academic journal articles and will require some working on.

Part 2 covers a range of ‘learning foundations’. Of most use are the chapters on knowledge learning (chapters 13 – 18).  Common myths of teaching and learning are also addressed, critiqued and debunked as appropriate. These include:
Chapter 19 ‘analysing students’ style of learning’ now found to have very little empirical evidence  and so NOT advocated. Similar finding also for ‘music and its impact on learning’ in chapter 23.
Chapters 20 – 22 also critique recent studies related to young peoples’ exposure and use of technology. All of the following are found to be myths ‘ multitasking’, digital natives and the internet turning us into shallow thinkers. With the last fallacy, it is how use of internet is approaches which is important.
The last section ‘ know thyself’ are useful for teachers to better understand themselves and their learners. Reading these chapters with either the self (teacher) or learner perspective ‘hat’ on yields some insights. There are chapters on confidence (24), self-enhancement (25), achieving self control (26), neuroscience of the smile (27)and being a social chameleon (28).

The last three chapters are of more relevance to vocational educators.
Inattentional blindness and paying attention (chapter 29), thinking fast and slow (chapter 30) and ‘the IKEA effect’ (chapter 31).  Chapters 29 and 31 provide good overviews of neuroscience work on our conscious and unconscious brain. The advantages and disadvantages of having much of our decision making being automated are discussed with relevance to learning. The last chapter discusses why we put more value on learning when we put in effort, i.e. actually build or construct a physical artefact as an outcome of our learning.

All in, the book is a good resource for teacher educators and educators with some background on the learning sciences. Some chapters will be daunting and require some scaffolding for people who come into teaching with limited understanding of how learning works. The language used in the book is generally conversational but the contents are still sufficiently academic. 

Monday, January 13, 2014

Video from UCTV - Jean Lave on situated learning

Last week was a quiet re-start to work for 2014. I fitted in catch up reading and video watching between tidying up a rejected journal article and starting 3 other articles. One video on my list was of Professor Jean Lave providing background on 'everyday life and learning. The video is one of a series from University of California TV and archived on youtube. There are several videos from UCTV to catch up on and I will summarise the relevant ones to vocational education as I work through them. 

First up, social anthropologist Jean Lave argues that all theoretical problematics across the social sciences include assumptions about learning, whether explicitly or not. She says that learning is integral to conceptions of knowledge, inquiry, revolution, and changing practice, to name a few. Accordingly, social scientists have substantive stakes in the issue -- historical, cultural, spatial, political, and social.
Began with saying each book she has written, seems to explain things in previous books. Connects this to her study of Via and Goa tailors where apprentices work with the whole garment before eventually learning how to draft and cut cloth to make the clothing.

We are always learning as we go through life. Learning is complex and multi-dimensional. We are apprentices to our own changing practice.

Apprenticeship still associated with low tech, developmental world practice, operating in informal economies. Apprenticeship contributes to craft work learning mainly associated with manual skills and labour.
However, ethnographic studies of craft practice has provided many conceptions on how we learn.  Providing rich resources for understanding the processes (developmental, social) provides for learning.
Instead of studying technology, development and cognitive, but study the relationships between craftsmanship, song and imagination. Making is thinking. What is the process of making concrete things reveal about how we understand ourselves.

Knowledge cannot be separated from how knowledge is used and produced. Kavale 1997 categorises bureaucratic or pragmatic relations of theory and practice in research training, research activity, theory of knowledge. Bureaucratic involves schools, methodology, facts and rules and technical rational. The pragmatic is about apprenticeship, craft and art, situated knowing and social practice.
Provides explanation of how her research approaches started to lean towards understanding everyday knowing in context as opposed to decontextualized general knowledge. Uses the learning summarised in the book ‘apprenticeship in critical ethnographic practice’ to explain of how she shifted to studying learning where it was situated.

She tells the story of how two sessions of field work was required for her to change her preconception of learning as having to be formal. Eventually, she started to realise how apprenticeship’s embodied curriculum revolved around learning by doing. Not through formal show and tell but apprentices observing and participating in authentic work tasks. Apprentices were not just learning how to sew buttons or cut cloth, but turning themselves into master tailors.

A similar thing happened when she tried to test tailor shop maths with formalised math based methods. She realised she had never observed tailors actually using maths in a school based algorithmic approach.
Learning is therefore changing relationships between people in an ever changing world. The task is not to investigate individuals, but the context and participatory practices as they are enacted. Our artisan selves, are involved in continued search for ways to solve everyday practices and beyond.

At the end, she made a pitch for ‘slow science’, to adopt the dispositions of artisan, apprenticeship and craftsmanship to do research, to resist the commodisation / commercialisation and politicising of research. 

In all, a good overview and revision for the principles presented and discussed in her book ' critical ethnographical practice''

Monday, January 06, 2014

Looking forward to 2014

I am looking forward to another busy and productive year.

With so many things on the go last year, I have only submitted one article late last year for publication. Over the next month or so, while it is still relatively quiet on the staff development front, I will work on submitting another two articles. Also try to draft up the outlines for another couple that can be worked on through the year for submission later this year or early next year. Otherwise, the momentum for publishing will definitely slow down.

As the term begins, I am looking forward to working with our project surface tablet teams. Last semester was concentrated on building staff capability and this year, we will pilot the initiatives with students. I have worked at ensuring the tablets are not used in an ad hoc way but to build technology enhanced learning (TEL) into courses or programmes. The approach is to nudge out of project teams, some of their ideas and objectives. I then help the teams connect their initiatives with sound pedagogical approaches to help students meet learning outcomes. So far, we have several projects working on eportfolios based on discipline or industry requirements (as per original STEL projects); a collaborative project between outdoor education and our Maori studies departments to extend ‘place-based’ education; several problem and inquiry-based approaches including a ‘one-day one problem’ or a ‘one week one work-based application’ focus; several projects for flip classroom type implementation; review and revision approaches; improving the learning of skills and dispositions using videos (as per hospitality projects) and collation of support resources for clinical / work placements.

A couple of programmes I support will be ready to work on programme re-development as an outcome of the TRoQ review process. Again, there is need to review programmes so that they meet current and future industry training needs. Where appropriate, we also need to investigate TEL through blended and distance delivery models to assist maintenance and growth of student numbers. As always, a balance needs to be sought between offering alternative delivery methods and student learning.

No externally funded projects to work on this year (as yet) but I am scoping possibilities for a collaborative project to continue the work begun with the 'learning a trade' project completed last year. It will take some work to coordinate possible partners and work out how to go about getting the project approval process going. Ako Aotearoa professional workshops 'enhancing learning in vocational education' continues this year as well. So, all in, looking forward to 2014.