Student-Centered Learning

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There are many efforts underway in the United States to emphasize a type of teaching and learning method that is called “Student-Centered.” From Students at The Center, Jobs for the Future, and Nellie Mae Education Foundation., this focus tries to manage research findings into accessible ideas for practice.

The Students at the Center Hub supports student-centered approaches to learning, drawn from the mind/brain sciences, learning theory, and research on youth development. The Students at the Center Hub is managed by Jobs for the Future and generously funded by theNellie Mae Education Foundation. The Hub is in beta, and we are working hard to polish everything – the content, the navigation, the layout, and more. Please contact us with feedback and suggestions.

One of the movements in education today is the blending of different resources into central focus ideas so that the field of teachers can grab these ideas and make them happen in real classrooms, right away. “Student-centered learning does not represent a single curriculum, model, or practice. Rather, it draws on a variety of concepts in education, the brain sciences, and the child and youth development fields, comprising those instructional practices that engage individuals in learning deeply and reaching their highest potential” (Nellie Mae Foundation). Nellie Mae has identified four tenets of student-centered learning:

The Honesty Gap; The Illusion of Measuring Proficiency

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One of the great gifts of standardized testing was the premise of giving the same questions to many students would allow for a more reliable measure of student achievement. This reliability is gained through standardization of the test, while validity is gained by the relevance of the questions to the stated purpose of the test. In the 1920s, college admission officers leaped on this bandwagon in order to compare students from New Hampshire and Ohio, and thus was born our accountability system tied to test scores.

However, there are some problems with this logic. What if the students had not been prepared in the same way? What if there were cultural reasons why answers might differ across state lines? What if smart teachers or test-coaching companies could study the test and provide useful insight? And what if test companies manipulated the pass/fail line, commonly called the cut score, for political reasons? In a recent article in Education Next, Michael J. Petrilli discusses the illusion of proficiency and the resulting gap in honesty:

The Lilac Planting Party

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On this memorial day, I wanted to write about remembering those who have gone before us. In particular, the people we admired and who helped to make us and our families better. Many of us in America spend some part of this weekend remembering. In my case my two parents were instrumental in helping me become better. Mom is luckily still alive and when I see her this weekend, I will remember to ask her questions that would benefit from her wisdom. I will also talk about the Celtics and the golf with her. Pops has been gone a few years and I miss him dearly. His wisdom always came wrapped in wonderfully phrased New England humor. They were pillars in my eyes and as I have heard from others, pillars in our community. I learned justice and humor, honor, duty and fun, love and death and taxes from both of them. I try to pass on to my three kids the central themes of my upbringing and every now and again, you can see that carried down three or four generations.

I also like to remember the fallen in war. So much of our history turns on strategic plans executed in this country or in far away places that no one has ever visited. And if those tactics had not turned in our favor we might be burying more dead. It is the bittersweet tradition that the living honors the dead with flowers, something living, and yet, something just cut from its roots and so soon dying.

I am told that the first lilacs came to America and were planted in Little Harbor, near Portsmouth, NH at the site of Governor Benning Wentworth’s mansion. He was the British Governor of the territory then and he had many of them planted around his house as early as 1750. Every other cutting in the US comes from these first purple lilacs. My two grandmothers, one from each side of the family and also very wise, started the Little Boar’s Head and Rye garden club many years ago and they embraced the lilac. This is probably why there are very old lilacs planted around my family house in Little Boar’s Head, NH. On this memorial day I remember their gift of planting something that flowers so beautifully each spring.

My family has a hundred-year old memorial day tradition to go out to our lilacs, cut a basket of flowering smells, go down to the graves, and place one lilac in front of one relative. The senior member of the Lilac Planting Party usually holds the basket, while the youngest ones deliver the purple flower brown stems to the graves. As this is going on the senior member is also telling the stories of each grave in response to the young’s questions. Why is this one buried next to that one? Who was this one again? Why does one of our plots have a carved limestone dog and the other does not? Some were in the wars, some were not. But as I remember the stories in order to tell them, so too the kids learn the stories because the solemn truth is that one day they will be telling the stories and I will not.

Federal Funding Priorities: What is the Effect of the Arts on Academic Achievement in Disadvantaged Populations

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I am now working on the four-year compendium report: “Measuring the Effect of the Arts on Academic Achievement in Disadvantaged Populations.” Through a rigorous, randomized, experimental design including two trials, one three-year trial and one four-year trial, we have measured the effects of arts integration on student achievement in Rochester, NY’s disadvantaged population. We measured student achievement on New York State ELA and MATH tests and we also measured the rigor of arts integration implementation, professional development for teachers, skill acquisition for students, and the exact skills that the arts helped contribute to increased student achievement. I will post the executive summary from this work in about a month.

In the third year of the second trial, the latest for which we have numbers, we found the average effect size was 0.40 in ELA and 0.39 in Math which exactly replicates meta-analyses of the effect of integrating curricula (Hattie, 2009, p. 298; integrated curricula effect size = 0.39). This research found that it is possible to develop significant arts integration with disadvantaged urban populations. We could not have done this without the support of federal funding through the US Department of Education’s AEMDD grant.

A New Paradigm for Improving Teaching and Learning? (Hattie, Visible Learning, 2009)

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I am still trying to get a grip on John Hattie’s two books, Visible Learning (2009) and Visible Learning for Teachers (2012). The sheer volume of studies reviewed, students involved and the meta-effect methodology are just three reasons this is so hard to digest. To say I am late to this work is a given but it also allows me to see what others have said about the work. And it does take time for the research community to evaluate claims from studies large and small. Three years ago, Peter DeWitt writing in EdWeek said this:

Educational publisher Corwin Press announced that they are bringing the work of New Zealand born educational researcher John Hattie to North America. Hattie is the Director of the Melbourne (University of Melbourne, Australia) Education Research Institute and is best known for his Visible Learning approach to student achievement (Corwin & Visible Learning).

In their press release, Corwin Press said,

“Hattie’s work is based on his meta-analysis of more than 1,000 research reviews comprising more than 50,000 individual studies–the largest meta-analysis ever conducted in the field of education. Hattie identified the major factors and practices that influenced student achievement, from family background to teacher training to specific instructional practices. He then went a step further and calculated how much of an effect each factor had on students.”

AERA, Equity, Testing Laws, John Hattie

posted in: Children's Services | 0

What an incredible week! Last week, 14,000 researchers from around the globe gathered in Chicago at the annual conference of the American Educational Research Association (AERA). The major theme was education equity and excellence of which there were many thoughtful examples on display. One example, anchored by Jon Snyder of Stanford, was a presentation on research in pre-service education in other countries…Alberta, CA, Finland, Singapore…where teachers are respected, admission is competitive to learn how to teach, and support from government and country are high. Another example was Linda Darling-Hammond’s work on changes to the No Child Left Behind federal law. Her work was recently highlighted in a Huffington Post article: