December 18, 2006

The Song Remains the Same

While reading Feuerstein's Dynamic Assessment Approach: A Semantic, Logical, and Empirical Critique, Journal of Special Education, vol. 26, no.3, 1992, pp. 281-301, I came across this blurb on pp. 298-299:

Consider, for example, the meta-analysis of 2,575 studies of learning outcomes conducted by Fraser et al. (1987). These researchers studied the effect sizes assocaited with 27 instructional variables on learning outcomes. The four variables that yielded the largest effect sizes were reinforcement (Skinnerian rewards), acceleration (advanced activities for students with outstanding test scores on college-level selection tests) reading training (coaching programs in reading techniques), and cues/feedback (mastery learning principles). These variables yielded effect sizes of 1.17, 1.00, .97, and .97 standard deviations, respectively (Fraser et al., 1987). These instructional variables are far removed from the direct teaching of higher order thinking skills or cognitive functions ... In fact, the variables in Fraser et al.'s study that most approximated thinking skills training--higher order questions and advanced organizers--yielded effect sizes of .34 and .23 respectively (Fraser et al., 1987).


The Fraser et al. study is Synthesis of Educational ProductivityResearch, International Journal of Education Research, 11, pp. 145-252.

How is it that a profession finds itself in a position of being diametrically opposed to its own research?

7 comments:

allen said...

How is it that a profession finds itself in a position of being diametrically opposed to its own research?

Simple. It's not an education system despite the name. It's a tax, the single, ostensible purpose of which is to fund education.

If anyone's unclear on which activity holds primacy, education or tax-gathering, contrast the response to incompetence in the tax-gathering function versus incompetence in the educational function.

And just to be precise, the public education system isn't diametrically opposed to its own research, it's just indifferent to its research.

Instructivist said...

"And just to be precise, the public education system isn't diametrically opposed to its own research, it's just indifferent to its research."

To be even more precise, the ed establishment favors research that conforms to its cherished notions and ignores or rejects research that challenges these notions. The massive Project Follow-Through is a case in point. Many other instances could be cited, but I won't cite them because it is too taxing.

The obverse it also true. Cherished notions dictate the outcome of research. It's the habit of ideologues: reality doesn't inform ideology, ideology manufactures and contrives reality. It's putting the cart before the horse -- preposterous.

allen said...

OK, and to be even more precise...

I'm not trying to be pedantic or a smart-ass but what I'm referring too is institutional indifference and your example is of individual interest.

It's a theme I've been pounding on for a little while but there's nothing about the public education system that impels or compels toward greater quality, or even efficiency but that's a story for another day.

The perceived quality of a school district has an effect on real estate value but that premium is usually mixed in with other attractive qualities. Other then that rather rubbery relationship between educational excellence and some reward, what other area of public education rewards, directly or at least unequivocally, excellence? There is none as far as I can see although I invite observations to the contrary.

There's no Heismann trophy for education, no Presidential medal of merit in teaching and certainly no salary bumps or bonuses. Other then feeling good about yourself, I can't see any other reason to exert more effort then necessary as a teacher.

It seems an odd way to structure an organization if education is the goal. That's why I've concluded that education is only one, and not necessarily the most important, goal of the public education system.

Institutional indifference allows personal interest free rein. Since there's no reason to cut some half-baked scheme off at the ankles but there are certainly reasons to support it, i.e. personnal interest, half-baked schemes are funded, invoked, mandated, etc. Since it doesn't matter if the scheme works, in any educational sense, the glory that it brings to the originator becomes the driving force and any tactics used to advance the half-baked scheme aren't opposed except by people whose pride prevents them from admiring the emperor's new cloths. As can be seen by the sorry state of public education, that's not enough.

SteveH said...

Research is not used to inform; it's used to justify. Then again, proper research can be used to find the best methods to teach in a constructivist manner, but the grade-level expectations could still be very low.


"I can't see any other reason to exert more effort then necessary as a teacher."

In our affluent town, the forces are money (budget), state standards, and teacher contracts.

Some people in town care only about cutting the school budget. Many parents see that as the battleground. Cutting money implies a worse education for their kids. How the money is spent is an issue, but more money is better than less money. Unfortunately, it diverts attention away from more important issues. Teachers and schools love the focus on budgets because it reduces everything down to a very simplistic equation - you're either for or against the school (and the kids).


NCLB and standards are a driving force, but as Allen says, there is no guarantee that they will do more than the minimum required, and that requirement is minimal. Our schools are "High Performing and Improving", but parents put about 25 percent of our kids into other schools because of low expectations. The schools and teachers know this, but they cannot or will not deal with it. They don't have to.


Our state is pushing a "hands-on" science curriculum because that gives kids real life experience and shows them how real scientists do their jobs. Forget the fact that real scientists have a huge store of content knowledge and skills and that most of what the kids will be doing is play learning.

The problem is that many adults have very different ideas of education. This is not really about research. It's about opinion, but schools see no problem with forcing their opinions on everyone else.

I think this is what bothers me the most. They know their education is based on opinion and they know that many parents have strong opposing opinions, but they will not advocate school choice.

They see parents take their kids out of public schools and put them into private schools. Some even admit that this is best for the child. They know that there are some kids who would be better off at another school, but they can't afford it. When it comes to a choice between what is best for the teachers versus what is best for the students, we know who the winner will be.

Anonymous said...

I've heard of some public school systems experimenting with various types of merit pay and bonuses for excellence. Does anyone know of a good link(s) for delving into this subject?

allen said...

Did a search over at Joanne Jacobs blog using the search terms "merit pay" and got, among others, these hits:

Money for merit
No to merit pay
Merit pay
Merit pay is coming

There's more but merit pay is still a highly contentious issue, union supporters being cognizant of the dangers inherent in merit pay to the unions, so they resist merit pay.

Brett said...

David Ogilvy said it best:

"Most people use research the way a drunkard uses a lamppost - for support rather than illumination."