10/04/2012

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Thank teachers for education research Researchers and educators hear a lot about the importance of experimental research, but experimental studies can seem like expensive efforts just to answer “Did it work?” especially if it the answer is “no.” Fortunately, because of the teachers who participated in one experimental study, we didn’t have to stop at no. We were able to go on and ask “why didn’t it work?” and “what can we study now?” In 2006–2011, we evaluated a textbook-based professional development program in classroom assessment. The study featured an instrument designed to measure teachers’ classroom assessment practices by systematically collecting and rating samples of student work. Teachers sent in four examples of anonymous, assessed student work that included their feedback and a cover sheet that asked them to describe the assignment and how it was assessed. While teachers in the treatment group increased their assessment knowledge and their use of student-involved assessment, student mathematics scores did not increase relative to the control group. Therefore, the answer to “Did it work?” was “mostly no.” However, during the study, we heard spontaneous feedback from participating teachers that they wanted to see others’ work samples. Some teachers mentioned that the assessment textbook presented few examples from mathematics, so although they felt they could apply the formative assessment techniques to language arts and social studies, it was more difficult with mathematics. They commented that peer review of mathematics assessments could be more effective and could sustain greater interest over time than studying a textbook. This feedback got us...
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Minding the executive: Executive functioning and self-directed learning Stop and think about the education you amassed to get to the point you are now—the late nights studying for finals; countless hours preparing for entrance exams; the papers written, edited, and revised to convey just the right message? If you’re a Talking Heads fan you probably hear David Burns asking, “How did I get here?” Our paths may be unique, but we all share an important ability that got us to this point, an ability perhaps more important to our academic success but equally challenging to teach than the knowledge we have gained along the way—a well-developed set of executive skills. In the 1960s, Russian neuropsychologist Alexander Luria began studying the behavior of individuals with frontal lobe injuries, who while functioning normally in many ways, also demonstrated profound social, emotional, or cognitive dysfunctions. For example, a patient asked to raise his arm off a table might be able to do so but become confused if his arm was covered with a sheet because he was not specifically told to remove the sheet before raising his arm. Similarly, a patient’s attention to a task might be easily interrupted by the sound of an object dropped on the floor. Through this work, Luria and his contemporaries uncovered a set of mental skills that serve as a chief executive for other cognitive processes. These meta-cognitive processes, which have come to be known as executive functions or skills, include affective skills, such as empathy, social understanding, and emotional self-regulation, and task-oriented skills, such...

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