Tag Archives: Education

Just how big is that effect size?

24 Jan

On Monday The Washington Post ran a story with this headline: “Teens who spend less time in front of screens are happier — up to a point, new research shows.”

What the article does not tell us (but the abstract does) is the that the study had 1.1 million participants. Well that seems like a good thing, doesn’t it?

The problem is that with a sample that large almost any correlation will be statistically significant. For example, according the Post account, the correlation between texting and happiness was r = -.05. Typically a correlation of the this magnitude would be described as “none or very weak.” 


Against laptops in the classroom

29 Nov

I agree with this piece in The New York Times:

a growing body of evidence shows that over all, college students learn less when they use computers or tablets during lectures. They also tend to earn worse grades. The research is unequivocal: Laptops distract from learning, both for users and for those around them. It’s not much of a leap to expect that electronics also undermine learning in high school classrooms or that they hurt productivity in meetings in all kinds of workplaces.


Program for International Student Assessment ranks U.S. students 24th in Science Achievement

2 Oct

(Hat tip to BoingBoing)

Does praising children for being smart promotes cheating?

22 Sep

So says this paper just published in Psychological Science:

Praise is one of the most commonly used forms of reward. It is convenient, is nearly effortless, and makes the recipient feel good. However, praising children for being smart carries unintended consequences: It can undermine their achievement motivation in a way that praising their effort or performance does not (Cimpian, Arce, Markman, & Dweck, 2007; Kamins & Dweck, 1999; Mueller & Dweck, 1998; see Dweck, 2007). In this study, we investigated whether the negative consequences of praising children for being smart extend to the moral domain, by encouraging cheating.

There is some prior work suggesting that evaluative feedback can influence children’s moral behaviors (Fu, Heyman, Qian, Guo, & Lee, 2016; Mueller & Dweck, 1998; Zhao, Heyman, Chen, & Lee, 2017). Telling 5-year-olds (but not younger children) that they have a reputation for being good leads to a reduction in their cheating, presumably because they are interested in maintaining this reputation (Fu et al., 2016). We propose that telling children that they are smart, a form of ability praise, may have the opposite effect by motivating them to cheat to appear smarter. In a study consistent with this possibility, Mueller and Dweck (1998) found that 10-year-olds exaggerated how well they had performed after receiving ability praise. However, little is known about whether ability praise can influence young children’s moral behavior. The present research addressed this question by comparing the effects of ability and performance praise on preschool children’s cheating.

More on the flipped classroom

18 Aug

Recently, I blogged about a medical school that has adopted the flipped classroom model of instruction. In the flipped classroom, instruction is delivered in video presentations that the students watch on their own time and classroom time is used for practice and review.

As I indicated, I am open to the possibility of that the flipped classroom might offer advantages over traditional instruction. It seems plausible that students might benefit from high quality video presentations that they can watch over again and pace their progress through material.

Subsequent to my post, I have talked to a couple of students who have taken flipped classes, and their reviews were negative. They did not like having to wait to engage with the teacher over the ideas raised in the material. Of course, this is anecdotal and it could be that many students do benefit from this instructional technique.

However, I was just reading through the most recent issue of Teaching of Psychology and came across this article: “The Benefits, Drawbacks, and Challenges of Using the Flipped Classroom in an Introduction to Psychology Course.”

Here is the abstract:

Flipped pedagogy has become a popular approach in education. While preliminary research suggests that the flipped classroom has a positive effect on learning in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics and quantitative courses, the research on the flipped classroom in a content heavy social science course is minimal and contradictory. We flipped four class topics in an introduction to psychology course, evaluated resulting student attitudes, and compared students’ performance on the flipped units to their performance on traditionally delivered content. We found mixed results for the effectiveness of the flipped classroom that were moderated by student characteristics and experiences with previous online or flipped courses. Students reported an overall preference for traditional classroom delivery but suggested retaining the flipped approach for some class periods.

By the way, I highly recommend Teaching of Psychology to instructors of other subjects. It is true that it focuses on teaching psychology content, but since many of the authors have backgrounds in learning theory, I think the research they publish would be of interest outside of the psychology.

Education Secretary increases investment in questionable neurofeedback company

31 Jul

According to Politico:

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has increased her financial stake in a “neurofeedback” company that says its technology treats attention deficit disorder and the symptoms of autism. DeVos reported a new investment of between $250,001 and $500,000 in the Michigan-based Neurocore, according to a financial disclosure form that was certified by government ethics officials on Wednesday.

The whole story is here (scroll down to find the story). For background on Neurcore read this.

Growth mindset: A failure to replicate

10 Jul

Carole Dweck’s work has received a great deal of attention. Essentially she argues that an individual’s beliefs about intelligence is a powerful predictor of scholastic attainment. In a Scientific American article she wrote:

 Many people assume that superior intelligence or ability is a key to success. But more than three decades of research shows that an overemphasis on intellect or talent—and the implication that such traits are innate and fixed—leaves people vulnerable to failure, fearful of challenges and unmotivated to learn.
Teaching people to have a “growth mind-set,” which encourages a focus on “process” rather than on intelligence or talent, produces high achievers in school and in life.

Now a study, published in Personality and Individual Differences, fails to replicate these findings. Here is the abstract:

Implicit theories of intelligence have been proposed to predict a large number of different outcomes in education. The belief that intelligence is malleable (growth mindset) is supposed to lead to better academic achievement and students’ mindset is therefore a potential target for interventions. The present study used a large sample of university applicants (N = 5653) taking a scholastic aptitude test to further examine the relationship between mindset and achievement in the academic domain. We found that results in the test were slightly negatively associated with growth mindset (r = − 0.03). Mindset showed no relationship with the number of test administrations participants signed up for and it did not predict change in the test results. The results show that the strength of the association between academic achievement and mindset might be weaker than previously thought.

Note, however, the limitations reported by the authors:

In sum, we found that mindset had virtually no association with results in a scholastic aptitude test used for university admissions. While the association between mindset and goal achievement was previously shown to be weak (Burnette et al., 2013), our study presents a large amount of new data suggesting that the association may be even weaker than previously thought. Given that recent large scale experiments suggest that learning growth mindset improves academic achievement (Paunesku et al., 2015; Yeager et al., 2016a, b), our study does not invalidate the notion that implicit theories of intelligence might be a promising target for educational interventions. However, it suggests that mindset might not be as useful for predicting future success or that its predictive abilities are at least limited to specific circumstances. Yet, we note that our study has several limitations including possible self selection and range-restriction effects, a short measure of mindset, and a short duration between subsequent administrations of the test. We also did not include measures of hypothesized mediating variables, such as the amount of practice, and the mindset measure was not directly tailored to assess beliefs about the possibility of improvement in the GAP test. Future studies may overcome these limitations and thus better explain differences between results of the present and past studies.


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