Tag Archives: Educational psychology

For instance

12 Feb

One of the educational psychology classes I teach is designated as a writing across the curriculum course. This means that students are required to do a certain amount of writing and I must grade them on their writing, including usage and clarity.

Occasionally, I come across some error that I have never seen before. This time a student wrote “for instants,” instead of “for instance.” Not to be out done, another student, on the same assignment, wrote “for existence.” After some internet searching I found a report of an opposite error:

‘I heard a new grammar error this week: A mother telling her son to “stop this instance.”’

 

“Teaching generic skills does not work”

18 May

A paper to be published in Educational Psychology Review looks at the relationship between domain general and domain specific skills. Here is the abstract:

“Domain-general cognitive knowledge has frequently been used to explain skill when domain-specific knowledge held in long-term memory may provide a better explanation. An emphasis on domain-general knowledge may be misplaced if domain-specific knowledge is the primary factor driving acquired intellectual skills. We trace the long history of attempts to explain human cognition by placing a primary emphasis on domain-general skills with a reduced emphasis on domain-specific knowledge and indicate how otherwise unintelligible data can be easily explained by assumptions concerning the primacy of domain-specific knowledge. That primacy can be explained by aspects of evolutionary educational psychology. Once the importance of domain-specific knowledge is accepted, instructional design theories and processes are transformed.”

 

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Should an exam be scheduled before or after Spring break?

15 Jan

Some years ago I let my membership in the American Educational Research Association lapse. This is because,  increasingly, I found its journals to be unreadable and irrelevant.

One the other hand, I have found the material published by the Society for Teaching Psychology in its journal the Teaching of Psychology to be both interesting and useful. I recommend it to anyone who teaches, even if you do not teach psychology. The journal often publishes research that speaks directly to the kind of issues that teachers are concerned about.

For example, in the most recent issue, Kevin J. O’Connor, published a paper that asks if a midterm exam should be scheduled before or after the Spring semester break. His conducted research and concluded:

“in-semester breaks do not impact exam performance and that faculty may choose to hold exams either before or after such breaks without concern for affecting student grades.”

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Study: No cognitive benefits from music training.

8 Jan

In a recent post, Deric Bownds reviewed a study of the cognitive effects of early music education. The study found:

“overall, children provided with music classes performed no better than those with visual arts or no classes on any assessment.”

It is rare that a single study settles an issue in psychology. This was, however, a rigorous randomized experiment and, according to the principles of Bayesian reasoning, I have adjusted my belief in the cognitive benefits of musical training downwards.

In the language of educational psychology, the effect that one type of training has on other cognitive skills is called “transfer.” For example, the claim that learning Latin will help your math skills, would be a claim for strong positive transfer.

The existence of transfer effects is still controversial in psychology. I believe that there is some evidence for transfer, but I also think that some claims go beyond the evidence.

In addition, I am saddened when we feel that subjects, such as art, literature, and music, must be justified by their effects on math scores. These subjects are valuable, in and of themselves, and have a justified place in the school curriculum even if they do not affect test performance.

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