Tag Archives: Educators

Does music or chess enhance cognitive skills?

27 Dec

The idea that playing chess and studying music improves cognition in other domains, such as math, is called far transfer. It is a very seductive idea with a strong intuitive appeal. “Teach the kids chess and it will improve their academic performance.”

A recent meta-analysis published in Current Directions of Psychological Science, casts doubt on this popular belief. The paper is both persuasive and well written and I encourage educators to read it. Here is the abstract:

Chess masters and expert musicians appear to be, on average, more intelligent than the general population. Some researchers have thus claimed that playing chess or learning music enhances children’s cognitive abilities and academic attainment. We here present two meta-analyses assessing the effect of chess and music instruction on children’s cognitive and academic skills. A third meta-analysis evaluated the effects of working memory training—a cognitive skill correlated with music and chess expertise—on the same variables. The results show small to moderate effects. However, the effect sizes are inversely related to the quality of the experimental design (e.g., presence of active control groups). This pattern of results casts serious doubts on the effectiveness of chess, music, and working memory training. We discuss the theoretical and practical implications of these findings; extend the debate to other types of training such as spatial training, brain training, and video games; and conclude that far transfer of learning rarely occurs.

In an era of scarce educational resources, teachers in fields like art and music often defend their place in the curriculum by using far transfer arguments. Music we are told will improve math scores. This research calls into question these kinds of claims.

Art and music belong in the curriculum because they are valuable in their own right. Not everything needs to justified by how it affects math scores.

How to remember students’ names

28 Apr

My wife’s twin sister, Kathy, is a teacher and she sent me the following email:

“In your blog did you mention Ronnie White’s technique to remember names? or did I just stumble upon it when I was looking at the post about Dominic O’Brien. I can’t seem to find his name when I search your blog.

I wanted to make a comment on your blog at how effective this is for classroom management for a substitute. I try to use his technique when I sub in the classroom. I am not quite perfect at it but it helps so much for a substitute to know the students’ names. I usually only have a very short time to do this but it is worth the 5 minutes at the beginning of the day. First graders LOVES it! If I can go around and call them by name they just think that is great. I reinforce their name in my memory by calling them by name everytime I hand something to a student or ask a student to do something. Before this I was just stumbling around with hey you.

I don’t have this luxury with highschool or junior high because those students won’t give me the 5 minutes I need and the classes are constantly changing, but if I am going to be with a class an entire day it really makes a difference.”


I would also reccomend Harry Lorayne’s Remembering people: The key to success available on Amazon for only one cent!

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David Berliner: The fatal flaw of value added assessment

12 Jan

Educational psychologist David Berliner has published a paper on value added assessment of teachers. His conclusion:


 “I conclude that because of the effects of countless exogenous variables on student classroom achievement, value-added assessments do not now and may never be stable enough from class to class or year to year to be used in evaluating teachers. The hope is that with three or more years of value-added data, the identification of extremely good and bad teachers might be possible; but, that goal is not assured, and empirical results suggest that it really is quite hard to reliably identify extremely good and extremely bad groups of teachers. In fact, when picking extremes among teachers, both luck and regression to the mean will combine with the interactions of many variables to produce instability in the value-added scores that are obtained. Examination of the apparently simple policy goal of identifying the best and worst teachers in a school system reveals a morally problematic and psychometrically inadequate base for those policies. In fact, the belief that there are thousands of consistently inadequate teachers may be like the search for welfare queens and disability scam artists—more sensationalism than it is reality.”


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