Five Educational Myths

i should be in bed, but this post will make any teacher sigh “Duh” and grit their teeth in absolute frustration over the impossible assertions here at the same time… but it makes you think.. which i hope is still a good thing?

Five Educational Myths: “

Boosting self-esteem improves academic performance and diminishes troublesome behavior

Awesome Takes Practice

Credit: Lorraine Peterson (Okay, the picture doesn’t fit the post 100%, but it’s awesome.)

‘Logic suggests that having a good dollop of self-esteem would enhance striving and persistence in school, while making a student less likely to succumb to paralyzing feelings of incompetence or self-doubt. Modern studies have, however, cast doubt on the idea that higher self-esteem actually induces students to do better.’  (Source:  Scientific American Mind, Volume 16, Number 4, 2005; Baumeister, Campbell, Krueger and Vohs)

Damage Assessment: ‘Some findings even suggest that artificially boosting self-esteem may lower subsequent performance.’ (Source:  Scientific American Mind, Volume 16, Number 4, 2005; Baumeister, Campbell, Krueger and Vohs) The authors are referring to the kind of feel-good therapy found in too many schools where students (including college) are told, without meriting it, how wonderful they are. When students who are failing, are instead given messages designed to instill a sense of personal responsibility, their achievement improves.

Well then, maybe improving self-esteem will improve the way people treat each other. Bullies, for example, have low-self esteem.

Actually, not really: ‘The person with low-self esteem emerges from our investigation as someone who is not prone to aggressive responses. Instead one should be aware of people who regard themselves as superior to others, especially when those beliefs are inflated, weakly grounded in reality or heavily dependent on having others confirm them frequently. Conceited, self-important individuals turn nasty toward those who puncture their bubbles of self-love.’ (Source: Scientific American, April 2001; Baumeister)


Learning Styles Don’t Exist


Damage Assessment:  1) We waste valuable educational time trying to test students’ learning styles. 2) Students’ heads get filled with self-defeating ideas like, ‘Since the teacher is talking and I’m not an auditory learner, I’ll probably not understand this.’ 3) Time spent on creating and delivering multi-sensory lessons that do not add meaning, reduces the quality of instruction.


Students will not learn unless they are given grades

How then, did you learn to talk? Within a few months of birth (maybe less), you figured out that being able to communicate would come in handy. You became very functional with oral language in about two years without ever getting a single grade or for that matter, receiving a single formal evaluation.

Later in high school, after studying four years of Spanish and receiving passing grades, most can’t order a chimichanga while on vacation in Mexico.  Luckily, the waiter, who is quickly learning English, helps them out. (The waiter, by the way, has never received a grade in English. He is tested daily though by his clients.)

Research shows that when people are more preoccupied with how well they will do a task (grade) than on the task itself, they learn less.  Research and common sense also show that in a graded situation, when given a choice, students will choose learning activities that are less challenging. This makes perfect sense since the point is to, well, get points. Choosing challenging tasks is less likely to be easy, safe, and point-producing. If that wasn’t enough, schools that emphasize grades also have higher cheating rates than those that do not. Again, this makes perfect sense. When students are being rewarded for getting points and not for learning, they will act in ways that maximize point acquisition even if it means decreasing learning.

(Research references can be found here, at bottom of page)

Assessments need to be authentic. What is learned from assessments needs to be treated as information, not rewards and punishments.

Damage Assessment: Less learning; less deep learning; more stress for students, teachers and parents; diminished relationships between students, teachers and parents, students are less likely to support each others’ learning (They’re competing with each other for points, after all.) more cheating; more negative behavioral issues; loss of interest in material

Learn more:  http://www.alfiekohn.org/books/tsocd.htm


Homework promotes higher achievement and promotes responsibility

There is no research that supports the above statement. In the case of younger children, studies show absolutely no correlation between the amount of homework given and achievement levels. In high school students, depending on the statistical methods used, there is a slight positive correlation. However, we must remember that high school students who are considered high achieving, often enroll in classes where more homework is given. Correlation does not equal causation.

Researchers (Baker, Letendre) have actually found negative correlations between achievement and homework quantity when looking at mathematical and science test data from 50 countries. Rote practice and ‘find the right answer’ type of assignments—the kind given as homework—only end up reinforcing mechanistic thinking and do little to promote creativity and problem solving.

 ‘…there isn’t a shred of evidence to support the widely accepted assumption that homework yields nonacademic benefits for students of any age.  The idea that homework teaches good work habits or develops positive character traits (such as self-discipline and independence) could be described as an urban myth except for the fact that it’s taken seriously in suburban and rural areas, too.’ Alfie Kohn

Damage Assessment: Loss of time outside of school that could be spent doing something of value (kids riding their bikes or reading a good book, for example), loss of time at school assigning and correcting homework, homework related conflicts between students, parents and teachers, negative feelings toward school, mechanistic thinking, diminished learning


 Getting through the curriculum is what’s important. Slowing down and getting deep into a topic might have to wait. Higher order thinking skills have to come after low-level skills have been taught.

‘The ‘coverer’ acts under an illusion, we believe: Textbook and test-driven instruction operate under an untested assumption that coverage maximizes test scores. But there is little evidence to support that view.. In fact, the recent Third International Mathematical and Science Study (TIMSS) reveals that the opposite is true. So much is simply passed over without inquiry. Weaker students get confused and lost. Memory is overtaxed in the absence of central questions and ideas upon which organized inquiries and answers can be placed. Ultimately, coverage is based on an egocentric fallacy: If I talked about it and we read about it, they got it. (Or as a high school teacher we know once termed it, ‘teaching by mentioning it.’)’ (from: ‘Coverage vs. Authentic Learning‘ An excerpt from UNDERSTANDING BY DESIGN by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe (ASCD, 1998), PP. 131-133)

Damage Assessment: ‘… students given instruction aimed at conceptual understanding do better on skills tests than students drilled on the skills directly (Carpenter, Fennema, Peterson, Chiang, & Loef, 1988)’ (in Shepard, 1989, p. 6). Indeed, it can be harmful to postpone instruction in higher-order thinking skills (such as problem solving) until low-level skills (such as computation) have been mastered. Students learn by doing. (from: ‘Coverage vs. Authentic Learning‘ An excerpt from UNDERSTANDING BY DESIGN by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe (ASCD, 1998), PP. 131-133)

 

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Drive-Bys, Divorce, and Disneyland…

i teach in south central los angeles… where people who know live there, and people who think they know don’t… there is an image of “south central” that is not only portrayed in the mass media, but in the questions my friends and family ask me. (my personal favorite is when my dad makes an al too familiar joke about kevlar being part of my uniform… that one never gets old for him) it is also played out in my stories and thoughts at times… contrary to popular belief i am not above media corruption…

and although some of my students in the past have been shot, stabbed in the eye, dropped out to join gangs or have become pregnant… these are not the only things that afflict a teenager in south central. simple life, so real and unglamorous. today my colleague and beloved head coach walked a student (his former student) into my class tardy for the second straight week. personally offended as i still get about how someone could willingly ditch the best class in the entire school (sarcasm level increased minutely), i decided to find out what the hell was actually going on… after a thoughtful line of questioning i learned that fights at home between mom and dad were what was on the boys mind… causing him to make, in his own words, “poor decisions” knowing a little on the subject i was able to reach this student for the first time this year. solutions to problems still need to be worked thru, but he knows that i am on his team… and i know what is driving this student’s actions more…

as for the “happiest place on earth”… well, let’s just say that even though i enjoyed walking around the prefab imaginary lands, i do respect the 10 minute conversations of depth with my colleagues on the subjects of corporate sponsored infantile escapism, the true value of such things as over-sexualization, childhood imagination, and the capitalistic exploitation and possible suppression there of…
/

lunch time is never wasted amongst teachers…
here is a decent article about disney’s legacy (room for interpretation)