- December 23, 2017 at 3:48 PM #42243
Comments from Make it Stick by Brown, Roediger & McDaniel, 2014
The authors share results culled from many studies of learning over recent decades. Some of their conclusions contradict a number of assumptions in vogue for the last decade or so…
a. “Effortful” learning is the most fruitful. Easier isn’t better. This exposes a paradox for teachers: while we wish to explain things with clarity, the learner who needn’t apply effort to understand and connect what he learns with previous knowledge or skills is less likely to retain the new. Desirable struggle is ideal for learning: difficulties that the learner can overcome with increased effort (as opposed to those he can’t overcome regardless of how he tries, such as if he can’t read the language of the lesson).
b. Retrieval (recalling from memory with cognitive effort) of what we have learned is more productive than re-reading, or “review” of notes. This may include writing what one remembers; then checking for accuracy. It may also include flashcard use that requires pull the answer from your memory.
c. Briefly delayed feedback is more valuable than immediate feedback, which can become a crutch that inhibits long-term learning.
d. That you learn best if instruction matches your learning style is not borne out by research. It is most important for the instructional style to match the nature of the content. For example, teaching geometry does not call for the same approach as teaching poetry appreciation.
e. “Interleaved” practice covering a number of topics, although harder and more time-consuming, provides improved long term learning over practice on a focused topic.
f. Children learn those things best that are valued, by themselves and their families or peers. On a study in rural Kenya, children tested well on their knowledge of the uses and appropriate doses of traditional herbal medicines. They learned all of this information informally; it is of great use in their environment. None of it was taught in schools or tested in schools (the test was only for this study). Those who did best on these tests did worst relative to their peers on tests of the formal academic subjects they were all taught in school. The takeaway: It is critical that students (and their families) value what we teach in the school curriculum.
g. Frequent quizzing that calls for learners to retrieve and apply what they’ve learned is much more conducive to long term learning than are several major exams. Their effect is increased further if quizzes are cumulative, reaching back to items learned earlier in the course.
I’m always intrigued by new “reads” such as these which confirm some current assumptions about learning while questioning others.
- December 23, 2017 at 8:43 PM #42245
Thank you for sharing this summary, Jonas. There are some very good ideas and insights here–it sounds like the book would be worth reading.
- December 23, 2017 at 9:43 PM #42247
Very interesting. Point F stands out; a big part of our job is helping to form our students’ values, for which our own values must be properly grounded.
- December 27, 2017 at 10:23 AM #42261
I love this post, Jonas.
I was recently stunned and relieved to hear also that the “Learning Styles” theory is basically bunk. At least some research is pointing that way…
- December 27, 2017 at 10:15 PM #42264
I too read this post with great interest. Now to make it even more helpful I would love to have some of you write up short examples of how you are or have been applying some of those points. Let me start with this:
When I read part of B and G that both speak of the value of retrieval I thought of something I began doing in connection with spelling several weeks ago. After the students had worked with their spelling words a couple days, I handed them a blank piece of paper (without any previous warning) and asked them write all the spelling words they remembered in the next two minutes. (I believe the first time I did it I paired them to make it less intimidating.) Some were shocked by how few they remembered. I was too! The following day (without warning again) we repeated it and there was great improvement! The only real difference was the focused attention given to the words. Since then I do it 1-2 times each week (on random days) and have seen them consistently doing much better; even if I do it on Monday, after only one day of working with the words, they do quite well.
Another story that could (almost) go with the G point is what I began doing with spelling words missed on the test. Each word misspelled is written five times, but then rather than throwing them to the wind after that, if a child missed two or more on the test, the student copies each of those words once a day and then they are included in the next week’s test. It has worked well.
Now your turn.
- December 28, 2017 at 5:36 PM #42285
Jonas SauderModeratorOriginal Poster@jonas
I added a bit more info under point F(above) to show what it is based upon. Students will pour themselves into things they see as important.
- December 29, 2017 at 1:58 PM #42287
Here’s more on the learning styles “myth”. This is from Marshall Memo.
4. Daniel Willingham on the Persistent Learning Styles Myth
In this Education Gadfly article, Daniel Willingham (University of Virginia) reports that 76 percent of U.S. educators (and 93 percent of all adults) still believe that students learn best when they receive information in a preferred learning style. This was discouraging for Willingham, who has been trying to debunk this myth for more than 15 years. He has four theories on why it’s so tenacious:
First, the learning styles theory has achieved the status of one of those ideas that “they” (renowned experts) have figured out. Why doubt it? Textbooks in graduate schools of education don’t explicitly debunk it.
Second, it would be so nice if the theory were true. “It predicts that a struggling student would find much of school work easier if we made a relatively minor change to lesson plans,” says Willingham, “– make sure auditory learners are listening, the visual learners are watching, and so on.”
Third, a close approximation of the learning style theory has some validity. It’s true that some people are better with words, some people with space, some with listening. “The (incorrect) twist that learning styles theory adds,” says Willingham, “is to suggest that everyone can reach the same cognitive goal via these different abilities; that if I’m good with space but bad with words (or better, if I prefer space to words), you can rearrange a verbal task so that it plays to my spatial strength.”
What’s wrong about this theory is that with any intellectual task (for example, remembering a list of nouns), there is a way of accomplishing it that works much better than others, regardless of students’ learning styles. Given the task of remembering words, you could use a verbal strategy (repeating the words to yourself, thinking of meaning, etc.) or a visual strategy (creating a visual image in your mind). Even for people whose learning style profile is not strong in visual imagery, says Willingham, the visual strategy still works better because that’s the nature of the task. “People’s alleged learning styles don’t count for anything in accounting for task performance,” he says, “but the effect of the strategy on a task is huge.”
“3 Reasons Most Teachers Still Believe the Learning Styles Myth” by Daniel Willingham in The Education Gadfly, September 6, 2017 (Vol. 17, #36), http://bit.ly/2fdnr7k; Willingham can be reached at [email protected].
- January 4, 2018 at 5:20 PM #42785
I wonder how this relates to assessments. I often try to vary my assessments, giving students opportunities to work out of their strengths at least some of the time by allowing them to choose between writing an essay, making a poster, and giving a speech, for example.
- December 30, 2017 at 12:05 PM #42300
I find Jonas’ point D and Darrell’s comments about learning styles interesting. I agree that students have different strengths (visual, auditory, kinesthetic), and that perhaps instead of focusing on how each student learns best, we should focus more on the most effective way to present the specific lesson at hand.
But isn’t it true that teaching an effective lesson will naturally hit many, if not all of the learning styles, especially at the elementary level? I don’t think that we should completely do-away with what we know about learning styles, because it helps us remember to keep variety in our lessons, to not just tell students, but show them, and to give opportunities for movement and hands-on learning.
I agree with Jonas that “Teaching geometry does not call for the same approach as teaching poetry appreciation.” How is a brand-new teacher to know what instructional styles are appropriate for each content area besides finding out by personal trial-and-error? Are there resources out there about this?
- January 1, 2018 at 5:08 PM #42308
A few practical thoughts to follow Betty’s examples:
To go along with points A and B: Get your students to tell you, rather than you tell them. (I’m thinking especially of early elementary.) Have them give answers to review questions. Yes, that is very basic but how many times do we tell instead of ask? If they are stuck have them articulate where their problem is. Ask them “steering” questions if necessary but don’t tell them. They can’t find an answer and reading is difficult? Narrow down their search area for them but let them find it.
I’d like to see points C and E developed a little further. How much of a brief delay in feedback? Is this meaning that a student who checks their long division problem and finds it is wrong is better off than the child who works the problem and the teacher, looking over his shoulder, lets him know the numbers he put down are wrong? Does it depend somewhat on the skill being learned?
What exactly are we talking about with “interleaved” practice over several topics? Does this mean practice with various subjects or does it mean within one subject? I’m thinking it is referencing a type of learning such as Saxon and CLE do with their math curriculums but am I wrong?
- January 5, 2018 at 9:11 AM #42786
Jonas SauderModeratorOriginal Poster@jonas
Regarding how new teachers decide what instructional style to use… Inexperienced teachers tend to use one major instructional approach; one that comes more naturally to them due to their experience or personality. They do need to learn to use a variety of instructional methods. Applying Gregory’s 7 Laws properly requires such an approach. One cannot connect new truths to what is (truly) known, use “common language,” keep the pupils’ attention and direct their activities without quite a spectrum of connections–demonstrations, explanations, questions, feedback, practice, etc.
With teaching being more art than science, statements such as “slightly delayed feedback is better than immediate feedback” are problematic. That comment comes from the “programmed learning” fad based on behaviorism that exploded in the late 60’s and held much traction for a couple decades. One example still on the market is the grammar series including the one entitled “English 2200: A Programmed Course in Grammar and Usage.” The basic premise was that learners learn (all things) best by taking small incremental steps consisting of being given new information or a skill demonstration; then being asked immediately to apply it; then being given immediate feedback on whether they were right or wrong. This approach has fallen by the wayside for a variety of reasons. One problem is that the immediate feedback approach is somewhat akin to always using training wheels. The student tends to depend upon the feedback more than on thinking. The issue, as usual, is to get students to think.
Interleaved practice refers to mixing types of problems during any given lesson. Those who focus on one type (finding volumes of cubes) do better in an individual practice session than do those who work on a variety of objects (cubes, pyramids, spheroids). But on tests that include all the types, those who practiced them individually scored dramatically lower than did those who had mixed practice in each class. (p 48/49 in Make it Stick)
- January 13, 2018 at 9:40 PM #42957
Please keep posting this stuff, Jonas! This sort of information reminds me how much I can keep growing as a teacher.
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