Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

July 19, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

Big New Study On Deliberate Practice

As you may have heard by now, a new study was recently released raising questions about the importance of deliberate practice to success. Here are some articles about the study. I’m adding this post to The Best Resources For Learning About The 10,000 Hour Rule & Deliberate Practice.

There’s little question that Talent vs. Practice: Why Are We Still Debating This? by Scott Barry Kaufman is the best piece on the study. It appeared in Scientific American.

How Do You Get to Carnegie Hall? Talent is from The New York Times.

Does practice really make perfect? is from Science Daily.

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July 15, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

New Study Reinforces Previous Ones Showing SEL Lessons Need To Be Short & Simple

As regular readers of this blog and my books know, I’m an advocate of teaching Social Emotional Learning skills — and that I think they need to be simple so that individual teachers can integrate them easily with their regular classroom instruction.

Previous research has also found that using that strategy is the best way to go (see Social Skills Training Report Is Even More Interesting Than I Thought…).

Now, another study has been released finding the same results — that the programs that were most simple got the most positive results. You can read about it at NPR, Teaching 4-Year-Olds To Feel Better.

It gives me just a little more incentive to complete the third book in my student motivation series, which will include even more short and sweet SEL lessons. The manuscript should be done by September 1st, and Routledge should have it published by next spring.

I’m adding this post to The Best Social Emotional Learning (SEL) Resources.

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July 13, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
4 Comments

Can You Help Me Find Research On How Writing Strengthens The Brain?

I’ve written a lot about how learning in general strengthens the brain and reading’s effects on the brain (see The Best Resources For Showing Students That They Make Their Brain Stronger By Learning).

In addition, I’ve written a lot about recent research finding how handwriting in particular helps brain development (see The Best Resources For Learning About Handwriting & Learning).

Now, I’m looking for research documenting how writing of any kind might strengthen the brain.

Does anyone have suggestions?

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July 8, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

Useful Article: “How to Read Education Data Without Jumping to Conclusions”

How to Read Education Data Without Jumping to Conclusions is a good article in The Atlantic by Jessica Lahey & Tim Lahey.

I’m adding it to The Best Resources For Understanding How To Interpret Education Research.

Here’s an excerpt:

Correlationdoes-not

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June 20, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

Research Studies Of The Week

'magnifying glass' photo (c) 2005, Tall Chris - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

I often write about research studies from various fields and how they can be applied to the classroom. I write individual posts about ones that I think are especially significant, and will continue to do so. However, so many studies are published that it’s hard to keep up. So I’ve started writing a “round-up” of some of them each week or every other week as a regular feature.

By the way, you might also be interested in My Best Posts On New Research Studies In 2013 and My Best Posts On New Research Studies In 2014 – So Far.

Here are some new useful studies (and related resources):

This is Your Brain on Writing is a New York Times story on a pretty interesting study examining what happens in our brains when we write.

George Washington Trumps Pinocchio When It Comes to Promoting Honesty in Kids is from The Pacific Standard. Its subtitle is: “Researchers find the classic tale in which the future president admits to bad behavior encourages at least some kids to confess a lie.”

Brain imaging shows enhanced executive brain function in people with musical training is from Science Daily.

Books in the Home Are Strongly Linked to Academic Achievement is from Pacific Standard. I’m adding it to My Best Posts On Books: Why They’re Important & How To Help Students Select, Read, Write & Discuss Them.

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June 14, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

Research Studies Of The Week

'magnifying glass' photo (c) 2005, Tall Chris - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

I often write about research studies from various fields and how they can be applied to the classroom. I write individual posts about ones that I think are especially significant, and will continue to do so. However, so many studies are published that it’s hard to keep up. So I’ve started writing a “round-up” of some of them each week or every other week as a regular feature.

By the way, you might also be interested in My Best Posts On New Research Studies In 2013 and My Best Posts On New Research Studies In 2014 – So Far.

Here are some new useful studies (and related resources):

iPads In Special Ed: What Does The Research Say? is from NPR. I’m adding it to The Best Research Available On The Use Of Technology In Schools.

Sleep after learning strengthens connections between brain cells and enhances memory is from Science Daily. I’m adding it to The Best Resources For Helping Teens Learn About The Importance Of Sleep.

We all know that students learn more effectively if they can connect new information to prior knowledge. How the brain builds on prior knowledge is a report on a new study that saw how different parts of the brain actually do it.

What’s Lost as Handwriting Fades is from The New York Times. I’m adding it to The Best Resources For Learning About Handwriting & Learning.

A Learning Secret: Don’t Take Notes with a Laptop is from Scientific American. I’m adding it to the same list.

Feeling Impulsive? Head for the Forest is from The Pacific Standard. It reports on a study finding that people seeing pictures of nature increased their self-control. Maybe an idea for classroom decorations? I’m adding it to The Best Posts About Helping Students Develop Their Capacity For Self-Control.

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June 14, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

The Best Research Demonstrating That Lectures Are Not The Best Instructional Strategy

'Lectures' photo (c) 2013, AJ Cann - license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

There has been a fair amount of recent research documenting the ineffectiveness of lectures as an instructional strategy. I thought I’d bring articles about the research together in one place.

You might also be interested in The Best Posts Questioning If Direct Instruction Is “Clearly Superior.”

Let me know what I’m missing here:

A study was just announced a couple of years ago claiming — surprise, surprise — that integrating pair work and small groups in teaching is more effective than straight lectures. Science Daily reported it in an article titled Interactive Teaching Methods Double Learning in Undergraduate Physics Class. The study’s author’s also seem to make a big deal of using “clickers” for student response, but when I actually read the study they said they only used them an average of 1.5 times each class, so it’s difficult for me to imagine they had that big of an impact. Based on my reading, though, the big difference seemed to be pair and small group work. You can access the study here, but it does cost fifteen dollars. Surprisingly — at least to me — the study was immediately attacked by a many other scientists, including Daniel Willingham, in a New York Times article. I don’t really understand what the big deal is — tons of other studies have shown similar results over the years.

Thanks to a post at The Engineer’s Pulse, I learned about Harvard Professor Eric Mazur. He’s done a lot of work — perhaps it could be called teacher action research — on the advantages of peer work over lecturing as an effective instructional tool. You can read more about his work at a Harvard Magazine article titled Twilight of the Lecture. I’ve also embedded below a talk by him about his work.

Improve grades, reduce failure: Undergrads should tell profs ‘don’t lecture me’ is from Science Daily.

Stop Lecturing Me (In College Science)! is from Scientific American.

Lectures Aren’t Just Boring, They’re Ineffective, Too, Study Finds is from Science Magazine.

University lectures are ineffective for learning, analysis finds is from The PBS News Hour.

Are Lectures On The Way Out? Harvard Professor Proposes A Better Way To Teach is from Boston’s NPR station.

You can see all 1,300 “The Best” lists here.

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June 13, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

My Best Posts On New Research Studies In 2014 – So Far

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I write many posts about recent research studies and how they can relate practically to the classroom. In fact, I post a regular feature called Research Studies of the Week. In addition, I write individual posts about studies I feel are particularly relevant to my work as a teacher.

I’m continuing with my mid-year “Best” lists, and it makes sense now to publish one on recent studies. You can see all my 1,300 “Best” lists here.

You might also be interested in:

My Best Posts On New Research Studies In 2013 – Part Two

My Best Posts On New Research Studies In 2013 — So Far

My Best Posts On New Research Studies In 2012 — So Far

My Best Posts On New Research Studies In 2011

Hare are My Best Posts On New Research Studies In 2014 – So Far:

The Best Posts On The Study Suggesting That Bare Classroom Walls Are Best For Learning

Another Big Surprise: Reflection Helps Learning

Another Shocker – NOT! Students Respond Better To Support Than Threats

Study: Gratitude Increases Self-Control

The Best Research On Listening To Music When Studying

How Adam Grant Just Made Teaching More Complicated

“Knowledge Motivates Preschoolers More Than Stickers, Study Says”

The Best Resources On The Dangers Of Multitasking

This Has Me Concerned: “Study Links Teacher ‘Grit’ with Effectiveness, Retention”

Another Study Demonstrates The Ineffectiveness Of Extrinsic Motivation, But Also Something More….

Quote Of The Day: Have You Ever Wondered How Many Decisions We Teachers Need To Make Each Day?

Some Very Interesting Info On Self-Control Research

New US Dept. of Ed Finds That “Less Effective Teaching” Responsible For 2-4 Percent Of Achievement Gap

Must-Read Article About A Must-Read Study: “Can Upward Mobility Cost You Your Health?”

Study: “How Stories Get Into Your Brain”

Quote Of The Day: “Fighting in Teenagers Lowers Their IQ”

The Best Posts On Study Finding That Standardized Tests Don’t Measure Cognitive Ability

Surprising Study — NOT: People Learn A Second Language Better By Physically Simulating Words

Another Study Shows That Self-Affirmation Activities Help People Think More Clearly

Study: Standardized Tests Don’t Measure “Fluid Intelligence”

 

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June 9, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

The Best Posts On The Study Suggesting That Bare Classroom Walls Are Best For Learning

'busy walls of our second grade classroom' photo (c) 2010, woodleywonderworks - license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

The media has been full of stories about a new study suggesting that bare classroom walls are a better learning environment for children than decorated ones.

In many ways, this research is a great example of some of the problems with much education research, much of which you can read about in The Best Resources For Understanding How To Interpret Education Research.

There are two excellent posts that elaborate on these issues — one by Alfie Kohn and the other by Dan Willingham. There’s some irony in this since Kohn criticizes a prior article by Dan in an effort to make his points:

The education question we should be asking is by Alfie Kohn.

Bare Walls and Poor Learning? The Trouble with the Latest Headlines is by Daniel Willingham.

Here are three other articles on the study worth reading, too:

Rethinking the Colorful Kindergarten Classroom is from The New York Times.

Study Shows Classroom Decor Can Distract From Learning is from an NPR station.

Heavily decorated classrooms disrupt attention and learning in young children is from Eureka Alert.

I’m going to end this post with an excerpt from Kohn’s piece:

While-were-at-it-maybe

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June 4, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

“Kids who get health insurance are more likely to finish high school and college”

A-10-percentage-point

Kids who get health insurance are more likely to finish high school and college is the headline of an article in Vox about a new study that doesn’t provide any surprised to experienced teachers in low-income communities — students having access to health care results in increased academic achievement.

Here’s an excerpt:

Two things could cause access to health insurance to influence educational achievement. The first is pretty straightforward — access to insurance could make kids healthier and healthier kids could do better in school. But there’s also a potential indirect effect — giving families health insurance could increase the financial resources they have available for non-health expenses, and that could help kids do well in school. The way the study is constructed doesn’t let us tell how much of the impact is coming from the insurance per se and how much is simply the financial benefit.

I’m adding this info to The Best Places To Learn What Impact A Teacher & Outside Factors Have On Student Achievement.

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June 2, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

Research Studies Of The Week

'magnifying glass' photo (c) 2005, Tall Chris - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

I often write about research studies from various fields and how they can be applied to the classroom. I write individual posts about ones that I think are especially significant, and will continue to do so. However, so many studies are published that it’s hard to keep up. So I’ve started writing a “round-up” of some of them each week or every other week as a regular feature.

By the way, you might also be interested in My Best Posts On New Research Studies In 2013.

Here are some new useful studies (and related resources):

What Relationships Mean in Educating Boys is an Ed Week report on two studies finding that the relationship between a teacher and a young male student is particularly important in creating positive learning experiences. I’m adding it to The Best Resources On The Importance Of Building Positive Relationships With Students.

How to Train Your Mind to Think Critically and Form Your Own Opinions is from LifeHacker, and reviews a number of studies. I’m adding it to The Best Resources On Teaching & Learning Critical Thinking In The Classroom.

The Doctor Who Coaches Athletes on Sleep is an article from The Atlantic. It discusses the role of sleep in a variety of ways, including academic performance. There’s plenty of research on those areas at The Best Resources For Helping Teens Learn About The Importance Of Sleep. However, what makes this article stand-out from those others is its discussion of its impact on athletic performance. That info could be very useful with student athletes who might not be as concerned about its other effects.

Coming up with explanations helps children develop cause-and-effect thinking skills is a report from Science Daily on a new study. I’m adding it to The Best Posts On Metacognition.

Your brain is like a muscle: use it and make it strong is an article from a new site called Frontiers. It appears to have articles by neuroscientists that are edited by kids. I’m adding it to The Best Resources For Showing Students That They Make Their Brain Stronger By Learning.

When it comes to classes, small is better is the title of a report on a meta-analysis. I’m adding it to The Best Resources For Learning About How Class Size Does Matter.

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May 21, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

Research Studies Of The Week

'magnifying glass' photo (c) 2005, Tall Chris - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

I often write about research studies from various fields and how they can be applied to the classroom. I write individual posts about ones that I think are especially significant, and will continue to do so. However, so many studies are published that it’s hard to keep up. So I’ve started writing a “round-up” of some of them each week or every other week as a regular feature.

By the way, you might also be interested in My Best Posts On New Research Studies In 2013.

Here are some new useful studies (and related resources):

Here’s how much your high school grades predict your future salary is an article in The Washington Post about a recent study. It’s gotten quite a bit of media attention.

How Well Do Teen Test Scores Predict Adult Income? is an article in the Pacific Standard that provides some cautions about reading too much into the study. It makes important points that are relevant to the interpretation of any kind of research. For that reason, I’m adding it to The Best Resources For Understanding How To Interpret Education Research.

Visible Learning Conference with John Hattie … Know Thy Impact seems like a good review of the most up-to-date research from John Hattie.

You Had Me At Hello: The Science Behind First Impressions is from NPR, and reinforces the importance of what happens on the first day of school.

To Get Help From A Little Kid, Ask The Right Way is a piece from NPR on a recent study. Here’s how it begins:

Motivating children to stop playing and help out with chores isn’t exactly an easy sell, as most parents and teachers will attest. But how you ask can make all the difference, psychologists say.

If you say something like, “Please help me,” the kids are more likely to keep playing with their Legos. But ask them, “Please be a helper,” and they’ll be more responsive, researchers report Wednesday in the journal Child Development.

OECD has published a short post with links titled Why policy makers should care about motivating students. I’ve got a lot of issues with the PISA test (see The Best Posts & Articles On 2012 PISA Test Results). However, the report the post links to contains a lot of important information on motivation. I’m adding it to The Best Posts & Articles On 2012 PISA Test Results.

Two Things Experts Do Differently Than Non-Experts When Practicing is from The Creativity Post. I’m adding it to The Best Resources For Learning About The 10,000 Hour Rule & Deliberate Practice.

While I’m at it, I’m adding Are Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 Hours of Practice Really All You Need? from National Geographic to the same list.

In findings not surprising to teachers everywhere, Duke researchers found that learners were both more engaged, and and more self-control, when they participating in a learning activity they were enjoying and found relevant.

Take notes by hand for better long-term comprehension is a report from Science Daily on a recent study that has received lots of media attention. Here’s an article from The Pacific Standard on the same research. I’m adding them to The Best Resources For Learning About Handwriting & Learning.

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April 23, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
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Another Big Surprise: Reflection Helps Learning

Our-results-show-that-by

Hot on the heels of Another Shocker – NOT! Students Respond Better To Support Than Threats, yet another study has been released finding something that has been obvious to teachers for years — reflecting on a learning experience enhances it.

Here’s how the Harvard Business Journal summarized the results:

Research participants who did an arithmetic brain-teaser and then reflected on their strategies for solving it went on to do 18% better in a second round than their peers who hadn’t set aside time to reflect, according to Giada Di Stefano of HEC Paris, Francesca Gino and Gary Pisano of Harvard Business School, and Bradley Staats of the University of North Carolina. The unconscious learning that happens when you tackle a challenging task can become more effective if you deliberately couple it with controlled, conscious attempts to learn by thinking, the research suggests.

A huge added benefit to this research is that the study itself is available for free download. And, not only that, but it’s actually written in a way relatively accessible to laypeople (without lots of academic gobbledy-guk) and contains a great summary of previous research on learning and reflection.

I’m adding this info to The Best Resources On Student & Teacher Reflection.

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April 21, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

Another Shocker – NOT! Students Respond Better To Support Than Threats

Students-who-said-they2

Yet another study has found that threats of punishment is not a very effective motivating tactic.

You can read a summary of this new study at Science Daily, Teachers’ scare tactics may lead to lower exam scores.

And if you want to read about a zillion other studies that show the same thing, you can start at:

Surprise, Surprise — Study Finds Shouting At Children “creates further discipline problems”

Emphasizing Pride, Not Shame, In Classroom Management

The Best Posts & Articles On “Motivating” Students

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April 17, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

Study: Gratitude Increases Self-Control

'PATIENCE' photo (c) 2009, Gemma Bardsley - license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

I’ve written in the past about my use of “Reflection Cards” in the classroom, including the research behind them (you can download a copy of the card and read the research at my post, Giving Students “Reflection Cards.”

Research shows that self-control can be replenished by both self-affirmation exercises and by remembering better times.

So, I created cards that I sometimes give to students when they are having behavior issues in the classroom to complete outside and come back in after they’re done. The cards just take a couple of minutes to complete and include these instructions:

1. Please write at least three sentences about a time (or times) you have felt successful and happy:

2. Please write at least three sentences about something that is important to you (friends, family, sports, etc.) and why it’s important:

They’ve worked pretty effectively.

Now, new research written about in the Harvard Business Reviews suggests that having people write what they are grateful for can also increase patience. You can read about their experiments in the short article, Gratitude Is the New Willpower.

Here’s an excerpt:

Those-whod-described

I guess it’s time to add another instruction to the card (this is what the researchers had participants do):

Briefly write about an event from your past that made you feel grateful:

I’m adding this post to to lists:

The Best Posts About Helping Students Develop Their Capacity For Self-Control

The Best Resources On “Gratitude”

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April 15, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
2 Comments

The Best Research On Listening To Music When Studying

'Typical Teen' photo (c) 2011, Tyler-Adams - license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

I’ve published a few posts about the question of playing background music in the classroom, along with info on the practice of listening to music when studying.

I thought I’d bring them together in one post, and invite readers to contribute their own ideas and experiences, too.

I’ll be adding this “Best” list to The Best Resources On The Dangers Of Multitasking.

Here goes:

This is a reprint of my first post on the topic. It’s worth looking at the original post because of the comments readers left:

A  study find that listening to music while performing a task can impair cognitive ability.

Researchers divided participants into three groups — one listening to music they liked, one to music they didn’t like, and one with no music:

The most accurate recall occurred when participants performed the task in the quieter, steady-state environments. Thus listening to music, regardless of whether people liked or disliked it, impaired their concurrent performance.

One of the study’s authors concluded:

“Most people listen to music at the same time as, rather than prior to performing a task. To reduce the negative effects of background music when recalling information in order one should either perform the task in quiet or only listen to music prior to performing the task.”

This reflects my experience in the classroom (and my own personal experience). I use music a lot with English Language Learners as parts of lessons, and use music in lessons with our mainstream English classes when studying Bob Marley and, also, New Orleans. But they are always specific parts of lessons. Any time I acquiesce to student pleas to let them listen to those music examples outside of those specific lessons — for example, if they are working on a group project or during silent reading, it becomes an obvious distraction and I usually turn it off relatively quickly.

However, there is an important caveat — I have found that a few students who face particular challenges actually work better if they are listening to their own mp3 player at times, and have made individual agreements to let students sometimes use them.

Several years ago, when I was teaching a particularly challenging class, having students close their eyes for a couple of minutes after lunch and listen to soothing music also worked well as a calming influence. But they did not have to perform any task other than calming down, and the study does point out that music can “very positive effect on our general mental health” in that kind of situation.

Another study has found that working in quiet is the best atmosphere for cognitive work, listening to music you don’t like is next, and listening to music you like creates the worst cognitive atmosphere.

Don’t Listen to Music While Studying is useful post from Edutopia.

Okay, I’m all ears. Please share if your experience agrees, or disagrees, with this research….

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April 15, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

Research Studies Of The Week

'magnifying glass' photo (c) 2005, Tall Chris - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

I often write about research studies from various fields and how they can be applied to the classroom. I write individual posts about ones that I think are especially significant, and will continue to do so. However, so many studies are published that it’s hard to keep up. So I’ve started writing a “round-up” of some of them each week or every other week as a regular feature.

By the way, you might also be interested in My Best Posts On New Research Studies In 2013.

Here are some new useful studies (and related resources):

The Education Endowment Foundation has published a useful free Neuroscience and Education Literature Review. They describe it as:

A review of education literature, considering the impact of neuroscience informed approaches or interventions on the attainment of children.

I’m adding it to The Best Resources On “Brain-Based Learning.”

Frequent school moves can harm children’s mental health — study is from The Washington Post, though it’s no surprise to many of us teachers. Here’s an excerpt from the article:

With data from some 6,500 families who were part of a long-term study, the researchers found that students who as children had moved to three or more different schools were 60 percent more likely to experience at least one psychotic symptom when they were 12 years old. They did not find a causal relationship between frequent school changes and an increased risk of psychotic symptoms in preteens but the researchers said that moving often can fuel low self-esteem in children who find themselves socially isolated in new environments, which can affect brain chemistry.

Youth Gang Involvement Is a Public Health Issue Into Adulthood, Study Concludes is from Education Week. Here’s an excerpt:

It probably won’t surprise many educators that a young person’s decision to join a gang will have negative effects that continue well into his or her future. But a new study, published this month in the American Journal of Public Health, paints a clearer picture of how long the effects of that decision echo and how negatively it impacts a broad scope of factors—from the likelihood of later drug abuse and incarceration to poor health in adulthood.

America’s Teens Outscore Adults On Stress is from TIME Magazine. Here’s an excerpt:

Since 2007, the American Psychological Association (APA) has conducted a survey of different aspects of stress in America. This year’s analysis focused on teens, and on a 10-point scale, adolescents ranked their stress at 5.8, compared with a score of 5.1 reported by adults.

I’m adding this info to The Best Resources For Learning About Teens & Stress.

I’m adding this video report from The Brookings Institution to The Best Resources For Learning About Homework Issues:

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April 12, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
2 Comments

How Adam Grant Just Made Teaching More Complicated

I’m a big fan of Professor Adam Grant’s work (see my interview with him at Education Week, Teachers As “Givers, Takers & Matchers”: An Interview With Adam Grant).

And I was very excited to see his must-read guest column in The New York Times today, Raising a Moral Child.

It’s geared towards parents, but just about everything he says is also extraordinarily useful to teachers, too.

He discusses recent studies identifying effective ways to help children become “kind, compassionate and helpful.”

Developing these kinds of qualities are being identified more and more as an important part of our work as educators (see my Ed Week series, ‘Character Is Not Compliance Out Of Fear,‘ and The Best Social Emotional Learning (SEL) Resources).

There’s so much substance in his short column that I’m not even going to try to summarize it — just read the whole thing.

I do, however, want to highlight one part of it where I think he just made our job more complicated (obviously, I’m talking tongue-in-cheek):

A-couple-of-weeks-later

Many of us who are familiar with Carol Dweck’s work on praising action instead of intelligence might find a contradiction in this finding.

I know I was a bit confused.

So I sent an email to Adam asking about this apparent contradiction and he was kind enough to respond right away. Here’s what he said:

In “Mindset”, Carol Dweck describes her famous body of groundbreaking research demonstrating that when we praise children for their intelligence, they develop a fixed view of ability, which leads them to give up in the face of failure. Instead of telling them how smart they are, it’s wise to praise their effort, which encourages them to see their abilities as malleable and persist to overcome obstacles. Some parents and teachers have stretched this idea to its logical conclusion: always praise actions, not fixed qualities. In the domain of moral character, though, this might be the wrong approach. If we want children to become caring and generous, the evidence suggests that there’s value in helping them see these as stable dimensions of their identities.

That said, even in the moral domain, there may be some risks of praising character. Research on moral licensing suggests that when we see ourselves as good people, we sometimes feel greater freedom to engage in unethical behaviors. This is captured in chilling detail in Mistakes Were Made, But Not By Me by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson, and in The Honest Truth about Dishonesty by Dan Ariely. I’d love to see more research on how to instill a sense of moral character without leading people to say, “I’m a good person, so I can do a bad thing”—or worse yet, “I’m a good person, so this clearly isn’t a bad thing.”

So, now, based on this research, we might need to be aware of which character quality we want to teach and employ contradictory instructional strategies for some of them.

Teaching is complicated, ain’t it?

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