Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

November 30, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

Statistic Of The Day: This One Should Make Everyone Learning A New Language Happy

Overlooked elements of language and literature play a key role is the headline of an article about what seems to me a fairly arcane study.

However, this statistic jumped out at me:


It seems to me that this kind of info would be heartening news for anyone learning a new language, including English!

November 28, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

“Practitioners’ Instincts, Observations” Have Important Role In Research

Flossing and the Art of Scientific Investigation is the headline of a New York Times articlee offering a critique of news articles earlier this fall questioning the evidence behind flossing your teeth.

In many parts of the article, including in the headline, you could easily substitute the word “teaching” for “flossing.”

I especially liked its comments on the value of “practitioners’ instincts, observations” as equally important as randomized control scientific experiments.

Here’s an excerpt:



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

November 14, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

Mathematica Releases “Must-Have” Guide For Any Educator Trying To Interpret Research


Mathematica Policy Research has released a simple twelve-page guide titled Understanding Types of Evidence: A Guide for Educators.

It’s specifically designed to help educators analyse claims made by ed tech companies but, as the report says itself, the guidance can be applied to any type of education research.

I’m adding it to:

The Best Resources For Understanding How To Interpret Education Research

The Best Research Available On The Use Of Technology In Schools

October 26, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

New Study Finds That PD, Collaboration, Safety, Expectations Important For Schools – What A Surprise!

A new study has found several qualities critical to school success. Of course, just about any teacher could say the same thing.

Here’s an excerpt from a press report on the research:



I’m adding the info to The Best Posts & Articles About The Importance Of Teacher (& Student) Working Conditions.

October 11, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

The Elephant In The Room In The Talent vs. Practice Debate



An article in last week’s New Yorker, Practice Doesn’t Make Perfect, is the latest salvo in attempts to debunk the popularized mythology that people can become experts in any field through practice. Of course, as I’ve previously written several times, these attacks are on “straw men” since few people actually take that position. In fact, deliberate practice is not the major factor in developing expertise, but it is the most important element in developing expertise that is within a person’s individual control. (see Deliberate Practice & Red Herrings and Deliberate Practice, The Olympics & Red Herrings).

But all these recent studies pitting genetic talent versus practice are missing a huge elephant in the room — “natural” talent isn’t really that “natural.”

Plenty of research has shown that a person’s environment plays a massive role in determining if that natural genetic talent actually develops. For example, a child living in poverty is less likely to have their genetic benefits realized than a middle-class child with less stress and better nutrition. You can read about these studies at my previous posts:

This Is The Most Accessible Piece Out There On The “Nature/Nurture” Debate

Study Finds That Nurture Equals Nature In The United States

New Studies Highlight Blurry Line Between Nature & Nurture

So, instead of beating up on the position that few people are taking that practice is more important than talent, I wish these researchers would put their energies into supporting getting our students’ natural talent maximized through social and political policy changes.

Why dump on a proven practice (deliberate practice) that has been shown to be an effective individual improvement strategy, and then contrast it with the inaccurate image that you have talent or you don’t?

You might also be interested in:

The Best Resources For Learning About The 10,000 Hour Rule & Deliberate Practice

October 10, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

Round Two: How Much “Content” Knowledge Do You Really Need To Be An Effective Teacher?

Several years ago, I wrote a post that received many comments titled How Much “Content” Knowledge Do You Really Need To Be An Effective Teacher?

I think it’s worth checking out, and here’s how I ended it:

The dictionary says the definition of power is “the ability to act.” Some say that information is power. I don’t agree. I think it’s what you do with that information is what determines if you have power — what actions you take. And, in the context of being an educator, it’s not the information I know that determines how much power I have — it’s my ability to share it, to help others want it, and to help them figure out how they can also get it on their own so they can be life-long learners.

A study that came out last week seems to have reinforced my position. You can read about it at Education Week’s post, Study: Improving Teachers’ Math Knowledge Doesn’t Boost Student Scores.

Here’s an excerpt:


As I said in my original post on the topic, I don’t think it has to be an either/or decision, but I continue to be concerned about “alternative credentialing” programs that put a primacy on subject knowledge and a lower priority on instructional skills.

What do you think?

October 10, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

A Decent Post About The Value Of Guided/Assisted Discovery Learning – Too Bad It Uses The Wrong Comparison


I like the MindHacks blog, and I was pleased today to see that the authors wrote about the value of “guided discovery learning” (I, and others, prefer to call it “assisted discovery learning”).

The post makes a fairly accessible case for its use. Unfortunately, however, they make a mistake that I’ve seen in other places — it contrasts “assisted” or “guided” discovery learning (where teachers provide some…guidance or assistance) with what they call “pure discovery,” where students are pretty much left to their own devices.

Really, apart from Sugata Mitra  (The Best Posts & Videos About Sugata Mitra & His Education Ideas), are there really many teachers who use this kind of “pure discovery”? It seems to me like a recipe for disaster.

If we’re serious about encouraging the use of more constructivist pedagogy in the classroom, I think we need to be making the contrast with instructional strategies that are more commonly used, like direct instruction. Yes, direct instruction has its place, but it must also be kept in its place.

This post is really just an excuse for me to post previous resources I’ve shared on this topic:

Is This The Most Important Research Study Of The Year? Maybe shares research that favorably compares assisted-discovery learning with direct instruction, though it, too, uses the straw man of unassisted discovery.

And here are some related “Best” lists:

The Best Posts Questioning If Direct Instruction Is “Clearly Superior”

The Best Resources About Inductive Learning & Teaching

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

Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments….

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