Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

April 9, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

“Poverty-related Challenges Sap Instructional Time in High Schools”

Poverty-related Challenges Sap Instructional Time in High Schools is the headline of an article in Education Week on a new study that finds teachers in high-poverty schools like ours end up with thirty minutes of less instructional time each day than those in higher-income areas:

Disruptions such as welcoming new students to the classrooms, and locking down the school during emergencies and drills eat away at more instructional time at high poverty schools than in lower-poverty schools. So too do routines, such transitioning students from the hallways to the class period. First period is a particular challenge in high-poverty schools.

I tend to think that in schools with an excellent administrative team in place and with a strong system of teacher support, like we have, that half-hour figure is considerably less. However, there is no question that we do face challenges.

Here’s a passage in the story that particularly struck me:


If you teach in a high-poverty school, what do you think?

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April 6, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

A Bunch Of Student Motivation Resources

'Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink' photo (c) 2010, cdorobek - license:

As regular readers know, I have a particular interest in the topic of student motivation, and my third book on the topic will be out next year.

I’ve been accumulating some related resources, and am putting them all together in this post:

Studies Offer Practical Ways to Bring ‘Growth Mindset’ Research to Schools is an Ed Week post about some recent studies. One of them featured having students read about the struggles experienced by famous scientists, as opposed by focusing solely on their achievements, and resulted in higher student motivation and academic achievement. Here’s an earlier study done by the same researchers with Taiwanese students (the most recent research was with classes in New York) that reached similar conclusions and has a lot of interesting background information. I’m adding this info to The Best Resources On Helping Our Students Develop A “Growth Mindset.”

Teachers told: use ‘not yet’ in place of ‘fail’ when marking is from The Telegraph. It’s about a new guide for UK teachers on how to help students develop a growth mindset. I’m adding it to the same list.

Carol Dweck and others have developed an online program focused on helping students develop a growth mindset around math. They are invited teachers to participate for free. You can find more information about it here.

Here are links to two articles that don’t really provide any new information on motivational issues (at least, they’re not new if you’ve been following this blog). However, they do provide good short summaries on the topic. I’m adding them to The Best Posts & Articles On “Motivating” Students:

Why Incentives Don’t Actually Motivate People To Do Better Work is from Business Insider.

How To Motivate People – 4 Steps Backed By Science is from Barking Up The Wrong Tree.

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March 26, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

“Knowledge Motivates Preschoolers More Than Stickers, Study Says”


Ho-hum — yet another study has been published demonstrating that extrinsic motivation is less effective than intrinsic motivation, even though that doesn’t deter proponents of merit pay and other forms of classroom punishments and rewards.

Education Week reports that:

Offering meaningful knowledge is “an effective tool for enhancing task engagement in preschool-age children,” the researchers wrote. They suggested that such rewards could be useful when teaching math facts, for example, or learning to write letters.

I’m adding this post to The Best Posts & Articles On “Motivating” Students.

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March 14, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

The Best Resources On The Dangers Of Multitasking

'How to become a SocialMediaManager' photo (c) 2011, Urs Steiner - license:

I’m beginning to prepare and short lesson on dangers of multitasking, and thought I’d bring together some of the resources I’ll be using for it. Additional suggestions are welcome:

You might also be interested in The Best Research On Listening To Music When Studying.

Don’t Multitask: Your Brain Will Thank You is from TIME.

Why Humans Are Bad at Multitasking is from Live Science.

12 reasons to stop multitasking now is from Fox News.

The Multitasking Mind is from

Why Multitasking Doesn’t Work is from Forbes.

How Does Multitasking Change the Way Kids Learn? is from Mind/Shift.

Here’s a video from Daniel Willingham:

What people know about the cost of multitasking is also by Dan Willingham.

Data shows kids shouldn’t multitask is by Dan Willingham, too.

Here’s an interactive on multitasking from Scientific American.

Please Include Attribution to With This Graphic
Multitasking Infographic

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

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March 9, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Research Studies Of The Week

'magnifying glass' photo (c) 2005, Tall Chris - license:

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):

Our quick guide to literacy research for teachers is a useful summary from The Guardian.

Socialization technique helps in academic achievement, trial study finds is from The Washington Post, and describes results from a study on using Social Emotional Learning in the classroom. I’m adding it to The Best Social Emotional Learning (SEL) Resources. Here’s more info on the same research.

Does Stymied Educational Attainment Lead to Depression? is an interesting article about new research, and appeared in the Pacific Standard. Here’s an excerpt:

Reynolds and Baird conclude that there are no long-term emotional costs to aiming high and falling short when it comes to educational aspirations. This contradicts decades of research that holds that unmet educational expectations lead to psychological distress. In fact, not trying is the only way to ensure lower levels of education and increased chances of poor mental health. So, go ahead and shoot for that moon.

I’m adding it to The Best Resources For Showing Students Why They Should Continue Their Academic Career.

The way a room is lit can affect the way you make decisions is from Science Daily. Here’s an excerpt:

The next time you want to turn down the emotional intensity before making an important decision, you may want to dim the lights first. A new study shows that human emotion, whether positive or negative, is felt more intensely under bright light. under bright lights emotions are felt more intensely.

This is probably a good classroom management tip to keep in mind. I haven’t been that intentional about it, but I think — in my experience, at least — overly-enthusiastic classes tend to be a bit calmer when the lights are off (I generally have them off when I have something on the document camera for students to see — it’s more clear with less light in the room). I’ll have to more conscious of it to see its effect on behavior. Of course, we also have to balance it out with the potential tendency among some who might become more drowsy with the lights out. What has been your experience?

Common Core is Focus of New AERA Site on Newsworthy Research Topics is from Education Week. It shares some useful information:

The Trending Topic Research File  provides free online access to Common Core-related articles appearing in the six peer-reviewed journals of the American Educational Research Association. (The “free” part is important because, typically, nonsubscribers pay $30 to download a single article.)

Retention leads to discipline problems in other kids is the title of a new report on research coming out of Duke University. Here’s an excerpt:

When students repeat a grade, it can spell trouble for their classmates, according to a new Duke University-led study of nearly 80,000 middle-schoolers.

In schools with high numbers of grade repeaters , suspensions were more likely to occur across the school community. Discipline problems were also more common among other students, including substance abuse, fighting and classroom disruption.

Public debate typically focuses on how retention affects an individual student’s academic performance, said lead author Clara Muschkin. So she and her colleagues decided to take a wider view and consider how holding students back may affect the school as a whole.

“The decision to retain students has consequences for the whole school community,” said Muschkin, an associate director of the Duke Center for Child and Family Policy. “That wider effect is an issue worth considering as we debate this policy.”

I’m adding it to The Best Resources For Learning About Grade Retention, Social Promotion & Alternatives To Both.

The Ed Tech Researcher over at Education Week provides an overview of research on what the best length of a video is to show to students. There’s some disagreement, but is sounds like six minutes is best. That sounds right to me….

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March 9, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

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


The SAME day The Washington Post republished my piece on the potential misuse of teaching Social Emotional Learning Skills, Education Week reported on new research titled Study Links Teacher ‘Grit’ with Effectiveness, Retention.

My Washington Post piece had only referred to SEL and students — I’m embarrassed to say I hadn’t even thought about how it could be misused against teachers.

Here’s what the study found:

novice teachers in high-poverty school districts, higher levels of “perseverance and passion for long-term goals” (aka “grit”) were associated with higher rates of effectiveness and retention.

The researchers evaluated applicants’ resumes on grit by apparently giving points for extracurricular activities and measured teacher “effectiveness” on student test scores.

Come on, now. It’s pretty clear that using Value-Added Measurements to rate teachers is wrought with errors — can you imagine some district trying to incorporate pretty arbitrary grit scores into evaluations?

I met with a staffperson from Angela Duckworth’s new Character Lab on Friday. I shared with her, as I’ve written before, that I strongly believe that these kinds of character assessments can be useful for self-assessment purposes, with the clear explanation that they might or might not be accurate. In fact, I have students take Professor Duckworth’s online “grit assessment” — but only after I caution that it might or might be accurate, they should take it with a grain of salt, not share it, and only use it if it meshes with their own self-assessment.

Once you start using this kind of data to judge others, you fall into the trap of being data-driven instead of being data-informed.

I’ll end with a quote that is often erroneously attributed to Albert Einstein when, in fact, it was said by sociologist William Bruce Cameron. That doesn’t detract from its wisdom:

Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.

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February 26, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

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

'Carrots' photo (c) 2006, Fovea Centralis - license:

Yet another study has found that extrinsic motivation is not a effective in enhancing motivation. Since there is so much research showing this already, that’s not really big news.

But it’s the details of this study that are particularly intriguing.

Daniel Pink has written and spoken about research showing that extrinsic motivation is effective in enhancing mechanical work that doesn’t require creative or critical thinking. To be honest, I’ve never looked into the research he cites, but this new study reinforces that conclusion. The experiment was a little convoluted but, basically, participants were promised bonuses based on their “test” results (either a high or low reward) and had to answer questions and were given cues. Sometimes the cue was an arrow pointing right next to the word “Right” (or pointing left with the word “Left”) and sometimes the cue was an arrow pointing right or left with the opposite word next to it.

If I’m reading the research correctly, and I believe I am, they found that the people promised high bonuses did well when the arrows and words were “congruent,” but worse than the low-reward group when there were not congruent cues.

In other words, the promise of bonuses helped mechanical thinking, but actually made it more unlikely that they would perform tasks successfully that required critical and creative-thinking.

The researchers point out that this result was specifically for participants with high levels of dopamine, but it appears that either they or the writer of the report for the Association For Psychological Science suggest that it could have broader implications.

I was also particularly intrigued by a couple of other comments in the report:

It appeared the participants with a lot of dopamine in their systems were so distracted by the potential reward that they had trouble concentrating on the task.

In reporting on their findings in the journal Psychological Science, Aarts and her colleagues suggest that for people with naturally high dopamine levels, the promise of a bonus for good performance could actually “overdose” the reward centers of their brains.

It seems to me that this relates to another topic that Dan Pink discusses — the difference between learning and performance goals, and how those who focus on learning goals tend to do better than those who focus on performance.

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February 22, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

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

In an excellent post awhile back, Larry Cuban summarized research related to how many decisions a teacher has to make each day:

*Researchers Hilda Borko and Richard Shavelson summarized studies that reported .7 decisions per minute during interactive teaching.

*Researcher Philip Jackson (p. 149) said that elementary teachers have 200 to 300 exchanges with students every hour (between 1200-1500 a day), most of which are unplanned and unpredictable calling for teacher decisions, if not judgments.

Now, a new study (thanks to Dan Willingham for the tip) has identified the number of research-based options we have to choose from when we make these decisions:


There’s certainly no reason why someone with just a few weeks training shouldn’t be able to handle teaching a class, wouldn’t you say?

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February 14, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Some Very Interesting Info On Self-Control Research

'Marshmallow Nightmares!!' photo (c) 2010, Kate Ter Haar - license:

I’ve written a lot about helping students learn about self-control (see The Best Posts About Helping Students Develop Their Capacity For Self-Control).

Walter Mischel’s famous marshmallow experiment obviously plays a role in that work. I also wrote about a recent study (see Marshmallows and Trust) that raised a question about if that experiment truly measured self-control, or if it really measured the children’s trust in the researcher — would he/she really return with a second marshmallow. I and others thought that was intriguing, though also thought it was far too soon to jump to any conclusions.

Nevertheless, it raises — again — the issue that Social Emotional Learning is not enough, and that, in addition to teaching SEL skills, attacking some of the potential root causes studies have found for SEL challenges facing many low-income people must also be made a priority in our society (see The Best Articles About The Study Showing Social Emotional Learning Isn’t Enough).

I was prompted to write this post after seeing a tweet from Kevin Washburn, who’s at the Learning and the Brain Conference in San Francisco this week. He was reporting on what sounded to be a great talk by Kelly McGonigal there, including pointing out (I assume based on this recent study) that having a caring teacher is likely to promote self-control. In other words, if trust does indeed play a key role in self-regulation, students feeling that they can trust the teacher is likely to increase the odds of students developing it.

I hadn’t made that obvious connection to that “trust” finding, and thought it was worth sharing — not that we educators don’t have enough other reasons to encourage students to trust us!

I also thought Kevin tweeted out some other useful information, and embedded them below. I also am using this opportunity to try out TweetDeck’s new “custom timeline” feature, and will be comparing it to Storify, which is the tool I usually use to curate tweets.

Speaking of the Learning and The Brain conference, I’ll be there on Friday and Saturday leading workshops, so posts at this blog will be fairly minimal over the next day or two..

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February 8, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Research Studies Of The Week

'magnifying glass' photo (c) 2005, Tall Chris - license:

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):

A Simple Daily Intervention Decreases Employee Stress is from The Harvard Business Review. Here’s an excerpt:

Stress levels and physical complaints declined by roughly 15% after employees were directed to spend 10 minutes writing about three things that had gone well each day, says a team of researchers led by Joyce E. Bono of the University of Florida.

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

Useful Science looks like a great website — it’s visually attractive and provides short summaries of recent research, along with links to the original research. The research is divided into categories, and education is one of them.

Learning To Think Outside The Box is an article in The New York Times about creativity. The article briefly discusses research, but an online test it provides for users to evaluated their own creativity is particularly interesting. It also has additional multimedia resources. I’m adding it to The Best Sources Of Advice On Helping Students Strengthen & Develop Their Creativity.

Multiple-Choice Tests Hinder Critical Thinking. Should They Be Used in Science Classes? is a report on recent research from Real Clear Science.

Why “Just Say No” Doesn’t Work is from Scientific American.

5 key things to know about meta-analysis is from Scientific American. I’m adding it to The Best Resources For Understanding How To Interpret Education Research.

Understanding Educational Research is by Walt Gardner at Ed Week. I’m adding it to the same list.

We Didn’t Eat the Marshmallow. The Marshmallow Ate Us. is from The New York Times, and makes some interesting points about the famous marshmallow experiment. I’m adding it to The Best Posts About Helping Students Develop Their Capacity For Self-Control.

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January 18, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

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

Thanks to a tweet from Scott McLeod, I just learned about a new study from The Department of Education titled Do Disadvantaged Students Get Less Effective Teaching?

Yes, it’s a study based on the discredited science of Value-Added Measurement. It highlights VAM studies that I have specifically criticized with “Best” lists of their own (A Beginning List Of The Best Posts On Gates’ Final MET “Effective Teaching” Report and the infamous Chetty study).

So, the study’s conclusions have to be seen in that context. But, hey, if “reformers” are going to live by the sword, they can (figuratively) die by it, too.

And that’s because the researchers conclusions are astounding.

Here’s what they found:


Let me get this straight.

“School reformers,” including Arne Duncan, are alienating millions of teachers and hurting countless students and their families over a teacher evaluation policy that — using their own prize methodology (ignorant that we may believe it to be) — affects two-to-four percent of the achievement gap?

Of course, and unfortunately, Duncan’s ignoring his own Department’s research is no surprise, considering he’s doing the same by pushing merit pay even though his Department  announced last September that out of three approved studies of a New York performance pay program, one showed across the board negative effects on student achievement; another showed negative effects in some areas and no effect in others; and a third one showed no effect at all.

And that his same Department has previously concluded that 90% of the elements that affect student test scores are outside the control of teachers.

If he wants to truly impact student success, perhaps he should read The Best Places To Learn What Impact A Teacher & Outside Factors Have On Student Achievement and The Best Resources For Learning About The “Achievement Gap.”

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January 11, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Research Studies Of The Week

'magnifying glass' photo (c) 2005, Tall Chris - license:

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:

57 Cognitive Biases That Screw Up How We Think is from Business Insider.

Reading a Novel Alters Your Brain Connectivity — So What? offers a different perspective on a recently study I posted about at Study: “How Stories Get Into Your Brain.”

What Would Make You More Likely to Read This Story? reports on research finding what kinds of headlines were more likely to attract readers. Here’s an excerpt:

Not only were question headlines more effective than declarative headlines, self-referencing questions (such as those including “you” or “your”) were also found to generate higher readership than those without self-referencing cues.

I’m adding this info to The Best Sources Of Advice For Teachers (And Others!) On How To Be Better Bloggers.

Coaching Young People to Be Positive Pays Off is from Science Daily. Here’s an excerpt:

Positive attitudes such as self-belief, aspiration, flexibility and appetite for learning were associated with less hyperactivity, fewer emotional problems, fewer problems with fellow pupils and greater inclination to help others. Pupils with this positive mindset were also happier and slept better. Interestingly, a range of employability skills such as teamwork, problem solving and planning were also associated with greater happiness in pupils.

I’m adding this info to My Best Posts On Why It’s Important To Be Positive In Class.

The 99U Guide to Habits includes several good articles. I’m adding it to The Best Ways To Help Make Your New Year’s Resolutions Succeed.

Readability Scores on Kids’ Books Are Bogus: Most books come with an indication of how hard they are, and those estimates are mostly wrong is from the Smithsonian Magazine. I’m adding it to The Best Posts & Articles About Why Book “Leveling” Is A Bad Idea.

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January 6, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

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

'Stress' photo (c) 2009, Alan Cleaver - license:

As regular readers of this blog, and as readers of my books, know, I’m a big believer in helping my students develop Social Emotional Learning skills like self-control and perseverance.

For many reasons, though, I’m concerned about it being over-sold as a panacea for many of the challenges we face in schools, and have written about it fairly extensively in The Best Articles About The Study Showing Social Emotional Learning Isn’t Enough.

Now, yet another major study has been released reinforcing that belief, and it’s been written up in The New York Times in an article titled Can Upward Mobility Cost You Your Health?

It suggests that many low-income students who are the most diligent and academically successful go on to have much more severe health problems than their less academically successful classmates:

Some young people respond to the pressure by doubling down on character strengths that have served them well, cultivating an even more determined persistence to succeed. This strategy, however, can backfire when it comes to health. Behaving diligently all of the time leaves people feeling exhausted and sapped of willpower. Worn out from having their noses to the grindstone all the time, they may let their health fall by the wayside, neglecting sleep and exercise, and like many of us, overindulging in comfort foods.

Sherman A. James, a sociologist at Duke University, calls this single-minded determination to succeed and uncompromising work ethic, even in the face of overwhelming odds, “John Henryism,” after the legend of a black railroad worker who, in the 19th century, was said to have defeated a steam-powered drill in a steel-driving contest, only to drop dead of exhaustion.

They make a point of highlighting that they’re talking about low-income students are most diligent. I’d have to read the actual study (which I will at some point) to be sure, but I’m assuming this means that these issues are not necessarily prevalent with the students who we’re just trying to help develop basic SEL skills.

I’m not sure their recommendations for action are particularly helpful, though they do suggest that helping lower-income students who are particularly high-achieving with stress reduction counsel might make sense. I’ve certainly seen that need in my IB students. I’m thinking that, as a very, very tiny step to responding to this study might be to do my lesson on stress (that link leads to a “Best” list, but the lesson is in one of my books) with my IB students and have them read this article to reinforce its importance.

Any other ideas on what we can do now in our classrooms?

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January 4, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Study: “How Stories Get Into Your Brain”

'Reading a book' photo (c) 2007, Karoly Czifra - license:

A new study reinforces previous ones that have found the cognitive and emotional impacts reading can have on us — besides just the literacy and content knowledge we gain. You can read about those previous studies at The Best Resources On “Becoming What We Read.”

This new study showed — through brain scans — how reading makes our brain feel like we are part of the story:

‘The neural changes that we found, associated with physical sensation and movement systems, suggest that reading a novel can transport you into the body of the protagonist, ’Professor Berns said.

Here are links where you can read more about the study:

How a book really can change your life: Brain function improves for DAYS after reading a novel is form The Daily Mail.

A novel look at how stories may change the brain is from Eureka Alert.

Reading Changes Brain’s Connectivity, Study Suggests is from The Huffington Post.

Reading a Novel Alters Your Brain Connectivity — So What? offers a different perspective on the research.

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January 2, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Special Edition Of “Research Studies Of The Week”

'magnifying glass' photo (c) 2005, Tall Chris - license:

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.

This week, though, is a “special edition.” Instead of highlighting a number of individual studies, I’m listing three recent collections of research that are particularly worthwhile.

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

Here are the three:

19 Reasons Why Willpower Fails You, And What To Do About It is from Forbes.

‘Tools of the Mind’ and Other Popular Topics in Education Research in 2013 is from Sarah D. Sparks at Education Week.

The Top Ten Brain Science And Psychology Studies Of 2013 is from Forbes.

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December 22, 2013
by Larry Ferlazzo

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

Fighting in Teenagers Lowers Their IQ reports on the results of a recent study.

Here’s an excerpt:


I’m not sure how strong a deterrent reading this article would be to students, but it certainly couldn’t hurt — ideally prior to an altercation. But, if not then, perhaps as part of the disciplinary process?

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December 20, 2013
by Larry Ferlazzo

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

I’ve previously posted about a new study which found that standardized testing may measure how well a school is doing on training students on lower-level thinking skills needed to do well on…standardized tests, but has practically no value in measuring “fluid intelligence” abilities like ability to transfer knowledge in one area and apply it towards solving a problem in another.

There have been a number of articles about it in other places since that, so I thought I’d reprint what I wrote and add links to a few of them.

In addition, I’m adding this list to The Best Posts On How To Prepare For Standardized Tests (And Why They’re Bad).

The study comes from The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and you can read their summary here.

Here’s an interview with one of the study’s authors, which I think is even more interesting. He’s very careful with his interpretation of its results — a characteristic that I wish other researchers .

Here’s an excerpt from the interview:


Study: High Standardized Test Scores Don’t Translate to Better Cognition is another article and video about the same study. It’s from U.S. News.

Standardized Achievement Tests: What Are They Good For? Hint: Not Cognitive Ability. is from Scientific American.

Study: Test-score gains don’t mean cognitive gains is from Valerie Strauss at The Washington Post.

MIT Researchers: Higher Test Scores Do Not Translate into Higher Levels of Thinking is by Diane Ravitch.

What Are Tests Really Measuring?: When Achievement Isn’t Achievement is by Paul Thomas.

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December 20, 2013
by Larry Ferlazzo

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

'Mirror view' photo (c) 2008, Sudarshan V - license:

A new study concludes that:

“If language comprehension is a simulation process that uses neural systems of action, then perhaps we can better teach kids how to understand what they read by getting them to literally simulate the actions,” he explained.

Researchers attributed this conclusion to what are called “mirror neurons.” Kevin Washburn has a useful and short piece on them if you want to learn more.

Of course, these findings are nothing new to teachers of English Language Learners who have used Total Physical Response and other similar techniques for years.

You can read more about those instructional strategies at The Best Resources On Students Using Gestures & Physical Movement To Help With Learning.

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December 17, 2013
by Larry Ferlazzo

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

'You're worth so much more than that.' photo (c) 2008, DanaK~WaterPenny - license:

I’ve previously posted here on the blog and also written in my books about research that shows the benefits of having students do simple self-affirmation activities.

In Giving Students “Reflection Cards,” I describe its effect on developing self-control and how I apply it in the classroom.

In Useful Writing Exercise For Helping Students Develop Self-Esteem and in Simple Writing Exercise Said To “Narrow Achievement Gap,” I talk about what studies have found about its effect on student academic achievement and, again, how I apply it in my classroom.

Today, another study was released demonstrating the positive impact of these kinds of activities. Though the headline on the story is a bit of hyperbole (saying it can “overcome poverty” is bit overstated — I think that omits a broader perspective on inequality in society), it’s good to see proof reinforced.

Here’s a useful excerpt from the article:

Zhao and co-authors Eldar Shafir of Princeton University and Crystal Hall of University of Washington theorize that self-affirmation alleviates the mentally overwhelming stigma and cognitive threats of poverty, which can impair reasoning, cause bad decisions and perpetuate financial woes.

This study builds on previous research by Zhao and colleagues from Princeton, Harvard and University of Warwick, which found that poverty consumes so much mental energy that those in poor circumstances have little remaining brainpower to concentrate on other areas of life.

As a result, less “mental bandwidth” remains for education, training, time-management, assistance programs and other steps that could help break out of the cycles of poverty.

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