Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

May 27, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo

Quote Of The Day: “Do” Is Better Than “Don’t”

I’ve previously written about how I apply research that shows using “positive-framed” messages instead of “loss-framed” ones.

Here’s an excerpt of what I’ve written earlier about researchers learning:

that “loss framed messages” (if you do this, then something bad will happen to you) really don’t have the “persuasive advantage” that they are thought to have. In fact, positive-framed messages (if you do this, all this good stuff will happen to you) are more effective, particularly in changing people’s health behaviors.

Researchers suggest the reason is because people “don’t like to be bullied into changing…behavior.” This is similar to the reason why incentives don’t work to increasing behavior that requires higher-order thinking — people don’t want to feel like mice in a maze (I heard that in a podcast interview with Daniel Pink a few months ago).

It certain reflects my experience with classroom management. I’ve had much better success talking with students about how changing their behavior will help them achieve their goals (passing a class, graduating from high school, going to college, etc.) than with threatening negative consequences (though, admittedly, in a few circumstances, that might work and I’ve used it).

A new study released today reinforced these same findings. Here’s an excerpt:


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May 25, 2015
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 2014 – Part Two.

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

Generation Deaf: Doctors Warn of Dangers of Ear Buds is from NBC News. I’m adding it to The Best Resources On Teens & Hearing Loss.

Most students struggle to take effective lecture notes. Here are two ways to help them is from BPS Research Digest.

Poverty shapes how children think about themselves is another report from BPS about an intriguing study.

Is Reading Recovery like Stone Soup? is an important critique of a recent study lauding the Reading Recovery Program. It’s written by Greg Ashman. Be sure to read the comments section.

The uses and abuses of evidence in education is not a research study, but a guide to evaluating research. It’s by Geoff Petty. I’m adding it to The Best Resources For Understanding How To Interpret Education Research.

Five psychological findings every history teacher should know by Harry Fletcher-Wood summarizes a number of studies, several which I’ve discussed in previous posts and books. It’s still worth reading, though.

Kids with ADHD must squirm to learn, study says is from Eureka Alert.

Nothing beats a good night’s sleep for helping people absorb new information, new research reveals is from Science Daily. I’m adding it to The Best Resources For Helping Teens Learn About The Importance Of Sleep.

Irregular sleeping pattern may affect how teens eat is from Science Daily. I’m adding it to the same list.

How quality of sleep impacts academic performance in children is from Eureka Alert. I’m adding it to the same list.

Don’t worry, be happy: Just go to bed earlier is from Science Daily. And, yup, it goes to the same list.

Is It Safe? Young Teens Look to Older Kids, Not Adults, for Advice on Risky Situations is an Ed Week report on an intriguing study.

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May 23, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo

A Cornucopia Of Useful Social Emotional Learning Resources

I’m hopelessly behind on important resources to share, particularly ones related to Social Emotional Learning. Thanks to Karen HuxtableJester and to Vipula Sharma for some of the links. I’ll be adding this post to The Best Social Emotional Learning (SEL) Resources:

The Educator and the Growth Mindset is from Jackie Gerstein and Metacognition Curriculum is an older post from Frank Noschese.

Test Your Mindset is an online interactive from Carol Dweck that I think would be useful to offer to students.

Helping Students Reach Their Full Potential with the Growth Mindset is by Dan Winkler and provides a pretty good, and short, definition of a growth mindset.

I’m adding all the previously-mentioned links to The Best Resources On Helping Our Students Develop A “Growth Mindset.”

Teaching Teenagers to Develop Their Emotional Intelligence is from, of all places, The Harvard Business Review.  Though I’m a bit skeptical of making these kinds of connections, here was a particularly interesting sentence (and link) from the article:

a cost-benefit analysis released last month concluded that for every dollar schools spend on SEL, there is an average of $11 worth of benefits to society, including costs associated with healthcare and educational attainment.

Here’s an Ed Week article on that particular study.

How to Be Emotionally Intelligent is from The New York Times.

I’m adding this tweet to The Best Posts About Helping Students Develop Their Capacity For Self-Control:

High Schools That Walk the Social-Emotional Walk (and Don’t Just Talk the Talk) is from Ed Week.

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May 23, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo

Study Finds That Rewards For School Attendance Make Things Worse

In yet another addition to the long line of research showing problems with extrinsic motivation, the results of a new study designed to reduce school truancy was announced (How Do You Motivate Kids To Stop Skipping School?).

Researchers offered a reward to students for school attendance over a month-long period. Most students increased their attendance during that time, but then, as most previous research has demonstrated would happen, they immediately reverted to their previous attendance rate once the reward system was gone.

However, sixty percent of the students who had the lowest attendance rates at the beginning not only did not improve enough to gain the reward — after the reward system ended their attendance got a lot worse. In fact:

They were now only about one-fourth as likely to show up for class as they had been before the reward scheme was introduced.

Here’s how the NPR report ends:


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

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May 17, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo

Somewhat Interesting Video: Duckworth & Yeager Talk About Their New “Grit” Paper

A few days ago, I wrote a somewhat popular post titled Measurement Matters….Maybe Not So Much. It was about the new paper written by Angela Duckworth (of “grit” fame) and David Scott Yeager (a researcher of “growth mindsets”). The paper is titled “Measurement Matters:Assessing Personal Qualities Other Than Cognitive Ability for Educational Purposes.”

Emily Hanford shared a video the two of them made talking about the paper, which I’ve embedded below. There’s nothing particularly new about it if you’ve read their paper, but it was somewhat interesting to hear them talk about it.

I hadn’t seen videos like this before where researchers talk about a paper that has just been published. Maybe it’s a common practice but, if it isn’t, it seems like it would be a nice way to help laypeople gain a better understanding of research.

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May 13, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

Measurement Matters….Maybe Not So Much

You may have heard about the article released today that was written by Angela Duckworth (of “grit” fame) and David Scott Yeager (a researcher of “growth mindsets.” It’s titled “Measurement Matters:Assessing Personal Qualities Other Than Cognitive Ability for Educational Purposes.”

I thought I’d share about the good and the bad in it.

Here’s their official summary.

You can also read articles about it at The Washington Post and in Education Week.

Here’s my summary and “take” on the article and its topics:


They basically say that it is important to develop a common and better term for the range of Social Emotional Learning skills like self-control, grit, growth mindset, etc. — and to particularly reconsider the term “non-cognitive skills.” In addition, they say that the present instruments being used to measure these qualities are imperfect and should not be used for high-stakes decision-making related to students, teachers or schools, and that research should be done to determine better forms of measurement.


It’s great news that they are saying that SEL measurements should not be used for any kind of high-stakes decision-making. I wonder if that means that Ms. Duckworth is stepping away from her research last year suggesting that Districts could determine grit scores from the resumes of teacher candidates and using that information in their hiring decisions (see This Has Me Concerned: “Study Links Teacher ‘Grit’ with Effectiveness, Retention”). I’ve sent that question into her institute and hope to have a response to share soon (Professor Duckworth graciously responded within hours.  You can see it at the end of this post).

It’s not so great news that they seem to say what’s really needed in order to start using SEL skills in high-stakes decision-making is just a better way to measure those SEL skills.

I made my case about why teachers shouldn’t be measuring individual students SEL skills in a Washington Post column titled Why schools should not grade character traits.

I think that entire column is applicable to the issues raised in today’s article, and here’s just one excerpt (there’s some irony in my sharing it here because Duckworth and Yaeger also use the same quote in their paper):

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

The quote is sometimes (erroneously, it seems) attributed to Albert Einstein. And that’s probably because we tend to think of Einstein as a sensible fellow who understood the limits of quantification. I think we might add a corollary to Cameron’s observation: Going through tortuous gyrations in order to count something doesn’t mean it should be counted.

Maybe I’m naive or unsophisticated (and I’m happy to hear comments suggesting both), but I just don’t see the need to officially measure everything that students do or don’t do.

It appears to me that there is sufficient research out there, and enough direct teacher experience validating it, to demonstrate that there is value to teaching SEL skills (though, as I’ve regularly said, they have their place, but also have to be kept in their place).

And other researchers have used what appears to me appropriate indicators of how successful schools are being in helping students develop them, including through measuring “student absences, suspensions, grades, and grade progression.”

Of course, because of factors beyond teachers’ control (and there are many of them), we need to be careful that even these kinds of numbers are used to ensure that we are using them to be data-informed and not data-driven.

I think a much more important issue for public discussion around issues of grit, self-control and growth mindset relate to The Manipulation Of Social Emotional Learning by those who seek to use it as a “Let Them Eat Character” replacement for needed policy solutions.

What are your thoughts on the new Duckworth/Yaeger article and the issues it raises, as well as on my commentary about it?


Response From Angela Duckworth:

I did write a paper that encouraged scrutinizing an applicant’s “track record” of grit (e.g., in college sports or public service or anything else where they could show up, or not, over multiple years and really apply themselves). The thing I like about this measurement approach to grit is that it is, in theory, less fakeable than a self-report questionnaire and also not as susceptible to reference bias, because you do not have to ask the applicant to rate themselves. However, it is like any other measurement approach limited and imperfect. Here is a paragraph from the paper:

“We suggest that school administrators consider grit as one factor—
among many—in identifying promising new teachers. While no single factor in isolation should determine a hiring decision, the method for quantifying grit from biographical data developed for this investigation represents a practical tool for predicting success in the first few years in teaching. Despite its predictive validity, policymakers should proceed cautiously when using this measure of grit during the screening process and continue to consider a wide range of variables, not just those that are easy to measure, when making hiring decisions. In addition, before using these measures for high-stakes purposes, districts should conduct their own internal validation studies to ensure grit is predictive of valued teaching outcomes in their sample of teachers.”

And here is the paper in its entirety

So, I hope the message that comes through is that all measures are imperfect, each measure is imperfect in its own way, and we need to recognize the limitations and advantages of any measure when we think about specific purposes to which these measures would be applied.

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May 10, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo

The Limits To The Power Of A Growth Mindset (& The Dangers When We Don’t Recognize Them)

As regular readers know, I’m a big believer in helping students understand and develop a growth mindset, and have recently published two very popular posts about it.

However, I also think it’s possible to have too much of a good thing.

Carol Dweck, whom I have praised repeatedly, and her colleagues just published a paper on self-control/willpower and a growth mindset. Jonah Lehrer has written the best explanation of it that I’ve seen. Basically, their study suggests that contrary to previous research that has found self-control to be a resource that can be depleted and then needs to be replenished through food, beverage, or other means, in fact, having a growth mindset about your capacity for self-control is really the best way to keep your willpower at a high-level (I believe that’s an accurate summary, but am more than willing to be told otherwise).

This study seems to build on Professor Dweck’s Op Ed in The New York Times a few years ago which I, and other researchers ,critiqued. And I made similar criticisms of another researcher who I admire, Heidi Grant Halvorson, when she made a similar case for people dealing with stress (see Our Students Are Not Supermen & Superwomen). Many studies have found that we have a certain amount of cognitive “bandwidth” available to deal with pressures and that certain stresses, particularly economic ones, can take up a substantial space in it. That, in turn,  limits what might be available for what are considered Social Emotional Learning skills. In other words, people aren’t poor because they don’t have self-control or grit — poverty itself helps create a lack of those qualities.

I’m not convinced that pushing our students to develop a growth mindset should be the primary strategy we educators use to help our students deal with all the challenges they face, including self-control and stress. Though I think a growth mindset is a critical perspective we want our students to develop, I think also acknowledging that we all have some limitations, and learning strategies to effectively cope with them is an equally important concept and skill to learn (here are strategies around self-control and stress I teach students).

I am not trying to put words into the mouths of Professor Dweck (and Heidi Grant Halvorson) and her colleagues by suggesting that they believe that having a growth mindset is the answer to all these challenges, though I think that pushing these ever-expanding claims about the power of a growth mindset can sometimes leave that impression.

These kinds of claims also play into the “Let Them Eat Character” narrative that the problem for low-income people is character and not poverty and inequality. David Brooks is a big public advocate of this perspective, which he repeated just last weekend. And I’ve written about it in The Washington Post, The manipulation of Social Emotional Learning.

As I’ve stated before (see the discussion in the comments here), I hope that all researchers take into consideration how their studies might be misused by others in the public policy arena.

What do you think — am I over-reacting?

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