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    An Evidence-Based Approach To Science Education (Or: Dr. Hattie, And How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Numbers.)
    By Greg Doheny | April 26th 2011 12:21 AM | 13 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments


    Gerhard Adam
    I read it, and I guess I'm a bit confused as to why something so simple is made unnecessarily complicated. As a kind of thought experiment, consider if you were trapped in a room with an individual and you had to teach them how to disarm a bomb. I'm pretty sure that you'd find a successful technique and it wouldn't be nearly as filled with arrogance, irrelevant assignments, and the assumption that the student would "figure it out for themselves". So, it seems that this is how one should approach teaching. Seems pretty straightforward to me :)
    Mundus vult decipi
    With such a great number of variables involved, are "controlled studies" in pedagogy really possible? Our bureaucrats and academic accomplices love to quote them, but when they are probed into, one invariably discovers some bias in them. Teaching is a craft that can never be perfected. I have learned over the years that I have a much better chance of improving my effectiveness by (1) taking student questions, good ideas and misconceptions seriously (2) learning more about my subject (3) listening to other devoted teachers (4) ignoring the conflicting conclusions of pedagogical studies, especially if they are being used to sell a new book or push the latest "cure-all" gimmick
    Greg Doheny
    You're right. With the soft sciences it's not possible to eliminate random variables the way you can with a hard science. Usually the best you can do is try to make sure that the same random variables are present in both the test and control groups, do multiple measurements, do a lot of statistics, and hope tany effects you see are not due to synergy between experimental conditions and random variables. They often are, though. Also, by ignoring smaller effects (as Hattie does in his book) you stand a better chance of finding something real. Lots of potential bias to be sure, though. And then there's the thing of which we dare not speak. (ie-Meta-studies that lump experiments and experimentors of different quality together, treating them all the same. It's much better to do a single, large study, rather than trying to link together a bunch of smaller ones carried out by different investigators.)
    The Stand-Up Physicist
    Based on this article, I plan on asking my 2 year old daughter to explain things to me. If I do give formal lectures, I will make sure there are plenty of places to ask questions :-)
    Greg Doheny
    Cool! There's something else you can try with your two year old subject...er...daughter. Try one of Piaget's more famous concrete operations tasks. Take a tall, thin cylinder and a short, fat flask that hold the same volume, and ask her which one she thinks will hold more water. Younger children will always point to the taller one . Then fill up the taller one and pour it into the shorter one to show that they have the same volume. Then, later on, ask her to guess which one holds more. Younger children will still point to the taller one, even though they've been shown they hold the same volume. When they no longer make that assumption, it's a sign of a transition to a higher level of cognitive development. :) About the questions in lecture, here's a nice trick to use. Ask the question first, but don't call on anybody to answer it until they've all had a chance to think about it without knowing who'll be called upon. A lot of teachers do the reverse by calling on somebody first, then asking them a question. This is better than nothing, but it defeats the purpose of getting the whole class to think about the question. Once somebody has been designated as the person to answer the question, the others won't bother thinking about it. Instead they'll be worrying about what the next question might be.
    The Stand-Up Physicist
    Thinking takes energy, so they are just conserving energy. I bet we are more sensitive to brain energy consumption that it might first appear. One reason i think beautiful people are recognized as beautiful is they require fewer neurons to recreate in our mind's eye. A speculation, but one based on energy considerations.

    Will look for a tall can/squat can model.
    Greg, I notice you follow Carl Weiman's blog here.

    What are your thoughts on his recent paper linked to from here:

    "Improved Learning in a Large Enrollment Physics Class - Louis Deslauriers, Ellen Schelew, and Carl Wieman (Physics & Astronomy and CWSEI, UBC)"

    Greg Doheny
    Hi Derek, Thanks for the note. Just a quick reply. I saw the paper, thought it was interesting, but had some minor issues with the way the experiment was designed. I might write a short blog review fo it when I have time. Thanks!
    How many people ( acdemicians) are following your suggestions in USA & the world?

    Greg Doheny
    I'm not sure. All I know is that things seem to be improving, in fits and starts, as more college and university educators start paying more attention to pedagogy. The only problem is that they don't always turn to evidence-based teaching methods, which is a little ironic given that they are scientists.
    Meta-analysis is a very tricky thing and without looking carefully at how it was done one should be hesitant to buy into it.
    The best met-analysis done on the effectiveness of inquiry was done by Daphne Minner at the Educational Development Center. There you will find a set of working papers that carefully delineates how the analysis was done, as well as the final paper. The results suggest that in about 50% of the head to head studies, inquiry methods enhanced student learning, and in only 2% of the cases were the inquiry methods less effective. The rest were awash. Of course there is the question of what is meant by "inquiry" and they address that carefully.
    Don't know about this book as I have not read it yet.

    Greg Doheny
    You're right, meta-analysis is a very tricky thing. However, having done some work with meta-analysis of clinical drug trials, I found the transition to meta-analysis in educational studies an easy one. The studies tend to be designed the same way, and have the same limitations. Thanks for the information on Daphne Minner and the Educational Development Center. I'll have to look in to her findings!
    I would like to see you write your followup post on Piagetian programs.