So Many Hands to Hold in the Classroom
Lynda C. Lambert, The Chronicle of Higher Education, September 17, 2012

"Over the 17 years I've taught writing at the college level, I used to occasionally have a student who was afraid to choose a topic for an essay, or even to ask a question, because she didn't know what was "right." One young man chose not to turn in an assignment at all, because he didn't understand the instructions and was afraid to say so. Now, instead of the occasional student in this condition, I'm getting classrooms full.

"So many of them are so unused to thinking on their own that they cannot formulate an opinion without being told what opinion they are supposed to have. And if someone shares his opinion, he is obviously—as far as many students are concerned—trying to foist it on others rather than offering them an opportunity to challenge that opinion and debate it.
"This should not be a surprise, of course. The types of assignments they became accustomed to in elementary and secondary schools were not subjectively graded but were rooted in a behaviorist system that, intentionally, does not challenge students to think or be creative. Instead it tells them what result they should have and then offers them the map to it.

"Unfortunately, following a map may teach them how to navigate, but it does not teach them how to drive. Few students seem to be able to find their way through their courses anymore without that map. And, interestingly, they hold the instructor responsible for their lack of learning if she does not provide GPS coordinates."
'Children Succeed' With Character, Not Test Scores
NPR Staff,, September 4, 2012

"A child's success can't be measured in IQ scores, standardized tests or vocabulary quizzes, says author Paul Tough. Success, he argues, is about how young people build character. Tough explores this idea in his new book, How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character.

"On how schools are focused on scores rather than noncognitive skills

""Right now we've got an education system that really doesn't pay attention to [noncognitive] skills at all. ... I think schools just aren't set up right now to try to develop things like grit, and perseverance and curiosity. ... Especially in a world where we are more and more focused on standardized tests that measure a pretty narrow range of cognitive skills, teachers are less incentivized to think about how to develop those skills in kids. So it's a conversation that's really absent I think in a lot of schools, to the detriment of a lot of students.""

"Over-parenting's faulty logic"
Madeline Levine, SF Gate, August 10, 2012

"Counterintuitive as it seems, the very things we're doing to secure our children's futures can end up compromising them. Pushing and over-scheduling prevent them from becoming competent adults capable of the resilience, perseverance, motivation and grit that business leaders say they'll need to compete in tomorrow's workforce. Just as importantly, it interferes with the ability to cultivate healthy relationships and to feel that life is meaningful.

"Many parents have significant misunderstandings about how children learn and what circumstances are likely to drive success in them. Our (culturally sanctioned) faulty thinking is pushing us to do, in many cases, the exact opposite of what kids need to thrive.
"Studies show that kids enrolled in academic-based preschools actually tend to fall behind their peers who attend play-based preschools by the fourth grade.
"Self-directed play is the work of childhood. It's a classroom in which kids develop a whole set of skills that really matter in life. Consider what happens in a simple game of chase: Kids must agree on the game and cooperate with each other. They must determine who will be the leader, who will be the follower and when it's time to renegotiate. When we fill their days with classes, practices and games, there's just no time left for learning these critical lessons.

"Most experts agree that kids should have twice as much unstructured free time as structured playtime. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends at least 60 minutes a day. If they can get that 60 minutes outdoors - climbing trees, chasing fireflies or playing baseball in an empty lot - so much the better."
"In Defense of Algebra"
Jessica Lahey, New York Times - Motherlode, July 31, 2012

"I know precisely where I lost my battle with math, the moment I was informed clearly and unequivocally that I simply wasn’t “a math person.” My seventh-grade math teacher, an otherwise lovely man, called each of his students up to his desk one by one in order to write a “1” (for the honors track) or “2” (for the standard track) on the school’s official math placement forms. As I watched from over his hunched and courduroyed shoulder, he wrote a beautiful, decisive and neat “1” on my form.

"There it was, in permanent ink. I was good at math.

"“Jess, could you come back up here for a minute?” he asked as I floated back to my seat.

"He reclaimed my form, and carefully overlaid that beautiful “1” with a dark, clumsy “2,” pressing hard with his black pen in order to make sure the ink obliterated any evidence of his indecision.

"And from then on, I wasn’t good at math anymore.

"From the moment I was relegated to standard math, I knew I was never going to be an engineer. I went through the motions of my math education, but never put any heart into the subject. My teachers didn’t push back very hard because the evidence was in: I just wasn’t a math person. I’d make it through to the day I could opt out of math forever, and I would never look back.

"Except, I did. For years, I have eyed my colleague Alison Gorman’s math classroom with wary suspicion. I peek in on her class when I hear laughter, wondering what could possibly inspire mirth in algebra class. I have watched with wonder during recess when her MathCounts students show up with their lunches, willing to spend valuable leisure time challenging each other to think through math problems."
"Extra! Extra! Read all about science:
Teachers and experts share their secrets on using the news to enrich science class
Andrew Bridges, Science News for Kids, July 25, 2012

"“For me, current events are one way to engage young people in real-world discussions of the applicability of science,” says Robert Simmons, a professor in the education department of Loyola University Maryland and a former middle-school science teacher. “Students have asked me, ‘Why are we learning this?’ If we cannot answer that question, we need to go back to the drawing board and figure it out. The answer cannot be, ‘Because it’s on the test.’” "
"College Degrees, Designed by the Numbers
Marc Parry, Chronicle of Higher Education, July 18, 2012

"Data diggers hope to improve an education system in which professors often fly blind. That's a particular problem in introductory-level courses, says Carol A. Twigg, president of the National Center for Academic Transformation. "The typical class, the professor rattles on in front of the class," she says. "They give a midterm exam. Half the kids fail. Half the kids drop out. And they have no idea what's going on with their students." 

"As more of this technology comes online, it raises new tensions. What role does a professor play when an algorithm recommends the next lesson? If colleges can predict failure, should they steer students away from challenges? When paths are so tailored, do campuses cease to be places of exploration? 
""We're steering students toward the classes where they are predicted to make better grades," Mr. Denley says. The predictions, he adds, turn out accurate within about half a letter grade, on average.

"The prediction process is more subtle than getting a suggestion to watch Goodfellasbecause you liked The Godfather. Take the hypothetical health major encouraged to take physics. The software sifts through a database of hundreds of thousands of grades other students have received. It analyzes the historical data to figure out how much weight to assign each piece of the health major's own academic record in forecasting how she will do in a particular course. Success in math is strongly predictive of success in physics, for example. So if her transcript and ACT score indicate a history of doing well in math, physics would probably be recommended over biology, though both satisfy the same core science requirement.

"Mr. Denley points to a spate of recent books by behavioral economists, all with a common theme: When presented with many options and little information, people find it difficult to make wise choices. The same goes for college students trying to construct a schedule, he says. They know they must take a social-science class, but they don't know the implications of taking political science versus psychology versus economics. They choose on the basis of course descriptions or to avoid having to wake up for an 8 a.m. class on Monday. Every year, students in Tennessee lose their state scholarships because they fall a hair short of the GPA cutoff, Mr. Denley says, a financial swing that "massively changes their likelihood of graduating."

""When students do indeed take the courses that are recommended to them, they actually do substantially better," he says. And take them they do. Last fall 45 percent of classes on students' schedules were from the top-10 recommendations, and 57 percent from the top 15. Though these systems are in their infancy, the concept is taking hold. Three other Tennessee colleges have adopted Mr. Denley's software, and some institutions outside the state are developing their own spins on the idea."

"A Conversation With 2 Developers of Personalized-Learning Software"
Marc Parry, The Chronicle of Higher Education, July 18, 2012

"Here's why education is different from search or social media. For one thing, the average student studies for more time than they spend on Google or Facebook. People spend way more time in Knewton than they spend on Google—they spend hours a day as opposed to minutes per day. So that's one big reason why we produce a few orders of magnitude more data per user than Google, just based on usage.

"But then there's the more important reason even than that, which is that education is not like Web pages or social media. It's a different product. And it lends itself infinitely more to data-mining than does any other industry right now. The reason is that nobody has tagged all the world's Web pages for Google down to the sentence level, the way that we ask publishers to tag every sentence, every answer choice of every question. They say, Here's what this sentence is about, or this video clip. They're basically telling us every single thing about every single piece of their content. That's how we can slice and dice it so finely."