Monday, April 28, 2014

Self-theories: Their role in motivation, personality, and development

Self-theories For the past year Carol Dweck has been at the top of my reading list. I first encountered Dweck's work via Jo Boaler on the Stanford How to Learn Math MOOC - still by far the best MOOC I have participated in and the only one which has any lasting influence on my world view. It's taken me a year to get there because life got in the way, but here is a summary of my feelings about Dweck's research.

Dweck, Carol S. Self-theories: Their role in motivation, personality, and development. Psychology Press, 2000. Carol Dweck's overview of fixed versus incremental intelligence. This is the academic version of Dweck's popular book Mindset.

What's this book about?
The contrast between fixed and incremental theory of intelligences, and how to foster learning by encouraging the latter. This is a staggering indictment of the education system, with its increasing emphasis on performance goals, and yet further evidence that no-one is really interested in evidence-based practice, or at least, policy.

Dweck's work is interesting because it arises from observations of helplessness in the face of failure or challenge, in comparison to a mastery-oriented mindset which is unfazed or even stimulated by challenge. She is particularly concerned about the damaging effect of person-oriented praise in engendering "contingent self-worth", which results in helplessness in the face of failure (I am a hopeless case because I have failed rather than I need to approach this differently next time). Praising inherent "intelligence" is particularly dangerous, reinforcing the entity framework rather than fostering adaptability (Dweck (2007) The perils and promises of praise). Counter intuitively, praising good work creates vulnerability to helpless responses in the face of future failure. In contrast, she views self-esteem as non-inherent - based on what students do rather than what they are.

What are the implications of Dweck's work for higher education? Dweck believes that patterns of helplessness versus mastery-oriented responses are primarily environmentally driven and fixed early in childhood. Too late then to do much about inherent qualities when students present for HE. However, there are implications for feedback design in that strategy-oriented feedback is likely to be more effective than person oriented feedback. Disturbingly little work has been done on applying Dweck's ideas in HE, although there are a few examples that stand out, notably:

How can we instill productive mindsets at scale? A review of the evidence and an initial R&D agenda. (2013) In: A White Paper prepared for the White House meeting on “Excellence in Education: The Importance of Academic Mindsets.
Contains examples of interventions in HE, e.g. as a part of online freshman orientation activities - in which students filled out medical forms and learned how to sign up for classes - all incoming students were required to complete a 30 minute overview of the “university mindset.” This had a significant effect on academic outcomes (N = 7,342).

Is no praise good praise? Effects of positive feedback on children's and university students’ responses to subsequent failures. (2012) British Journal of Educational Psychology, 82(2), 327-339.
Independent confirmation of Dweck's results.

All of which brings me to the idea of applying strategy feedback as opposed to person-oriented disapproval for staff training.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Digital Literacy – the practitioner’s approach

Higher Education Academy Digital Literacy – the practitioner’s approach
Date: 7 May 2014
Venue: London School of Economics
Places available

10:00–10:15 Introduction (Terry McAndrew, Higher Education Academy)

10:15-10:45 Keynote – Putting Students in the SADL: enhancing digital literacy at LSE (Jane Secker and Maria Bell, LSE)

10:45-11:25 From Skills to Practices: qualitative research into student digital literacies (Lesley-Jane Gourlay and Martin Oliver, Institute of Education).

11:35–12:00 Challenges from the disciplines - Stuck in the middle: challenges for staff and students (Alan Cann, University of Leicester)
Social media sit outside of an individual's institutional profile but lie within their online identity. But who owns your online identity? And where does the boundary between "work" and "personal" lie? How does a discipline develop digital literacy and identity?

12:00–12:30 Lightning talks:
Digital Literacy within ‘Changing the Learning Landscape’ Mobile Learning within Dentistry (Oluyori Adegun – Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry, Queen Mary University of London);
A ‘Flipped Classroom’ for all (Rosemary Stott, Ravensbourne);
Digi-tips and Digi-talents (Debra Reid, Spurgeon's College).

13:15–13:35 Digital Literacy: the student perspective - Digital literacy in student life and their disciplines.

13:35–14:00 Developing the design studio (Helen Beetham via Skype)

14:00–14:45 Workshop: How can I use this in my teaching?

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Six critical success factors for mobile Web 2.0 pedagogy

Cochrane, T. D. (2014). Critical success factors for transforming pedagogy with mobile Web 2.0. British Journal of Educational Technology, 45(1), 65-82.
Mobile learning (mlearning) research has in general been characterised by short-term comparative pilot studies with little high-level critique or theory formation. Consequently, there is limited evidence in the literature of mlearning research that is longitudinal across multiple contexts, cooperative and participatory. In response, this paper reflects upon longitudinal (2006–2011) participatory action research and identifies six critical success factors for implementing mobile Web 2.0. These are drawn from the design and implementation of over 35 projects from 2006 to 2011, exploring pedagogical transformation enabled by mobile Web 2.0 integration in higher education. Two of these critical success factors are highlighted in this paper: the need for new approaches to technical and pedagogical support, and the sustained interaction of supporting communities of practice.

Six critical success factors:
  1. The pedagogical integration of the technology into the course and assessment.
  2. Lecturer modelling of the pedagogical use of the tools.
  3. Creating a supportive learning community.
  4. Appropriate choice of mobile devices and Web 2.0 social software.
  5. Technological and pedagogical support.
  6. Creating sustained interaction that facilitates the development of ontological shifts, both for the lecturers and the students.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

PNAS Bemoans Peak Science

PNAS It has long been traditional for senior scientists at the top of the tree to pull the ladder up after them. This Malthusian moan in PNAS continues that tradition. "Broadening the career paths for young scientists"? Not while the cloning of MiniMes continues.

I do wonder how different my career would have been if I had done that postdoc with Harold Varmus I sought in the 1980s. But I have no regrets.

Bruce Alberts, Marc W. Kirschner, Shirley Tilghman, and Harold Varmus. Rescuing US biomedical research from its systemic flaws PNAS USA doi: 10.1073/pnas.1404402111

It's not the length of your e-learning that matters, it's what you do with it that counts

In a flash of the blindly-obvious-but-now-we-have-evidence-to-prove-it, this well-designed and well-controlled paper investigates the hierarchy of e-learning:
  1. Expository, where content is transmitted unidirectionally via the technology.
  2. Active, where students use the technology individually to explore information and solve problems.
  3. Interactive, where the technology mediates human interaction and knowledge emerges from such interaction.
and shows that length of time spent online is unimportant compared to length of time engaged in interactive learning activities such as time on task The communicating with staff and peers. The results reinforce the arguments of previous research on the benefits of face-to-face collaborative and cooperative learning and extend such arguments to computer-mediated learning.

You want evidence? We got evidence. Repeat after me:

A VLE is not a filing cabinet.

Castaño‐Muñoz, J., Duart, J. M., & Sancho‐Vinuesa, T. (2014). The Internet in face‐to‐face higher education: Can interactive learning improve academic achievement?. British Journal of Educational Technology, 45(1), 149-159.
Abstract: Recent research on e-learning shows that blended learning is more effective than face-to-face learning. However, a clear empirical response has not been given to the cause of such improvement. Using a data set of 9044 students at two Catalan universities and a quasi-experimental approach, two possible hypotheses identified in previous research are studied. The results show that the principal cause of the improvement is not, in itself, the increase in time spent online for educational purposes. Rather, increasing the time devoted to studying online is only useful when it takes place as some form of interactive learning. The educational implications of these results are discussed.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The only way is ethics

Ethical and privacy principles for learning analytics. Abelardo Pardo and George Siemens. BJET 01 April 2014 doi: 10.1111/bjet.12152
Abstract: The massive adoption of technology in learning processes comes with an equally large capacity to track learners. Learning analytics aims at using the collected information to understand and improve the quality of a learning experience. The privacy and ethical issues that emerge in this context are tightly interconnected with other aspects such as trust, accountability and transparency. In this paper, a set of principles is identified to narrow the scope of the discussion and point to pragmatic approaches to help design and research learning experiences where important ethical and privacy issues are considered.

A very useful article setting out four key principles for the use of learning analytics:

  • transparency
  • student control over the data
  • security
  • accountability and assessment

Monday, April 14, 2014

Thoughts on the future of (scientific) publishing

Publish I've been reading some interesting stuff recently on publishing so the purpose of this post is to try to pull it all together and reframe it in the (specific) context of scientific publishing.

First up is Michael Kinsley's piece, The Front Page 2.0, in which he demonstrates that the Golden Age of monopoly publishing was killed by Stein’s Law: It was too good to last. Kinsley concludes "It will all work out somehow", which it will, but not for traditional publishers. Look out guys, BuzzFeed is coming.

Following directly on is Jeff Jarvis' emerging essay on new publishing forms:

My problem is that most of the scientific publishers I work with don't want to hear these messages. For them, I fear it is Kinsley's actuarial solution.

Teaching style and attitudes towards Facebook as an educational tool

There is a distinct lack of research that has considered university staff use of and attitudes towards Facebook. The aim of this study was to gain an understanding of how teaching staff at one UK university use Facebook, and their attitudes towards Facebook and online professionalism, in terms of the student–staff relationship. An online survey was developed that included the Principles of Adult Learning Scale to explore whether attitudes towards the use of Facebook as an academic tool differed between teaching staff with a teacher-centred style and teaching staff with a learning-centred style. This article offers insight into teaching staff attitudes towards the use of Facebook in an educational context. The results shed light on whether or not teaching style is related to attitudes towards use. Differences in attitude were found which indicate those with a teacher-centred style do not view online and offline identities blurring as much.

Julie Prescott. Teaching style and attitudes towards Facebook as an educational tool. Active Learning in Higher Education 01 April 2014 doi: 10.1177/1469787414527392

[Editorial] This is research you can believe in - note the effect sizes for the data.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Mrs. Thatcher - Sue Townsend

Do you weep, Mrs Thatcher, do you weep?
Do you wake, Mrs Thatcher, in your sleep?
Do you weep like a sad willow?
On your Marks and Spencer's pillow?
Are your tears molten steel?
Do you weep?
Do you wake with 'Three million' on your brain?
Are you sorry that they'll never work again?
When you're dressing in your blue, do you see the waiting queue?
Do you weep, Mrs Thatcher, do you weep?
- Sue Townsend

Friday, April 11, 2014

Reasons to be cheerful: xkcd

Things you should know:
  1. I hate all infographics.
  2. All generalizations are false.
  3. Here's an infographic I like:

How the Heartbleed bug works


Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Feedback: To give is better then to receive

"The results of this study have indicated that students performed better at giving feedback to their peers than in making use of the feedback they received"


The quality of written peer feedback on undergraduates’ draft answers to an assignment, and the use made of the feedback. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education 05 Apr 2014 doi: 10.1080/02602938.2014.898737
The research described here investigated the quality and characteristics of peer feedback given on a draft piece of writing in the context of an undergraduate summative assignment. It also investigated whether the recipients made use of the feedback, with the aim of discovering whether some types of feedback were used in preference to others. The peer feedback was characterised in various ways, and then a comparison with the feedback subsequently given on the polished piece of writing by the tutor was used to determine the strengths and weaknesses of the peer feedback. Although the peers’ feedback had some different characteristics from that of the tutors, it was nevertheless of good quality. The examination of the use the recipients made of the feedback showed that much feedback was ignored. The use recipients made of the feedback depended very little on the characteristics of the feedback received, but did vary strongly across the recipients. The ability level of the recipients was not found to be a factor in this variation. The results of this research suggest that future work needs to focus more on students using feedback than on students giving feedback.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

What matters is what is measured

"A broad curriculum and assessment regime cannot exist alongside simple measurement, as it assumes a range of legitimate perspectives on knowledge, understanding and skills. Wider definitions of the curriculum are not easily measured and compared to allow sorting of students into winners and losers. in summary, the higher the stakes, the more relentless the focus on the target. Testing in turn assumes a simpler form (with exams being exalted as the only truly rigorous assessment) and the curriculum necessarily narrows. What matters is what is measured."

Stevenson, H., & Wood, P. (2014). Markets, managerialism and teachers’ work: the invisible hand of high stakes testing in England. International Education Journal: Comparative Perspectives, 12(2).

Facebook - antisocial network or not?

More on this theme to follow soon (danah boyd):

Effects of loneliness and differential usage of Facebook on college adjustment of first-year students. Computers & Education. 02 April 2014

  • Compulsive use of Facebook is associated with lower academic motivation.
  • Loneliness leads to time spent on Facebook, but not vice versa.
  • Loneliness and number of Facebook friends is a curvilinear relationship.
  • Time spent on Facebook is associated with negative academic performance.

The popularity of social network sites (SNS) among college students has stimulated scholarship examining the relationship between SNS use and college adjustment. The present research furthers our understanding of SNS use by studying the relationship between loneliness, varied dimensions of Facebook use, and college adjustment among first-year students. We looked at three facets of college adjustment: social adjustment, academic motivation, and perceived academic performance. Compulsive use of Facebook had a stronger association with academic motivation than habitual use of Facebook, but neither were directly correlated with academic performance. Regardless of how students were using Facebook, too much time spent on Facebook was weakly but directly associated with poorer perceived academic performance. Loneliness was a stronger indicator of college adjustment than any dimension of Facebook usage.


Monday, April 07, 2014

Paulo Freire: Pedagogy of the Oppressed

Cover I have finally read, and am still digesting, Paulo Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed, so please don't expect a full appraisal here.

I wonder what I would have made of this if I had read it when I was 18? 40 years on, I didn't find it a particularly comfortable read. For me, the Marxist jargon (What is praxis?) in which Friere's work is framed is less of a problem than the adversarial stance of Marxism. In his opening remarks, Friere presents "this struggle" as inevitable. I could go with a collaborative approach, which is revolutionary enough in its own way, rather than a full blown revolution. I don't read many books where Mao, Guevara and Lenin feature so prominently in the bibliography.
"Without a revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement."
My problem is with Marxism. Not with Marx, but with Marxism. Like all false narratives which present the world in terms of binary division, it is simplistic and flawed. Overall, I am much less attracted to Frier as the solution than I am to Ivan Illich's Deschooling Society. Like Illich's work, this is very much a child of the 60’s. How true does it remain in the face of neoliberal governments and education policies on both sides of the Atlantic? Nevertheless, The opening words of the foreword, about dehumanization, and moreover, the choices we must make between humanization and dehumanization, are plaintive in the face of learning analytics.
More and more, the oppressors are using science and technology as unquestionably powerful instruments for their purpose: the maintenance of the oppressive order through manipulation and repression... There is no such thing as a neutral educational process. Education either functions as an instrument that is used to facilitate the integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity to it. Richard Shaull, Foreword
I wonder how many "learning technologists" have read Friere?

Friere goes on to discuss the ahistorical nature of animals. You cannot be conscious without knowledge of how we got here. Chapter 2 introduces the "banking" concept of education and argues for problem-based learning and authenticity.
A careful analysis of the teacher-student relationship at any level, inside or outside the school, reveals its fundamentally narrative character. This relationship involves a narrating Subject (the teacher) and patient, listening objects (the students). The contents, whether values or empirical dimensions of reality, tend in the process of being narrated to become lifeless and petrified. Education is suffering from narration sickness. The teacher talks about reality as if it were motionless, static, compartmentalized, and predictable. Or else he expounds on a topic completely alien to the existential experience of the students. His task is to "fill" the students with the contents of his narration— contents which are detached from reality, disconnected from the totality that engendered them and could give them significance.

In this context (in case you were wondering), where education equals dialog, open educational resources sits squarely within the definition of oppression. 

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

The division between "us researchers" and "the others"

"When it comes to teaching in the scientific field, development as a teacher may be contradicted with developing as a researcher. In science and technology, as also in other academic fields and disciplines, teaching is often something that comes as a surprise for new academics. They possess a doctoral education preparing them for acting as researchers in their own field of expertise, but most of them have no pedagogical education, pedagogical training, or previous teaching experience. Thus while the teachers-to-be are experts in their own field of study, they are novices as teachers and new to pedagogical thinking. As a high proportion of faculty traditionally views teaching as a transmission of knowledge, the novice teachers should be encouraged to reflect on their pedagogical thinking and be exposed to more effective, constructive conceptions. In most universities, the academic reward systems are mainly based on research-based merits, such as the number of publications. According to previous studies, most university teachers value academic research over university teaching. How do these academics then develop to be competent university teachers?"

Developing as a teacher in the fields of science and technology. Teaching in Higher Education 01 Apr 2014 doi: 10.1080/13562517.2014.901957
In universities, development as a teacher may be contradicted with developing as a researcher. Most previous studies have investigated pedagogical development merely as a result of pedagogical training and ignored the dual teacher-researcher identity. This study examines what kind of meaningful experiences are perceived to have triggered and influenced the process of developing as a teacher in the fields of science and technology. The data were gathered by interviewing 10 academics who had participated in a pedagogical training offered by a Finnish technical university between 1999 and 2009. Based on a narrative analysis utilizing dimensions of transformative learning, the results highlight the influence of the working environment and experiences, and imply that teacher development process in the fields of science and technology can be better understood in terms of becoming a teacher, rather than as a continual, conscious development process. The resulting teacher-researcher identity provides a basis for pedagogical development.