Monthly Archives: May 2014

Class size and academic results

There has been a long and conflicting attitude regarding class size and academic results, dating back at least to the 1990s. Study results have been mixed; yes, class size matters, no, class size is irrelevant. A meta-analysis out of Australia takes the issue back into the fray and seems to verify what I’ve felt all along–smaller classes impact student achievement, especially at the elementary level. I think that smaller classes allow for more individualized instruction, greater amounts of teacher-student interaction, and gives students a leg up when they continue on to middle and high school. Young students, with their shorter attention spans, can only benefit from more teacher involvement, and the teacher can spend more time on actual teaching than dealing with discipline problems that may arise when there are more bodies in the classroom. This particular study also found that smaller class size went a long way to reducing the minority-white achievement gap, which has all kinds of positive implications for society at large. Results for smaller class size in high school remain inconclusive, but the evidence in favor of smaller classes at the elementary level should provoke education officials into action.

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Reflection Aids Performance

There’s a working paper out of Harvard Business School Social Science Research Network that upholds the notion that reflecting on lessons learned aids in performance and perceived self-efficacy. The authors studied over 300 participants, some from varioius Northeastern universities and some from India, upon which to test their hypothesis. The authors state “In our field study we showed that taking time away from training and reallocating that time to reflection actually improved individual performance.” This emphasizes the importance of taking time to think about what you’re learning, as opposed to being fed information on a continual basis, without taking a breath. You need time to digest information in order to process it and make sense of it, thus learning smarter, not harder. To me, this makes perfect sense. I need time to think about the things I learn, letting them seep slowly into my consciousness, unfolding and unfurling their nuances as I contemplate their place next to the facts I already know. That journal that your English teacher made you keep? More useful than you could imagine.

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The Pen is Mightier Than The Keyboard

Wow. Something else I was always curious about–turns out people who take notes using longhand retain information better than those who take notes via laptop. Laptop users tend to take verbatim notes, while those who use longhand process the information and write shorter, more consise notes. The paper, out of Psychological Science, was published just last week.

I’ve always felt there was a connection between hearing and seeing information, then writing the salient points down for reference when studying for an exam. Something about the physical act of writing longhand while thinking about the subject matter covered adds to the whole retention process. The current technology push to put electronic devices into the hands of every student is thus a little misguided. Some old-fashioned things are just worth keeping.

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