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Concept: Pedagogy

135

We have previously shown that individual differences in educational achievement are highly heritable in the early and middle school years in the UK. The objective of the present study was to investigate whether similarly high heritability is found at the end of compulsory education (age 16) for the UK-wide examination, called the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE). In a national twin sample of 11,117 16-year-olds, heritability was substantial for overall GCSE performance for compulsory core subjects (58%) as well as for each of them individually: English (52%), mathematics (55%) and science (58%). In contrast, the overall effects of shared environment, which includes all family and school influences shared by members of twin pairs growing up in the same family and attending the same school, accounts for about 36% of the variance of mean GCSE scores. The significance of these findings is that individual differences in educational achievement at the end of compulsory education are not primarily an index of the quality of teachers or schools: much more of the variance of GCSE scores can be attributed to genetics than to school or family environment. We suggest a model of education that recognizes the important role of genetics. Rather than a passive model of schooling as instruction (instruere, ‘to build in’), we propose an active model of education (educare, ‘to bring out’) in which children create their own educational experiences in part on the basis of their genetic propensities, which supports the trend towards personalized learning.

Concepts: Genetics, Education, High school, College, School, Heritability, Teacher, Pedagogy

21

Active-learning pedagogies have been repeatedly demonstrated to produce superior learning gains with large effect sizes compared with lecture-based pedagogies. Shifting large numbers of college science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) faculty to include any active learning in their teaching may retain and more effectively educate far more students than having a few faculty completely transform their teaching, but the extent to which STEM faculty are changing their teaching methods is unclear. Here, we describe the development and application of the machine-learning-derived algorithm Decibel Analysis for Research in Teaching (DART), which can analyze thousands of hours of STEM course audio recordings quickly, with minimal costs, and without need for human observers. DART analyzes the volume and variance of classroom recordings to predict the quantity of time spent on single voice (e.g., lecture), multiple voice (e.g., pair discussion), and no voice (e.g., clicker question thinking) activities. Applying DART to 1,486 recordings of class sessions from 67 courses, a total of 1,720 h of audio, revealed varied patterns of lecture (single voice) and nonlecture activity (multiple and no voice) use. We also found that there was significantly more use of multiple and no voice strategies in courses for STEM majors compared with courses for non-STEM majors, indicating that DART can be used to compare teaching strategies in different types of courses. Therefore, DART has the potential to systematically inventory the presence of active learning with ∼90% accuracy across thousands of courses in diverse settings with minimal effort.

Concepts: Psychology, Education, Educational psychology, Learning, Effect size, Pedagogy, Teaching, Darts

15

School visits to farms are a positive educational experience but pose risks due to the spread of zoonotic infections. A lesson plan to raise awareness about microbes on the farm and preventative behaviours was developed in response to the Griffin Investigation into the E. coli outbreak associated with Godstone Farm in 2009. This study evaluated the effectiveness of the delivery of the lesson plan in increasing knowledge about the spread of infection on the farm, amongst school students.

Concepts: Bacteria, Understanding, Education, School, Teacher, Pedagogy, Teaching, Lesson plan

10

To evaluate trends in rates of personal belief exemptions (PBEs) to immunization requirements for private kindergartens in California that practice alternative educational methods.

Concepts: Education, School, Teacher, Pedagogy, Alternative education, School types, Public school, Private school

8

Education has not changed from the beginning of recorded history. The problem is that focus has been on schools and teachers and not students. Here is a simple thought experiment with two conditions: 1) 50 teachers are assigned by their teaching quality to randomly composed classes of 20 students, 2) 50 classes of 20 each are composed by selecting the most able students to fill each class in order and teachers are assigned randomly to classes. In condition 1, teaching ability of each teacher and in condition 2, mean ability level of students in each class is correlated with average gain over the course of instruction. Educational gain will be best predicted by student abilities (up to r = 0.95) and much less by teachers' skill (up to r = 0.32). I argue that seemingly immutable education will not change until we fully understand students and particularly human intelligence. Over the last 50 years in developed countries, evidence has accumulated that only about 10% of school achievement can be attributed to schools and teachers while the remaining 90% is due to characteristics associated with students. Teachers account for from 1% to 7% of total variance at every level of education. For students, intelligence accounts for much of the 90% of variance associated with learning gains. This evidence is reviewed.

Concepts: Education, Educational psychology, Learning, School, Student, Teacher, History of education, Pedagogy

7

How can we provide fertile ground for students to simultaneously explore a breadth of foundational knowledge, develop cross-disciplinary problem-solving skills, gain resiliency, and learn to work as a member of a team? One way is to integrate original research in the context of an undergraduate biochemistry course. In this Commentary, we discuss the development and execution of an interdisciplinary and cross-departmental undergraduate biochemistry laboratory course. We present a template for how a similar course can be replicated at other institutions and provide pedagogical and research results from a sample module in which we challenged our students to study the binding interface between 2 important biosynthetic proteins. Finally, we address the community and invite others to join us in making a larger impact on undergraduate education and the field of biochemistry by coordinating efforts to integrate research and teaching across campuses.

Concepts: Protein, Amino acid, Education, Educational psychology, University, Academia, Learning, Pedagogy

6

Comfort with ambiguity, mostly associated with the acceptance of multiple meanings, is a core characteristic of successful clinicians. Yet past studies indicate that medical students and junior physicians feel uncomfortable with ambiguity. Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS) is a pedagogic approach involving discussions of art works and deciphering the different possible meanings entailed in them. However, the contribution of art to the possible enhancement of the tolerance for ambiguity among medical students has not yet been adequately investigated. We aimed to offer a novel perspective on the effect of art, as it is experienced through VTS, on medical students' tolerance of ambiguity and its possible relation to empathy.

Concepts: Medicine, Physician, Art, Pedagogy, Ambiguity tolerance

6

To explore how, in health professions education (HPE), the concept of critical consciousness has been defined and discussed, and to consider and suggest how critical pedagogy could be applied in practice. This exploration responds to increasing calls in the literature for HPE to foster compassionate care and social consciousness through the social sciences and humanities.

Concepts: Sociology, Linguistics, Anthropology, Social sciences, Humanities, Pedagogy, Critical pedagogy, Critical theory

5

Across many different contexts, randomized evaluations find that school participation is sensitive to costs: Reducing out-of-pocket costs, merit scholarships, and conditional cash transfers all increase schooling. Addressing child health and providing information on how earnings rise with education can increase schooling even more cost-effectively. However, among those in school, test scores are remarkably low and unresponsive to more-of-the-same inputs, such as hiring additional teachers, buying more textbooks, or providing flexible grants. In contrast, pedagogical reforms that match teaching to students' learning levels are highly cost effective at increasing learning, as are reforms that improve accountability and incentives, such as local hiring of teachers on short-term contracts. Technology could potentially improve pedagogy and accountability. Improving pre- and postprimary education are major future challenges.

Concepts: Costs, Education, Educational psychology, School, Finance, Teacher, History of education, Pedagogy

5

Building environmental literacy (EL) in children and adolescents is critical to meeting current and emerging environmental challenges worldwide. Although environmental education (EE) efforts have begun to address this need, empirical research holistically evaluating drivers of EL is critical. This study begins to fill this gap with an examination of school-wide EE programs among middle schools in North Carolina, including the use of published EE curricula and time outdoors while controlling for teacher education level and experience, student attributes (age, gender, and ethnicity), and school attributes (socio-economic status, student-teacher ratio, and locale). Our sample included an EE group selected from schools with registered school-wide EE programs, and a control group randomly selected from NC middle schools that were not registered as EE schools. Students were given an EL survey at the beginning and end of the spring 2012 semester. Use of published EE curricula, time outdoors, and having teachers with advanced degrees and mid-level teaching experience (between 3 and 5 years) were positively related with EL whereas minority status (Hispanic and black) was negatively related with EL. Results suggest that school-wide EE programs were not associated with improved EL, but the use of published EE curricula paired with time outdoors represents a strategy that may improve all key components of student EL. Further, investments in teacher development and efforts to maintain enthusiasm for EE among teachers with more than 5 years of experience may help to boost student EL levels. Middle school represents a pivotal time for influencing EL, as improvement was slower among older students. Differences in EL levels based on gender suggest boys and girls may possess complementary skills sets when approaching environmental issues. Our findings suggest ethnicity related disparities in EL levels may be mitigated by time spent in nature, especially among black and Hispanic students.

Concepts: Education, Japan, Middle school, High school, College, School, Teacher, Pedagogy