And so it ends… (Week 11)

11 Apr

Over the semester I’ve really enjoyed researching different areas of Education, some more than others! Looking back through the blogs, from my perspective it looks like they can be split in to a few umbrella categories: Teaching methods; Learning methods; Barriers to learning; Educational Environment; and Teacher vs Student centred education. For my final overview I’m going to focus on learning methods, and more specifically, metacognition and self-regulated learning. This is because I still personally feel that these two techniques could have the most effect on students’ ability to be more aware of their knowledge, practice the areas that they’re knowledge is lacking in, and therefore be more proficient at learning effectively.

At the start of the semester there was a lot of discussion about learning styles and the use of them in the classroom. It was generally agreed by most of the class that the lack of evidence for the styles, and the negative implications on the child, such as being pigeon-holed in to only being able to accomplish certain things due to the restrictions of their learning styles, meant that they shouldn’t be used in the classroom, and definitely not taught to teachers as a standard part of training,as they are at the moment.

Flavell (1979) talked about the different parts of metacognitive monitoring: metacognitive knowledge, metacognitive experiences, goals and actions. Although these all focus on different areas of self-regulation and monitoring, I believe that implemented effectively, these could all be used in the classroom and at home to aid children in learning, retaining knowledge and being aware of what they have learnt. Obviously, the main implication of this is that if children are aware of what they know and what they don’t, they are able to focus on what they don’t know. And isn’t this one of the main problems in school? If you’re worried about a subject,you focus on what you do know to make yourself feel better. If children had high metacognitive skill, they would focus on what they don’t know, therefore increasing what they do know, and their awareness, giving temselves more motivation and confidence to do well in school.

Personally, I feel this is invaluable in a school environment, and is what I would want to focus on first if I was to implement anything in schools.

As an end note, classes such as the one we’ve participated in could really aid the process of metacognitive knowledge, as its reflecting on what we’ve learnt, and forcing us to find out information for ourselves, and ensure that we know the information well enough to talk about it.

Specialist Schools for Autism (Week 10)

4 Apr

The last time I wrote about autism and Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA), I’d got inspiration from research I had done for job applications. This is a similar situation. Whilst looking for jobs as a trainee ABA tutor, I read a lot about specialist autism schools, mainly based in London. These are small, charity-funded schools ran on ABA principles, such as the Rainbow School, often with 1:1 tutor to student ratios. My question is: why are there not more? These schools specialise in teaching children social and communicative skills while providing them with core curricular knowledge. The waiting lists for these schools can be huge, however there have been recent closures of such schools due to lack of funding and interest, such as the Chrysalis School in London.

To me, this seems like yet another case of Psychology and Education being at odds with each other. ABA has shown consistent and empirically supported improvements in the core deficits of autism (Eikeseth, Smith, Jahr & Eldevik, 2002). It is also shown to have positive effects in schools, including when teachers are trained effectively in it (Grey, Holan, McClean & Daly, 2005).

It seems strange that, with all the statistics and media about how much cost can be involved with children with learning disabilities, that an evidence-based, proven method isn’t expanded across the country. Obviously the ever present issue of cost is brought up, but training teachers in a method can be used to help improve behaviour in learning in all children, not just children with autism, can surely only be beneficial.

EIKESETH, S . , SMITH, T. , JAHR, E. & ELDEVIK, S. (2002) ‘Intensive Behavioural
Treatment at School for 4 to 7 Year Old Children with Autism: A One Year
Comparison Controlled Study’, Behaviour Modification 26 (1): 49–68.

Alternative teaching methods? No excuses now… (week 9)

28 Mar

After travelling to Swansea this weekend to present my project, I knew I wanted to write about some sort of interactive learning, as it occurred to me that that when people were asking questions of other talks, it was the same people asking. After looking at studies that show the benefits of student-centred learning, such as Precision Teaching (PT) (Lindsley 1964), Personalised System of Instruction (PSI) (Keller 1968), and inter-teaching, I found it interesting that it didn’t seem to make a difference in terms of what modules those people were taking (as in a lecture-based module, or a blog or seminar-based), as to whether they were confident in asking questions and interacting with the speaker. Because of this, I decided to look at PT, PSI and inter-teaching (mainly PSI and inter-teaching, as PT has been covered alot), and how much of these evidence-based methods are actually used in our evidence-based, scientific classrooms.

Boyce & Hineline (2002) looked at PT and PSI, and the percieved limitations they had in the classroom according to teachers and lecturers.They found that at college and university level, teachers and lecturers assumed that any alternative teaching programme would not be suitable to large groups of students, and aren’t necessarily generalisable across topics outside of psychology. The idea that all programmes involve seeming uneconomical student-teacher ratios tends to put off teachers from using them. However, what I found interesting was that Psychology researchers and Behaviour Analysts also seemed to lean towards traditional lecture and assessment methods in the classroom, despite the fact that students found teaching methods such as PSI significantly increased their grade performance on traditional assessments, and they also rated the course more favourably after (McMichael & Corey, 1969). PT has also not been acceptly widely, despite having effective results at the schools and colleges it is used in, such as Malcolm X college and Morningside Academy (Johnson & Layng, 1992).

Interteaching  is supposed to be conducted in pairs, with students collaborationg in a “dyadic discussion”, whilst following a prerparation guide, involving questions relating to the reading and study objectives. Any problems or issues students had with any parts of the material are recorded in a log and incorporated in to the next session. As this is a regualr part of lessons, it can be a lot more effective than the quizzing technique students may use just before exams (Griffin & Griffin 1998).

If something like inter-teaching or PSI was implemented correctly and effectively, I wonder whether teachers and lecturers would be so aversive to alternative teaching methods? And also, maybe more importantly, would the Swansea conference seen a bigger variety of students asking questions and interacting in the talks, as the confidence would be available to all, and not just those who already possessed it?

Lindsley, 0. R. (1964). Direct measurement and
prosthesis of retarded behavior. Journal of Education,
147, 62-81

I got a 1st in Sleeping…(week 8)

18 Mar

An article on BBC Scotland caught my eye this week, as it was talking about the importance of young people getting enough sleep. Sleep Scotland are introducing resource packs in to schools to aid educating young people in the importance of sleep and the effects it can have on studying and general day-to-day life. It will be used as part of the curriculum for excellence and to raise awareness about the effects on the emotional and physical well-being of students. The charity highlight the linked risks of not getting enough sleep, such as obesity, depression, and the very high risk of not reaching their potential due to lack of energy. A report by the charity likened losing sleep during the week to virtually the equivalent of flying to New York each weekend“.

It interested me that the only research cited or used was research carried out by the charity, where no statistics or figures were stated. An example of this is their statement that sleep time for teenagers around the world has steadily decreased over the past 10 to 20 years“, however personally I feel that they could have had a much stronger argument if they had used research directly linked to learning and memory recall.

Thomas et al.(2000) studied the effects of 24 hour sleep deprivation on waking regional brain activity. It showed that sleep deprivation produces global decreases in  brain activity, with areas mediating attention and high cognitive processes having larger reductions. This highlights the importance of sleep in order to maintain normal brain fuctioning, and to ensure personal well-being and productivity in academic and professional settings.

Gais, Lucas & Born (2006) studies the effects of sleep on memory recall. They recorded the differences in recall depending on how long after the learning sleep was had, and how long after sleep deprivation recall was needed. They found that sleep deprivation affects recall significantly, regardless of whether recall  happens before or after recovery sleep. They also found that memory is better retained if sleep happens within a few hours of learning. It also concluded that phases of intensive learning such as in school, should be followed by intervals of sleep to opitmise retention.

Both these studies show the importance of sleep in terms of learning and memory. However, my concern is with the way this is being shown to students. Surely something like sleep is something that happens in the home, so would it be more useful for parents and carers to receive these resource packs? And maybe for the students to have direct examples of how lack of sleep can affect them? With the government trying to rewrite the curriculum in order to encourage more creative learning, along with more core subjects, it seems like it could be a difficult task to fit these in along with sleep classes.

What are other people’s views? Is this an innovative and clever initiative by Scottish schools, or is it taking valuable time away from the curriculum?

Teaching history narratively, not episodically, finally! (Week 7)

14 Mar

Michael Gove has told the BBC that primary and secondary school students are “ignorant of UK history” and oblivious to our “Island story”. This passionate (but somewhat flowery) statement is enhanced in a more objective and standardised manner by Ofsted, who say that primary history “lacks over-arching narrative” and is “episodic and militated”, that is, not in context and taught in seprate, illogical stints. They also say that students have a lack of chronological understanding, however this could be due to the teachers’ need for support and professional development, as obviously if they have been taught in the same episodic way, their contextual knowledge maybe limited, hence limiting their ability to teach history in an overarching, comprehensive manner.

Mackie (1980) talked about a logical criterion of necessity. which infers the context of an event, and aids the student in recalling no only the event, but why it happened. Trabasso and Sperry (1985) studies how learning pairs of events in context meant that a relationship could be built between the two events, and that it meant recall wasn’t restricted to one or the other way.

Trabasso and van der Broek (1985) talk about how knowledge of an event’s relation and structural role can be aided by learning this event in a story representation. They also reiterate the importance that although there are different properties of narrative representation, such as its role in episodic structure, levelof hierarchy or causal relation, as much as these are independent of each other, they also covary and all need to be utilised in order to fully understand context and importance of events.

The main point that sparked my interest about the link between the BBC article and the various papers, is that the government and educational sector seem to leaning towards an approach that has been researched and shown successful in psychological theories. However, there are teachers opposing this, although personally I get the impression it is more to do with the controversial English Baccalaureate, than the actual way History is taught in schools. If a worry of teachers is that themselves struggle with the idea of histroical events in context, teaching it to students maybe the best way for us to get out of this spiral. As I’m sure a lot of us have found in this module, actively explaining and talking about a principle to others can really aid your own understanding and learning of it, which will then in turn benefit students, and allow them to then pass this improved knowledge on to others.


Mackie, J. L. (1980). The cement of the universe: A study of causation. London/New York: Oxford University Press.

Trabasso, T. & van den Broek, P. (1985). Causal thinking and the representation of narrative events. Journal of memory and language. 24., 612-630.

Trabasso, T. & Sperry, L. L. (1985). Causal relatedness and importance of story events. Journal of memory and language. 24, 595-611.

Back to life, back to…metacognition? (Week 6)

7 Mar

Looking back over my notes from the last few weeks of talks, and going through some of the papers that are mentioned, I realised just how much metacognition was coming up in topics that previously I hadn’t thought about it being related to. At this point I got quite excited, and then thought about how silly that was, as of course it could come up in different topics, as it’s a generalisable skill.

I guess my point is, just how far can we stretch metacognition, and how many forms of it are there?

In my first speech of the semester I talked about my project and Nietfeld’s (2006) study of Educational Psychology students. I also talked about my concerns that our project may have mixed up self-regulated learning with metacognitive skills, and also pondered the idea that maybe these two ideas could not be used independently of each other.

Emily Jolley also had a speech in that first week, and I remember overhearing her talking about metacognition with reference to another of Bjork’s 25 principles. As the weeks have gone on, metacognition has been linked in with problem-based learning, guided learning, and cognitive flexibility, among others. Savery & Duffy (2001) talk about metacognitive skills being part of the constructivist framework of problem-based learning. They lay out a set of instructional principles to aid teaching and learning design. In Hmelo-Silver’s (2004) paper on problem-based learning, metacognition is used as scaffolding for project-based science lessons. In Grave, Boshuizen & Schmidt’s (1996) paper, metcognition is seen as a key process in problem-based learning.

In my opinion, the first main obstacle we have in utilising this obviously valuable skill is understanding exactly what metacognition is, and how we can teach or train it. It seems to be such an innate and important part of learning and retaining knowledge, it seems even more important now to work out exactly how we can generalise this skill in an educational setting.

Happily, we have now found an effect in our dissertation, so we know metacognition works. The next obstacle is to use it.

Any thoughts?

CABAS – Why not?

28 Feb

I’m going to blog about my upcoming speech this week, as I’ll probably get confused in it and go off on a tangent so at least there might be some background knowledge and ideas already written down before I talk it in to oblivion.

The Comprehensive Application of Behaviour Analysis to Schooling (CABAS) is a research-based schooling system that provides individualised educational programmes for children with and without disabilities. It is based on Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) and applies this in classroom settings. It is completely evidence-based and stems from Skinner’s (1968) theories of bevaiour analysis.

Even though it was originally developed and used in music camps (Greer, 1980) , and still is widely used for these purposes in Japan, it was the transferred in to school and used with children from low socio-economic backgrounds. Evidence from the programmes shows that students oat the end of the programme performed signigicantly above their grade level in literacy, maths and languages.

Obviously there has been criticism and objection to this style of teaching, especially in the 70s and 80s. Brophy (1983) was completely against the idea of behaviour analysis being applied in schools and other settings, and even went as far to describe it as “The results are interesting but akin to those produced by an infant who acquires a hammer then discovers that everything in the environment needs hammering”.

As their mission statement revolves round the Science of Teaching, I thought it was an interesting concept to look at as part of this module.

The way CABAS works is by using a scripted curricula, measured through “learn units”. It also incorporates methods used in scientific literature and standardised staff training. There is research to show that the number of learn units each child has has a strong relationship with how many learning objectives are achieved. It has also shown a strong relationship with the accuracy and rentention of learning in children.

My question is, if it has been so effective, and has such a standardised way of teaching, why has it not been rolled across more schools?

There is currently only one school in the UK that uses this system, and four in the US.

I first found out about CABAS when job hunting, and decided to research it more from there. The schools are normally quite small in numbers, and uses bevaiour analysis across the whole curriculum. Would this be feasible across more schools? Would it be plausible to change the way learning-disability schools operate to incorporate this?

Duelling or Drawing…

16 Feb

Rose’s talk about the Learning Style Index (Solomon & Felder, 2004) was very interesting to me, especially given all the controversy about learning styles at the start of the semester! Obviously, the index is slightly different, using a continuum instead of set types, and it was also aimed mostly at engineering students. However, surely there must be similar problems with this compared to the “educational” version of learning styles?

For example, Kevin’s talk on dual coding seemed to immediately at odds with the idea of learning dimensions. One of the four dimensions is Visual — Verbal, and the idea that you are nearer one end of the continuum or the other. Similar to being a visual or auditory learner. However, as Kevin so concisely explained in his talk, the idea of dual coding that you will learn better when using both of these systems, not one or the other. Mayer’s (1991) experiment on annotated animation showed the effectiveness of using both verbal and visual cues, and suggested representational and referential connections in dual coding.

What I find interesting, is that according to Felder’s (2005) later research into the application of these learning dimensions, they appear to work and be of use to the students who were labelled with them. Felder suggests the dimensions to be used to design teaching material and as a tool to guide learning. The research in to the dimensions was stated as statistically significant, and was tested in 10 Universities in 4 English-speaking countries.

So what now? Do we assume that the success of the learning dimensions is due to other confounding variables, or do we dare consider the fact that maybe some sort of fluid range of learning styles could actually exist? I think it would be an interesting topic to follow up.

Motiviation in Education: Learning and retention versus Course credit

31 Jan

There’s been a lot of blogs and comments about whether students should be working towards academic performance or learning that will withstand time. Valid points have been made about how interest in a subject should make you want to learn and retain information, rather than just get high grades at school or University. There have also been arguments for academic performance, with regards to achieving qulifications in order to further your career so you can then progress in and learn about something you do enjoy.

So what do you do whilst at school, when you’re learning about subjects you do not want to progress in and take further after school or University? If we’re meant to be focussing on learning rather than test performance, what gives us the motivation to excel in something if we’re not going to then get a high grade at the end of it. As surely it can be argued that if you’re not going to focussing on a subject after University, you at least want that subject to enhance your progression and ability to pursue a career in a topic you enjoy. For example, there are hundreds of students studying Psychology, all with completely different interests and hoping to specialise in completely different things. In order to be able to progress and study that speciality, they have to do well in all the different modules and topics, some which will be of no interest to them. Is the motivation to do well in that topic to do with grades, in order to be able to then carry on with learning a subject they do want to master?

Butler and Nisan (1986) conducted a study on the effect of feedback, numerical grades and no feedback on performance and motivation. They found that feedback was the most effective on maintaing motivation in students. However, grades also significantly maintained motivation, and were the most effective method when being motivated to achieve fluency in a subject. So does this suggest that achieving course credit and getting high grades could in turn create a motivation for learning and retention?

Just a quick thought that popped in to my head so thought I’d blog it whilst I remembered 🙂

Comments and ideas please.

Butler, R. & Nisan, M. (1986). Effects of No Feedback, Task-Related Comments, and Grades on Intrinsic Motivation and Performance. Journal of Educational Psychology. 78(3) 210-216.

Metacognition or Self-regulated learning? Confusion?

11 Jan

For my third year dissertation I am studying metacognition and how it can be implemented in a class room setting. We based our study round Nietfeld’s research into metacognition. He used Educational-Psychology students and trained them in metacognition. He also tested general knowledge and IQ. In our study we attempted to train 1st year statistics students in metacognition. For the first 4 weeks of the study, students in the experimental groups were given metacognitive exercises, helping them reflect on what they had learnt and understood. The control group completed study skills worksheets for the same allotted time. All 3 groups had to mark their certainty of an answer after each test question. The difference between them was that study skills (control group) students recieved their mark back, metacognitive students recieved theirmark and calibration of their confidence, and certainty students were negatively marked dependent on how confident they were of an answer. We had predicted certainty students would have the most improvement in the understanding of their knowledge, with metacognitive behind that and study skills having no real improvement.

However, were we really testing their understanding, or were we testing exam performance?

Bjork’s paper describes self-regulated learning as providing “learners with frequent assessments so they can become aware of what they do not know”. Isn’t that what we were doing? We provided metacognitive exercises, but they still had the assessments regardless or not of whether the exercises were effective or not.

The question is, did we confuse training students up in metacognitive awareness, with simply giving them the time and materials to self-regulate their own learning, and therefore leaving the results of the study up to their own individual interest in their degree progression?

Any ideas or points would be welcome.

Thanks, Sam