Piper, et al., 2018. Scaling up successfully: Lessons from Kenya’s Tusome national literacy program

Scale up of effective programmes basically never works.

Piper 1.png Here’s an exception.  The programme began with a strong evidence base from a large number of medium-size RCTs:

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Communicating expectations (how many words a minute should students be able to read), providing resources (teacher guides and student books) and checking what was happening, led to dramatic success.

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It’s a technical rational solution, but it’s a good first step.

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Piper, B., Destefano, J., Kinyanjui, E., Ong’ele, S. (2018). Scaling up successfully: Lessons from Kenya’s Tusome national literacy program. Journal of Educational Change (2018) 19, pp.293–321.

The power of defaults

People say they want green energy, but they don’t buy it.

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If you change the default, people change what they buy.

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Pichert, D. and Katsikopoulos, K. (2008). Green Defaults: Information Presentation and ProEnvironmental Behaviour. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 28, pp.63–73.

(And an interesting note about ‘custom’ers…)

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This RCT finds that merely leaving a box ticked for green energy creates a massive difference in take up

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Ebeling, F. and Lotz, S. (2015). Domestic Uptake of Green Energy Promoted by Opt-Out Tariffs. Nature Climate Change 5, pp.868–871

Defaults are problematic in some cases – for example, they don’t evoke commitment. One alternative is ‘Enhanced Active Choice’: alternatives are presented freely, but the merits of one or other are highlighted…Keller 1.png

As well as gaining high numbers taking the policymaker’s preferred choice, this also generates more commitment…Keller 2.png

Keller, P., Harlam, B., Loewenstein, G. and Volpp, K. (2011). Enhanced Active Choice: A new Method to Motivate Behavior Change. Journal of Consumer Psychology 21, pp.376–383.

Andrews, Pritchet and Woolcock, (2012) Escaping Capability Traps through Problem-Driven Iterative Adaptation

(Writing of the developing world, but obviously applicable to schools…) Organisations get stuck in capability traps: they don’t improve, but get forced to apply (measurable) best practices, which don’t solve the underlying problems or engender improvement.Pritchett a 1.png

This approach means we’re pretty good at physical things (building bridges, for example). It doesn’t really work to change education… (Echoes of Street-Level Bureaucracy here).Pritchett a 7.png

Reforms become simply signals, so local agents, don’t bother trying to follow them, because they know it won’t make any difference (sound familiar?)Pritchet a 2.png

The authors advocate Problem-Driven Iterative Adaptation (as below)Pritchett a 4.png

First, identify a problem, (not a solution).

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This allows local agents to take small steps beginning to address the problem.Pritchett a 6.png

How does this approach differ from normal development policy?Pritchett a 8.png

In short, this approach, ‘Problem-Driven Iterative Adaptation’, is a slower way to evolve towards a more perfect solution… (shades of Hayek, Drucker, Taleb)Pritchett a 3.png

Andrews, M., Pritchet, L., and Woolcock, M. (2012). Escaping Capability Traps through Problem-Driven Iterative Adaptation (PDIA). Center for Global Development, Working Paper 299. Washington, DC

Wolff et al., (2016). Teacher vision: expert and novice teachers’ perception

We know that expert chess players look at chess boards differently from novices, focusing on the most important areas; this paper shows how expert teachers do the same.

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Experts focused on the blue squares; novices on the orange ones; novices were distracted by irrelevant visual stimuli (like a student’s colourful laces…)
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Nuthall (2005) The Cultural Myths and Realities of Classroom Teaching

Nuthall narrates a forty-five year research journey which led him to believe that teachers (and students) lead a life of routines & myths…

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What students learn depends on what they’ve experienced previously; and their exposure to the key ideas (at least three times, in different forms):

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If they are exposed to the ideas, ‘less’ and ‘more’ able students learn in identical ways…Nuthall 5.png

But a critical difference is that higher-attaining students create more opportunities to learn themselves; lower-attaining students depend more on teacher-designed activities.

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Teachers’ evaluations of a lesson reflects students’ reactions; teachers focus on teaching, not learning.

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Teachers develop rituals to manage the challenges of helping 30 students at once; teachers and students focus on keeping busy/getting stuff done.

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And teachers know little about what students are learning (this is a massive call for the use of exit tickets and hinge questions, by my reading…)

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Snippets are from the published version:

Nuthall. G. (2005). The Cultural Myths and Realities of Classroom Teaching and Learning: A Personal Journey. Teachers College Record Volume, 107(5), pp. 895–934 .

There’s a publicly-accessible earlier draft here.

Hume et al., (2018) Improving engagement and attainment in maths and English courses

This is a really interesting (long) summary of the work of @B_I_Tweets in further education & adult literacy. A few things stand out

The limited impact of a values affirmation among FE students (that is, encouraging learners to affirm their own values in a new context; has worked in schools in the US).ASK 2.png

The limited impact of a grit intervention among FE students (possibly attributable to high attrition from the study).

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Strong impact of texting nominated study supporters on students’ attendance and results.ASK 4.png

GCSEs really helps you get job interviews; functional skills and volunteering don’t seem to make a difference.

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This gem (about adult education) is a pretty concise explanation for why many students at any age don’t study hard.ASK 5.png

Most literacy/numeracy interventions in the workplace received tiny responses: except where literacy/numeracy was mandatory/essential for promotion (army, hospitals) where behavioural psychology made little difference.ASK 8.pngASK 7.pngASK 9.png

Hume, S., O’Reilly, F., Groot, B., Chande, R., Sanders, M., Hollingsworth, A., Ter Meer, J., Barnes, J., Booth, S., Kozman E., Soon, X. (2018). Improving engagement and attainment in maths and English courses: insights from behavioural research Research and project report. Department for Education.


Papaleontiou-Louca, (2003) The Concept and Instruction of Metacognition

Another interesting, but slightly mystifying, paper has come my way, on which I would appreciate hearing a range of thoughts, this time on metacognition.

I didn’t realise that metacognition had been drawn so broadly. Anything which is not immediate perception/thinking itself.

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Does this even include executive functioning within working memory? It looks like it.

Is metacognition domain-specific?  I’d expect yes (e.g. problem-solving strategies in history may look analogous to those in maths, but they won’t actually transfer).  One quotation from the paper suggest it is domain-specific:

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but another seems to suggest it is not:

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Can we teach metacognition?

Initially, the paper suggests that we can’t:

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But many of the techniques it advocates imply that students are being taught metacognitive strategies explicitly.

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Finally, throughout the paper, the behaviour of experts is taken as a template for the learning of novices. But you don’t become Lewis Hamilton by imitating how he drives now…

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Papaleontiou-Louca, E. (2003). The Concept and Instruction of Metacognition. Teacher Development 7(1), pp. 9-30.

Hiebert et al., 1996, Problem Solving as a Basis for Reform

I have been sent this paper (on problematising mathematics) and am confused. Am I missing something…?

The paper argues (argued, in 1996) that maths reform is best achieved through problematising maths:

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In-practice, this focuses on students doing their own reasoning, problem-solving rather than practising; learning but not being taught.

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It seeks to go beyond what it describes as a historic split between acquiring knowledge (in school) and applying it (out of school):

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The paper advocates ‘understanding’ maths (Is this separate from ‘knowing’ or ‘being able to do’ maths? This seems unlikely to me, but I’m not a mathematician)? (I know maths gets broken down into sub-domains, but this is _only_ advocating understanding).

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The teacher’s role is to create a community – although they should not be constrained from sharing some information with students…

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The most important result of this approach – residue – is strategic skills.Hiebert 8.png

So a good task is one which students can problematise and which leaves a residue (H10) and such problems can come from anywhere.

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My questions:

  1. Is this contrary to what we know from cognitive load theory?
  2. Do ‘strategic skills’ = ‘weak methods’?
  3. Will a carefully-tailored task leave a better residue than a student-generated one?
  4. Does this rely on procedural knowledge, but build it inefficiently

I can see how students problematising an idea might make it more engaging (the authors say that’s not what they seek), and that this is a good approach to take.  But it seems to me that this must rely on a bedrock of knowledge and skills.

Is there an argument I’m missing here, or a subtlety to the function of problematising that I’m missing?

Hiebert, J., Carpenter, T., Fennema, E., Fuson, K., Human, P., Murray, H., Olivier, A. and Wearne, D. (1996). Problem Solving as a Basis for Reform in Curriculum and Instruction: The Case of Mathematics. Educational Researcher, 25(4), pp.12-21.

van Merriënboer, Kester & Paas, (2006). Teaching complex rather than simple tasks

Fascinating article on a troubling paradox: approaches which promote transfer of learning on simple tasks (like varying practice), hinder learning of complex tasks. But fully-guided instruction on complex tasks hinders transfer.

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This paper usefully articulates how transfer works: either through the abstraction of knowledge or the application of knowledge elements to new tasks.Van M 4.png

And the paper offers some guidance on how to foster transfer (how complicated the problem is (element interactivity)) but do add germane cognitive load (vary practice, reduce guidance and feedback).Van M 3.png

van Merriënboer, J., Kester, L. and Paas, F. (2006). Teaching complex rather than simple tasks: balancing intrinsic and germane load to enhance transfer of learning. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 20(3), pp.343-352.

Nonaka, (1991) The Knowledge-Creating Company

A classic article on how to create and mobilise knowledge within a company, which, if you can get over the business jargon, is extremely interesting.

There’s more to it than just collecting explicit knowledge and processing:Nonaka 1.png

Knowledge mobilisation is not just something for the Research and Development team: everyone does it:Nonaka 2.png

Here’s the process: apprenticeship to gain tacit knowledge, articulation of that knowledge explicitly, codification of that knowledge, and then its internalisation (return to tacit knowledge):

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This can also be shown (from another paper (see references below)) through this diagram and description:Nonaka c 1.pngNonaka b 3.png

We have to start with tacit knowledge – what people know, but may not be able to say, about their work.Nonaka 3.png

Redundancy – embracing an overlap of functions and working them through – really helps this:Nonaka 6.png

Managers should be able to help employees make sense of their experiences:

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Nonaka, I. (1991). The Knowledge-Creating Company.  Harvard Business Review.

See also:

Nonaka, I., Takeuchi, H. and Umemoto, K. (1996) ‘A theory of organizational knowledge creation’, Int. J. Technology Management, Special Issue on Unlearning and Learning for Technological Innovation Vol. 11, Nos. 718, pp.833-845.

NONAKA, I., TOYAMA R.&KONNO N. (2002) SECI, Ba and Leadership: a unified model of dynamic knowledge creation, in: S. LITTLE, P. QUINTAS & T. RAY (Eds) Managing Knowledge (London, Sage).