A recent article appearing in the Chronicle of Higher Education explored the apparent reluctance of college and university professors to embrace the growing body of research about how students learn and what teaching methods work best. While many faculty simply cling to what has worked for them in the past, others feel overworked and unable the consider changing. In the meantime, an increasingly diverse student population experiences increasing inequity as a result.
Beth McMurtrie’s “Why the Science of Teaching is Often Ignored” opens with a discussion of a recent study by five Harvard University researchers who published some novel research. The group was trying to figure out why active learning, a form of teaching that has had measurable success, often dies a slow death in the classroom. They compared the effects of a traditional lecture with active learning, where students solve problems in small groups.
The results were not surprising; students who were taught in an active method performed better on standardized tests. The academic press praised the study for its clever design and its resonance with professors who had trouble with active learning. Yet despite being praised in some quarters, the study was criticized in others.
This mixed reaction reveals a central paradox of higher education, according to McMurtrie. Teaching and learning research has grown dramatically over the decades, encompassing thousands of experiments, journals, books, and programs to bring learning science into classrooms. But a lot of faculty members haven’t read it, aren’t sure what to do with it, or are skeptical. Continue reading “Why Professors Ignore the Science of Teaching”
A handful of top universities crank out most of the nations’ political science faculty … Harvard, Princeton, Stanford and Michigan, to be precise.
Last year, a study in Georgetown Public Policy Review exposed the extent to which a relatively small number of graduate programs in political science dominate placement in Ph.D.-granting departments., reports InsideHigher Ed.
“The study looked at the 116 universities ranked by U.S. News & World Report for political science graduate programs, and examined where all of the tenure-track or tenured faculty members earned their doctorates. The top four institutions in the magazine’s rankings of departments — Harvard, Princeton and Stanford Universities and the University of Michigan — were the Ph.D. alma maters of 616 of the political scientists at the 116 universities (roughly 20 percent of the total). The top 11 institutions were collectively responsible for the doctoral education of about half of those in tenured or tenure-track positions at the 116 universities.
“On Saturday, the author of that study — Robert L. Oprisko of Butler University — presented expanded findings here at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association. The paper argues not only that some departments may have more historical dominance but that others may be on the rise right now (judging from the number of assistant professors they have placed). While Oprisko is critical of a system that seems to place so much emphasis on Ph.D. pedigree, he also argues that this information needs wider circulation to help would-be graduate students make informed choices. (Oprisko earned his Ph.D. at Purdue University, not one of the dominant institutions). The paper — also by Kirstie L. Dobbs of Loyola University Chicago and Joseph DiGrazia of Indiana University — may be found at the website of the Social Science Research Network. Continue reading “Who makes political scientists”
Breaking Bad is into its final few episodes, with fans already speculating how the story of a teacher-turned-drug-producing-criminal-mastermind will reach its denouement. Now a BBC story asks, “How many of the frequent science scenes reflect reality, asks chemist and physicist Dr Jonathan Hare.
Walt is a brilliant research chemist who has to leave his work and take up a career teaching high school chemistry. After discovering he has terminal cancer, he turns his skills to methamphetamine production in collaboration with former pupil Jesse Pinkman.
“With his background as a chemistry teacher, there are times when Walt instructs Jesse as if he is still back in the classroom. Jesse was a very poor science student at school, but while “cooking” meth with Walt, he starts to pick up and respect the chemistry that’s so essential for a good product. Continue reading “The science of Breaking Bad”
Brain scans of convicted felons can predict which ones are most likely to get arrested after they get out of prison, scientists have found in a study of 96 male offenders, reports Wired Science today
“It’s the first time brain scans have been used to predict recidivism,” said neuroscientist Kent Kiehl of the Mind Research Network in Albuquerque, New Mexico, who led the new study. Even so, Kiehl and others caution that the method is nowhere near ready to be used in real-life decisions about sentencing or parole.
“Generally speaking, brain scans or other neuromarkers could be useful in the criminal justice system if the benefits in terms of better accuracy outweigh the likely higher costs of the technology compared to conventional pencil-and-paper risk assessments, says Stephen Morse, a legal scholar specializing in criminal law and neuroscience at the University of Pennsylvania. The key questions to ask, Morse says, are: “How much predictive accuracy does the marker add beyond usually less expensive behavioral measures? How subject is it to counter-measures if a subject wishes to ‘defeat’ a scan?” Continue reading “Brain scans that predict criminality?”
Young children who are encouraged to watch TV programs that depict kindness, respect, and cooperation are more likely to express those traits than kids who watch everyday TV fare that includes fictional violence.
Setting the media violence debate upside down, researchers have found that low-income boys, who tend to watch the most television, benefited the most in displaying empathy after watching nonviolent shows, reports the Christian Science Monitor.
“And many of the parents who were guided on what kind of pro-social content to watch and how to avoid violent shows asked that such advice continue even after the study. Continue reading “Media non-violence trumps violence”
For most of the 20th century, animals weren’t allowed to have emotions. Your dog didn’t actually love you—it (and it was an “it” back then) was just a stimulus–response machine conditioned to act a specific way in a specific situation, says today’s Valentine edition of Wired Science. “Scientists who said otherwise—that animals actually had minds capable of thoughts and emotions—were accused of ‘anthropomorphizing’ and ridiculed by their peers. Even researchers as famous as chimp specialist Jane Goodall spent years sitting on evidence that animals could do more than just salivate at the sound of a bell.
‘But over time, that bias waned. Just consider the first sentence (and the title) of Virginia Morell’s new book, Animal Wise: The Thoughts and Emotions of Our Fellow Creatures: ‘Animals have minds.’ Continue reading “A valentine from the cat”
As the baby boom generation ages towards retirement, attention grows over how people can remain mentally sharp. Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia make boomers start to worry when they lose their car keys or stumble over a name. At the same time, Internet search engines
and home data storage have made the actual need to remember less important. Add to this the rapid pace of media and the public’s seemingly relentless focus on immediacy over history, and it seems like a wholesale assault on memory is sweeping the culture. So a story like “The Forgetting Pill Erases Painful Memories” recently appearing in Wired magazine would seem to support the current culture of amnesia. Continue reading “The science of forgetting”