What Teachers Need from Researchers

Mary Fobbs-Guillory


Saul, Roger. (2016) Education and the mediated subject: What today’s teacher’s need most from researchers of youth and media. Journal of Children and Media, 10(2). Pp.156-163

Roger Saul shares that the majority of today’s educators are still operating with archaic understanding of what young people are capable of and how to engage them in school.  He argues that researchers need to provide educators with a better understanding of their students’ potential to make meaningful contributions to their education.  He also shares that teachers may not realize they are marginalizing their students by not allowing students the opportunity to explore their identity and express themselves as they learn in school.

Saul has offers a balanced perspective in his argument as he shares that teachers too are regulated and may not have the autonomy to change how they address students needs.  He shares that districts need to trust teachers more and allow them to do what research says is best for students.  This was interesting to read as an educator because I often felt that in district schools, teacher’s don’t have much of a voice and they have to do what they are told or else find a new school to work at.  It is encouraging that some people see the need to empower teachers who can in turn empower students to be more involved and engaged in their education.

Do we see reality as it really is? Exploring why we struggle with information literacy.

Devine, Anthony

The line of questioning I’m exploring is: Why is information literacy so challenging for us?
I’ve just started looking into this, but I thought this group might be interested in a TED talk I found related to this question. As you watch, consider the title’s question: Do we see reality as it really is? Donald Hoffman extends that question a little in his talk and asks us to consider: Evolutionarily speaking, is it in our interests to see reality as it really is?
I want to do more than offer tips and tricks to students and colleagues when it comes to best practices around information literacy–I want to understand how our brains interact with information; I want to understand the mental processes that facilitate our (apparent) tendency to…suck at information literacy (don’t worry–I’ll work on my wording).


Neuromyths and Why They Persist in the Classroom

Neuromyths and Why They Persist in the Classroom
Binh Tran
Buch, Prateek. “Neuromyths and Why They Persist in the Classroom.” Sense About Science. N.p., 7 Jan. 2014. Web. 21 July 2016. .
The article discusses the many popular myths regarding neurology and how the relate to education. Popular conceptions such as Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences Theory and also the left-right brain paradigm are rooted not in verifiable empirical evidence, but rather in spurious pseudoscience. Studies of the human brain through the use of neuroimaging technology reveals no truth to the idea that different sections of the human brain play a role in intelligence. Further studies suggest that different formats of learning: visual, auditory or kinesthetic, have no discernable difference on student performance or brain function. The author goes on to discuss major reasons why such myths continue to shape education even after decades of evidence have already disproven such claims. Often teachers and even academic researchers are poorly educated on matters of neuroscience and rely on word-of-mouth to get their information. This in turn leads to the creation of poorly thought out and outright incorrect theories on education being developed.

Buch’s article is very well written and informative, if harsh on this issue of neuromyths. The paper is well organized, and includes links to more in-depth studies on the matter. Much of the article’s claims seem inherently skeptical, if not outright hostile towards what has become a major foundation of educational theory. Also, more of the material deals not so much with educational theory so much as the ethics of using such neuromyths to shape educational theory itself. I find that while the article is extremely informative on a subject that I believe to be of great importance to the field of education, it also frustratingly presents a problem with no apparent solution. 

Dweck’s "Mindset" – Growing through Failure

Fluetsch, Christopher
Dweck, C. (2006). Mindset: The new psychology of success. New York, New York: Ballentine Books.

Carol Dweck’s Mindset is almost a decade old, but it is currently enjoying a revival of interest in education circles. A number of posts on this blog cover articles written about this book, but no post has yet covered the book itself.
Dweck’s book concerns her research into how people approach problems. Dweck maintains that people take one of two approaches to problems. They either have a fixed mindset or a growth mindset.
At its most basic level, a fixed mindset occurs when a person believes that intelligence, ability or skill in some area is fixed, that is that it cannot be significantly changed. The person considers themselves either smart or dumb, talented or not. For a fixed mindset person, a problem is an insurmountable obstacle. A failure indicates that the person is simply not good enough.
A growth mindset individual, however, believes in limitless human potential. A problem becomes an opportunity for growth, a chance to learn a new skill or a new approach to a problem. Dweck maintains that growth mindset individuals are more likely to be successful in the long term, as they continue to learn new skills. Growth mindset people are also more likely to be happy and content, as they never feel as if a problem is unsolvable.
The recent revival of this book is directly related to the need for students to learn the 21st century skills of adaptability and life-long learning. A common phrase in modern education is “We are are teaching our students skills they will need for jobs that have not even been created.” The basic idea is that the pace of change is accelerating, and people can grow and adapt to new conditions will be more successful than people who cannot.
Unfortunately, Dweck tends to reason beyond her data. She has a potent idea with some research behind it, but she extrapolates the idea into a binary worldview, where one either is fixed or growth. Everything bad comes from having a fixed mindset, everything good from growth. She oversells her idea, ruining a bit of her credibility.

Nevertheless, Mindset has some excellent advice for helping students cope with change. It is probably not necessary to read the entire book, as a number of chapters become repetitive. However, the first three chapters and the chapter on teaching are valuable additions for anyone’s reading plan.

Applying the Science of Learning: Evidence-Based Principles for the Design of Multimedia Instruction

By Bailey, Rachel
Mayer, R. (2008). Applying the science of learning: Evidence-based principles for the design of multimedia instruction. American Psychologist, November, 760-769.

Summary: This article combines the science of learning and instruction. After conducting numerous research trials, the author concludes that some multi-media led instructional strategies are more conducive to learning than others. In the article he highlights 10 effective principles of multimedia instruction. Here are his findings:

  1. Eliminate extraneous material.
  2. Highlight essential material.
  3. Present pictures and spoken words rather than pictures spoken words, and printed words.
  4. Place printed text next to the corresponding part of the graphic.
  5. Present corresponding graphics and words at the same time.
  6. Break a continuous lesson into learner-paced parts.
  7. Provide pre-training on the names, locations, and characteristics of key concepts.
  8. Present graphics with spoken text rather than graphics with printed text.
  9. Present words and pictures rather than words alone.
  10. Present words in conversational style rather than formal style.
Evaluation: The author’s findings make sense to me. I especially like number three, which reminds the instruction to not include all the printed words on a slide when given a presentation. This is too distracting for the listener and they have a hard time deciding what to focus on.  When I taught middle school, I noticed that students often put all the text on their presentation slide. This makes for a boring presentation for the listener. I also like number 10. If a presentation is more conversational, the learner is more likely to tune into what is being said. 

Cognitively Priming Students for Learning

Amy Jessica McMillan

Willis, J. (2014). Cognitively Priming Students for Learning. Retrieved November 7, 2014, from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/cognitively-priming-students-for-learning-judy-willis

Judy Willis, a neurologist turned elementary school teacher turned education professor, writes an ongoing blog for Edutopia about brain-based teaching strategies. This article explains how to grab students’ attention so their brains will work to learn more. Willis’s advice involves inviting students to make predictions about upcoming units. For example, the teacher might choose a particularly thought-provoking image or video and provide more hints and clues about it as the unit goes on. According to Willis, “When students want to know required information to create solutions to problems that interest them or to create products that they care about, the brain applies the effort to learn what is required to achieve desirable goals” (para. 8).  In other words, our brain is automatically set up to be curious and to take steps to satisfy this curiosity. We teachers have the job of making students want to know more.

I am a frequent reader of Dr. Willis’s blog. She gives practical ways that we teachers can work with students’ brains to help them learn. In this article, she reminds readers that students who have “relevant goals” are motivated to achieve them. Their brains are hardwired to work towards goals that make sense to them personally. On the other hand, students who don’t see school as relevant, do not see the value in working hard. Then, they reinforce that feeling by failing and therefore seeing even less worth in trying. Their brains are telling them that the effort would be better served elsewhere. This explanation makes a lot much sense to me because I see this all the time in the classroom. The trick is to make the students curious, to make them want to know more. Their brains will take it from there.

ET: Inquiry–Five Ways to Integrate by Julia Marshall

Sullivan, Maureen

Five Ways to Integrate
Dr. Julia Marshall

Summary: This article has been a staple of mine for the last six years when thinking about shifting pedagogy to integrate across content areas, particularly spanning art and science. The five creative strategies Dr. Julia Marshall describes are used by both artists and scientists alike in the real world, and are fantastic strategies to implement in the library setting to embrace student choice, collaboration, and synthesis of their ideas. They are cognitive strategies, that are used to communicate the creators’ ideas through depiction, metaphor, mimicry, formatting, and projection.

Julia Marshall is an Art Education professor at San Francisco State University and I had the pleasure of working with her closely on a science and art integration initiative in San Francisco public schools.

Evaluation: In thinking about the cognitive processes that span art and science, Julia offers some specific ways in which both artists and scientists are manipulating information to communicate their thinking. I highly recommend it!

Five Ways to Integrate