About Anything

The personal blog of Al Stevens. Focus is overrated.

Archive for the ‘teaching’ tag

Technology in the Classroom — another study finds no value

without comments

I was disappointed to see the results of this study, but not surprised.

The study, Effectiveness of Reading and Mathematics Software Products Findings From Two Student Cohorts, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education, reports on student test scores of a second year of use of selected software programs aimed at 1st grade reading, 4th grade reading, 6th grade math, and algebra I. They looked at 10 software products and found that only one had a statistically significant effect. Given that there were 10 chances, that one should also be considered suspect.

Until we really understand the details of human learning we will not be able to build or evaluate effective teaching technology. These broad brushed studies provide such a coarse look at the overall process that we can conclude very little. The study itself ends with a list of caveats that include: “the study preclude direct comparisons of product effects”;  “Because districts and schools volunteered to implement particular products, their characteristics differ and these differences may relate to effectiveness”; “The study design does not rule out the possibility that a product the study finds to be ineffective could be effective if implemented by other districts or schools”.

So why did the Department of Education bother to do it?

It would be much better to spend resources on understanding the learning process with enough rigor to construct educational environments that improve it.

Written by Al Stevens

March 13th, 2009 at 4:53 pm

Building and Using Databases of Student Misconceptions

without comments

Tara Madhyastha, of Facet Innovations and Steven Tanimoto, Paul G. Allen Center for Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Washington in an article in the Journal of Interactive Media in Education describe “facets”, their use in education and methods for identifying and cataloging them.  A facet is an attempt to categorize the partial understandings that students have in early stages of learning a subject in a way that can be communicated to a teacher. Their paper explains the reasons for using facets, and describes a process for developing a catalog of facets.

The paper abstract (links added):

A number of educational researchers have developed pedagogical approaches that involve the teacher in discovering and helping to correct misconceptions that students bring to their study of their subject matter. During the last decade, several computer systems have been developed to support teaching and learning using this kind of approach. A central conceptual construct used by these systems is the “facet” of understanding: an atomic diagnosable unit of belief. A formidable challenge to applying such pedagogical approaches to new topic areas is the task of discovering and organizing the facets for the new subject area. This paper presents a taxonomy of misconceptions and a methodology for going about the task of preparing a database of facets. Important issues include the generality and diagnosability of facets, granularity of facets, and their placement on a scale of problematicity. Examples are drawn from the subjects of physics and computer science and in the context of two computer systems: the Diagnoser and INFACT.

Article: Faring with Facets: Building and Using Databases of Student Misconceptions