Sunday, May 31, 2015

Not “Me First,” No – You First, I Insist!

The scene that greeted me as I entered COSTCO (it could have been Sam' Club, Walmart, Big Lots, outlet malls, Target, you name it,...anywhere) earlier this afternoon was a conflict between drivers. One had cut the other off, or vice versa, and emotions were boiling over. A few people from differing ethnic back grounds,  not identified here, because, let’s face it, this could be anyone of any color, creed, etc…, They were to the side of the main entrance. I hurriedly walked past into the store, cops already called, store personnel present, and, frankly, I don’t like the anger.

We all know the trend in our world is “Me First!” This starts young. Once, as a preschool teacher, I was supervising on the playground and witnessed the following unfold before my eyes:  A little girl, new to the school, that spoke virtually no English, but had a few phases memorized, rushed up to a little boy riding by on his trike and pushed him clean off, “splat!”, with the battle cry, “I had it first!” Another teacher, nearer to the incident, helped the boy up with one hand and held the little girl’s hand with the other. Throughout this quickly transpiring event the pretty little gal repeated loudly, with tears and conviction, “I had it first!” “I had it first!”

I know we all grow up. These early idea about things need to be fair and exercising our rights....well, I'm not naive. I know there is a place for this. Stand up for what's right; however, I think its high time for a societal makeover.

It is well documented that we have a profound influence over other people. There is a study showing that if one person in a parking lot takes an advertisement off their windshield and walks it to a trash can, others will follow this example. If a person throws it to the ground, the ground ends up littered with trash by others that do the same. If in a dormitory setting people are asked to conserve water and one or two people follow the suggestion to get wet, turn off the water, suds up, turn the water back on and rinse, then others will do the same. (Of course we know they have turned off the water by the sound, not sight, there are shower curtains, um yeah). So for reference on this and a clear and scholarly explanation see, The Social Animal by Aronson (2008), a book on social influence we have. Its insightful.

Until then, not “Me first!”, but let’s change it up, “No, you go first, after you, I insist!” 

Friday, May 1, 2015

I Just Need to Take English and Math Placement tests? Really?

Why? Why ? Why are so many educational institutions living in the past? 

When reviewing some research for an article I'm writing, I was a little taken back. The article, on self-regulated learning (if you must know), gave a brief overview of ideas about learning that influenced Western education. Among these, Thurstone (1938),  provided what was thought to be a perfect description of the abilities of students (Primary Mental Abilities Test).

While these ideas contributed significantly at the time, and have relevance today, we've learned a few more things since.

In spite of these new understandings, these testing practices persist today. The idea is that the right test can classify and place students in just the right level for optimal instruction, for example the right math groups, or the right English class. This placement practice consistently yields poor results overall, yet this practice is still widely used as a primary placement tool today from preschool to college.

While I am not arguing to throw out testing, tests do provide some good information, what I do know, more than this.... What we know from research today, is that self-regulation has far more to do with successful academic outcomes than performance on a placement test. Testing along is not enough.

We need more than the right tests for correct placement.