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More teachers? More books? New schools? Deworming?

The data is in! In some places deworming wins hands down.
Studies show that an effective way to increase school attendance in developing nations isn't providing notebooks or building roofs for schoolhouses. It's deworming!

#DewormingDay2017 Image via +Evidence Action

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Differentiation - strategies to make it easier

One of the big challenges faced every day by classroom teachers is meeting the often very different needs of individual learners. Here's a handy list of some approaches that can help.


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Equity in education

Equity in education means all students, regardless of their circumstances, having the resources, the teachers and the educational facilities needed to succeed to the best of their abilities. It's an ideal that few countries approach and, in Australia, it's a problem that is exacerbated by the understandable decision of many parents to send their children to better resourced private schools that benefit from substantial taxpayer assistance.

At least Australian politicians in tune with their electorate are fond of the word "equity". It won't lose you votes. Sadly, it's a word that seems to have gone out of fashion with many Republican politicians in the US including the U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.

In this piece +Andre Perry writes:

"Republicans ought to have learned that Donald Trump won the presidency partially by repudiating the greed, elitism and callousness of the Republican establishment represented by the swamp he promised to drain. After losing the presidential election, Democrats gnashed their teeth and rended their garments trying to figure out ways to win back working-class white folk.

Well, all working-class lives matter. And the call for equity in schooling can be a rallying cry for people who vote differently but face a common problem — not getting an education that will help lift them to the middle class."

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Larger classes beat smaller classes when teachers have more planning time.

Despite the preference of teachers and parents for smaller class sizes, OECD's education chief Andreas Schleicher says it's better to have larger classes but give teachers less classroom time and more planning time. He says, "You have a lot more time to engage with students individually, to work with parents, to work on reviewing lessons, analysing lessons, observing practice and so on. So there's more emphasis on the professional development, particularly for higher order thinking skills."

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Grammar schools damage social mobility ...

... according to opponents of Theresa May's proposed expansion. They argue that selective schools "can boost attainment for the already highly gifted, [but] they do nothing for the majority of children, who do not attend them. Indeed, in highly selective areas, children not in grammars do worse than their peers in non-selective areas."


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"Education" in America ...

... and, sadly, elsewhere to. This is a powerful and thought provoking critique of education, and science education in particular, by +Rick Wayne​​.

"We don't teach Science in this country. At all. We teach its content. We teach science: Avogadro's number and coefficients of friction and chordate anatomy and the pH scale and sine functions. As if memorizing the citric acid cycle somehow teaches you to understand Science and why it's so powerful.

... the purpose of the system is not to educate but to serve the power structure, which means the purpose of compulsory, state-sponsored indoctrination is to churn out skads of minimally compliant, technically-competent office workers to feed the post-industrial economy. It's important that they know how to memorize and regurgitate, how to pass tests and certifications, how to follow rote instruction, such as what is required to service machines made from interchangeable parts. It resembles education sometimes, but only enough to make sure people won't realize what it actually is.

... And then we wonder why, year after year, a majority of Americans -- high school-graduates all, and even a high percentage of college grads -- doubt climate change. Or evolution (roughly the same percentage as Islamic states like Turkey, by the way)."
In which I blame teachers for things

In light of recent news, and after a brief exchange I had when I shared this picture yesterday, I've been thinking a lot about science and science education. I blame teachers for this mess.

I used to teach science. I even taught Science, which is different than science, after one of my freshman biology students, a Christian and a creationist, asked to learn more about evolution. She didn't actually want to understand the theory, I quickly discovered. What she wanted to understand was how a seemingly educated and intelligent guy like me could be so completely duped by a patently false idea.

So I agreed to show her. But not by teaching evolution. I told her I wasn't going to do that. At all. Not even a little. As it happened, my graduate training was in Biology, but my undergraduate emphasis was on the history and philosophy of science, and I saw that what she really lacked was not FACTS. It was understanding. So I said I would merely teach her how to evaluate scientific reasoning and she could take it from there.

I went online to see what tools were available for students and teachers at the high school level. And there ain't much. Don't get me wrong. There are some. But it's pretty sparse compared to almost anything else. You'll find a great deal more teaching tools for something specific like molecular genetics, for example, than for teaching about Science itself, which is just insane. It does a student no good to learn about operons and their regulation, or the neutral theory, without a firm understanding of what science both is and ISN'T.

I had an epiphany just then. We don't teach Science in this country. At all. We teach its content. We teach science: Avogadro's number and coefficients of friction and chordate anatomy and the pH scale and sine functions. As if memorizing the citric acid cycle somehow teaches you to understand Science and why it's so powerful. Facts and tables can reinforce that understanding, but only if it's already there. If not, nothing you learn in high school or almost any college Gen. Ed. requirement will gift it to you.

Students come burdened with language. They learn passively from society that science is an occupation -- like accounting, or carpentry -- and also a collection of experimental outcomes organized into big tables that have to be memorized to get a job. They learn that a theory -- "Well, that's one theory, I guess" -- is just a hypothesis and a hypothesis is a shot in the dark. Educators spend about five minutes at the start of the semester correcting that and then launch right into the subject material. Is it any surprise then that voting citizens who couldn't come up with three sentences to describe the hydrological cycle will tell you with absolute certainty that human-caused climate change is a hoax?

If that distresses you, I would question how much you're paying attention. Asking students to draw conclusions from a list of facts they're required to memorize but are incompetent to evaluate isn't education. It's indoctrination. Science class is nine months of "Trust me. I'm right."

And so here it's the 21st century and Science denial is all the rage. We all know about the anti-vaxxers and their ilk. But it's not just a problem with the Right. It's not. The debate about GMOs, for example, has become so politicized, it's lost all connection to science and reason. So it is Bill Nye (the science guy) -- one of the country's foremost science educators and a more competent scientist than you or I ever will be -- reversed his opposition to GMOs after careful review, and rather than taking that as evidence of the scientific process, of free an open inquiry, he was pilloried for being a "tool of Monsanto" -- because part of his consideration included taking a tour of their labs to, you know, actually observe for himself what they were up to rather than just reading a second-hand account on Mother Jones.

Look, Science is potentially dangerous. It's always been potentially dangerous. And the public has always been just a little bit worried about that. The very first work of science fiction, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, captures that fear, and even seems to warn us that some lines of inquiry were just not meant for man, following the lesson of the earlier myth of Doctor Faustus that learned dudes in long robes will set loose monsters from their ivory towers and we'll all suffer. It's the plot of every Cold War-era sci-fi movie, in fact -- that an irradiated ant will eat Las Vegas, that the machines will become self-aware and kill us, that we'll become self-aware and kill ourselves.

The debate shouldn't be about prohibitions and controls. It should always be about transparency and oversight (such as peer review). I take it as an axiom that before too long the world is gonna need a stable, tested, drought- and pest-resistant source of food. I take it as an axiom that we should be looking for ways of curing childhood genetic diseases like cystic fibrosis and Tay-Sachs. I take it as an axiom that we're going to do a lot more damage to the environment before things get better, and that breeding a strain of Deinococcus radiodurans that could clean up nuclear waste would be awesome.

All of those lines of inquiry carry risk. And a not insignificant amount. So it is we have people on both sides of the political spectrum arguing that Science should be curtailed or prohibited because they've decided -- as laypeople, in advance -- that some problems are just not soluble, and anyway it's just not worth the risk.

Because, you know, there are monsters.

("Just Say No" has never been an effective strategy to curb anything, by the way. All it does is drive it underground, where there's even less visibility and control. The surest way to ensure a rogue gene makes it into the wild is for industrialized nations to place such steep roadblocks on GMO research that it's driven to the Third World, where there's no oversight at all.)

I blame teachers for this mess. I really do. I know that's not popular. But it's true. Don't get me wrong. Science educators fight valiantly -- and that's not sarcasm; I mean it -- against efforts to gut science education. They fight valiantly to continue teaching the content of evolution. But never the vessel. And then we wonder why, year after year, a majority of Americans -- high school-graduates all, and even a high percentage of college grads -- doubt climate change. Or evolution (roughly the same percentage as Islamic states like Turkey, by the way). We ask them to drink from a well they're being told is poisoned, and then we wonder why they refuse. Regardless of anyone's best efforts, that's the actual, real, practical outcome of science education in this country.

And my student, by the way -- the one who wanted to understand how it was I got duped by science -- totally came around after just a couple months, and all without me ever even saying the word evolution.

-------------------------
1) I eventually settled on Ronald Giere's "Understanding Scientific Reasoning" as the textbook for my sessions. I'm sure there are others, and I'm sure there are people out there who can steer you appropriately.

2) And if you're one of those people who's chest spasms at the thought of stem cell research or GMOs or whatever, read David Deutsch's "The Beginning of Infinity" and repeat the following to yourself every time you get nervous: "Problems are soluble. Problems are soluble. Problems are soluble."

3) Edit to include the comment: All of this is because the purpose of the system is not to educate but to serve the power structure, which means the purpose of compulsory, state-sponsored indoctrination is to churn out skads of minimally compliant, technically-competent office workers to feed the post-industrial economy. It's important that they know how to memorize and regurgitate, how to pass tests and certifications, how to follow rote instruction, such as what is required to service machines made from interchangeable parts. It resembles education sometimes, but only enough to make sure people won't realize what it actually is.

(re-sharing this art by Beeple)

www.RickWayne.com
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Australian results slide, but don't panic

Maths and science results are important, but there's more to a good education than maths and science. The debate about mostly flatlining results in maths and science assessment from Australian students and an ongoing decline relative to other countries continues. Here is some input from the independent Grattan Institute. As usual teacher quality and focused spending feature in the recommendations.

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Raising Teaching Entry Standards

Today the Minister for Education in Australia's second most populous state, my home state of Victoria, announced a series of reforms aimed at raising teaching standards. From 2018 teaching courses will be restricted to the top 30% of academic performers. If we want high quality education in our schools it seems reasonable to set higher academic standards for those entering the teaching profession. What do you think?

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Education on Air: It Takes a Teacher
Education on Air is a free, online conference on Dec 3rd for educators to connect with and learn from each other. They will get tips and tricks to use in the classroom, as well as hear from change makers and thought leaders. This year we have keynotes from Hon. Julia Gillard, John Hattie, Tim Bell, Mark McCrindle and Google Chairman Eric Schimdt.

Sign up now!

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Better understanding our emotions

Some good advice here on the importance of developing a more nuanced understanding of our emotions. "Stressed" and "angry" are examples of broad-bush descriptors that would benefit from a more specific replacement to get at the root of the problem and find a way forward. The author, Susan David, who is on Harvard's faculty, hopes to encourage more people to develop greater emotional agility to better handle life's challenges. 
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