Big summative tests ignore some important lessons from brain science, McREL’s Bryan Goodwin and Kris Rouleau write in the September issue of ASCD’s Educational Leadership. Frequent quizzes are more helpful because they help students identify knowledge gaps and exploit the brain’s urge to fill them in.
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One of the more interesting findings to emerge from studies of curiosity (which I share in my new book, Building a Curious School) is this: Curious people have better relationships.That’s likely because when we’re curious, we ask people questions—about their interests, values, and aspirations. In short, we learn what makes them tick. On top of that, the same studies find that curious people are generally more likable: We all enjoy being around someone who shows genuine interest in us—and conversely we feel irked when a supposed friend goes on and on about themselves without ever inquiring about our own lives.
As we begin (or for our Australian colleagues, continue) a school year unlike any in memory, I’m reminding our partner schools that good instruction is good instruction regardless of the location or platform where the teaching and learning happen. Of course, “good” is a subjective term, so how do I define good instruction? One concept has been my guiding light and always will be, regardless of what challenges the universe throws our way: Relationships.
As I’ve touched base with school leaders and former colleagues these past few months (before joining McREL I was a longtime principal and assistant superintendent), I’ve been struck by how often our conversations reinforce the idea that preparing for the predictable also helps you prepare for the unpredictable.
Glen Pearsall, the Australian educator, teacher coach, and co-author of McREL’s new book Tilting Your Teaching: Seven Simple Shifts That Can Substantially Improve Student Learning, has encountered just about every challenge a teacher can imagine—and usually helped to resolve it. Recently we did an email Q-and-A with Glen from his home base in Melbourne. The common thread: Small changes can have big benefits.
In an era when we all have access to copious information to help us make even the most trivial buying decisions, it’s odd that good data can be hard to find when the stakes are really high. When it comes to buying educational technology for classroom or administrative use, the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is aimed at changing this by insisting that companies provide evidence that their products or interventions are effective.
At an age when learning should be more engaging—high school students ought to be to exploring the deep mysteries of the universe, encountering great literature that reveals our shared humanity, and mastering the elegant language of mathematics that helps them solve complex problems—they’re bored out of their minds. Why should that be? Numerous studies point to the missing ingredient—something we observe in abundance in younger children, only to watch it slip away as they progress through school: curiosity. In this moment, teachers have the rare opportunity to engage students in some productive and semi-structured “unschooling.”