Using Science to Improve Education


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All of us have been there, sitting in a classroom, tired from lack of sleep, because our class is so early, barely being able to concentrate because we're tired and the teacher is boring or hard to understand (I'm talking about other classes of course, not this one), and then after going to the class, barely remembering anything from it, you decide to cram a bunch of information in your head right before the test starts. So after you memorize the facts by cramming, you go to the test, remembering the information enough just to be able to use word recognition to recognize an answer and be able to match it, and then after the test you forget everything you just learned within a week. That is my opinion of the majority of the education system of today, so what can we do about it? My opinion is that we can use science to help! The following link describes what scientists are finding out about education, and includes things such as that we might be trying to get students to read too early, and things like that, and how a new branch of science neuroeducation is forming to try and figure out the best ways to teach students: The Science of Education.

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If I was in charge I would change a lot, including making lessons more computer based. I very much support online classes. I took an online class for Astronomy and I thought it was one of the best taught classes I had ever had, it was basically a story where you get abducted by aliens and they show you all around the universe and teach you about it. With online classes, you can have the option of reading the material and have it be explained really well by someone really good at teaching or watching a video of it, and being able to pause and rewind, at you're own pace, it all depends on your style of learning. You should have the option of choosing. The other great thing about online classes, are that you can make it so that after teaching anything, it tests the students about what they just learned, and makes it so they can't move on until they get the answer right. That means that you can't just daydream your way through class, but instead you understand everything right as it is being taught to you. Another great thing about this would be that you would be able to set your own sleeping schedule and actually get the 8--9 hour sleeps that we're supposed to be getting in college. You can read about that here: Lack of sleep disrupts learning

Something else that I would change is try to make education, at least beginning education more concept based and less fact memorization based. I think this class is very great because it helps people learn to think like scientists, I think it would be a great introduction to science class. For example you can learn all about how scientists think, and then in the next class choose a direction of science and learn the facts necessary in that subject to get a job as a scientist. It should be done for other classes as well, like have a history class, on how people discover what happened in history, the methods they use, and learn how accurate something possibly is, and possibly things they use to think about history and ways they've been corrected. Another interesting topic would be learning about possible biases people could have when writing the history books to make themselves look better then they really are. And you could have that type of learning in every subject.

I would also get rid of the busy work that classes give you. I feel like a lot of the time, teachers just think that it's their responsibility to make kids work hard. In my opinion we should just be giving the work absolutely necessary to be able to learn, like what's the point of writing so many blogs? We could do a lot less blogs and get the same effect, but really it's just busy work. If kids have less busy work, then they will be able to use that extra time to get new hobbies and find things they love, or maybe appreciate the subject more. Plus the point of education should be to make kids more educated and know the subject, not to torture them. If there is a way in the future to just inject education into someones head with a needle, and have them never need education again, I am totally for that.

Also I am against multiple choice, because so many of the questions you get wrong are because you misunderstood the wording of the question while actually understanding the topic. And so many of the questions you get right are because you guessed when you actually didn't know the information. That is why I am pro short answer, even if it means having to know the information more and make the tests take longer to do and to grade, because knowing it really well and being graded on how well you know it is the whole point right?

Well I know this is a long blog, but I've just got a lot on my mind, and in addition to the changes I've mentioned, I feel like we should incorporate all new scientific findings into education to make it better.

5 Comments

Personally, I hate the idea of online classes. However, I accept that fact that everyone is different and everyone has different perspectives. I feel that online classes are just ways to get out of going to class and just be lazy as you go through them online. But, again I do not have much experience with online classes. I guess you could say im more traditional with the idea of having the teacher teach and learn from notes.

I also disagree on the fact that you talk about getting rid of multiple choice. Especially in this SC200 class, I feel that multiple choice gives us a better understanding of the material. By avoiding trick answers in the question I think it gets your mind thinking extra hard on each question and I have learned more that way.

Again this is my opinion and everyone is titled to their own.

I think you are completely right a scientific approach to education - rationally figuring out what works - has much to offer.

I am with Matthew on multiple choice; in my experience, they work better at making students think. But as with other professionals like doctors, I might be wrong. How would we do a study of what is best? Randomly allocate half the class to Multiple Choice and half to Short Answers? Be hard to make sure the tests were equally hard. But the toughest thing would be the appropriate response variable. For me the most important measures have nothing to do with SC200 assessment. I want to know whether you use this thinking in other classes, and in five years time.

As to the number of blog posts. If I just asked for one, you would only think about one topic. As it is, you could get a very good grade from just six (from one five week blog period), or ten (1st period to practice + one other 5-week blog period). Thinking about ten science-related issues spread over a 15 week semester doesn't seem very onerous to me.

In fact, now that I write that, maybe I should demand more....

So I did some research on the multiple choice vs. short answer thing, and I found this: http://scholar.lib.vt.edu/ejournals/JTE/v6n1/pdf/haynie.pdf , it's a test that where they had kids study books of materials with some class instruction, and then given tests, one group did a multiple choice test, and one group did a short answer test, (with the same questions but without choices), and one group didn't do a test at all. 3 weeks later the students were given another test to see how much they remembered, the new test had some similar materials from the last test and some had questions were material not tested yet. The results were that the people who didn't take the test the first time did worse then the people who did take the test. Also there was no difference in how well they did with the new material not on the first test, but for the similar material, the multiple choice people did better.

At first I thought that I might have been wrong with what I said, but then I realized there was a HUGE flaw in the whole study. The memory retention test they all took 3 weeks later was multiple choice!
Obviously to really see if they remembered the same things they would all have to take the same test, but it seems to me that the people who took a multiple choice test the first time had an advantage because if the questions were similar, they already know what the answers look like. But it is definitely up to debate whether or not that matters.

I definitely agree that multiple choice is a much easier and time efficient way of testing, but I still believe that the grade you would get on a short answer test would more accurately reflect exactly how much you knew based on the factors I mentioned in my first paper (guessing and misunderstanding wording).

But really the majority of this paper was aimed at other classes not this one. It's my more boring classes that make me think this way. I actually am taking one class (I'm not gonna say which one, incase the teacher magically see's this), but I took it because it was an interesting topic, and then I go to class, and the teacher is just horribly boring, and I just can't pay attention, and then I get Nittany Notes, and I look at them and think wow, this actually is interesting, and I study the notes and learn the materials, and it just makes you think that too much of your grades, and your entire future is based on how well you do in college, which is based on how well you can pay attention, even when someone is being boring. And I don't feel like how well you can pay attention to those people actually reflects how smart you are and how good you would be at your future job.

But please don't take any of these comments seriously enough to actually make any types of changes, I prefer multiple choice, I just think there's more flaws in it, just food for thought.

You should check this video out. You may have heard of Khan academy already, but what's interesting is the new teaching method that his videos are bringing about in some schools, like the one in the video. I'm not sure if it is an entirely plausible way to learn past the high school level, but I think through at least the middle school level it could prove to be extremely effective at making the information learned in classes stick in students minds.

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