14 July 2019

The Why Video Series on Educational Norms

Here's a video series that breaks down a number educational norms from Education Reimagined.

The series digs into why we narrowly group children by age, promote memorization over deeper learning, use grade levels as indicators of “moving up,” and confine learning to four-walled classrooms.
After a successful launch, Education Reimagined and 180 Studio partnered up one year later to continue the series by asking why we assess learning based on seat-time and why young people attend school 180 days each year.

13 July 2019

The Long Game for Deeper Learning

Grounding Educational Practice in Learning Science

The term “deeper learning” is associated with several laundry lists of educational positives (see bottom of this post). These and other similar lists were developed from a combination of a) surveying leaders in the modern workplace about what is actually important for success, b) observations about what kinds of experiences appear to be well-suited to developing those qualities and characteristics through schooling, and c) mixing and matching what was found by other researchers. The Hewlett Foundation has awarded over $27 million in grants to further study what constitutes deeper learning in the schools that claim to be achieving it and to get the word out about how to make it happen in schools more broadly. This was all good work to bring attention to key issues in education but those laundry lists are only going to be productive in the short-term. Over the long-term a more consistent and scientifically grounded way of understanding deeper learning will enable us to achieve the kind of system transformation that is needed. 

I am a psychologist whose specialty is deeper learning. In my writings on deeper learning I only rarely mention those laundry lists that have been assumed to define the term and the other work that has previously been associated with it. This is because my interest as a psychologist involves identifying the causal mechanisms behind those observations. If my work is worth the paper it is printed on then it will be entirely consistent with observations of the downstream results that leaders want to produce. However, work on causality is, by definition, based on looking upstream, in the opposite direction, in order to provide an explanation of how things come to be, regardless of how they turn out. A causal theory identifies relevant factors that influence how the outcome is determined. To put it simply, the most direct cause of deeper learning is engagement and engagement is driven by motivation.

Just this year Harvard Graduate School of Education's Jal Mehta, and High Tech High's Sarah Fine came out with a book called In Search of Deeper Learning. Their nationwide search led them to observe that in the schools that claim the mantle of deeper learning there are still islands of poor practice. They also found that in all the conventional schools they observed as points of comparison there were islands of deeper learning practices. But, what threw them for a loop was that in all the schools, the most consistently good practices were found, not in the core subjects where they expected to find them, but in electives and extracurricular activities. Ted Dintersmith made a similar observation in his book What School Could Bewhich was based on his visits to schools in all 50 of the United States. There are pockets of good and bad strewn about somewhat haphazardly throughout the system. 

Another relevant observation is that there are a variety of pedagogical models that may be achieving a significant degree of deeper learning, but do not identify themselves with the term. Based on my own research into the psychology of motivation and the research on engagement by a team in Israel, there is peer-reviewed empirical evidence that some schools that have no association with the term “deeper learning” are providing the enabling conditions for it. They maintain the intrinsic motivation or engagement of their students. I conclude from these observations that the school system-as-a-whole is effectively incoherent. It is in chaos.

Based on 50 years of research into the psychology of motivation and engagement the most relevant factors that have been identified as the causes of shallow, fake, and deeper learning are the support or neglect of primary human needs. (There are more well-known factors that may have little or no influence, except to the degree they also address primary needs: mindsets, grit, self-esteem, self-control, etc.) Those schools that have been shown to maintain intrinsic motivation and engagement have done a better job of supporting primary human needs than all the mainstream schools that have been studied to date.

Identifying the relevant factors that determine the depth of learning was a theoretical breakthrough. This breakthrough was accomplished primarily by the researchers associated with Self-Determination Theory, even though they did not know that that was what they were doing. They set out to study motivation and engagement and it turns out that they were studying the most basic science behind learning. Many education practitioners have not yet realized that this breakthrough happened and what it means. Education policy makers are even less likely to be aware of this important work in the field and most have not yet realized that they are responsible for eliminating policies that undermine the primary needs of learners and teachers.

This development gives us a unique opportunity to see the future, not in the sense of knowing precisely what will happen, but in having confidence that the current conceptual chaos in education will soon disappear. When the system self-organizes around this scientific development, we will see a powerful wave of coherence sweep the field. There is now a powerful scientifically validated causal model to explain the psychological conditions that make teaching more or less effective. Without widespread understanding of this model many teachers and students are currently being subjected to conditions that are guaranteed to produce less effective learning. That is a waste when we know that optimizing those conditions produces more effective learning. The fact is that poor psychologicalconditions can render even the best pedagogicalchoices ineffective. It is time to improve all pedagogical choices by embedding the psychology of learning in policy in order to stop policy from undermining learning in classrooms everywhere. The long game for deeper learning is about shaping policy to better support the primary needs of all the humans in schools. 

The mission of Deeper Learning Advocates is to serve as a catalyst for the powerful wave of coherence that is coming. We recognize that the most substantial barriers to good practice in schools are currently embedded in policy, so that is where we need to take action. You can help by getting in touch to discuss the opportunities you have to influence the schools in your community.

Deeper Learning Laundry Lists 

Hewlett Foundation
  • Master core academic content
  • Think critically and solve complex problems 
  • Work collaboratively
  • Communicate effectively
  • Learn how to learn
  • Develop academic mindsets
New Pedagogies for Deeper Learning
  • Collaboration
  • Creativity
  • Critical Thinking
  • Citizenship
  • Character
  • Communication
Partnership for 21stCentury Skills 
  • Critical thinking
  • Creativity
  • Collaboration
  • Communication

28 January 2019

Defense Against The Dark Arts: Hidden Curriculum Psychology

7-Part Video Course

Learn to Recognize Evil
- Evil is sometimes hard to see and understand.
Learn Real Magic
- Social psychology has proven that magic is real. 
Learn to Use Your Power for Good  
- Using magical power for good requires you to know and apply scientific principles.

You are a good and normal person.
At least, I hope so. 
Did you know that previously good and normal people have been made to do evil deeds? 
Of course, that sounds like the Imperious Curse from the fantasy world of Harry Potter. 
You might be thinking, "Magic, like the Imperious Curse, is a fantasy not a reality so you can't be seriously suggesting that the imperious curse could be real, are you?"
Yes, I am.
Social psychologists have discovered how situations can have seemingly magical powers over individuals under certain circumstances. 
And widely respected scientific research shows that in schools and organizations typical management techniques can result in harmful outcomes for those people subjected to it (and thus be considered evil).
This course will teach you what those circumstances are and how to create the opposite types of circumstances in order to cast spells for goodness instead of evil.
WARNING: This course raises challenging ethical issues for those good and normal people who have participated in schools and organizations that have good intentions but may have perpetrated evil instead. 
If you are not ready to confront the possibility that you and/or your organization may have inadvertently cast evil spells upon innocent people, then you may not be ready to take this course. 
Rest assured that this is not uncommon.
I have been guilty of both perpetrating this kind of evil and causing it to be perpetrated as have some of the social psychologists who conducted the experiments that proved this magic is real. 
But, with what we have learned it is now possible to recognize and prevent it from happening.
That is why I am teaching this course.
And rest assured that publicly funded and most institution-based research, at least, has adopted precautions to either prevent evil from happening, or taking extra care to ensure that the benefits of doing potentially evil-inducing experiments will be worth the risks.

Daily Course Sessions (Video length)
#1- The Imperious Curse and Dolores Umbridge- The Fantasy World (12:48)
Link to Part 1 (Links to the next episode appear in the description.)
#2- The Real World Imperious Curse (14:01)
#3- The Stanford Prison Experiment (12:00)
#4- Busting the Bad Apple Myth, Part 1 (10:06)
#5- Busting the Bad Apple Myth, Part 2 (10:53)
#6- How to Grease the Slippery Slope Towards Evil (11:27)
#7- How Climb Up To Goodness (13:18)
Total Runtime (84:33)

Motivation Hacks for Leaders

How does the science of motivation change leadership?

Have you ever been sucked into a power struggle?

Do you wonder why leading your co-workers and friends is so different from leading your spouse and your kids? 

Have you bought book after book chock full of clever advice that works only for a while?

This Motivation Hacks Video Course busts three leadership myths that the most popular advice is based on:

The Machiavellian Myth 
Leaders can motivate their followers via charisma and/or coercion.

The Skinner Box Myth 
Leaders can motivate their followers via rewards and punishments.

The Invisible Hand Myth 
Leaders can motivate their followers via clever arrangement of incentives.

Using these myths may get you short-term compliance, but also long-term resentment or worse. Manipulation and incentivization can backfire, but with a proper scientific understanding of motivation you can learn when and how to deploy them to good effect. But, more importantly, you can learn how to avoid them in the first place.

Course Session Titles (Video length)

Part 1- Certified Professional What? (4:28)
Part 2- The Power Paradox (8:13)
Part 3- Leadership vs Management: The Myths (11:46)
Part 4- Psychological Science, Part 1 of 2 (4:45)
Part 5- Psychological Science, Part 2 of 2 (11:13)
Part 6- Does Behaviorism Apply to Children? (4:29)
Part 7- Constructing The Motivation Continuum (13:15)
Part 8- The Hacks: 5 Pseudo-hacks, 3 Basic Hacks (13:35)
Part 9- The Ultimate Hack (with two names), Part 1 of 2 (17:56)
Part 10- The Ultimate Hack (with two names), Part 2 of 2 (10:38)
Part 11- Mythbusting: Wrong vs. Useful, Part 1 of 2 (16:11)
Part 12- Mythbusting: Situational Humans, Part 2 of 2 (21:32)
Part 13- The Role of Society (12:59)
Part 14- Resolving the Power Paradox (18:06)
Total Running Time: 2:49:06 

Here's a link to the first episode.
You will find a link to the next episode in the description for each episode.

10 January 2019

Getting Beyond EduJargon

The EduJargon term “deeper learning” is associated with several educationally positive laundry lists; 21stCentury Skills and the 4, 5, or 6 C's. These lists were developed from a combination of surveying leaders in the modern workplace about what is actually important for success and observations about what kinds of experiences appear to be well-suited to developing those competencies, qualities, and characteristics in students through schooling. The Hewlett Foundation has awarded over $27 million in grants to further study what constitutes deeper learning in the schools that claim to be teaching it and to get the word out about how to make it happen in schools more broadly. 

In my writings on the topic of deeper learning you will notice that I only rarely mention those laundry lists and the other work that is usually associated with the term. This is because my primary interest as an educational psychologist is the scientific challenge of figuring out causal mechanisms. If my work is worth the paper it is written on (or the bits that encode it) then it will be entirely consistent with their observations, but digging into causality is, by definition, based on explaining observations, not just making them. For practitioners, those laundry lists are probably a good starting point, but for me they are an ending point. I will have done my job if the theory I propose explains the observations in the field. Once a good theory is in place then it can help educators better figure out how to improve their schools and practices with less wasted time and effort.

When I share my work there are a variety of other terms and famous names in the field of education that are frequently brought up which are listed at the bottom of this post. Here's a bold claim: My deeper learning theory will explain or productively expand on ALL of those terms and models.

The reason for this extraordinary scope in the field is simply that I am focused on a key area of the psychology of learning, which transcends and includes all those terms and models because learning is central to all of them. Specifically, I focus on the roles of motivation and engagement. This fact means that I am concerned about issues that touch on the most fundamental features of the humanity of teachers and students. My topic is human nature. But don't run away screaming just because of that “philosophical” term and its potential for controversy. The science I am referring to has only scratched the surface of human nature. But that scratch is right at the foundation of the most basic elements of human nature.

The foundation of human nature is primary human needs. There are five primary human needs that you are undoubtedly familiar with: air, water, food, shelter, and sleep. It is the fundamental nature of being human to breath air, drink water, eat food, seek shelter from environmental extremes, and to sleep. Without the first four you die. Without the fifth you show signs of psychological distress such as becoming anxious and/or depressed. Under psychological distress you become less able to be your true self. “Primary” indicates that other things sometimes called “needs” are derived from these. You will probably have heard of Maslow's “Hierarchy of Needs.” His model is wrong about the hierarchy and several of the “needs” he proposed are derivative, not primary. You can read more about how needs actually work and how Maslow got it wrong in my book More Joy, More Genius

One of the key points of my work is acquainting people like you with the three primary psychological needs that are less familiar, but just as important as the familiar five above. Those three are the needs for relatedness, competence, and autonomy. Their opposites are isolation or exclusion, incompetence, and sensing that you are being controlled by someone or something besides yourself. All those EduJargon terms and school models were originally derived from observations of how students and/or teachers were striving to satisfy their primary human needs, even though the observers didn't realize it at the time.

Another key point of my work is to help people like you understand and act effectively to manage the complex systems that shape our schools. There is some value in getting principals and teachers to do the behaviors that better support the primary psychological needs of their teachers and students in classrooms, but those behaviors will not become sustainable organizational practices unless there is policy in place to protect them. There must have been institutional habits that prevented those behaviors from happening previously and may erode their perceived value currently, so mitigating the effects of those habits is crucial to long term success. Explaining that point and providing some basic tools for working on it is why I wrote the book More Joy More Genius. The video series Back to Basics 2.0 gives a brief overview of some key points, as well.

  • 21stCentury Skills 
  • The 4, 5, or 6 C's of Deeper Learning
  • Professional Learning Communities (PLC)
  • Competency-/ Mastery-based Assessment
  • Social-Emotional Learning (SEL)
  • Project-Based Learning (PBL)
  • Trauma-Informed Practice
  • Self-Directed Education
  • Personalized Learning
  • Progressive Education
  • Experiential Learning
  • Character Education
  • Democratic Schools
  • Montessori Schools
  • Wholistic Schools
  • Waldorf Schools
  • Growth Mindset
  • Active Learning
  • Whole Child
  • Resilience
  • Grit
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