Thursday, March 19, 2009

Blinded me with Science

A very good programme on Horizon on Tuesday in which David Baddiel explored education. The hook was that he wanted as a parent to know if you could balance attainment with, well I suppose being "normal", emotionally healthy or whatever. It did rather turn into the usual travelogue of 10-minute pieces and opinions which were not summarised let alone compared and contrasted but at least it was an attempt to do some science ie examine a few theories and the evidence provided rather than a weak form of sociology which is normally what you get.

BBC doesn't seem to do transcripts any more now, it's just "33 days to watch it again on I-player" so pending me doing that I'll have to go from memory.

Very struck by the teacher who reckoned there was a 3-word weasel phrase you should never use - "you're so clever". See the point; you lock the child into a success-oriented pattern where they can't try anything new or challenging in case they suddenly look not-clever. Hard to avoid, but David at least found "I can see you've worked really hard" which looks OK. I guess "you've done really well" is borderline acceptable.

But then paying kids who do well seemed pretty successful too. Blow delayed gratification, get them started on reward now (money!) and they'll see the benefits immediately and get them into a pattern. Note the reward is for consistency - full attendance - and effort put in. There would have to be some allowance for kids who get sick?

Slightly concerned about the two lads 8 and 10 who have respectively GCSE and A-level Maths and want to be actuaries - just what their dad wants them to be. Still they seemed happy and friendly and to have a secure home life. I wonder if they'll still want the same thing at 14 and at what age anyone will actually let them be an actuary, which seems to be a pertinent and unexplored point. David did say the proof was in the eating.

And have we learned to teach reading at last? Don't hold your breath. Phonics (or phonetics?) is still in but the research evidence is still a bit thin (admittedly really difficult when you can't have a control group, but still no attempt at really proving why it works). Some interesting ideas on dyslexia that it is really about sounds and not shapes. More to say there. And a proper mention of dyscalculia and an an experiment that seemed to replicate it? Now that is science.

No-one really knows how anyone learns anything though.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Money (That's What I Want)

Two classic quotes from Shakespeare.

The first is from Henry V (I think, willing to be corrected):

"First thing, let's kill all the lawyers".

The second is from Hamlet:

"Neither a borrower nor a lender be".

There speaks a man who had a mortgage.

Which is unlike me, since two weeks ago today. Brave new world?