Monday, September 25, 2006

Why People Do Things

"Humor and College Teaching," by Howard Pollio, , The Teaching of Psychology: Essays in Honor of Wilbert J. McKeachie and Charles L. Brewer, 69-80,
"Self-Regulated Learning in College Students: Knowledge, Strategies, and Motivation," by Paul Pintrich and Teresa Garcia, Student Motivation, Cognition, and Learning: Essays in Honor of Wilbert J. McKeachie, 113-133,

"Frames, Biases, and Rational Decision-Making in the Human Brain," by Benedetto De Martino et al, Science, 4 August 2006, Vol 313 pp 684-687,

Articles from both main classes appear below, and it is neat when they overlap. For instance:

In general, students who use more deep-processing strategies like elaboration and organization are more likely to do better in the course in terms of grades on assignment, exams, and papers, as well as overall course grade. In addition, students who attempt to control their cognition and behavior through the use of planning, monitoring, and regulating strategies also do better on these academic performance measures. (Pintrich and Garcia 121)

and in neurobiology:

Our data raise an intriguing possibility that more 'rational' individuals have a better and more refined representation of their own emotional biases that enables them to modify their behavior in appropriate circumstances, as for example when such biases might lead to suboptimal decisions." (De Martino et al 687)

Just as fun is when Evolutionary/Genetic theories invade Educational Psychology outright.

After all, college faculty deal with whole students, not an array of motivational and cognitive constructs. Bereiter (1990) argued that a focus on the individual is too large and not context-specific enough. He suggested the use of "modules" that are "carried" by the individual, thereby allowing for individual differences and avoiding problems of strong contextualism; but at the same time, he noted that these modules are assembled and activated differentially depending on the situation. (Pintrich and Garcia 125)

(hmm... experiential and genetic individuality... hmmm)

Modules, additionally, are also at the root of fingertip-feeling and multiple intelligences.

The rest of the notes appear below the fold:

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Monday, September 18, 2006

Curriculum Development (with Thoughts on Genetic Factors)

"Teaching Through the Curriculum: The Development of a Comprehensive Honors Program," by Anthony Lisska, in Inspiring Teaching, October 1996,

"Formulating and Clarifying Curriculum Objectives," by John Biggs, Teaching for Quality Learning at University, 1 February 2003,

"Multiple Intelligences After Twenty Years," by Howard Gardner, Paper Presented at the American Educational Research Association, 21 April 2003, (from Wikipedia).

Mark of ZenPundit's recent call of autotelic education kindly listed both Howard Gardner and myself as inspirations. Happily, an online paper by Howard shows that, hopefully, we are inspiring in different ways. On genetics, for example:

Second, from the start, one of the appealing aspects of MI [Multiple Intelligences] theory was its reliance on biological evidence. At the time, in the early 1980s, there was little relevant evidence from genetics or evolutionary psychology; such speculations were mere handwaving. There was powerful evidence from the study of neuropsychology for the existence of different mental faculties; and that evidence constituted the strongest leg on which to justify MI theory.


At the time that MI theory was introduced, it was very important to make the case that human brains and human minds are highly differentiated entities. It is fundamentally misleading to think about a single mind, a single intelligence, a single problem-solving capacity. And so, along with many others, I tried to make the argument that the mind/brain consists of many modules/organs/intelligences, each of which operates according to its own rules in relative autonomy from the others.

Happily, a piece I have to read for college teaching this week also includes an excerpt from Gardner on page 44:

The greatest enemy of understanding is coverage -- I can't repeat that often enough. If you're determined to cover a lot of things, you are guaranteeing that most kids will not understand, because they haven't had time enough to go into things in depth, to figure out what the requisite understanding is, and be able to perform that understanding in different situations

Which he repeated in the same public speech, on page 9:

Efforts to cover too much material doom the achievement of understanding. We are most likely to enhance understanding if we probe deeply in a small number of topics. And once the decision is made to “uncover” rather than “cover,” it is possible to take advantage of our multiple intelligences. Put concretely, we can approach topics in a number of ways; we can make use of analogies and comparisons drawn from a range of domains; and we can express the key notions or concepts in a number of different symbolic forms.

The rest of my notes for the week's reading are below the fold:

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Saturday, September 09, 2006

Social Teaching Strategies

"The College Classroom from the Perspective of Cognitive Psychology," by Rogert Bruning, in Handbook of College Teaching: Theory and Applications, 1995,

"Teaching Dialogically: Its Relationship To Critical Thinking in College Students," by Susan Reiter , in Student Motivation, Cognition, and Learning, 1994.

Notes on two chapters, including one by a UNL faculty (and a co-academic of the man I profiled Coming Anarchy under). While reading these articles, I was especially curious for any similarities to evolutionary psychology or to classroom democracies.

"Social communities are perhaps the only effective way in which 'dispositions for thinking' can be shaped." (Bruning 1995 4)

"A community-of-learners approach to developing cognitive abilities also adds to the motivation to perform intellectually. Until very recently, research in cognitive psychology had emphasized 'cold cognition' -- the processes of learning, comprehension, problem solving, and decision making. Newer models include not only purely cognitive processes but also motivational ones (e.g. Ames & Archer 1998, Dweck and Legget 1989, Pintrich 1990, Schallert 1991)." (Bruning 1995 5)

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Tuesday, September 05, 2006

On Teaching and Learning

"Self-Regulation Behaviors in Underprepared (Developmental) and Regular Admission College Students," by Kathryn Ley and Dawn Young, Contemporary Educational Psychology, 1998, Vol. 23, 42-64,

"Self-efficacy: An Essential Motive to Learn," by Barry Zimmerman, Contemporary Educational Psychology, 2000, Vol. 25, 82-91,

"Conceptions, Styles, and Approaches Within Higher Education: Analytic Abstractions and Everyday Experience," by Noel Entwistle, Velda McCune, and Paul Walker, in Perspectives on Thinking, Learning, and Cognitive Styles, 1 January 2001,

"Academic Self-Efficacy and First-Year College Student Performance and Adjustment," by Martin Chemebers, Li-tze Hu, and Ben Garcia, Journal of Educational Psychology, 2001, Vol. 93 No 1, 55-64,

"Do Psychosocial and Study Skill Factors Predict College Outcomes? A Meta-Analysis," by Steven Robbins et al, Psychological Bulletin, 2005, Vol. 130 No. 2, 261-268,

"Do Psychosocial and Study Skill Factors Predict College Outcomes? Comment on Robbins et al (2004)," by Norman Weissberg and David Owen, Psychological Bulletin, 2005, Vol. 131 No. 3, 407-409,

"Promiting Successful College Outcomes for All Students: Reply to Weissberg and Owen(2005)"," by Seteven Robbins, Huy Le, and Kristy Lauver, Psychological bulletin, 2005, Vol. 131 No. 3, 410-411,

Note for class discussion. Just a couple really interesting ones

"The latter self-concept measures emphasize self-esteem reactions by posing self-evaluative questions, such as 'How good are you at English?' By contrast, self-efficacy items focus exclusively on task-specific performance expectations, such as 'How certain are you that you cna diagram this sentence?'" (Zimmerman 2000 84)

I became skeptical of linguistic self-reports after my study of Coming Anarchy revealed no "Identity" correlation but found other commonalities.

"Interestingly, the variables 'available financial resources' and 'hours planned on working during school' are key predictors of admissions decisions and of academic performance in ACT's enrollment management prediction services for 4-year postsecondary institutions." (Robbins et al 2005 275)


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Wednesday, August 23, 2006

On Teaching (and Maps of Fantasty Lands)

A number of articles (listed below the fold) with notes that ranged form brilliant to Marxist clap-trap. So-so. I want to highlight one because I know it will be of special interest to Catholicgauze

I asked him if he worked with maps in geography. He did. So I suggested that he do his paper on maps and fantasy, and I brainstormed ideas with him. Maps, like fantasy, are neither objective nor value-free. They are someone's vision of reality, a combination of the imagination and the intellect. I had read a fascinating book on maps by Peter Whitfield (1994). He argued that the act of representing reality in maps was not too different form the act of representing it in art or literature. It was the same impulse to crystallize, comprehend, and therefore to control aspects of reality.

A number of fantasy texts in the course had maps or theories voyaging -- for example, Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels, Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, the film Casablanca, and a discussion of Galileo. The geography student's essay included Gulliver's Travels. He argued that maps mirror the minds of the society or the individual from which they spring. The visual space of maps reflects a navigational, scientific, religious, political, national, or colonizing cosmology. He connected the rationality and irrationality of maps to central themes in the novel and the fantasy course. He analyzed the ways in which the implication of voyaging in maps related to the transformation of character, whether individual, scientific, or national, Gulliver, the Royal Society, or England. " (Cooper-Clark 172)

The rest are, of course, below the fold.

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