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Sunday, December 17, 2006

Classroom Democracy, Part V: Bibliography

I was going through some papers and posts, preparing for the next installment of The Wary Guerrilla, when I realized I had not posted a bibliography for my Classroom Democracy series. Throughout the series I cite chapters and journal articles but never state where I got them from. Thus, without further ado, my long occulted sources:

Bruning, R. (1995). The College Classroom from the Perspective of Cognitive Psychology. Handbook of College Teaching: Theory and Applications.

Dawson, J.D. (1996) Relations of mutual trust and objects of common interest. In J.K. Roth (Ed.) Inspiring Teaching: Carnegie Professors of the Year Speak. Bolton, MA: Anker Publishing Company, Inc. (pp. 44-53).

Halonen, J.S. (2002). Classroom presence. In S. Davis & W.Buskist (Eds.). The teaching of psychology: Essays in honor of William J. McKeachie and Charles Brewer. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc. (pp. 41-55).

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

Roth, J.K. (1996). What teaching teaches me: How the Holocaust informs my philosophy of education. In J.K. Roth (Ed.) Inspiring Teaching: Carnegie Professors of the Year Speak. Bolton, MA: Anker Publishing Company, Inc. (pp. 199-210).

Royse, D. (2001). The mental groundwork. In D. Royse (Ed.). Teaching Tips for College and University Instructors: A Practical Guide. Needham Heights, MA.: Allyn & Bacon. (pp. 1-24).

Ruiz, T.F.(1996). Teaching as subversion. In J.K. Roth (Ed.) Inspiring Teaching: Carnegie Professors of the Year Speak. Bolton, MA: Anker Publishing Company, Inc.(pp. 158-165).

Smith, K. (2006). "Representational Altruism: The Wary Cooperator as Authoritative Decision Maker," American Journal of Political Science, October 2006, Vol. 50 No. 4, pp 1013-1022.

Smith, K. et al. (2004). Evolutionary Theory and Political Leadership: Why Certain People Do Not Trust Decision-Makers. Presented at the 2004 Midwest Political Science Association Conference in Chicago, 2004, 1-42.

Classroom Democracy, a tdaxp series
1. A Parliament of Scholars
2. A Defense of Republics
3. The Life of Constitutions
4. The Evolution of Learning
5. Bibliography

Monday, December 11, 2006

Classrooms Evolved, Part V: Conclusions

When students begin a program of study in computer science, they naturally focus on the programming: what lines to write, what language to write them in, and other such concerns. However, as they become more skilled they learn to focus on the data structures – they realize that a seeming detail that actually is actually the most critical factor. Teaching is similar. My first-hand experience in instruction, as well as a seminar on college teaching, shifted my focus towards grading and social setting, and away from the many small details I first worried about.

The benefits of social cognition are intertwined with motivation. Too many teachers believe that students are slackers who put in the least amount of effort possible, when really they are cooperative when put in a healthy environment. Students need to know that fairness has a place, and that they won't have their work exploited by low-preforming peers without consequence. Students will contribute and try to help until they believe they are being cheated. The ability for even a small amount of students -- holding just one-third of the assembly -- to prevent the re-election of an Administration they dislike -- means that student who who care about fair play will have the power to act on the behalf of the group. Further, the deliberative, inclusive manner of the elections are likely to correlate with student happiness. Students want to do well, want to be treated fairly, and want to treat each other fairly. My philosophy will succeed because it recognizes all these primal drives, and doesn't simplify students into listening-reading-regurgitating machines.

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Sunday, December 10, 2006

Student Differences and Deliberative Learning

Because of maddening and inferiority problems with my blog hosting service, a comment I wrote to Mark of ZenPundit did not go through. Mark had a question on deliberative learning over at my series, Classrooms Evolved, and as Mark was kind enough to link to those posts, I do not feel good letting him wait until blogspirit gets its act together. (That could, literally, take forever.)

My reply is below:

I've tried classroom democracy on community college students, gene. ed students in a survey course, and political science / international studies students in an introductory course. I think all three of these tries went better than a piagetian attempt or lecture-based attempts.

Students differed on motivation. Community college students and major students tended towards mastery orientation, with the major students taking the democracy itself as a system to master while community college students used it to help them master their technical skill. Thus the major students devised and implemented clever alternatives to the sort of democracy I layed out, while the community college students used it as a way to select tutors who would help other students in exchange for reduced assignments.

Gen. ed. students were generally performance oriented. Several times there were "coups" with a President or Prime Minister declaring his term extended -- students were focused mostly on grades and so such coups were popular (as they provided more continuity than elections in course structure).

Thus the directional nature of the classroom I describe in this series. I expect that by embedding the democracy within a curriculum you would have a more durable system for gen. ed. students, while still allowing major students the ability to play with the system if they want to.

I plan on handing out an edited version of this philosophy to students on the first day next semester. This system is designed for practical implementation.

Phil's question over at "Open Thread" is also still hanging, but Catholicgauze and Sean seem to have that covered. (I don't have the original text of my comment anymore, so I hope it stops being AWOL soon!)

Classrooms Evolved, Part IV: Overcoming Doubt

Every class I have ever had has challenged this system. Students, wise from more than a decade of classroom instruction, have figured out that teachers lie to them and that collaborative learning is really just a way for a teacher to lecture and then act grumpy when students don't talk up. So students, who don't like hypocrisy, attempt to expose it by spending an entire class period on parliamentary procedures, or letting the class leave early after ten minutes, or some other stunt. They are, like good scientists, attempting to determine the real rules of the class by seeing what a teacher does and not just what he says.

An example of this is an election I observed in the Fall of 2006. The most lopsided race I have ever witnessed began with students offering chocolate to others who vote for them. I recognized this as a challenge, and so allowed it. Another student offered himself as a candidate, stating "I don't know what to do, but I know this is not fair." He received twice as many votes, and he offered nothing but fairness. Interestingly, he did this with the help of a defector from the bribers. One of those students, the last to vote, said "The class is clear what it wants. It wouldn't be fair to vote for ourselves and so against himself. Too often we assume that students are greedy cretins and that peer pressure is our enemy. Often, the reverse could not be more true.

It is after the challenges that teaching becomes delightful. Recently, for example, I walked in early as students were negotiating how the class would be run. They understood the basic rules and knew that those guidelines would be consistently enforced. This allowed the students to think ahead about how classroom matters should be solved, and not just strategically worry about what a professor said that day.

Classrooms Evolved, a tdaxp series
1. Traditional Methods
2. Social Grading
3. Deliberative Learning
4. Overcoming Doubt
5. Conclusions

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Classrooms Evolved, Part III: Deliberative Learning

In a standard, lecture-based classroom students overrate the power of the professor and thus discount their own contributions. This encourages authoritarian thinking and retards the development of self-efficacy and metacognition. To overcome these problem I run my class as democracies. Formal offices, such as Assembly, the President, the Prime Minister, and the Government Ministers, are elected and hold real power.

First, every student votes for an Assembly. The Assembly is elected as previously described, so that a candidate's representation in the Assembly is proportional to the combined voting power of the students who elected him. The assembly automatically involves every student in the deliberations, either directly (if he votes for himself or another student votes for him) or indirectly (through his vote). Because the Assembly is proportional, every vote counts.

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Friday, December 08, 2006

Classrooms Evolved, Part II: Social Grading

My style requires a reorganization of classroom society. The following section describes my processes and. It also makes reference to elected student officials who are instrumental in the process. Following this section, I will describe a model of deliberative democracy similar to one I have used successfully.

On the second class give a long multiple exam over the first chapter in the book. The point here is not so much grading but weighting the student's votes in the classroom democracy. Biasing democracy in favor of high-performing students helps build a high-achievement society. The weighting does not have to be much, but it should be enough to effect the election of the President as well as establishing a "merit" standard for the legislators. Students, indeed all human beings, accept control more readily when they believe those above them are there because of "merit." Similarly, students also like to participate in deliberative decisions. This system combines both.

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Thursday, December 07, 2006

Classrooms Evolved, Part I: Traditional Methods

The most common style of teaching ignores my definition of a class Student society, and student concern for their grades, are sidelined throughout the class hour. A professor will stand up with a lesson plan, often written years ago, and talk. For an hour or two or three, depending on the class, students just sit and listen. Students are essentially uninvolved with the lecture, except for the mental work required in paying attention. Then after class, students (supposedly) study, typically individually, and for most classes ineffectively. Standard ways of grading in these classes, such as exams and essays, individual and group work, do not help much.

Multiple-choice exams are not effective. Doing well on such a test requires the student to memorize terms for a tremendous amount of material. “A” students learn to sacrifice understanding to breadth. Students do not leave the class any smarter, or even more able to use concepts in conversation, let alone in life. This sort of studying is exhausting. Worse, it encourages lazy teaching. "It's in the book" is a reflexive answer to a student complaint. It is hard to see multiple choice exams, as they are regularly given, as anything other than a rotten instrument.

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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Classrooms Evolved, Introduction: A Philosophy of Teaching

This series is a modified version of "Philosophy of Teaching," my final project for a doctoral-level seminar in college teaching. Throughout the semester we wrote four smaller papers, two of which became tdaxp series: "Classroom Democracy" and "Learning Evolved." Therefore, many of the ideas presented during the following week will be recognizable to long-time tdaxp readers.

My philosophy of teaching centers on the fact that the classroom is a society that is oriented towards grades. In the paper below I will explain the importance of grading and the drawbacks of common grading methodologies. Next I will describe an effective way to run classrooms which maximizes positive peer pressure. I will then integrate these into a social-grading system that gets the best out of every student. Last, I will briefly mention some limitations and offer a conclusion. What follows is not a scholarly text, but an applied method to improve the learning of students who sacrifice years of their lives – and often tens of thousands of dollars – to attend an institution of higher learning.

Classrooms Evolved, a tdaxp series
1. Traditional Methods
2. Social Grading
3. Deliberative Learning
4. Overcoming Doubt
5. Conclusions

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Wary Motivation & Implicit Knowledge

Bruning, Roger, & Horn, Christy. (2000). Developing Motivation to Write. Educational Psychologist 35(1):25-37.

Bruning, Roger, & Flowerday, Terri. (1999). Response: Dempster and Corkill's "Interference and Inhibition in Cognition and Behavior: Unifying Themes for Educational Psychology." Educational Psychology Review 11(2):89-96.

Glover, John A., Zimmer, John W., & Bruning, Roger H. (1980). Information Processing Approaches Among Creative Students. The Journal of Psychology 105:93-97.

Hibbing, John R., & Alford, John R. (2004). Accepting Authoritative Decisions: Humans as Wary Cooperators. American Journal of Political Science 48(1):62-76.

Kiewra, Kenneth A., et al. (1997). Effects of Advance Organizers and Repeated Presentations on Students' Learning. Journal of Experimental Education 65(2):

Hibbing, John R., & Theiss-Morse, Elizabeth. (2001). Process Preferences and American Politics: What the People Want Government to Be. The American Political Science Review 95(1):145-153.

Rankin, Joan L., Bruning, Roger H., & Timme, Vicky L. (1994). The Development of Beliefs about Spelling and Their Relationship to Spelling Performance. Applied Cognitive Psychology 8:213-232.

Todorov, A., Mandisodz, A. N., Goren, A., & Hall, C.C. (2005). Inferences of Competence from Faces Predict Elections Outcomes. Science 308:1623-1626.

Can you find the central theme?

In the field of educational psychology, the questions addressed in most detail by researchers and text authors are these: How are connections made? What conditions lead to effective encoding and retrieval strategies? and How can learners actively participate in their own cognitive processes? The questions not being asked include, What information is not being activated? Why is it bypassed? Is incorrect or inappropriate information being activated? and Could it be due to a deficit in inhibitory function?
(Bruning & Flowerday, 1999, 93)

Hayes and Daiker (1984) found that the single most important principle of response in a writing environment was positive reinforcement. (Bruning & Horn, 2000, 33)

If, as Wittrock suggests, learning is a generative, active process, then the present findings indicate that a major cognitive difference between creative and noncreative students lies in the greater ability of the former to access other sources of information to broaden the semantic base of their productions. (Glover, Zimmer, and Bruning, 1980, 96)

To our knowledge, this is the first empirical evidence that, controlling for perceptions of greed, the belief that decision makers are ambitious has an independence and relatively strong inverse effect on decision acceptance. Apparently, being treated badly by someone who did not necessarily want to be in a position to treat us badly is much more tolerable than being treated badly by someone who machinated to be in a position to treat us badly.
(Hibbing & Alford, 2004, 71)

Indeed, survey instruments rarely include questions about what government processes respondents would like to see. For example, every two years NES asks: "How much attention do you feel the government pays to what people like you think?" It does not ask: "How much attention should government pay to what people like you think?"
(Hibbing & Theiss-Morse, 2001, 147)

The present experiment replicated previous research findings that repeated presentations of a lecture increase both note taking and learning. It extended previous research, however, by showing that repeated presentations facilitate the learning of facts about topics, but not relations across topics. Apparently, students did not spontaneously integrate ideas across topics, even when given repeated opportunities to do so.
(Kiewra, et al., 1997)

Students who held the highest levels of efficacy for themselves as spellers, and who expected that good spelling had important consequences for themselves as writers, were, in fact, the best spellrs. The highest levels of performance, however, were reserved for those who attributed good spelling more to effort htan to 'being smart'" (Rankin, Bruning, & Timme, 1994, 228)

We conducted an experiment in which 40 participants (19) were exposed to the faces of the candidates for 1 s (per pair of faces) and were then asked to make a competence judgment. The average response time for the judgment was about 1 s (mean = 1051.60 ms, SD = 135.59). These rapid judgments based on minimal time exposure to faces predicted 67.6% of the actual Senate races (P < 0.004) (20). The correlation between competence judgments and differences in votes was 0.46 (P < 0.001). (Todorov, et al., 2005, 1624)

The rest of the notes are, as always, below the fold

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Monday, October 16, 2006

Social Motivation, Amongst Other Notes

Albanese, Robert, & van Fleet, David D. (1985). Rational Behavior in Groups: The Free-Riding Tendency. The Academy of Management Review 10(2):244-255.

Beins, B.C. (2002). Technology in the classroom: Traditions in psychology. In S. Davis & W.Buskist (Eds.). The teaching of psychology: Essays in honor of William J. McKeachie and Charles Brewer. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc. (pp. 307-321)

Fass, Paula. Testing the IQ of Children.

Fels, Rendigs. (1993). This is what I do, and I like it. The Journal of Economic Education 24(4):365-370.

Leuthold, Jane H. (1993). A Free Rider Experiment for the Large Class. The Journal of Economic Education 24(4):353-363.

Slavin, Robert E. (1996). Research on Cooperative Learning and Achievement: What We Know, What We Need to Know. Contemporary Educational Psychology 21(1):43-69.

Slavin, Robert E. (1999). Comprehensive Approaches to Cooperative Learning. Theory into Practice 38(2):74-79.

Taylor, M.C.(1996). Creating global classrooms. In J.K. Roth (Ed.) Inspiring Teaching: Carnegie Professors of the Year Speak. Bolton, MA: Anker Publishing Company, Inc. (pp. 134-145).

In a recent comment, Mark of ZenPundit tipped me off to Robert Slavin, an education researcher who emphasizes group goals and individual accountability. Some other tips were read, as well:

The studies that examined the role of task variables indirectly support the counterforces proposition. Making tasks identifiable, difficult, and/or unique (Harkins & Petty, 1982) or altering the nature of the task (Kerr & Brunn, 1983) basically changes the incentive system fro a group member. In general, such actions enhance the intrinsic satisfaction a group member receives from contributing to the group's public good. This intrinsic satisfaction is, in effect, a special incentive or private good the group member receives for contributing to the group's public good, and it serves to decrease the likelihood of free riding. (Albanese & van Fleet, 1985, 252)

Besides some other articles which I am required to read, most of this batch of notes deals with free-riding, accountability, and other similar issues. Many of the articles can be found on JSTOR

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