10. Short item: A graphic narrative on how memory works
“To wake up without a purpose is a dangerous place to be.”
Jamie Lee Curtis, quoted in “Arnold’s Last Act” by Mark Leibovich in The Atlantic,
April 2023 (Vol. 331, #3, pp. 38-49)
“A lot of teenagers are trying to be happy, but sometimes they’re going about it the wrong way or putting effort into the wrong things.”
Laurie Santos (quoted in item #3)
“For six weeks, every lesson feels like a mini practice test… The curriculum may have four
modules, but teachers are lucky to get through two because all attention flips to test prep – limiting students’ opportunities to deeply learn the very content coming on the test.”
Emily Freitag (see item #1)
“The professional lives of educators are, for the most part, predicated on predictability… Consequently, changes in schools that deviate from that predictability are hard to acknowledge, accept, or appreciate.”
Lew Smith, author, professor, and school leadership guru, who died early this month
“The principals I studied had an unwavering focus on teaching and learning and student success. They were visionaries. They understood change. They were communicators, relational, strategic, learners, empowering, and courageous.”
“Have we created critical thinkers, team players, and problem solvers? Have we addressed
social and emotional growth? Have we instilled a concern for social justice? For ethics? Have
we created a love for lifelong learning?”
“Send teachers to visit schools with comparable populations and exemplary programs. If they can do it, why not us?”
In this Education Gadfly article, Emily Freitag (Instruction Partners) says that in her work in K-12 schools, she’s been struck by how test prep takes over in March and dominates a large chunk of the instructional year. “For six weeks,” she says, “every lesson feels like a mini practice test… The curriculum may have four modules, but teachers are lucky to get through two because all attention flips to test prep – limiting students’ opportunities to deeply learn the very content coming up on the test.”
Is it helpful to focus so heavily on preparing students to score well on high-stakes exams? It might be, says Freitag, if test preparation followed these broader research-based guidelines:
“We Know Student Effort Matters, So Let’s Start Acting Like It” by Eva Moskowitz in Education Gadfly, March 16, 2023
In this Washington Post article, Lindsey Bever reports on how the most popular course at Yale – Psychology and the Good Life – has been retooled into a free, online, six-week course for teenagers. It uses TikTok-length videos to highlight common misconceptions about happiness and teach about the behaviors, feelings, and thoughts that produce mental well-being.
There’s an urgent need for this kind of intervention, say mental health professionals, because U.S. adolescents are in a mental health crisis. It was in full swing before the pandemic; in 2019, 44 percent of high-school students reported persistent sadness or hopelessness, with nearly 20 percent saying they had considered suicide, and 9 percent attempting to end their lives. Covid-19 made things worse, with elevated levels of anxiety, depression, loneliness, self-injury, and suicidal ideation. “The rites of passage for teenage-hood were disrupted,” says psychologist/author Mary Alvord. Young people missed out on parties, homecoming dances, graduation ceremonies, and everyday interactions with their peers.
“We’re not taking care of our young people today if we’re not giving them strategies to navigate all the complex societal pressures that they face,” says Laurie Santos, the Yale psychology professor who taught the original happiness course. “We need to know the appropriate ways to listen to them and to react to them, so that we can understand the message that things like sadness or anxiety or anger might be sending and then channel them in an appropriate direction.”
Santos filmed the lectures for the updated version of her Yale course before a group of high-school students and asked for their reactions and questions. Here are some of the key concepts in the teen course she and her colleagues created:
“Yale’s Hugely Popular Happiness Course Is Revamped for Teens” by Lindsey Bever in The Washington Post, January 29, 2023
In this Science of Creativity article, Annie Murphy Paul lists some of the downsides of perfectionism: anxiety, less creativity, depression, and burnout. This must be why we’re told, Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good, she says. But does that mean settling for mediocrity? Shouldn’t we be holding ourselves to the highest standards?
The good news is that there’s a viable alternative to perfectionism. It’s called excellencism. Proposed by Patrick Gaudreau, a psychology professor at the University of Ottawa, it’s quite distinct from its over-the-top cousin:
“If you score high on perfectionism,” concludes Paul, “consider whether you might be able to move toward an excellencist perspective.”
In this SSRN paper, Ethan Mollick and Lilach Mollick (Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania) say that in the current debate on the uses and abuses of ChatGPT and other large language models (LLMs), educators haven’t paid enough attention to some important classroom applications. The authors identify five pedagogical strategies that are not used enough in classrooms because they are time-consuming and hard to implement – and show how the new bots can be helpful:
• Generating examples to help students understand difficult and abstract concepts – The best way to explain new and challenging material is to give students a number of examples. “If students are presented with only one example,” say Mollick and Mollick, “they may focus on the superficial details of that example and not get at the deeper concept. Multiple examples of a single concept can help students decontextualize the idea from the example, leading to better recall and understanding.”
Ideally, examples provide a real-world context, anchor abstract ideas in an analogy or story, ground concepts in engaging details, reveal complexity, highlight nuances, help students think critically, and support the transfer of learning to new situations. These demanding criteria show how difficult it is for teachers to generate enough high-quality examples. That’s where the bots come in. All a teacher needs to do is specify the concept, ask for varied examples, and describe the grade level of students and the style of writing required. Click on the full article below for examples on the concept of opportunity costs.
Of course the teacher needs to evaluate the examples generated: Are they factually correct? Are they relevant? Do they have enough detail? Will students find them interesting? Do they connect the abstract to the concrete? Having narrowed down to a good list of examples and presented them to a class, the teacher might then ask students what the examples have in common, have them compare and contrast several, and ask which different aspects of the concept each example highlights.
• Providing varied explanations and analogies to address student misconceptions – Clear explanations are central to good teaching, helping students build mental maps and achieve deeper understanding. But good explanations must be built on students’ prior knowledge, take into account likely misconceptions, plan a step-by-step approach with organizational cues so students can follow along, and provide concrete details and analogies. LLMs can tackle these exacting demands, quickly generating explanations and analogies for a specific grade level and level of understanding. See the article link for a suggested explanation of the concept of photosynthesis for elementary students.
• Producing low-stakes tests so students can practice retrieving information – Checking for understanding is a proven method of cementing material in long-term memory. But generating high-quality tests, quizzes, and mid-lesson “hinge” questions (to see if students are ready to move on to a new topic) is “an effortful task,” say Mollick and Mollick. LLMs can quickly generate diagnostic retrieval exercises. See the article link for examples of quizzes on U.S. history and high-school biology.
• Assessing students’ knowledge gaps to guide instructors’ next steps – The best way for teachers to know what to do next is asking students questions like these:
• Creating distributed practice exercises to reinforce learning – “Students need to practice retrieving information not just once but multiple times during a course,” say Mollick and Mollick. It’s also important for students to continuously make connections among the different concepts and skills they’ve learned. But even when students know about the value of distributed practice, they continue to “cram” for tests at the last minute, which means teachers must be intentional about distributing practice. To do so, teachers need to know:
LLMs can be very helpful designing and scheduling quick quizzes spread out over days, weeks, and months, providing an effective way to lodge concepts and skills in students’ long-term memory. See the article link for examples of distributed practice during a unit on the Enlightenment and the American Revolution.
In this Mathematics Teacher editor’s note, Utah ninth-grade math teacher Travis Lemon says after 20 years in the classroom, the way supervisors evaluated him had begun to feel “mundane and insignificant.” His current supervisor, the school’s assistant principal, didn’t have a math background, and her annual evaluations used a generic instructional framework that didn’t provide mathematics-specific feedback.
Lemon decided to take action. He met with his AP, shared several math frameworks, including the eight Mathematics Teaching Practices in the NCTM’s 2014 Principles to Actions: Ensuring Mathematical Success for All, and asked if she would be willing to use them for his next evaluation. She agreed and they scheduled an observation.
The classroom visit followed the usual pattern, with the administrator sitting at the back taking notes. But two days later, Lemon was stunned to receive feedback that was “powerful and exciting… the best evaluation experience I have had!” What made it special? The assistant principal made detailed comments on each of the Mathematics Teaching Practices:
The AP had lots of appreciation in these areas, and said, “I wish I’d had a math teacher like you in my past; I would probably be much better at math!” She had several specific suggestions on the way he grouped students during the lesson and might more effectively support productive struggle.
“I left the follow-up conversation motivated, empowered, and with some clear direction as to how I might improve,” says Lemon. “My next steps had been co-crafted with my supervisor and as such caused both of us to be committed and bought into their realization in my classroom.” He urges teachers in all subject areas to make a similar request to their supervisors so classroom supervision, coaching, and evaluation become more subject-specific and helpful.
In her Editor’s Note in Kappan, Teresa Preston reports on a Populace survey revealing a dramatic shift in public opinion on the importance of career preparation versus college preparation by K-12 schools. Asked to rank-order 57 priorities for public schools, here’s the change from the 2019 to the 2022 survey:
In this School Library Journal feature, Heidi Grange recommends books written in verse. “Similar to music in its ability to touch the soul,” says Grange, “the best verse stories convey a world of feeing in a limited number of carefully crafted words, phrases, and sentences. Even the spaces play a vital role in how the story unfolds.” Here’s her list:
A Graphic Narrative on How Memory Works – This clever cartoon presentation by Nicky Case presents what brain science has learned about committing important information to memory.
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About the Marshall Memo
Mission and focus:
This weekly memo is designed to keep principals, teachers, superintendents, and other educators very well-informed on current research and effective practices in K-12 education. Kim Marshall, drawing on 48 years’ experience as a teacher, principal, central office administrator, writer, and consultant lightens the load of busy educators by serving as their “designated reader.”
To produce the Marshall Memo, Kim subscribes to 60 carefully-chosen publications (see list to the right), sifts through more than a hundred articles each week, and selects 5-10 that have the greatest potential to improve teaching, leadership, and learning. He then writes a brief summary of each article, pulls out several striking quotes, provides e-links to full articles when available, and e-mails the Memo to subscribers every Monday evening (with occasional breaks; there are 50 issues a year). Every week there’s a podcast and HTMI version as well.
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• Publications (with a count of articles from each)
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Core list of publications covered
Those read this week are underlined.
All Things PLC
American Educational Research Journal
American Journal of Education
ASCA School Counselor
Cult of Pedagogy
District Management Journal
Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis
Elementary School Journal
Harvard Business Review
Harvard Educational Review
Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy
Journal of Education for Students Placed At Risk (JESPAR)
Kappa Delta Pi Record
Kappan (Phi Delta Kappan)
Learning for Justice (formerly Teaching Tolerance)
Literacy Today (formerly Reading Today)
Mathematics Teacher: Learning & Teaching PK-12
Middle School Journal
Peabody Journal of Education
Reading Research Quarterly
Review of Educational Research
School Library Journal
Social Studies and the Young Learner
Teaching Exceptional Children
The Chronicle of Higher Education
The Journal of the Learning Sciences
The Language Educator
The Learning Professional (formerly Journal of Staff Development)
The Reading Teacher
Theory Into Practice