zaterdag 27 december 2014

Making college interesting

The article "Colleges Reinvent Classes to Keep More Students in Science" discusses how science education at universities fails its students - specially in the first year. Problem is that the lectures are boring while they could be much more engaging. As a consequence the drop-out rate in the science subjects is much higher than in other subjects. And that can easily be addressed by making it more engaging: The University of Colorado, a national leader in the overhaul of teaching science, tested thousands of students over several years, before and after they each took an introductory physics class, and reported in 2008 that students in transformed classes had improved their scores by about 50 percent more than those in traditional classes. The article describes how such an engaging class looks like: In a nearby hall, an instructor, Catherine Uvarov, peppers students with questions and presses them to explain and expand on their answers. Every few minutes, she has them solve problems in small groups. Running up and down the aisles, she sticks a microphone in front of a startled face, looking for an answer. Students dare not nod off or show up without doing the reading. This deters specially non-traditional students, like women and blacks: In fact, there is no shortage of interested students, but failure rates in the beginning classes are high. At four-year colleges, 28 percent of students set out as math, engineering and science majors, but only 16 percent of bachelor’s degrees are awarded in those fields. The attrition rate is highest among women and blacks. “A lot of science faculty have seen themselves as gatekeepers,” said Marco Molinaro, an assistant vice provost here at Davis and director of its effort to overhaul science courses. [] Rather than try to help students who falter in introductory classes, he said, “they have seen it as their job to weed people out and limit access to upper-level courses.”

zondag 7 december 2014

IBM ideas for a creative meeting

In the NY Times article "Hearing Every Voice in the Room: How IBM Brings Ideas Forward From Its Teams" the general manager of IBM Design tells how his department deals with brainstorming sessions. Their method is designed to give everyone a say and not just the loudest. At the start of the meeting the leader presents a challenge. Then everyone starts to write his ideas on sticky notes. After about 10 minutes they start posting them on a board. One idea per note. No talking allowed. When the flow of ideas has (almost) stopped the leader groups the notes by subject and everyone has a look at them. Then there is a break that may last minutes or days. When people come back there is once again an opportunity to add ideas to the board. Only then starts the real discussion. The idea behind this process is that once ideas are out in the open visible to everyone they can no longer be easily ignored.

dinsdag 2 december 2014

About Gratefulness

Gratefulness is one of the thing that is increasingly mentioned both as a recipe for success and a recipe for happiness. The Wall Street Journal had a nice article about it: Raising Children With an Attitude of Gratitude: Research Finds Real Benefits for Kids Who Say 'Thank You': Gratitude works like a muscle. Take time to recognize good fortune, and feelings of appreciation can increase. Even more, those who are less grateful gain the most from a concerted effort. "Gratitude treatments are most effective in those least grateful," says Eastern Washington University psychology professor Philip Watkins. Among a group of 122 elementary school kids taught a weeklong curriculum on concepts around giving, gratitude grew, according to a study due to be published in 2014 in School Psychology Review. The heightened thankfulness translated into action: 44% of the kids in the curriculum opted to write thank-you notes when given the choice following a PTA presentation. In the control group, 25% wrote notes. The mere act of giving thanks has tangible benefits, research suggests. A 2008 study of 221 kids published in the Journal of School Psychology analyzed sixth- and seventh-graders assigned to list five things they were grateful for every day for two weeks. It found they had a better outlook on school and greater life satisfaction three weeks later, compared with kids assigned to list five hassles. Another study [] found that those who showed high levels of gratitude, for instance thankfulness for the beauty of nature and strong appreciation of other people, reported having stronger GPAs, less depression and envy and a more positive outlook than less grateful teens. A 2013 study in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin that tracked materialism in 355,000 high school seniors from 1976 to 2007 found that desire for lots of money has increased markedly since the mid-1970s, while willingness to work hard to earn it has decreased. Among kids surveyed, 62% thought it was important to have lots of money and nice things between 2005 and 2007, while 48% had this view from 1976 to 1978. Everyday actions may be even more important than big efforts, researchers say. "Express gratitude to your spouse. Thank your kids," Hofstra's Dr. Froh says. "Parents say, 'Why should I thank them for doing something they should do, like clean their room?' By reinforcing this, kids will internalize the idea, and do it on their own." Another article: How to Teach Kids to Be Grateful: Give Them Less Toys can help children learn to be thankful for what they have.