Category Archives: personal

Useful bits and pieces

A Chemical Orthodoxy

**I am currently doing a big update of this – please come back later!**

Below is a list of things I have read and found interesting and have helped me develop as a teacher. I’ve been collecting them over the last year or so and tried desperately to keep them in order. This is a work in progress and I’m going to try and update it when I can. I’ve marked everything that I think is super important with a * so you can ctrl+f for it. I’ve tried to keep my summaries as short as possible – the individual pieces will speak for themselves. You will note that I have avoided books too. This is because I don’t really find the time to sit and dedicate time to full books, I prefer to read stuff on the go, in the little snippets of time I find for myself here…

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This study made me wonder if I’m preaching to the choir or singing from the rooftops?

From experience to meaning...

Sometimes a study makes you think. Not because it’s complex or because it’s wrong, but because… well it hits close to home. Isabelle Côté is an SFU professor of marine ecology and conservation and an active science communicator whose prime social media platform is Twitter just like me. Ok, I have a bit more followers than her but my subject is maybe a bit more broad than that from the author of this new study. She wanted to know if her followers are mainly scientists or non-scientists – in other words was she preaching to the choir or singing from the rooftops?

From the press release:

Côté and collaborator Emily Darling set out to find the answer by analyzing the active Twitter accounts of more than 100 ecology and evolutionary biology faculty members at 85 institutions across 11 countries.

Their methodology included categorizing followers as either “inreach” if they were…

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God is dead and you have no soul

Filling the pail


In their 2011 book, John Sweller, Slava Kalyuga and Paul Ayres argue that the brain does not require a central executive to coordinate cognitive processes. This places them at odds with Baddeley’s model of working memory in an intriguing and curious way.

In part, they argue by analogy. They compare the model of the brain as an information processing system with the process of biological evolution which is also an information processing system. In evolution, information is encoded in genes. This information can be borrowed and reorganised from one organism to the next. This process of reorganisation may lead to novel applications and this is one element in the creativity exhibited by evolution.

However, this does not explain all of the creativity of evolution. At some point in the fossil record, there were no backbones and then, at a later point, there were backbones. That information must have come…

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While writing…

From experience to meaning...

As some of you may know, Paul, Casper and myself are very busy working on the follow up book on urban myths about learning and education. The past few weeks I’ve read so many sources and so many papers my head is spinning.

But there is one thing I really want to share. In our previous book we’ve debunked a lot of old theories but in writing this book I also discovered that sometimes people already new where it’s at even over a 100 years ago and it seems that what have happened ever since is people trying to show the original insights to be incorrect. Without much success, btw.

Compare it with the forgetting curve by Ebbinghaus. We know how fast one forgets and that you need to start studying in time, but still… students keep postponing their study time.

Maybe it’s human not to accept an insight, could…

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Domain-Specific Knowledge: 1, Domain-Independent Skills: 0

3-Star learning experiences

Mirjam Neelen & Paul A. Kirschner

In both the workplace and education, there’s a lot of talk about so-called ‘domain-independent skills’, also called ‘generic’ or ‘transferable’ skills. In general, the perceived need for those skills is based on the premise that we currently live in a knowledge-based new economy, and the associated pressures for lifelong learning as well as the maintenance of employability that come with that require something different than ‘simple knowledge’.  More specifically, in the context of the workplace, the idea is that organisations change so fast and are so complex that it’s no longer feasible to know what kind of domain-specific knowledge and skills people need (they’ll be outdated as soon as you’ve learned them, is the idea) and therefore, it’s better to focus on more generic skills so that people are more flexible and can more easily adapt to change. BruceElkin.com put it forward as follows

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Follow your passion? Well, maybe that’s not the best advice…

From experience to meaning...

It’s a study related to growth mindset, but before you start shouting ‘debunked‘ (check Dweck’s reply), the study is not about applying a growth mindset approach but all about how people think about passion being nature or nurture and the consequences of these views on giving up. And it seems people who think that passion is something magical placed in you (nature) will quit faster than people who think you can develop a passion for something.

From the press release:

As the world becomes increasingly interdisciplinary, having diverse interests can help people make important connections across fields, such as between the Arts and Sciences. A new study by Yale-NUS College Assistant Professor of Psychology Paul A O’Keefe and colleagues suggests that one’s belief about the nature of interests might prevent those insights from happening. Those who endorse a “fixed theory” about interest tend to think…

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Remembering Career Failures

Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice

Looking back from my ninth decade, my career as an educator has been marked by many successes. But I cannot forget the failures I encountered.

I began teaching high school in 1955, a goal I had pursued as an undergraduate at the University of Pittsburgh. I taught 14 years on and off in various school districts until the early-1970s. During those years I participated in an innovative, district-based teacher training program that prepared returned Peace Corps volunteers to teach in urban schools. I also created culturally diverse curriculum materials and co-authored a series of U.S. history textbooks both of which were published in those years.

Left teaching in 1972 to get a doctorate at Stanford in history of education and in 1974 achieved my dream of becoming a district superintendent. I served seven years. I returned to Stanford as a professor in 1981 and for 20 years taught, advised doctoral…

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