“If you are lucky enough to never experience any sort of adversity, we won’t know how resilient you are. It’s only when you’re faced with obstacles, stress, and other environmental threats that resilience, or lack of it, emerges: Do you succumb or do you surmount?”
Maria Konnikova (see item #1)
“How do you live your life? What do you live for? What kind of person are you? How do you see your future? Where are you going? How do you fit into this society?”
David Denby, author of Lit Up (Henry Holt, 2016) about English classes in three high
schools, on the kinds of questions that might be asked of adolescents to pluck them
from the shallow world of social media and transform them into critical thinkers and
serious readers of great literature; from an interview with Alex Lenkei in Education
Week, March 16, 2016, www.edweek.org/go/david-denby
“Awareness reduces racial bias.”
A research study on bias in the National Basketball Association (quoted in item #3)
“A few well-designed questions are better than many superficial ones.”
Heidi Kroog, Kristin King Hess, and Maria Araceli Ruiz-Primo (see item #5)
“Effective feedback in the form of descriptive and prescriptive comments should lead students to judge the quality of their work and to monitor themselves as they produce new work.”
Heidi Kroog, Kristin King Hess, and Maria Araceli Ruiz-Primo (ibid.)
In this New Yorker article, Maria Konnikova reports on resilience – for example, a boy with an alcoholic mother and absent father who walked into school every day with a smile on his face and a bread sandwich in his bag – two slices of bread with nothing between them – because he didn’t want anyone to know how bad things were at home. “Resilience presents a challenge for psychologists,” says Konnikova. “Whether you can be said to have it or not largely depends not on any particular psychological test but on the way your life unfolds. If you are lucky enough to never experience any sort of adversity, we won’t know how resilient you are. It’s only when you’re faced with obstacles, stress, and other environmental threats that resilience, or lack of it, emerges: Do you succumb or do you surmount?”
The study of resilience focuses on protective factors – the elements that allow a person to thrive in spite of negative circumstances. Protective factors fall into two categories – internal/psychological and external/environmental. In a study in Hawaii, developmental psychologist Emmy Werner followed 698 children from before they were born into adulthood. Two-thirds of the children grew up in stable, trauma-free backgrounds, while one-third had stresses of some kind. Of the latter group, two-thirds developed serious learning and behavior problems by the age of ten or had mental health issues, incidents of delinquency, or teen pregnancies by 18 – but one-third grew up to be “competent, confident, and caring young adults,” said Werner; they achieved academic, domestic, and social success, and were always ready to capitalize on new opportunities.
Drawing on the rich trove of data she had gathered on the lives of the resilient children, Werner was able to pinpoint the factors involved. The most important external variable (basically a matter of luck) was a strong bond with a supportive caregiver, parent, teacher, or other mentor figures. The internal psychological factors she found were more interesting. These children:
“How People Learn to Become Resilient” by Maria Konnikova in The New Yorker, February 11, 2016, http://www.newyorker.com/science/maria-konnikova/the-secret-formula-for-resilience
In this New York Times article, Susan Dynarski (University of Michigan) notes that African-American and Hispanic students are almost always underrepresented in classes for gifted students; white and Asian students are twice as likely to have seats in such classes. The Broward County, Florida schools used to be part of this pattern: a decade ago, black and Hispanic students made up more than half of the district’s student body, but only 28 percent of black and Hispanic third graders were in gifted classes.
In 2005, Broward decided to address this disparity by changing the way it identified students for gifted classes. Instead of relying on teacher and parent nominations as the first step, the district required that all second graders take a short nonverbal test, then gave high-scoring students an I.Q. test to decide who would be admitted to gifted classes. This change in the screening process brought about a significant shift in students in gifted classes:
(Originally titled “Data-Driven Shakespeare”)
In this Educational Leadership article, Paul Bambrick-Santoyo (Uncommon Schools) compares the way two teachers handle Shakespeare’s Sonnet 65. Both teachers focus on the first four lines:
Since brass, nor stone, nor earth, nor boundless sea,
But sad mortality o’er-sways their power,
How with this rage shall beauty hold a plea,
Whose action is no stronger than a flower?
and the last two lines:
O, none, unless this miracle have might,
That in black ink my love may still shine bright.
In both classrooms, there’s a rigorous discussion of figurative language and the broader theme. But when students are later asked to write about a different sonnet, one class does much better. Why? Because the teacher used a particular strategy:
• Writing first. After reading the poem, she had all students respond to this prompt: What is the purpose of the imagery in these lines? This gets all students thinking and allows the teacher to monitor their responses before getting into an all-class conversation. If a class starts with oral discussion, a few talkative students dominate, so for most students, it’s an exercise in listening comprehension, not textual analysis.
• Use an exemplar. Bambrick-Santoyo recommends that teachers write a model response to their own prompt to evaluate students’ responses. In this case, the teacher might read up on experts’ interpretations of Sonnet 65 and talk to colleagues who’ve taught the poem.
• Respond on the spot. As students write, the teacher circulates, going to the fastest writers first and then moving on to students who take longer to get their thoughts on paper. The teacher jots shorthand feedback symbols on students’ papers:
(Originally titled “The 2 Es”)
In this Educational Leadership article, Heidi Kroog, Kristin King Hess, and Maria Araceli Ruiz-Primo (University of Colorado/Denver) describe their research on classroom math assessments. Very few teachers, the researchers found, give assignments that make students’ thinking explicit and reveal misconceptions, misapplications, or common mathematical errors. Instead, most teachers spend time grading practice work (little value-added) or end-of-unit assessments (too late to be helpful). The authors also found that almost three-quarters of teachers’ comments were too general (“Good”) or too prescriptive to improve the work. They suggest three ways to give feedback that’s more effective and takes less time:
• Develop high-quality questions. Ideally they’re “planned in advance, designed to gather information from all students in the class at the same time, and intended to move students forward by providing feedback or instructional adjustments,” say the authors. “A few well-designed questions are better than many superficial ones.” Students should have to explain answers, elaborate on responses, or provide information on their thought process. Examples:
- 2 1/9 x 11/16 (this asks students to convert a mixed number to a fraction, multiply two-digit numbers, and know what to do with an improper fraction).
- Draw two shapes, one rectangle and one square, each with a perimeter of 12 units.
- Why does ______? How would you _______? Could you explain _______? Why is _______ an example of _______?
• Quickly follow up with students. The sooner teachers can see and act on students’ strengths and weaknesses, the better. If several students are making a particular error, speak directly to them about the nature of the error and how to avoid it – for example, “Before you add your numbers, remember to align the numbers by the decimal point.” Alternatively, the teacher might pair students who got a problem wrong with those who got it right, setting up peer tutoring.
• Make written comments informative. Comments should be concrete, specific, and useful and “should lead students to judge the quality of their work and to monitor themselves as they produce new work,” say the authors. Examples: “Good explanation. You are providing data as evidence to support your claim” and “Do you have a claim? Where is your evidence? Provide some justification that supports your claim.”
• Don’t repeatedly write the same comment if lots of students are making the same error. This is a poor use of teachers’ time, say the authors. Better to spend that time planning how to reteach the skill the next day. It’s also helpful to tell a class the percentage of students who got the right answer to each question and specific areas that need improvement – for example, “Most of your reports missed a description of the control variable. Why is that so important?”
In this Teachers College Record article, Mary Mccaslin and Christine Vriesema (University of Arizona) and Susan Burggraf (Naropa University) report on their study of how upper-elementary students in high-poverty schools think, feel, and cope when they make mistakes in classrooms. The authors were intrigued with this question because of three challenges at this particular point in students’ K-12 development:
a. Patterns from vibration – In this short video, Steve Mould demonstrates Chladni patterns, with a random scatter of couscous on a steel plate instantly forming patterns when the plate is “played” with a bow. Fascinating physics!
b. World language assessments – This link http://mafla.org/links-2/ddms has locally developed assessments (District-Determined Measures) from several Massachusetts districts in these areas: Interpretive Reading and Listening, Interpersonal Speaking, Presentational Writing, Classical Languages, and External Assessments.
c. Using lyrics to learn a foreign language – This free website www.lyricstraining.com helps students practice their target language by watching and singing along with Karaoke-style music videos and then participating in one of four levels of word fill-in games based on the song’s lyrics.
d. Spanish learning resources – This site www.zachary-jones.com/zambombazo, edited and curated by Spanish teacher Zachary Jones, has musical, language, and cultural resources to support Spanish language learning.
© Copyright 2016 Marshall Memo LLC
About the Marshall Memo
Mission and focus:
This weekly memo is designed to keep principals, teachers, superintendents, and others very well-informed on current research and effective practices in K-12 education. Kim Marshall, drawing on 44 years’ experience as a teacher, principal, central office administrator, and writer, lightens the load of busy educators by serving as their “designated reader.”
To produce the Marshall Memo, Kim subscribes to 64 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).
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Core list of publications covered
Those read this week are underlined.
American Educational Research Journal
American Journal of Education
ASCA School Counselor
ASCD SmartBrief/Public Education NewsBlast
Better: Evidence-Based Education
Center for Performance Assessment Newsletter
Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis
Elementary School Journal
Harvard Business Review
Harvard Educational Review
Journal of Education for Students Placed At Risk (JESPAR)
Journal of Staff Development
Kappa Delta Pi Record
Middle School Journal
Peabody Journal of Education
Phi Delta Kappan
Principal’s Research Review
Reading Research Quarterly
Responsive Classroom Newsletter
Review of Educational Research
School Library Journal
Teaching Children Mathematics
Teaching Exceptional Children/Exceptional Children
The Chronicle of Higher Education
The District Management Journal
The Journal of the Learning Sciences
The Language Educator
The Learning Principal/Learning System/Tools for Schools
The Reading Teacher
Theory Into Practice
Wharton Leadership Digest