Tag Archives: learning styles

Single Sex Education vs Co-education

The debate between single sex education and co-education continues. In this Single Sex Education vs Co-education post we will look at some of the arguments for and against each to determine which type of education is really better or if there is enough evidence to decide. Naturally there are statistics both for and against single sex education, depending on who is providing the statistics and evidence. Possibly the most important factor affecting how effective single sex education vs co-education is, is the amount of preparation put into making the class a success. By this we mean that if classes are simply separated into an all boys class and an all girls class, without changing the teaching methods or anything else, the classes are not likely to see any significant difference compared to the co-education classes.

Statistics for single sex education vs co-education can be skewed either way depending on the schools being surveyed; for example a New York Times article from September 2011 states that “Single-sex education is ineffective, misguided and may actually increase gender stereotyping…” the article goes on to describe what some feel the problems are with the research and studies that have been done and even some of the problems they feel are created by the single sex education. Whether having classes of all boys or all girls provides a place of security and safety or just feeds into the aggression of boys, for instance, is still a matter of debate. Nevertheless, giving parents and students the opportunity to select a single sex education class if that is what is desired is a priority for many people.

On the flip side, the evidence from the National Association for Single Sex Public Education (NASSPE) is very different. The argument from the NASSPE is that given the right preparation and environment the results, test results specifically, that come from single sex education compared to co-education is tremendous. The evidence page on the NASSPE website details results that they found from controlled studies factoring in teacher training, demographics of the class, curriculum, and a number of other factors. They then provide the evidence showing that students in the single sex education classes outperform co-education classes by a substantial amount. They continue their evidence supporting single sex education by talking to students that have been involved in single sex education classes to get a feel for how the student felt about the environment and related the positive experience the students related.

As with any debate there are always two sides to the story and the information you gather is going to vary according to whom you are talking to. As with any education choices, be it homeschool vs public school, or debating the pros and cons of school uniforms, the more research you do and then apply your findings to the specific person in question, the easier it will be to make a decision about what is best for that student. There is no one right answer that is the best for everyone. Each person is unique and has different needs and learning styles. The debate between single sex education vs co-education is likely to continue for many years to come and choosing the best education for you or your child is a matter that must be decided today. Take into consideration the findings from the studies but then talk to the teachers, visit the location, and get a feel for the exact situation you will be dealing with to find the best choice for your educational needs.

Sources:  singlesexschools.org, nytimes.com

The Cost of Textbooks

This is the first of a group of “back-to-school” topics for the month of August.

There have been many articles written in the past few weeks about the new federal, and in some cases state, laws that have a role in shaping the world of textbooks.

• “$200 Textbook vs. Free. You Do the Math.” in the NYTimes speaks with Scott G. McNealy, co-founder of Sun Microsystems, about the “need” for free online textbooks.

• “Taming the Cost of College Textbooks” at Consumersearch.com notes (as do many others) that the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 came into play on July 1 this year, requiring more disclosure from textbook publishers. It quotes the oft-repeated figure of undergrads spending about $700/year on textbooks, and provides a number of suggestions for getting text materials for less.

• “Textbook law aimed at helping lower cost of higher education” discusses the “College Textbook Affordability, Accountability, and Accessibility Act,” introduced in the state of Pennsylvania by Senator Andy Dinniman, which makes greater demands that the federal law. In a sidebar, it is clarified that while the federal law only covers institutions receiving federal student aid or federal funding, the state bill would extend to all schools.

Scholars at Risk Network, hosted at New York University, says that the Pennsylvania bill would require faculty members to select “the least expensive, educationally sound textbooks,” would restrict academic freedom.

What is one to make of all this?

1. The figures for college textbooks—not only the $700/year figure, but—in at least one place—the $4000 over the course of an undergraduate career, do not take into account that many students sell many, if not all, of their textbooks, recouping much of the money.

2. They also don’t take into account that when students elect to keep a textbook, it may signals something about the lasting value of the book. Just as what goes on in the classroom in an investment for a lifetime, a textbook may be as well. Textbooks are not just the required calculus text that you’re never going to look at again. The “textbook” might be a Mamet play, the work of a contemporary philosopher, a well-regarded analysis of history or foreign policy, a dictionary of a foreign language—any of which might be consulted periodically through a lifetime and passed down as an inheritance.

3. People are crying out for differentiated instruction and attention to learning styles in classrooms, with no recognition that a key component of this happens (or at least can happen) through textbooks and accompanying material.

4. Choosing the “least expensive, educationally sound textbook” may require choosing the copy the cover of which will fall off before the end of the semester. Books are material objects: there are some that are made more skillfully, and some that are cheaply constructed: you’re not just buying what’s on the page.

5. Trying to have all educational materials available for free has some key problems:

a) Not all the teaching in a classroom is done by the teacher. Some is done by/through materials. Creating those materials is a specialized job, done by people with special training, talents, and insights into the learning process. The people who create those materials are educators—even though they are sometimes not currently in the classroom. Proposing that what’s free is what should be used either ignores the value of what has been prepared by educational professionals who create classroom materials or assumes that everything that is available is of equal value. This is no more the case than it is true that every educator in the classroom is equally qualified and effective.

b) Yes, there is a culture of open source and free material. But, as anyone who has ever researched it (and I have) can tell you, a good bit of what is free is of poor quality, which may mean that it includes misinformation, bad grammar, or was created with no concept of the learner’s needs. Besides that, trying to find free materials is an issue because—if one really cares about value—one has to find it and vet every single bit of it. This requires an enormous investment of time.

c) Anybody want to take a class in 21st century fiction or poetry or history or biography or orchestral music or philosophy? Oops – these course can’t be offered because the materials with which one could teach them are copyright. By the time they’re in the public domain, it may be the next century. Oh well …

d) Try any of these experiments: read an online textbook for four hours; take notes on an online textbook; mark an online textbook as you would a print book—underlining, highlighting, margin notes, sticky notes. You’ll find that it’s more difficult and tiring to read on-line; taking notes on any but a very large monitor (larger than what is available on laptops) is likely to be time-consuming and frustrating as you have to switch between programs constantly; marking the text is also tedious, and therefore not likely to be done. Sticky notes, which quickly can get you to key pages can be roughly imitated by keeping a list of page numbers and typing them in, one at a time—pretty tedious, too. Now consider this process for a student with any kind of learning disability…

Is material that the student just looks at and doesn’t interact with understood and retained as well? “There is growing evidence that note-taking combined with critical thinking facilitates retention and applications of the information.” (“Note-Taking: What Do We Know About The Benefits?” In short, there are personal and educational effects to trying to do everything online, but they’re not always included in the discussion.

6. Teachers are not automatons: they have different approaches and presentation styles, which may integrate more effectively or more poorly with various textbooks. Some textbooks may be “educationally sound” without being apt to a particular setting.

So these are some things to think about before taking a stance on textbooks.

Science Projects ~ Science Fun & Science Fair Success

Science is a core subject, whether you are in charge of a homeschool science class or are teaching science in a public or private school, you are most likely looking for fun, exciting things to do to get kids involved in and excited about science. The great thing about science is that there are so many different areas to cover that you can really mix it up and find something to spark the interest of almost any child.

Science projects for a science fair or show are probably one of the best ways to make science fun and memorable for children and teens. However this can also be a cause of teen stress and even stress for parents if the child/teen does not have a natural love and curiosity for science. The first place to start is to choose a specific area of science for your project; life science, earth and space, physical science, science and technology, or some other science area that you find interesting. Then you can start looking for science project ideas. We have a great list of science projects here, or we have also found a fabulous resource in this Homeschool Science Activity Manual and Video Guide. These are simple projects that will be fun and also very informative. When you actually do something and see the process, you are much more likely to be interested in it and remember it.

Whatever you decide to do, remember to always put safety first, make sure kids have appropriate tools and equipment, and someone to supervise all their projects. This may be easier in homeschool science but try and get parents involved in the schools to make it possible there as well. Then keep a good attitude and make it fun. We all have different learning styles but nobody enjoys a long boring lecture about the history of science. However, most people love actually seeing and understanding how science history has created so many of the incredible things we take for granted everyday like electricity, running water, and microwaves. Science is all around us. Whether or not we enjoy learning about it is all determined by the way it is presented.

Classroom Size

Classroom size is consistently a number one concern for parents and teachers. No matter how many policies are put into place to reduce class sizes teachers continue to be overwhelmed by classroom size. 36 states currently have policies in place that limits the number of students in any general education classroom. In the school year of 1999 and 2000 there was $3.5 billion spent on class size reductions. 2.3 billion of this was spent by states and the remaining 1.2 billion was federal funding. Since 1999 under the Class Size Reduction Program approximately 29,000 teachers have been hired and partly due to this classroom sizes for grades 1, 2, and 3 have decreased. The classroom sizes have gone from 23 to 18.

The National Education Association states that the optimum classroom size is 15 . Most schools struggle to keep class sizes below 25 to 30 students per one teacher. The problem with this is that teachers can’t possibly be expected to hone in on every single student’s learning style when there are 30 kids in the class. It is hard enough to do this with a handful of students.
Teachers today have more demands on their time than ever. With the onset of posting grades and progress every single week online (this is a new feature in many schools) to keep parents posted and the paper work that any district requires of teachers they have very little time left to really research learning styles and put together programs that may help students with the hurdles that they encounter in their education from time to time. More schools are getting away from text books and expecting teachers to develop their own curriculum. There just simply is not enough time!
With less students in a classroom the teacher can also better deal with behavioral problems that may arise and the overall school safety is better.

Progressive Education

Progressive education holds it’s roots in the belief that students learn best though real-life activities. The educators that subscribe to this form of education say they go off of the most recent and best scientific theories of education and learning. These educators believe that students learn best by a process like John Dewey’s model of learning which includes:

  1. Realize the problem
  2. Define the problem
  3. Give ideas on how to solve the problem
  4. Come up with the consequences that may occur based on one’s own experience in the past
  5. Put the most likely solution to the test

Basically you could say that progressive education is “learning by doing”. That is a slogan often used by educators in this philosophy.

This method began in the late 19th century. The No Child Left Behind funding act has viewed this philosophy and alternative educational method compared to the test-oriented instruction.

Some of the things that progressive education programs may have in common are:

  • Learning by doing or hands on learning (experiential learning)
  • The curriculum is based on units with themes
  • Focus is on problem solving and critical thinking
  • Promotes teen work and social skills
  • Prefers real understanding and ability to apply skills rather than rote knowledge
  • Provides collaborative learning and cooperative learning projects
  • Teaches social responsibility and democracy
  • Uses the community in everyday curriculum
  • May use text books but prefers a wide variety of learning resources
  • Teaches that learning is a life long journey
  • Focuses on the social skills of students
  • Assessments consist of looking at a student’s projects and actions

Between 1919 and 1955 the Progressive Education Association was founded by Stanwood Cobb and others. The founders did a lot of research during the years of the Great Depression that compared students of this method to those of conventional schools. What was found was that at the college level the students from the progressive method did just as well if not better than their peers from conventional education. The study also found that the more conventional schools strayed from the traditional education methods the better the students did overall.

Active Learning

Active learning is a broad term but basically it places the responsibility of learning on the actual student or learner. This became a common education theory and learning style in the 1980’s and 1990’s. There were arguments made about whether or not this learning included “practice” (promoting cognitive learning). Some said that it was crucial for students to actively engage in practice of the curriculum being taught in order to fully understand. Others ask if you can’t learn without practicing.

Bonwell and Eison were the original founders of the active learning concept. They claim that learning is done best when done in pairs. They believe that things like role playing, debating and other forms of cooperative learning are vital. There are those that think that these learning styles are best used after new information is given to a student and not as a way to introduce a new concept.
Active learning can consist of the following:
  1. Class discussion – Instructors can guide this forum of learning. The great thing about this type of activity is that with today’s technology you can do this online or in a classroom environment.
  2. Think-pair-share – Students are presented with information and then given time to think about the new information. Later they are paired or put in a group discussion where they can share thoughts and ideas. When this it done the instructor can listen in and see if the students have assimilated the information correctly. If not, the instructor can clear up any misconceptions.
  3. Short written exercise – This can be as little as a paper that takes just a minute to write. This is a great way for teachers to gather whether or not each individual has gotten the correct concept or grasped the knowledge.
Proponents of active learning have concerns about “practicing” when learning. The idea of problem solving has a negative side to it that can make things hard on learners.

Visual Learning

Visual learning is just one of many learning styles. Everyone has different learning styles and some may actually utilize more than one. However, most people have a dominant learning style.

Visual learners process things through seeing instructional material through images and other techniques. Some other techniques may include graphs, charts, pictures, videos, and any graphic organizing methods to just name a few. Instructors can be very creative in how they can implement visual aids into their curriculum.

Data shows that students retain information better when more than one learning style is used. For example, most students benefit from having information presented both visually and audibly.

The benefit of graphic organizers is that it helps a student visualize the connection between data or concepts. It brings all the concepts into focus and makes sense in real life because all the dots are connected. This is crucial for the visual learner but necessary for other types of learners as well. Graphic organizers can be used in help with writing, brainstorming, problem solving, decision making, planning and more.

For visual learners tools such as books, workbooks, highlighters, white boards, chalk boards, overhead projectors, videos, any graphics, and flashcards are great supplies to have on hand. The more interesting you make charts and other visual aids the more the student will learn. The student does great with a variety of colors and shapes that will help them remember what they saw. Manipulatives in subjects like math are great because they use touch but the child can also see the concept that is being taught.

Declarative Learning

Declarative learning is actually having the ability to learn something and then to repeat what you have learned verbally. This is in stark difference to motor learning which requires eye hand coordination among other things.

Declarative learning is mostly memory learning however, it can also be habit. For example if you are learning your new address you need to memorize it. However, if you invariable have to repeat your address to people multiple times per day you will make a habit of saying it. The real difference here is that the declarative learning uses the part of your brain known as the medial temporal lobe and habit uses the other side of the brain’s pattern recognition. So while it may seem at first sight that there is no difference between memory and habit, we know that scientifically there is a great difference. It is important for schools to use curriculum, teaching methods, and foster study habits that encompass a variety of learning styles. Every person is different and we all assimilate information in our own way. This is why the variety of presentation is so important.

The Free Dictionary by Farlex defines declarative learning as “learning that evolves from procedural learning after language development. Characterized by analytical, language-based, memory-dependent approach to acquiring and retaining knowledge.”

When a child learns to say things like “thank you” or “please” or “excuse me” they are considered habit learning, not memory. However, you may be handed a list of numbers for a brief moment or two. When the list is taken and you are asked to tell someone what numbers you remember you do so because of declarative learning. This learning style begins early in life and is never lost.

Learning Styles

Have you ever noticed that people learn or comprehend things in different ways, methods, or styles? What learning style do you feel you are better able to understand? Do you learn better from reading information in a text book, hands-on experience, or having someone explain it to you? Or have you ever even thought about it? Have you ever considered the learning style of your child, how his/her teacher chooses to teach, does your child’s school curriculum allow them to be educated in the same style?

Perhaps these are questions you have never stopped to consider. But when it comes to your education or your child’s education, learning styles are something to consider. Whether your education comes from a private school or public school, if you are able to identify your best learning style and understand that it is easier for you, or your child, to learn by a specific method these things you can help you work with your teachers to make sure you get the most out of what is being taught.

We are starting a new series on learning styles and methods that are interesting and have a lot of useful information.