Ericsson, K. Anders, Ralf Th. Krampke, and Clemens Tesch-Romer. “The Role of Deliberate Practice in the Acquisition of Expert Performance.” Psychological Review 100.3 (1993): 363-406. Print.
The seminal paper that first described the path to world class performance. It is available online. He updated it in the Cambridge Handbook (in the Books section) as, “The Influence of Experience and Deliberate Practice on the Development of Superior Expert Performance,” though what he wrote in 1993 is still accurate. If you like the 1993 paper then buy the book. It is well worth it.
Delaney, Peter F., Reder, Staszewski, and Ritter. “The Strategy-Specific Nature of Improvement.” The Power Law Applies by Strategy Within Task.” Psychological Science. 9.1 (Jan. 1998): 1-7. Print.
The paper that first studied and identified the efficacy of strategy changes, A way to reset the power law and make faster progress.
Iznaola, Ricardo., European Guitar Teacher’s Association (UK). “Unleashing Talent.” Guitar Journal, No. 5. Cockfosters, UK. Web, 1994.
An article by the eminent guitar performer, author, teacher and pedagogue Ricardo Iznaola. He has been making the case for the myth of talent since before all of the current research. He understood well what we now can verify with research. His way of presenting it is prosaic and thought provoking, even if you are not involved with guitar.
Posner, Michael., European Guitar Teacher’s Association (UK). “What Makes a Musician.” Guitar Journal, No. 5. Cockfosters, UK. Web, 1994.
This eminent education researcher makes the case that great musicians are made, not born. He cites evidence and shows, broadly, but categorically, how they are made.
Araque, Alfonso, and Maria Navarrete. “Electrically Driven Insulation in the Central Nervous System.” Science 333:6049 (Sept. 2011): 1587-1588. Print.
A synopsis/introduction to the Wake paper.
Wake, Hiroaki, Philip R. Lee, and Douglas Fields. “Control of Local Protein Synthesis and Initial Events in Myelination by Action Potentials.” Science 333.6049 (Sept. 2011): 1647-1651. Print.
The first conclusive evidence of the causal relationship between action potentials traveling through axons and Oligodendrocytes producing locally specific myelination. This is a significant find – it had been suggested for some time, but from the exhaustive 2001 study on myelin in the mammalian nervous system in which they could not find the answer, to this 2011 study, there was no evidence.
The Dana Foundation. “How Arts Training Improves Attention and Cognition.” Cerebrum, 505 Fifth Avenue, 6th floor New York, NY, Web, 9/14/2009.
Posner theorizes, using available data, about the cognitive transfer of focus to other domains from that in which it has been trained. He focuses on the arts as that is one area in which ‘good enough’ is not good enough and high levels of performance are always expected. He laments, in 2009, that some empirical data is lacking. The 2014 study, “Improved Effectiveness of Performance Monitoring in Amateur Instrumental Musicians,” by Jentzsch, et al. brings us just that.
Murray, Bridget, “Training Young Minds Not to Wander.” Monitor On Psychology. 34.9 (Oct. 2003): 58. Print.
An article highlighting the work of Michael Posner in the area of training attention (focus). It is short with some provocative ideas about remediating attention problems and that, indeed, this type of work should be done with all learners. I’m fond of saying you can’t just teach content, you must teach process, and this speaks to that.
Baumann, Nicole, and Pham-Dinh, Danielle. “Biology of Oligodendrocyte and Myelin in the Mammalian Central Nervous System.” Physiological Review. 812 (April. 2001): 871-927. Print.
An exhaustive study on the makeup, development, importance, function, and just about anything else about myelin and Oligodendrocytes including related diseases. One thing they could not find, “Little is known about the mechanism of myelination or the signals that regulate this complex process.” We would have to wait until 2011 and the Wake and Araque papers.
Barres, Benn A., and Raff, Martin C., “Axonal Control of Oligodendrocyte Development.” The Journal of Cell Biology. 147.6 (December. 1999): 1123-1128. Print.
Looking at the relationship between axons and the development of oligodendrocytes before any causal relationship between the two and myelin production had been established. A companion to the exhaustive 2001 study.
Runco, Mark A., and Shawn M. Okuda., “Problem Discovery, Divergent thinking, and the Creative Process.” Journal of Youth and Adolescence. 17.3 (June 1988): 211-220. Print
An empirical test of the componential view of the creative process focusing on adolescents. This is a small study that is fascinating in the way it teases out different aspects of the creative process, specifically focusing on problem discovery (part of what we call ‘focus’). It is also interesting to see researchers in 1988 on their way to making the discoveries that would define the latest thought in this area.
Bloom, Benjamin S., and Lauren Sosniak. “Talent Development vs. Schooling.” Educational Leadership. 39.2 (November. 1981): 86-94. Print.
One of the most important names in education in the 20th century studies, “more than 120 persons who have demonstrated excellence in one of six different fields.” They then offer that they, “Believe the contrast of their learning and developmental process with procedures used in the schools may provide a useful perspective on both types of development,” by reviewing, “The major contrasts between schooling and talent development.” That there is a difference at all is, in my opinion, the singular reason we have problems with academics in our school system. It is also a large part of the cause of the dropout rate.
This information also, perhaps unwittingly by Bloom at the time, goes a long way to debunking the great misunderstanding of talent. This is truly ahead of its time in that further research in psychology and neuroscience has given veracity to what he has written. My favorite line from this is, “In schools children sometimes learn poorly or fail. We find in our study of talent development that when the child is learning poorly it is assumed that the teacher is at fault and parents seek another teacher.” So whose responsibility is it when the child learns poorly in school? Does the teacher spend time teaching how to learn, or on content? Give that some thought.
Tang, Yi-Yuan, and Michael Posner. “Attention Training and Attention State Training.” Trends in Cognitive Sciences. 13.5 (May. 2009): 222-227. Print.
Looks at the various ways one can train ‘focus’ including traditional western models, mindfulness, IBMT, exposure to nature, and more. These authors conclude that, “Together these various methods lead to practical ways of improving attention and self-regulation.” Highly recommended.
Hill, Nicole M. and Walter Schneider. “Brain Changes in the Development of Expertise: Neuroanatomical and Neurophysiological Evidence about Skill-Based Adaptations.” The Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance. Ed. K Anders Ericsson, Neil Charness, Paul J. Feltovich, Robert R. Hoffman. New York: Cambridge, 2006. (653-682). Print.
The acceptance of neuroplasticity, that is that the brain changes functionally or structurally in response to practice, has been the major advancement in neuroscience in the latter part of the 20th century. Hill and Schnieder review the evidence examining the neurobiological changes that occur during learning stages, learning different tasks, attentional control, strategy changes, and more. Perhaps most striking is the inclusion of fMRI imaging of the brain learning a task. As a skill is learned the brain organizes it down to a small area for efficient processing. It may not always be good to use more of your brain.
Zimmerman, Barry J. “Development and Adaptation of Expertise.” The Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance. Ed. K Anders Ericsson, Neil Charness, Paul J. Feltovich, Robert R. Hoffman. New York: Cambridge, 2006. (705-722). Print.
This study first addresses how the learning process is initiated and learned. It then goes on to show that participating in the difficult process of first learning a skill, “. . .lead cyclically to greater self-satisfaction and more effective forms of adaptation.” In other words once some accomplishment in a domain has been learned this provides intrinsic motivation to learn more. How might this inform parents on how they make their child do homework or learn an instrument?
Jentzsch, Ines, Anahit Mkrtchian, and Nayantara Kansal. “Improved Effectiveness of Performance Monitoring in Amateur Instrumental Musicians.” Neuropsychologia 52 (2014): 117–124. Print.
Researchers have long noticed a correlation between music study and improved academic performance. This long awaited data identifies the underlying cognitive process that is learned through instrumental music study and it transferable to learning other domains. In other words, and this is not a joke, music study can make you smarter. It does so by strengthening executive function in the brain.
Hardiman, Mariale, Luke Rinne, Emma Gregory, and Julia Yarmolinskaya. “Neuroethics, Neuroeducation, and Classroom Teaching: Where the Brain Sciences Meet Pedagogy.” Neuroethics 20 May. 2011: n. pag. Web. 15 July 2014.
From the abstract; “The popularization of neuroscientific ideas about learning – sometimes legitimate, sometimes merely commercial – poses a real challenge. . .” This paper addresses the serious phenomena of the general public, including professional educators, drawing significant conclusions from research on skill development from thin sources, those motivated by financial gain, and other sources that lead to an incomplete understanding of the big picture. The neuroscience wave of education is here and growing. There will be millions of people who will need to understand it. Big business and the media have recognized that. This article helps us understand how to begin to discern real research from the sensational, and often misinterpreted reports, and unscrupulous businesses, among others.
Bjork, E. L., Bjork, R. A. “Making things hard on yourself, but in a good way: Creating desirable difficulties to enhance learning.” Psychology and the Real World: Essays illustrating fundamental contributions to society. Eds. M. A. Gernsbacher, R. W. Pew, L. M. Hough, J. R. Pomerantz. New York: Worth Publishers, 2011. 56-64. Print
“Learning how to learn is the ultimate survival tool.” These researchers set out to find the unusual truth to optimal learning conditions. They conclude that, “Optimizing instruction will require unintuitive innovations in how the conditions of instruction are structured.” In other words real learning is not what many think it is, thus many of us follow failed paradigms while the few that can figure it out seem talented. “Somewhat surprisingly, the trials and errors of everyday living and learning do not seem to result in the development of an accurate mental model of the self as learner or an appreciation of the activities that do and do not foster learning.” The answers are right in front of us. Read this to begin to recognize them.
Clark, Ron. “What Teachers Really Want to Tell Parents.” CNN. Cable News Network, 14 Mar. 2013. Web. 01 Oct. 2014.
Education writer Ron Clark writes what many good teachers would like parents to embrace in order to truly help the educational process. Parents sometimes pass judgement about teacher competence with scant real knowledge of education, and scant evidence (A child telling them they are trying and being treated unfairly is scant evidence).
Of course there are teachers who should be held accountable for poor performance. There is no excuse for that in such an important job. Handle it like this – follow all of what Ron Clark has to say in this essay. Treat the teacher with genuine, not feigned, respect. Not for a day or a week, but for at least a quarter. Actively participate in making sure the child does everything the teacher says the way the teacher assigns. Putting the child in a room and then checking their homework is not enough. Stay with them and monitor that they are following all directions. Keep up with daily assignments and have weekly communication with the teacher. If the teacher says the child isn’t doing certain things, don’t argue, simply ask what. (I know, it is a lot of work, but now is not the time to decide one does not want the awesome and colossal responsibility of parenting. It is not entirely up to the teacher just because there was a meeting). If, as a parent, one decides that there are easier ways to complete the work, or does not think certain things are important then it is not the teacher that has conducted themselves poorly in the child’s learning process. Once one has participated supporting their child’s learning process in the proper way they will be much better able to make a judgement, and in all likelihood the child will improve immensely.
Smith, Tovia. ” Does Teaching Kids To Get ‘Gritty’ Help Them Get Ahead?.” NPR. National Public Radio, 17 Mar. 2014. Web. 22 Dec. 2014.
This article, originally an NPR story, is right, the new buzzword in education is, “Grit,” and it is an important part of skill development. Angela Duckworth has done some good work in this area. The article also references the very important work by Carol Dweck on Mindset.
This is good information, but what stands out to me is the myopic focus on making mistakes. The image on the first page has a cute drawing by a child stating, “Anyone who hasn’t made a mistake hasn’t learned anything.” An experienced teacher understands this rationale, but a child may think they do not understand something unless they have made a mistake in learning. Please read the article – it is great information, but don’t take any extreme point away from it.
Hook, Cayce J., and Martha J. Farah. “Neuroscience for educators: what are they seeking, and what are they finding?” Neuroethics. Switzerland: Springer Netherlands, 2012. (331-341). Online.
An interesting, if small, sample of this idea. There is insight here into common misunderstandings about terminology, understanding research, and teacher perception. This is well worth a read to begin understanding some of the serious issues we have bridging the gap between the research and the classroom.
Zuk J, Benjamin C, Kenyon A, Gaab N (2014) Behavioral and Neural Correlates of Executive Functioning in Musicians and Non-Musicians. PLoS ONE 9(6): e99868. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0099868
Very recent work on finding the correlate between music training and strengthened executive function (focus). This is one of the best I’ve seen. First the authors acknowledge the limitations in past studies that have given conflicting results. Then they introduce a rigorous methodology to do, among other things, “. . .(document) the intensity and longevity of training. . .(including) musically untrained children that were carefully screened to have no prior musical training.” We’ve needed this kind of strict integrity in this area for some time. This is very valuable work. The concluding paragraph, “Likewise, it is important to consider that replacing music programs with reading or math instruction in our nation’s school curricula in order to boost standardized test scores may actually lead to deficient skills in other cognitive areas.”
Kirschner, Paul A., John Sweller, and Richard E. Clark. ” Why Minimal Guidance During Instruction Does Not Work: An Analysis of the Failure of Constructivist, Discovery, Problem-Based, Experiential, and Inquiry-Based Teaching.” Educational Psychologist 41.2 (May. 2006): 75–86. Print
“. . .Based on our current knowledge of human cognitive architecture, minimally guided instruction is likely to be ineffective. The past half-century of empirical research on this issue has provided overwhelming and unambiguous evidence that minimal guidance during instruction is significantly less effective and efficient than a guidance specifically designed to support the cognitive process necessary for learning.” Of course, in the best teaching, both things are true – a tightly designed curriculum in which a student can be guided to discover specific goal principals. They explain the difference between content knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge, or, “The practice of a profession is not the same as learning to practice the profession,” an important distinction and something that is many times misunderstood in education.
Thompson, Gary. “Neuroplasticity: The Brain’s Ability to Change Itself.” Lukenotes 14.2 (2010). Print.
“The history of the study of neuroplasticity (how the brain changes itself) from 1890-2010 in less than 900 words. A great read on the subject for anyone, he’s done a really good job for such a short article.
Strauss, Valerie. “You Think You Know What Teachers Do. Right? Wrong.” Answer Sheet. The Washington Post, 22 Feb. 2014. Web. 25 Feb. 2015.
This is something I’ve been saying for years, and is one of the most serious issues plaguing education. The perspective is unique and insightful – a trained educator who left the profession to go into law. She expresses the situation well, “We were students, and therefore we know teachers. We denigrate teachers. We criticize teachers. We can do better than teachers. After all: We do. They teach. We are wrong. . .we need to stop thinking that we know anything about teaching merely by virtue of having once been students. . .All of you former students who are not teachers and not lawyers, you have no more idea of what it is to teach than you do of what it is to practice law. . . The problem with teaching as a profession is that every single adult citizen of this country thinks that they know what teachers do. And they don’t.” Yep.
Pashler, Harold, Mark Mc Daniel, Doug Rohrer, and Robert Bjork. “Learning Styles, Concepts and Evidence.”
Psychological Science in the Public Interest 9.3 (Dec. 2008): 105-119. Print.
A 2008 review of scientific literature related to learning styles with detailed discussion. An important consideration, and I hope it is informative.
“There is growing evidence that people hold beliefs about how they learn that are faulty in various ways, which frequently lead people to manage their own learning and teach others in non-optimal ways.” However you may feel about learning styles specifically, this applies to learning in general. They do recommend specifically that, “On the basis of our review, the belief that learning-style assessments are useful in educational contexts appears to be just that – a belief,” and, “. . .the widespread use of learning-style measures in educational settings is unwise and a wasteful use of limited resources.”
Whatever your position on this issue this is something to consider.
Kirschner, Paul, A., and Jeroen J.G. van Merrienboer. “Do Learners Really Know Best? Urban legends in Education.” Educational Psychologist 48.3 (2013): 169-183. Print. DOI: 10.1080/00461520.2013.804395
These researchers conclude, “What we are dealing with here is a very popular and very persistent pseudoscience, which jeopardizes both the quality of education and the credibility of the educational sciences.”. They cover Learners as Digital Natives, Multitaskers, Learners and their Learning Styles, Learners as Self Educators, and more.
More important information to consider.
Muraven, Mark.”Autonomous self-control is less depleting.” Science Direct 42 (May. 2008): 763-770. Print
Carrying on the work he had done with researcher Roy Baumeister, Muraven makes the case, along with citing other research, that self-control, which is a limited resource that can be depleted, is less depleting when the individual is internally motivated to engage in it rather than externally motivated. This is important, but it is not to say that external motivation, such as being forced to go to school, is a bad thing. The implications for education are several especially when we consider the literature on creating motivation.
Ritter, F.E. and L. J. Schooler. “Learning Curve, The.” International encyclopedia of the social and behavioral sciences. Ed. Neil J. Smelser, Paul B. Baltes. Amsterdam: Pergamon. 2002. (8602-8605). Print
An overview of the application of cognitive theories such as the power law. ACT-R, SOAR and strategy changes and how they fit together. Implications to the universal experience of learning rates are discussed.
President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, Reinvesting in Arts Education: Winning America’s Future Through Creative Schools 505 Fifth Avenue, 6th floor New York, NY 10017
On one hand what you would expect, grand words about the value of arts education while lamenting there is no money to fund it. You will find much to advocate for fine arts education in different ways.
On the other hand, especially if you are interested in the finer points of arts and learning there is good information here. Their description of how creativity works is something I use when I explain teaching creativity at the atomic level. They recognize the serious issue of cultivating creativity in the country to remain powerful. “To remain competitive in the global economy, America needs to reinvigorate the kind of creativity and innovation that has made this country great. To do so, we must nourish our children’s creative skills.”
They also have some interesting things, if you read closely, about arts integration.
Kilgard , Michael P., and Michael M. Merzenich.” Cortical Map Reorganization Enabled by Nucleus Basalis Activity.” Science 279. (March. 1998): 1714-1718. Print
We know that learning is represented by functional and physical changes in the brain (neuroplasticity). Here one of the progenitors of that science shows that the nucleus basalis is responsible for making that happen. Interestingly enough after childhood the way to turn it on seems to be through intense focus.
They note, “ The extent of cortical map reorganization generated by nucleus basalis activation is substantially larger than the reorganization that is typically observed and several months of operant training.” In other words doing focused, deliberate practice creates much faster learning than going through the motions.
Stevens, Courtney, and Daphne Bavelier. “The Role of Selective Attention on Academic Foundations: A Cognitive Neuroscience Perspective.” Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience 2.1 (2011): S30-48. Science Direct. 15 Feb. 2012. Web.
Reviews, “Hypothesized links between selective attention and processing across three domains important to early academic skills.” They identify specific brain areas for the several processes involved. This is the ability to focus as trained in young people, very interesting and important.