Thursday, June 9, 2011

"The Necessity of Understanding Procedural Instructions"

Why Students Do Not Perform Well in Science and Math

President Obama recently encouraged students to enroll in science in math, stating that it was "cool" to do so. What is not understood with this statement is that there is a tragic paradox. There is a reason many learners do not enroll in these subjects. Most do not have enough underlying memory capacity to learn the complex information and then apply it.

Furthermore, assuming this, students are unable to understand and follow procedural instructions basic to conceptualizing mathematical and scientific information.

Why is this? Numerical arithmetic is taught in grades 1-3, and there is a major shift in the curriculum in grade 4. Right-brain spatial numbers shift into left-brain sequencing with advanced concepts. National test scores show that math scores, including advanced concepts, drop off beginning in grade 4.

Understanding science requires not only doing simple experiments and reading scientific stories out of textbooks, but requires procedural, stepwise learning.

Procedural learning requires the mastery of learning step-wise procedures. Following directions is usually taught with simple question and answer worksheets, or now, with online question/answer assignments laced with cartoons.

Nationally standardized test scores do not change for the better. Textbook companies scratch their heads. Innovators come up with practice applications. Still, "No Go."

Why do we fall behind other foreign countries -- how can these children encode-decode information while ours do not? Do they have more stringent learning practices requiring focus and sequencing of difficult material? Do they learn more foreign languages that require intrinsic symbolic encoding/decoding applications? Do they study more musical instruments that require focus, practice, with encoding/decoding? Both musical training and learning a foreign language trains auditory (listening) memory, critically needed for learning technical sequences.

What is missing?

If students are unable to listen to complex instructions (teachers spend hours daily repeating directions over and over), and students then work in teams where one member does the application "thinking" and fills out the responses - even on the computer, how are the others learning? Somewhat? Many are working in small tutorial groups with simple assignments far below grade level work.

The missing link is teaching students how to encode and decode sequential information, and expand their visual and listening memories an underlying requirement for conceptualizing formulas and mathematical equations.

This is done through cognitive skills training, although this is not available in the typical school classroom. Every student processes information differently, with different learning styles and capacities. The teacher can not begin to test and measure every child's cognitive skills, nor are they qualified to do so. It is also expensive and time consuming to have them measured and evaluated through private practitioners.

Assignments will not be learned as expected, and there is much time spent "How to take the interim benchmark tests, or "teaching to the test" for the final end-of-year nationally standardized achievement tests that include reading, math, and science scores. Classrooms spend hours teaching how to select and fill in multiple choice answers on the computer. Pressure is placed upon students who naturally lack the necessary "brain-power" to sequence and code instructions.

Is this fair? Of course not. We are training test-taking robots, not how to assimilate and learn science and math required for understanding and expanding our technological capacities.

How can we attack and get around this, if the necessary brain skills are not taught in schools or in most computer software skill drilling programs? Students are learning only pieces of the information, not complex series that are fundamental to learning science and math needed for technologies.

Parents can now help fill in this gap - the missing link. There soon will be more parent "how to" information readily accessible through internet learning. Applications will be pleasurable, scientifically tested, and learning will be fast.

The ability to encode/decode sequential information will be taught through specific, scientifically tested training regimens. It might be something for all of us to consider. Let's look to future possibilities.

Friday, April 29, 2011

"How To Understand Your Child's School Test Measurements"

What State Prescribed or National tests Will My Child Take?

Each State’s Department of Education decides which tests will be given in that state, although the "No Child Left Behind" act is a mandated federal law. Now, States must comply with Common Core Standards (CSS) that require that certain levels of subject matter be taught and subsequently achieved at prescribed grade levels.

Students receive multiple tests regularly in school. Not all tests are the same. Some are formal and nationally standardized which measure content knowledge with thousands of students taking these assessments in all geographical areas. These are typically administered at the end or beginning of the school year.

Reading and math Nationally Standardized Academic Achievement tests are given annually in grades 3 to 8, and at least once in grades 10 to 12 in all fifty states. Students are tested in science at least once during grades 3 through 5.

Many states give additional tests in social science, writing, and language arts in various grades. It will be up to you, as a parent, to discover what tests are given, and when; and where you can fill in by obtaining needed tests for your child.

What are Formative Tests? Other tests are informal measures of learned subject matter like classroom daily written assignments, a spelling test, or simple observations and checklists. These are ongoing on a regular basis to evaluate progress in learning. These informal measures are called criterion referenced and formative. Here is how a parent can be further engaged to help their child: 

How Parents Can Engage With Their Child’s Classroom:

1. Connect with your child’s teacher in the school.

2. Call the school office to ask for an appointment with the teacher.

3. Visit the classroom at the beginning of the year in September, and ask questions pertaining to your child’s daily classroom assignments and homework.

4. Ask to see samples of your child’s work, or request that they bring their daily work assignments home that were completed in class.

5. Ask when your State’s prescribed math and reading formative tests begin, how many will be given in the year, and what information is and will be available for your child.

6. Some interim tests may be called “testlets.” The purpose of the testlets is to guide future instruction to close gaps between current performance levels and target proficiency levels.

7. Although every state will design their own test schedules, generally, there will be two-four interim tests during the months of August, October, December, and February, and two final summative tests during February, March, and/or April. Ask when these tests are given at your school.

8. The initial August interim tests for grades 3-8 will show scores in the basic skill reading and math subject matter areas.Typically, all students begin with the same test level and receive baseline scores. Then, these test scores may be divided into three definitive ability areas: (hard, medium and easy).

9. Then, ask the teacher what test indicators are given and where your child fits into the criteria levels that have been assigned.

10. Ask to see the interim test results to define strong and weak areas, and also to help guide your student at home in weak areas with online learning applications.

11. Indicate that you would like to communicate with the teacher following each of the testlet time frames so that your child can show progress in closing gaps, and move up in the defined ability/achievement levels.

12. Ask, what can I do next to support and backup class work, and when can I visit and assist in the classroom next?

Now, you have begun understanding how your child’s class work is being measured and evaluated. This simple checklist is part of evaluating your child’s learning styles, strengths, weaknesses and personal interests. Once you determine these testing and measurement categories – you can begin identifying the right resources to help your child learn in just about every subject matter imaginable.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Sharpen Your Problem-Solving Skill

Our work world is becoming ever more complex as we work in teams and problem-solve continuing workplace issues. Even our personal lives are complex. In facing problems, it is baffling why some of us can see them coming, and can diffuse them off, while others stay mired in a constant web of distress.

Although we avoid looking for trouble, we often wish we could be better at avoiding it before they appear as full-blown issues that we must cope with.

Unfortunately, we can stay locked into an analytical mode, do not recognize situational patterns, and miss the point. We become so engrossed with scrutinizing details that we fail to see the big picture. Missing clues that are obvious to others, we stumble along.

Concurrently, this is detrimental to our image and future as we can become pigeonholed at a particular skill level in our work.

It all boils down to having an ability to intuitively spot patterns going amiss with our work and daily life situations. How can we do this?

We need to reflect and understand our own mental machine and our information processing capability. It lies in our ability to encode right-brain patterns quickly and then recognize tell-tale signs of irregularities. This is referred to how "we see into situations," or “getting it,” and you probably know if you are adept in this area.

What can we do to see into situations with their web of inherent difficulties? We can become aware of insightful patterns and improve our encoding ability for spotting pattern breaks which alerts us that something is amiss.

What is a pattern break?

A “pattern break” is something different in routine thoughts, body language, wording, speech, routines, actions, individual’s appearances, or expressions. When you see something differently than expected, or out of the norm, you must become aware of your insightful realizations, and put yourself on “alert,” and react accordingly.

Avoiding Problems at Work: Observe the team members you work with. What are their attitudes, values, and hidden agendas? Are they sincere? What does their body language indicate? Do they appear positive and offer honest opinions? Are their contributions valuable to the project? Or, are they convoluted and too complex to be practical? Will their input create complications?

What are the drawbacks?

Do you see their work favorably, creatively, with an open mind? How does the team compliment each other in terms of work quality and input? How will I react to an impending obstacle? Will I remain level headed, as I notice irregularities? Can I systematically solve them by smoothing out the missing links?

Avoiding Problems at Home, ask yourself: Am I taking time to participate and listen to family members? Do I spend too much time "in my own world?" When I see a bad situation, can I work through it systematically, noting the attitude and reaction along the way? Do I hastily react, creating a deeper abyss of trouble? Am I willing to compromise and work the problem out before it intensifies?

Avoiding your Personal Problems, ask yourself: Do I continuously make the same mistakes, because I do not recognize self-destructive patterns? If I do recognize them, am I unwilling to change the pattern because it has become a habit (like smoking or drinking alcohol excessively)?

How to practice and speed up your encoding of patterns:

1. Learn a foreign language -- practice new vocabulary words with a tape recorder as a response system. Speaking creates sound patterns that activate the brain.

2. Learn to play a new musical instrument. Musical notes are symbolic patterns. Reading music involves rapidly encoding notes while scanning the measures and phrasing. It is excellent brain exercise.

3. Try repairing or installing something mechanical. Note the design or maintenance patterns. Many of us dislike and avoid reading technical manuals. However, noting technical patterns, as on Smart Phones, is good encoding practice.

Becoming aware of the evolving patterns in our world will keep us sensitive to things that are out of kilter and which create problems that we can do without.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Jan's Brainy Insight: Blended e-Learning to the Rescue - 6 Available Models

Jan's Brainy Insight: Blended e-Learning to the Rescue - 6 Available Models: ""