Thursday, April 16, 2015

Proof that 'pupil-led' trendy teaching lowers standards

New data from the hallowed FINLAND!

Britain should be wary of adopting trendy pupil-led teaching techniques from Scandinavia because they may be making standards worse, a new report claims.

Progressive education experts in the UK have long pushed for our system to emulate the group work and independent study that is popular in Finland, which has regularly topped international league tables.

But a new analysis of Finnish education suggests pupil aptitude has actually declined since the country embraced fashionable teaching methods.

According to research by the Right-leaning Centre for Policy Studies, Finland only did so well before because of the influence of traditional teacher-led methods.

But it has slipped down international rankings tables as the new liberal techniques became more widespread.

The findings will add weight to arguments by Michael Gove that a return to traditional teacher-led lessons are the way to raise standards in schools.

The former education secretary made it his mission to fight the ‘progressive’ methodology of the education establishment, which he referred to as ‘the Blob’.

Report author Gabriel Heller Sahlgren said: ‘My research shows that the methods that we have been trying to push through in England and America for years are not good for test scores.

‘Pupils who aren’t motivated are not necessarily interested in learning. If you give them too much freedom, it’s difficult to know if they’re learning anything. It’s not very effective.

‘Here in the UK, there is a tendency to abolish traditional methods because they’re old, but we need to decrease this bias.’

Finland was proclaimed an ‘education superpower’ after appearing at the top of international rankings tables between 2001 and 2009.

Many in the education establishment have pushed for the Finnish model of pupil-led learning to be used as an inspiration for the British system.

Instead of giving whole-class instruction from a blackboard, teachers have instead adopted small group work, independent learning and educational activities and games.

But today’s report, which examines education policy and performance in Finland over the last half century, found implementation of the new methods coincided with a recent slump in performance.

Between 2006 and 2012, Finland’s performance in PISA tests run by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) declined.  It sunk by 18 points in scientific literacy, 23 points in reading literacy, and 29 points in mathematical literacy.

In 2006, it was second in the world for maths, while in 2012 it was 12th. Rankings for reading and science also slipped several places.

Teachers training in the 1990s learnt the new methods and only began to teach them in the 2000s, the report said.

Before this, education in Finland had been traditional, hierarchical and teacher-led, according to the author, and it was this that was responsible for its stellar performances in the league tables.

Mr Sahlgren added: ‘The reforms in Finland that people are crediting with its improvement actually only began in the early 2000s.

‘When Finland was improving, the education system was very authoritative and teacher-led. Finland was improving in the 1980s but rounded off in around 1995. In the early 2000s, it started to fall.’

The report, titled ‘Real Finnish Lessons’, said that Finland’s education system had instead been buoyed by socio-economic factors until recently.

These included a strong work ethic and cultural sense of responsibility, as well as the high status of teachers leading to talented individuals entering the profession.

Mr Gove prompted a fierce backlash from teachers two years ago after saying he wanted them to stop using innovative approaches which ‘dumbed down’ education.

He gave an example of ‘making Plasticine models to represent Hitler’s main aims as Fuhrer’ as a method which had ‘nothing to do with passing on knowledge’.

He said part of the problem was a ‘belief that education should not be an activity in which the teacher imparts knowledge to the child but a pursuit - by the child - of what it finds interesting’.

Mr Sahlgren is Director of Research at the Centre for the Study of Market Reform of Education think tank.


University of Michigan Debacle


Last week, The University of Michigan (where I go to school, unfortunately) announced that it would cancel its screening of American Sniper due to outcries from students that the university was "tolerating dangerous anti-Muslim and anti-MENA (Middle Eastern and North African) propaganda."

The University of Michigan has a terrible track record with free speech already this year, instituting an "inclusive speech campaign" which told students which words were off-limits because they could offend someone. Cancelling its screening of American Sniper because it would offend certain students would further humiliate the public university which has already embarrassed itself enough this year.

After nationwide backlash, the university ended up showing the movie after all, releasing a statement which said, "The initial decision to cancel the movie was not consistent with the high value the University of Michigan places on freedom of expression and our respect for the right of students to make their own choices in such matters." Finally, we see some sense.

However, they still provided an alternate movie because they "recognize that some students are uncomfortable with the content of the movie," which was Paddington, a movie for children.


Dartmouth closes 'Animal House' frat after brandings

There does seem to have been an accumulation of bad behavior at the fraternity -- and initiation rituals can go too far. A fraternity is not the army.  The army needs hazing to train the men for hardship

Boston:  Dartmouth College ordered the Alpha Delta fraternity, inspiration for the movie Animal House, to close after finding students branded the flesh of chapter members.

Alpha Delta branded 11 new members with the fraternity's letters in November, a practice dating back to the Class of 2008, according to a letter to the fraternity published by Dartblog, a website run by an alumnus.

"This is an overtly condoned and long-standing practice of the organisation," Alexandra Waltemeyer, the college's assistant director of judicial affairs, said in the April 13 letter.

Alpha Delta violated the terms of a suspension in place at the time of the branding, Diana Lawrence, a spokeswoman, said.The fraternity has until April 20 to appeal. The college may withdraw recognition of the fraternity regardless of the outcome of the appeal, she said.

George Ostler, a lawyer representing the chapter, declined to comment. In March, he called the brands "a form of self-expression, similar to body piercing or tattooing", and said that students voluntarily agreed to have them.

Alpha Delta had been suspended until March 29 because of rule infractions related to drinking and partying. While the branding didn't constitute hazing, it was an "organisational activity" and thus violated the terms of the suspension, the letter said.

"We are disappointed by the college's decision," President Ryan Maguire said. He said the chapter was planning to appeal.

After a fraternity loses recognition, town ordinances prohibit more than three unrelated people from living at the chapter house, according to the letter. Dartmouth has offered housing to all students involved, said Ms Lawrence, who confirmed the letter's authenticity.

In the past two years, Alpha Delta has been fined for serving alcohol to minors, apologised for co-hosting a "Crips and Bloods" party and had a member admit to urinating from a second-story balcony onto a woman below.

Dartmouth President Philip Hanlon belonged to Alpha Delta while at the Hanover, New Hampshire school, and graduated in 1977, a year before Animal House portrayed out-of-control behaviour at the fraternity. Since taking office in 2013, Mr Hanlon has worked   to curb misconduct and heavy drinking. This year, he instituted a campus ban on hard liquor.


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