Is Working Memory Fixed or Can it be Trained?

Many teachers allow students to play "brain games" as part of the curriculum. When I say "brain games", I'm referring to short - often fun - activities that are unrelated to the core content, but which are thought to engage the mind or make you smarter. When I was a student, if I finished my … Continue reading Is Working Memory Fixed or Can it be Trained?

Does More Learning Happen When Students are in the Driver’s Seat?

Most teachers will be familiar with Khan Academy, or similar learning programs, that offer a mixture of 1) problems to solve and 2) instructional supports that students can use to learn how to solve the problems. Common instructional supports in online learning environments include partial hints (e.g., click here for a hint to get you … Continue reading Does More Learning Happen When Students are in the Driver’s Seat?

A Fence at the Top or an Ambulance at the Bottom?

As a school leader, I'm often asked to read things that contain strong claims about the nature of learning. My old approach was to try to weigh the arguments presented in the articles and come to my own conclusions about whether the claims seemed reasonable, regardless of whether the authors had any evidence to support … Continue reading A Fence at the Top or an Ambulance at the Bottom?

Do We Learn Best Collaboratively or Individually?

I read an interesting article about collaboration and worked examples today. Worked examples, for those not in the know, are teaching objects that explicitly show students the steps for how to solve a particular type of problem, such as the one below for how to add fractions: Example of a worked example, shared with me … Continue reading Do We Learn Best Collaboratively or Individually?

Solving Problems is an Inefficient Way to Learn How to Solve Problems

I am the Director of Educational Technology at an independent school, which in normal times means I do a lot of coaching and strategizing around technology-enhanced instruction. I chair a department and a committee of pedagogically savvy EdTech coordinators and teachers, and we work on ways to improve the academic program. However, due to some … Continue reading Solving Problems is an Inefficient Way to Learn How to Solve Problems

educationrickshaw.com does student choice work? Is student choice effective?

When Student Choice Backfires

More choice is good, right? We’d all rather have more items in the Taco Bell menu than fewer.  People prefer to be, or at least feel like they are, in control of their destiny (just ask the anti-maskers of the pandemic!) and it seems likely that our students are no different.   Theoretically, when students perceive … Continue reading When Student Choice Backfires

Biologically Primary vs. Biologically Secondary Knowledge

Help! I’m Trying to Teach My 9-Month-Old How to Crawl and it isn’t Working.

I have a 9-month-old daughter who still cannot crawl. I've tried having her build up her strength through various leg and abdominal exercises. I've shown her interactive diagrams and YouTube videos of babies crawling, and I've read her the definition of crawling from the dictionary. I've modeled the correct way to crawl so many times … Continue reading Help! I’m Trying to Teach My 9-Month-Old How to Crawl and it isn’t Working.

Lessons from Cognitive Science that I’ve Used to Improve my Teaching

I  recently gave a presentation called The Cognitive Science of Creative Subjects at Learning2Asia, a conference which I thought was an incredibly well-run by Nanjing International School. The format of the workshop was really fun: Teachers do mostly hands-on, design-related experiments on themselves to sort of demonstrate how different principles in cognitive science work. I also … Continue reading Lessons from Cognitive Science that I’ve Used to Improve my Teaching

Is Math Anxiety Totally Avoidable?

Math and me have had a tumultuous relationship. When I (Zach) was in high school I had a pretty bad math teacher, whose cynicism and poor teaching skills - students were meant to “discover” the solutions to problems before receiving proper instruction - played a role in my decision at the time to never pursue … Continue reading Is Math Anxiety Totally Avoidable?

What constitutes “Balanced Literacy” depends on who you’re talking to.

I recently finished reading Dan Willingham’s book, Raising Kids who Read: What Parents and Teachers can do. Of particular interest to me (Zach) was the chapter in which Willingham described the infamous “Reading Wars”. Having just facilitated design thinking around literacy at my school, during which we started a discourse (Described in this recent post) … Continue reading What constitutes “Balanced Literacy” depends on who you’re talking to.