The Year(s) of Replication #las17ed L@S 2017Posted: April 22, 2017 Filed under: Education, Opinion | Tags: community, education, l@s, las17ed, learning, learning@scale, mit, replication, science, teaching, testing 6 Comments
I was at Koli Calling in 2016 and a paper was presented (“Replication in Computing Education Research: Researcher Attitudes and Experiences”) regarding the issue of replicating previous studies. Why replicate previous work? Because we have a larger number of known issues that have emerged in psychology and the medical sciences, where important work has not been able to be replicated. Perhaps the initial analysis was underpowered, perhaps the researchers had terrible bad luck in their sample, and perhaps there were… other things going on. Whatever the reason, we depend upon replication as a validation tool and being unable to replicate work puts up a red flag.
After the paper, I had follow-up discussions with Andrew Petersen, from U Toronto, and we talked about the many problems. If we do choose to replicate studies, which ones do we choose? How do we get the replication result disseminated, given that it’s fundamentally not novel work? When do we stop replicating? What the heck do we do if we invalidate an entire area of knowledge? Andrew suggested a “year of replication” as a starting point but it’s a really big job: how do we start a year of replication studies or commit to doing this as a community?
This issue was raised again at Learning@Scale 2017 by Justin Reich, from MIT, among others. One of the ideas that we discussed as part of that session was that we could start allocating space at the key conferences in the field for replication studies. The final talk as part of L@S was “Learning about Learning at Scale: Methodological Challenges and Recommendations”, which discussed general problems that span many studies and then made recommendations as to how we could make our studies better and reduce the risk of failing future replication. Justin followed up with comments (which he described as a rant but he’s being harsh) about leaving room to make it easier to replicate and being open to this kind of examination of our work: we’re now thinking about making our current studies easier to replicate and better from the outset, but how can we go back and verify all of the older work effectively?
I love the idea of setting aside a few slots in every conference for replication studies. The next challenge is picking the studies but, given each conference has an organising committee, a central theme, and reviewers, perhaps each conference could suggest a set and then the community identify which ones they’re going to have a look at. We want to minimise unnecessary duplication, after all, so some tracking is probably a good idea.
There are several problems to deal with: some political, some scheduling, some scientific, some are just related to how hard it is to read old data formats. None of them are necessarily insurmountable but we have to be professional, transparent and fair in how we manage them. If we’re doing replication studies to improve confidence in the underlying knowledge of the field, we don’t want to damage the community in doing it.
Let me put out a gentle call to action, perhaps for next year, perhaps for the year after. If you’re involved with a conference, why not consider allocating a few slots to replication studies for the key studies in your area, if they haven’t already been replicated? Even the opportunity to have a community discussion about which studies have been effectively replicated will help identify what we can accept as well as showing us what we could fix.
Does your conference have room for a single track, keynote-level session, to devote some time to replication? I’ll propose a Twitter hashtag of #replicationtrack to discuss this and, hey, if we get a single session in one conference out of this, it’s more than we had.
SIGCSE Day 3, “What We Say, What They Do”, Saturday, 9-10:15am, (#SIGCSE2014)Posted: March 9, 2014 Filed under: Education | Tags: CS1, dashboarding, data visualisation, education, EiPE, higher education, neopiaget, programming, SIGCSE2014, SOLO, students, TDD, teaching, teaching approaches, test last, test-driven development, testing, WebCAT 3 Comments
The first paper was “Metaphors we teach by” presented by Ben Shapiro from Tufts. What are the type of metaphors that CS1 instructors use and what are the wrinkles in these metaphors. What do we mean by metaphors? Ben’s talking about conceptual metaphors, linguistic devices to allow us to understand one idea in terms o another idea that we already know. Example: love is a journey – twists and turns, no guaranteed good ending, The structure of a metaphor is that you have a thing we’re trying to explain (the target) in terms of something we already know (the source). Conceptual metaphors are explanatory devices to assist us in understanding new things.
- What metaphors do CS1 instructors use for teaching?
- What are the trying to explain?
- What are the sources that they use?
- Levels taught and number of years
- Tell me about a metahpor
- Target to source mapping
- Common questions students have
- Where the metaphor breaks down
- How to handle the breakdown in teaching.
- Which metaphors work better?
- Cognitive clinical internviews, exploring how students think with metaphors and where incorrect inferences are drawn.
- Constant – even time a goal achieve, you got a hint (Consistently rewards target behaviour)
- Delayed – Hints when earned, at most one hint per hour (less inceptive for hammering the system)
- Random – 50% chance of hints when goal is met. (Should reduce dependency on extrinsic behaviours)
When the Stakes are High, the Tests Had Better Be Up to It.Posted: July 2, 2012 Filed under: Education, Opinion | Tags: advocacy, authenticity, blogging, curriculum, design, education, educational problem, ethics, feedback, Generation Why, higher education, identity, plagiarism, reflection, resources, student perspective, teaching, teaching approaches, testing, thinking, universal principles of design, work/life balance Leave a comment
(This is on the stronger opinion side but, in the case of standardised testing as it is currently practised, this will be a polarising issue. Please feel free to read the next article and not this one.)
A friend on FB (thanks, Julie!) linked me to an article in the Washington Post that some of you may have seen. The article is called “The Complete List of Problems with High-Stakes Standardised Tests” by Marion Brady, in the words of the article. a “teacher, administrator, curriculum designer and author”. (That’s attribution, not scare quotes.)
Brady provides a (rather long but highly interesting) list of problems with the now very widespread standardised testing regime that is an integral part of student assessment in some countries. Here. Brady focuses on the US but there is little doubt that the same problems would exist in other areas. From my readings and discussions with US teachers, he is discussing issues that are well-known problems in the area but they are slightly intimidating when presented as a block.
So many problems are covered here, from an incorrect focus on simplistic repetition of knowledge because it’s easier to assess, to the way that it encourages extrinsic motivations (bribery or punishment in the simplest form), to the focus on test providers as the stewards and guides of knowledge rather than the teachers. There are some key problems, and phrases, that I found most disturbing, and I quote some of them here:
[Teachers oppose the tests because they]
“unfairly advantage those who can afford test prep; hide problems created by margin-of-error computations in scoring; penalize test-takers who think in non-standard ways”
“wrongly assume that what the young will need to know in the future is already known; emphasize minimum achievement to the neglect of maximum performance; create unreasonable pressures to cheat.”
“are open to massive scoring errors with life-changing consequences”
“because they provide minimal to no useful feedback”
This is completely at odds with what we would consider to be reasonable education practice in any other area. If I had comments from students that identified that I was practising 10% of this, I would be having a most interesting discussion with my Head of School concerning what I was doing – and a carpeting would be completely fair! This isn’t how we should teach and we know it.
I spoke yesterday about an assault on critical thinking as being an assault on our civilisation, short-sightedly stabbing away at helping people to think as if it will really achieve what (those trying to undermine critical thinking) actually wanted. I don’t think that anyone can actually permanently stop information spreading, when that information can be observed in the natural world, but short-sightedness, malign manipulation of the truth and ignorance can certainly prevent individuals from gaining access to information – especially if we are peddling the lie that “everything which needs to be discovered is already known.”
We can, we have and we probably (I hope) always will work around these obstacles in information, these dark ages as I referred to them yesterday, but at what cost of the great minds who cannot be applied to important problems because they were born to poor families, in the ‘wrong’ state, in a district with no budget for schools, or had to compete against a system that never encouraged them to actually think?
The child who would have developed free safe power, starship drives, applicable zero-inflation stable economic models, or the “cure for cancer” may be sitting at the back of a poorly maintained, un-airconditioned, classroom somewhere, doodling away, and slowly drifting from us. When he or she encounters the standardised test, unprepared, untrained, and tries to answer it to the extent of his or her prodigious intellect, what will happen? Are you sufficiently happy with the system that you think that this child will receive a fair hearing?
We know that students learn from us, in every way. If we teach something in one way but we reward them for doing something else in a test, is it any surprise that they learn for the test and come to distrust what we talk about outside of these tests? I loathe the question “will this be in the exam” as much as the next teacher but, of course, if that is how we have prioritised learning and rewarded the student, then they would be foolish not to ask this question. If the standardised test is the one that decides your future, then, without doubt, this is the one that you must set as your goal, whether student, teacher, district or state!
Of course, it is the future of the child that is most threatened by all of this, as well as the future of the teaching profession. Poor results on a standardised test for a student may mean significantly reduced opportunity, and reduced opportunity, unless your redemptive mechanisms are first class, means limited pathways into the future. The most insidious thread through all of this is the idea that a standardised test can be easily manipulated through a strategy of learning what the answer should be, to a test question, rather than what it is, within the body of knowledge. We now combine the disadvantaged student having their future restricted, competing against the privileged student who has been heavily channeled into a mode that allows them to artificially excel, with no guarantee that they have the requisite aptitude to enjoy or take advantage of the increased opportunities. This means that both groups are equally in trouble, as far as realising their ambitions, because one cannot even see the opportunity while the other may have no real means for transforming opportunity into achievement.
The desire to control the world, to change the perception of inconvenient facts, to avoid hard questions, to never be challenged – all of these desires appear to be on the rise. This is the desire to make the world bend to our will, the real world’s actual composition and nature apparently not mattering much. It always helps me to remember that Cnut stood in the waves and commanded them not to come in order to prove that he could not control the waves – many people think that Cnut was defeated in his arrogance, when he was attempting to demonstrate his mortality and humility, in the face of his courtiers telling him that he had power above that of mortal men.
How unsurprising that so many people misrepresent this.