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As ever, Nic, your posts are informative and a pleasure to read & consider.

I'd like to add another issue that impacts our work, though it is not specific to learning assistance or developmental education.  It's about statistics and research.

For many people,  the "gold standard" of traditional quantitative research is the ability to claim statistical significance.   I am over-simplifying, but we look for methods that work 95% of the time.  If we try Method G and it appears to help students, then we try G again and through statistics we find that such good results probably didn't occur by chance.  So we share our results through publications and presentations.  If we try Method G that second time and do not get results that are statistically significant, we might try again, but we aren't as likely to share, nor are publications and conferences especially interested in accepting what doesn't work.  So one person who gets good results is heard, while many who don't get those awesome and/or consistent results sit back and feel bad about the failure.  

I once suggested -- not totally in jest -- that we need a forum for failures.  It would give us all a much richer view of the realities.  Anonymity, of course, would be critical.  ;)

So the idea that context and individuality, student and instructor differences, institutional culture and program management are all integral to successful learning is not a cop-out or easy excuse.  The way we measure success does need to be reconsidered and made much richer than the happy-anecdote qualitative study or p-value quantitative study alone.  Learning IS a complex process.

-----Original Message-----
From: Open Forum for Learning Assistance Professionals [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Nic Voge
Sent: Friday, April 27, 2012 9:28 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Information about the Cone' fabricated data

Well said, Patricia. I couldn't agree more about the over-application of general statements about learning. Virtually all of the statements I make to students are prefaced with, "It depends..."

However, I would add an additional reason why these statements are made and are appealing beyond mere fadishness. Much work on learning processes and strategies comes out of an experimental psychological paradigm. In an effort to emulate the natural sciences, most psychological science seeks to make universal statements about human processes. This is both an imperative and an assumption of much  
psychological research.   However, in our field we are usually making  
statements about, as you quote, "methods" (approaches, strategies, techniques, tools) and these are inherently applied and contextual.  
Thus, variety is introduced by the individual learner and the situations in which he/she is acting in ways that experiments seek to control and thus eliminate.  In short, there is a tendency to make claims about the application and reach of these principles without proper qualification. Experiments ARE contexts, and they are quite different than the contexts of  college classrooms in many respects.

There are alternative theoretical and research paradigms that have   
been developed that are better suited to our work than conventional experimental psychology. There is, for instance, a much more robust tradition--I am told--in studying individual differences in the continental tradition of psychological research. Additionally, situated learning and literacy, cognitive anthropology, phenomenology, and other socio-cultural and socio-cognitive approaches do a much better job of theorizing and accounting for the contexts of learning.  
But, we don't have to get all theoretical about it. Our experience tells us that these general statements are insufficient, and similar observations were made long before highfalutin' terms like "situated cognition" were ever  imagined. Mina Shaughnessey made a compelling case over 30 years ago in her book Errors and Expectations. Her thesis could be simplified to: We must understand the institutional expectations  if we are going to understand students' errors.  
Correspondingly, I would argue, we must understand the context (and more importantly, students must understand their learning situations), if we are to create or "choose" appropriate learning strategies.

Thanks for raising this point,
Nic
On Apr 27, 2012, at 9:47 AM, Maher, Patricia wrote:

> Hello Saundra and others in this conversation,
>
> I have been following it and enjoying it, and also want to follow up 
> Saundra's encouraging words to all of you who offer your expertise 
> here.
> So I couldn't resist this one and thanks to  Saundra for sharing the 
> link where this was debunked.
>
> As learning specialists, this statement from the website article 
> should become our mantra . . .
>
> " general statements on the effectiveness of learning methods are not 
> credible---learning results depend on too many variables to enable 
> such precision."
>
> Having been in education for longer than I care to admit, I have 
> always worried about the tendency in the field to latch on to the 
> latest "recipe" for success.  And yes, in many of the study skills 
> books and materials we all use still do this.  In our workshops, we 
> emphasize  that learning is complicated, highly individualized,
> contextual, and that there are no "one size fits all" strategies.   
> We focus on helping students understand their own learning profiles, 
> and then help them learn to  analyze the learning tasks, leading to 
> strategies based on the task and capitalizing on their learning 
> preferences, or determining how they may need to develop adaptive 
> strategies.  Better understanding the task is what should drive the 
> strategic approach.  We refer to it and understanding the "target 
> zone"  In our Strategic Learning class we use the Let Me Learn system 
> for this.  But in workshops, where we only have an hour, the point is 
> simply to debunk the idea that there is one way to !
> study and learn, and focus on the task analysis.
>
> And by the way, the "Count the Vowels" activity (which I picked up on 
> this listserve!)  is a great interactive exercise to demonstrate this 
> idea of studying with the wrong target zone in mind.  I wrap up the 
> discussion with this quick funny video on the target zone:
>
>  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kE8CUT66AMs
>
> Comments from the students after attending this workshop regularly 
> mention that they never thought to think first about the task before 
> they determine how to proceed.
>
> Thanks for all the great ideas and discussions.  Keep them coming!
>
>
> Pat
>
> Patricia A. Maher, Ph. D.
> Director, Tutoring and Learning Services University of South Florida
> 4202 E. Fowler Ave.
> Tampa, FL  33620
> LIB 206
> (813)974-5141
> [log in to unmask]
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Open Forum for Learning Assistance Professionals [mailto:[log in to unmask] 
> ] On Behalf Of Saundra Y McGuire
> Sent: Friday, April 27, 2012 9:08 AM
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: Information about the Cone' fabricated data
>
> http://www.willatworklearning.com/2006/05/people_remember.html
>
>
> Saundra McGuire, Ph.D.
> Assistant Vice Chancellor for Learning, Teaching, and Retention  
> Professor, Department of Chemistry 135A T Boyd Hall Louisiana State  
> University Baton Rouge, LA 70803
> 225.578.6749 phone
> Saundra Y. McGuire, Ph.D.
> [log in to unmask]
>
>
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Open Forum for Learning Assistance Professionals [mailto:[log in to unmask] 
> ] On Behalf Of M.E. McWilliams
> Sent: Thursday, April 26, 2012 7:29 PM
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: Re: A great website
>
> The website listed below claims that Edgar Dale's Cone of Experience  
> fabricates percentages but doesn't give documentation to  
> substantiate that claim.  I have used the pictured chart in several  
> workshops so the matter is of concern to me. Anyone have a comment  
> on the subject?
>
> wOO HoO!
> M.E. McWilliams
> AARC Tutoring Center Director
> FACEBOOK US!
> Stephen F. Austin State University
> 936 468 1439
>
> The views and opinions expressed in this message are my own and do  
> not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Stephen F. Austin  
> State University, its Board of Regents, or the State of Texas.
>
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Open Forum for Learning Assistance Professionals [mailto:[log in to unmask] 
> ] On Behalf Of Saundra Y McGuire
> Sent: Monday, April 23, 2012 11:53 PM
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: A great website
>
> https://sites.google.com/a/uwlax.edu/exploring-how-students-learn/
>
>
>
>
> Saundra McGuire, Ph.D.
> Assistant Vice Chancellor for Learning, Teaching, and Retention  
> Professor, Department of Chemistry 135A T Boyd Hall Louisiana State  
> University Baton Rouge, LA 70803
> 225.578.6749 phone
> Saundra Y. McGuire, Ph.D.
> [log in to unmask]
>
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__________________________________
Dominic (Nic) J. Voge
[log in to unmask]
(609)258-6921
http://www.princeton.edu/mcgraw/us/

Associate Director
McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning
328C Frist Campus Center
Princeton University
Princeton, NJ 08544

Individual Appointment Times:
By appointment for Fall  2011




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