December 2006 Archives

A story published the day after Christmas in the Chicago Tribune titled "Schoolwork Beats the Working World" recently caught my eye. According to researchers at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, teenagers and their parents appear to be getting the message that a college education provides a bigger payoff, in the long run, than the quick cash of low-end jobs many teenagers take at the expense of their schoolwork, the article says. The article points out that more and more parents are discouraging their children from taking such jobs when they are in high school. Rather, they want them to ...


If you haven't read about the concept of "flow" in learning, you should take a look at a recent commentary in Education Week titled "Schools That 'Flow'." For years, I have been fascinated by this concept, which was coined by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a psychologist, to describe how skill, interest, and challenge intersect to optimize motivation and performance. I had looked at the concept mostly from the perspective of a writer and a youth sports coach. But the power of how this concept might be used for academic learning in K-12 schools is significant. In their commentary, Brian Bruya and Russell ...


If you believe that intrinsic motivation is a prerequisite for success in school, then you should check out a research effort spearheaded by Mark Van Ryzin, a teaching assistant at the University of Minnesota's College of Education and Human Development. The effort is called the Hope Study and it aims to determine whether motivation to learn increases when schools give students more autonomy, a greater sense of belonging, and more opportunities to pursue individual goals. The study is relatively small, with about 40 schools participating this school year. But that number was just three schools in 2004 when the study ...


To appreciate how passionate some kids are about student academic competitions, you need only watch the National Spelling Bee on ESPN. Those boys and girls in that competition are engaged 100 percent in what they are doing. Other academic events, such as the Siemens-sponsored science competition,, showcase some of the most motivated students in the nation. A colleague recently passed along an article that asks an important question: How might such competitions better inform educators and policymakers about how classroom learning should be designed and education policy crafted to maximize student motivation? The article--which was written for the Education/Evolving ...


In my post from Nov. 27, Sad About Science, I wrote about the struggles of getting students motivated to study science. This week's issue of Education Week has a story that addresses that concern, but also raises questions about fairness and elitism. The story, "Math, Science Academies Favored to Challenge Top-Tier Students," is about the growth of math and science academies, which offer high school students with talent and motivation in those subjects a demanding academic environment. Many of these academies have difficult entrance requirements, prompting some critics to call them elitist and question the fairness of investing public money ...


As a reporter and editor, I have always experienced school choice in a rather abstract way, writing about it as an outsider with no stake in the outcome. To be sure, that helped me maintain my objectivity about a topic that can be very divisive and controversial. But now, I am living it up close and personal, as my oldest son struggles to decide where he will attend high school. In our community, public high school students can choose to attend public high schools other than their assigned one. The program--which offers specialty academic programs in fine arts, biotechnology, and ...


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