Saturday, 28 March 2009

Astonishing new learning method, which doesn't actually work!!

Apparently some pupils at a school in North Tyneside recently took part in an experiment. They crammed for a GCSE for a few hours, while taking exercise breaks in between, and then they took a multiple choice paper on the material. A year later, after four months of traditional teaching, they took a similar paper on different material. The results were... well, I don't know what the results were. The Times article had this to say:
Their average scores were higher for the second paper than for the first one (68 vs 58 per cent). But more than a quarter of students did worse in the second paper, despite the months of preparation.
Yep, that's right. That says absolutely nothing. Who's to say that 1 quarter of students wouldn't have done worse if they'd taken exactly the same paper the very next day? 75% of the students had better grades after traditional teaching than after the new method - whose to say the rest wasn't noise? They don't seem to have a control group cramming in a different manner. According to the article "the repetition is key", but there's exactly nothing in the results that indicates this is the case - they didn't have some other group trying to cram the material in 1h 30 minutes without repeating it.

This might well be a preliminary study, and the techniques it suggests might well prove to be useful in a broader context, but at the moment what they have proven is that trying to cram lots of material in 1 and a half hours is less effective than teaching it over the course of 4 months. Amazing!!

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