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Bill Gates speaks on education

#1 User is online   kenberg 

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Posted 2013-April-04, 06:39

Although Bill Gates is mostly famous as a bridge player and supporter of BBO, he recently wrote a piece on education that might be of interest.


The bit about evaluating phys ed teaching gave me a good chuckle, but I think it has a serious side, just as he intends.


In one Midwestern state, for example, a 166-pagePhysical Education Evaluation Instrument holds teachers accountable for ensuring that students meet state-defined targets for physical education, such as consistently demonstrating "correct skipping technique with a smooth and effortless rhythm" and "strike consistently a ball with a paddle to a target area with accuracy and good technique." I'm not making this up!

My point, and perhaps his: I regard phys ed classes as important, actually as quite important. But when I look back on my own gym classes, it would never occur to me to fret that I never learned to skip rope well. It's as if the people who advocate these evaluations have absolutely no sense of what is important. If an evaluation can provide a number for assessment then that is, for them, a good thing. Whether or not the evaluation measures anything of importance seems not to matter. I regret to say that I have often had much the same feeling about standardized testing for mathematics achievement. For example, when I took geometry as a fourteen year old it really came home to me that the subject was a conceptual whole, governed by axioms, definitions and theorems. I don't much see standardized tests as examining such understanding.

Whether it is gym or math, these standardized tests seem destined to reduce education to trivialities.

#2 User is offline   barmar 

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Posted 2013-April-04, 08:23

View Postkenberg, on 2013-April-04, 06:39, said:

Although Bill Gates is mostly famous as a bridge player and supporter of BBO, he recently wrote a piece on education that might be of interest.

I heard he started a software company, too. I wonder what happened with that?

The people who create standardized tests are obviously well-intentioned. If education is important, it's obviously important to know whether we're doing it well. We want to reward teachers and administrators who are doing a good job, and encourage underperforming ones to improve (or replace them).

But this is much easier said than done. Beyond the basic skills taught in grade school (reading, writing, arithmetic), most people don't need to know many of the things we learn in school. When a kid says "Why do I need to learn algebra, I'm never going to use this", they're probably right. Unless you eventually go into fields like physics or engineering, what's mostly important in high school STEM classes is learning "how to think", not the specific material being taught; also, exposing students to this material will help them decide if they want to pursue these fields as careers.

Sports is similar. Few of us are going to become professional athletes, it doesn't matter if we play any sports with any expertise. What's mostly important for Phys Ed is that the kids get a decent amount of physical activity, and this encourages them to stay active as adults.

But when you're evaluating the success of an educator, it's really hard to measure these vague results. So we have tests of specific skills, because those can be measured objectively. It's like the story of the guy who loses his glasses in the bar, but looks for them outside under a street lamp because the light is better there. The inevitable result, in most cases, is that schools and teachers "teach to the test", rather than teaching what's really important.

It's a Catch-22, with some riduculous consequences very much like in the book/movie.

#3 User is online   PassedOut 

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Posted 2013-April-04, 16:26

Perhaps administrators will find an objective way of evaluating software grading programs: New Test for Computers: Grading Essays at College Level


EdX, the nonprofit enterprise founded by Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to offer courses on the Internet, has just introduced such a system and will make its automated software available free on the Web to any institution that wants to use it. The software uses artificial intelligence to grade student essays and short written answers, freeing professors for other tasks.

The new service will bring the educational consortium into a growing conflict over the role of automation in education. Although automated grading systems for multiple-choice and true-false tests are now widespread, the use of artificial intelligence technology to grade essay answers has not yet received widespread endorsement by educators and has many critics.

Anant Agarwal, an electrical engineer who is president of EdX, predicted that the instant-grading software would be a useful pedagogical tool, enabling students to take tests and write essays over and over and improve the quality of their answers. He said the technology would offer distinct advantages over the traditional classroom system, where students often wait days or weeks for grades.

My conjecture is that a fair number of students will study up on how to get good grades from the program instead of fully mmastering the course material. And what will become of TAs?
The growth of wisdom may be gauged exactly by the diminution of ill temper. Friedrich Nietzsche
The infliction of cruelty with a good conscience is a delight to moralists that is why they invented hell. Bertrand Russell

#4 User is offline   mike777 

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Posted 2013-April-04, 16:44

This is just part of the debate of how educators should be measured or if they should be measured and compared at all.

Perhaps more important is to look at the lack of empirical evidence that shows raising the general level of education raises income at the level of a country. However wealth leads to a rise of education.

Education can stabilize the income of families across generations and it is helpful in building credentials for one's own career. It is just these effects don't count for countries.

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