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May 25th, 2009

OWL’S HOOTS NO. 7 – May 25th, 2009

Early childhood education, the importance of teacher quality and training to students’ gains from schooling. Museums and schools and the impact of the digital revolution: those organisations which have failed to take advantage of the revolution have “withered where they stood! And do directors of Art Museums know what they are talking about?

More on education, learning and schooling: (I have been reading extensively about this topic. The literature is extensive, the research of the highest quality and the notice taken by many politicians and the media of the findings has been less than impressive.)

Here are excerpts from some of the papers.

Early childhood: Early experiences have uniquely powerful influence on the development of cognitive and social skills and on brain architecture and neurochemistry; both skill development and brain maturation are hierarchical processes in which higher level functions depend on, and build on, lower level functions and the capacity for change in the foundations of human skill development and neural circuitry is highest earlier in life and decreases over time. These findings lead to the conclusion that the most efficient strategy for strengthening the future workforce, both economically and neurobiologically, and improving its quality of life is to invest in the environments of disadvantaged children during the early childhood years.

“Economic, neurobiological, and behavioral perspectives on building America’s future workforce”, Eric I. Knudsen, James J. Heckman et al, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences vol. 103 no. 27, p10155″“10162 (July 5, 2006)

This is an incredibly important paper bringing together neurobiological, behavioural and economic perspectives from studies of humans and other animals which make it absolutely clear that failure to invest significantly in early childhood development makes cognitive development in later life more difficult and more expensive. It also makes clear that health of the mother during pregnancy and involvement of the mother in early years of the child’s life is critical!

A wealth of research makes clear that these issues are particularly significant for families at the lower socio-economic levels of society. Early childhood intervention is not child minding but must involve qualified early childhood educators. Think of parental leave and the costs of good support in early life, the experiences of urban settings of high rise apartments and the lives of “minority” families which are portrayed time and again in TV police dramas.

What matters is the quality of the teacher: Whereas students’ literacy skills, general academic achievements, attitudes, behaviours and experiences of schooling are influenced by their background and intake characteristics ““ the magnitude of these effects pale into insignificance compared with class/teacher effects. That is, the quality of teaching and learning provision are by far the most salient influences on students’ cognitive, affective, and behavioural outcomes of schooling ““ regardless of their gender or backgrounds. Indeed, findings from the related local and international evidence-based research indicate that “˜what matters most’ is quality teachers and teaching, supported by strategic teacher professional development!

“The Importance of Teacher Quality as Key Determinant of Students’ Experiences and Outcomes of Schooling”, Kenneth J. Rowe (Australian Council for Educational Research), discussion paper prepared on behalf of the Interim Committee for NSW Institute of Teachers (available on the NSW Institute of Teachers web site).


Teacher training and teacher effectiveness: Measures of teacher preparation and certification are by far the strongest correlates of student achievement in reading and mathematics, both before and after controlling for student poverty and language status.

“Teacher Quality and Student Achievement: Review of State Policy Evidence”, Lind Darling-Hammond, Education Policy Analysis Archives vol 8 no. 1, 2000

And again:

Teachers’ effectiveness appears strongly related to the preparation they have received for teaching.

“Does Teacher Preparation Matter? Evidence about Teacher Certification, Teach for America, and Teacher Effectiveness”, Lind Darling-Hammond et al, available here.

(This paper refutes the proposition that teachers don’t really need training in how to teach, what they need is strong background knowledge of content. Young people with degrees in various subjects were recruited as part of the “Teach for America” program in the US and given few weeks of training and then sent to schools where the majority of students were from “minority” backgrounds.)

Museums and Schools: the digital revolution and its consequences. This was one of the papers delivered at the Museums and the Web conference in Indianapolis earlier this year. link to the site for that conference takes you to the video of talk by Maxwell Anderson, now director of the Indianapolis Museum of Art.

The past fifteen years of the digital revolution have seen transformation of cultural content and experiences through the use of new information and communication technologies (ICTs) such as the Web. These technologies have radically changed the types of content that are created and how it is distributed and used. The chains of connection from originating source to end user have been remade so as to be completely different from those of less than generation ago.

The effects of these “˜disruptive technologies’ has arguably been most profoundly felt in the cultural and informational industries: news, entertainment and education. In the publishing, broadcasting and recorded music industries, the landscape has been completely reworked by the new digital supply chains and the business models that they enable. Those content producers and providers that have not embraced new models for distribution on-line have been usurped or have withered where they stood.

“Building Digital Distribution Systems For School-Based Users Of Museum Content: New initiatives in Australia and Canada”, Darren Peacock, University of South Australia, Australia; Stuart Tait, The Learning Federation, Australia; Corey Timpson, Canadian Heritage Information Network, Canada, In J. Trant and D. Bearman (eds). Museums and the Web 2009: Proceedings. Toronto: Archives & Museum Informatics. Published March 31, 2009.

Museums and Audiences: challenge: Thomas Campbell, the new director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, says that engaging visitors who don’t feel comfortable is one of his primary challenges. “There is an enormous potential audience that simply isn’t coming here,” he says. “They come for school trips, but it wouldn’t occur to them to come again. Without sacrificing standards, we need to remind people that coming to the museum is not big deal. You’re not taking test. You don’t have to prove you know about the artists. It’s just fun.” Extract from “Reshaping the Art Museum” by Robin Cembalest in Art News June 2009

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