Saturday, October 5, 2019

Food for Thought: Self regulated learning and metacognition (Part 1)

Last week, in my email with the Food For Thought link, I attached a very useful document from the Education Endowment Foundation EEF. This site has lots of excellent resources across 14 different categories of toolkits that were mots requested by teachers. Here is the list of categories where resources have been created from educational research. If you click on the topic it should take you to the relevant page on EEF. There is lots of information here that is research-based and tested that could be used to inform our committee work that we are continuing on October 11th. Please take a look at areas that interest you.

In conjunction with the EEF pdf that I shared last week on Metacognition and Self Regulated Learners, I thought that it might be useful this week to ensure that we all have a common understanding of Metacognition. Hence I am sharing two videos depending on your own confidence in this area. If you feel you understand metacognition and know how and why it is important jump to video 2.  The first video is from the Smithsonian Science Education Center that goes through metacognition and provides strategies for adaption in classrooms. Because it is the form of a cartoon it may appear too simplified, however, it does remove many misconceptions that many of us may have about what exactly is Metacognition and how can it be developed in a classroom.

The second video, produced by Dr. Tomas Armstrong although titled 6 Metacognitive Strategies for Middle and High Schoolers ( this is because of the presenter felt that Piaget's developmental model for students points to metacognition being practically useful around the age of 12) I feel is very applicable to teachers of all ages to understand this concept of learning. 

To finish this week's Food for Thought I am going to return to the EEF website and share their findings with you. Evidence suggests the use of ‘metacognitive strategies’ – which get pupils to think about their own learning - can be worth the equivalent of an additional +7 months’ progress when used well. 


Metacognition and self-regulation approaches aim to help pupils think about their own learning more explicitly, often by teaching them specific strategies for planning, monitoring and evaluating their learning. Interventions are usually designed to give pupils a repertoire of strategies to choose from and the skills to select the most suitable strategy for a given learning task.
Self-regulated learning can be broken into three essential components:
  • cognition - the mental process involved in knowing, understanding, and learning;
  • metacognition - often defined as ‘learning to learn’; and
  • motivation - willingness to engage our metacognitive and cognitive skills.
Metacognition and self-regulation approaches have consistently high levels of impact, with pupils making an average of seven months’ additional progress.
These strategies are usually more effective when taught in collaborative groups so that learners can support each other and make their thinking explicit through discussion.
The potential impact of these approaches is high, but can be difficult to achieve in practice as they require pupils to take greater responsibility for their learning and develop their understanding of what is required to succeed.
A number of systematic reviews and meta-analyses have consistently found strategies related to metacognition and self-regulation to have large positive impacts. Most studies have looked at the impact on English or mathematics, though there is some evidence from other subject areas like science, suggesting that the approach is likely to be widely applicable.
The approaches that have been tested tend to involve applying self-regulation strategies to specific tasks involving subject knowledge, rather than learning generic ‘thinking skills’.
The EEF has evaluated a number of programmes that seek to improve ‘learning to learn’ skills. The majority have found positive impacts, although smaller in size (around 2 months’ progress on average) than the average seen in the wider evidence base. For three of these programmes there were indications that they were particularly beneficial for pupils from low income families.
A 2014 study, Improving Writing Quality, used a structured programme of writing development based on a self-regulation strategy. The evaluation found gains, on average, of an additional nine months’ progress, suggesting that the high average impact of self-regulation strategies is achievable in English schools.
The EEF has published guidance on applying the evidence on metacognition and self-regulation in the classroom. The guidance report can be found here."

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Food for Thought: Building on our understanding for GBWD

I hope you all enjoyed GBWD. In the build-up to this GBWD, and information about our brain, stress, and anxiety, I watched several short videos to support thinking behind the documentary Angst. Hence, this week's Food For Thought is three short videos, that I watched over the past few months that you might find interesting. Listening to Dr. Bill Mitchell, Dr Miguel, and watching Matthew Walker, Screenagers, and Angst it has become even clearer to me how inter-related all the aspects of wellbeing are to each other and most importantly how we need to teach our students and our selves that we have control  over our lives, and that we need to stop blaming external factors like work as the cause of our ill-health. 

3 Tips for dealing with stress.

In this video, Joe Piscatella provides 3 tips for dealing with stress. They are short and succinct and align perfectly with previous Food for Thoughts and our philosophies at ISHCMC.

How does stress affect a child’s development and academic potential?

Understanding cognitive development and stress in children can add context to systems of education.
Much of the growth of the human brain happens after birth. While unrelenting stress can damage developing structures of the limbic system, the calibrated challenge can positively stimulate brain growth. Teachers have an important role in assuring students of their safety when taking on new challenges.
Pamela Cantor, M.D. practiced child psychiatry for nearly two decades, specializing in trauma. She founded Turnaround for Children after co-authoring a study on the impact of the 9/11 attacks on New York City schoolchildren. She is a Visiting Scholar in Education at Harvard University and a leader of the Science of Learning and Development Alliance.

You’re Wired for Anxiety. And You’re Wired to Handle It

Dr. Anne Marie Albano, Director of Columbia University Clinic for Anxiety and Related Disorders, traces the biological and evolutionary origins of anxiety, the unique features of anxiety in the 21st
century, and the powerful research and tech-driven treatments that have emerged in recent decades.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Food for Thought: Managing our Minds

Continuing with our links to Global Be Well day this week's Food for Thought links to our mind and how our thinking works, how we react and how this impacts us.

"Learning to manage your mind is crucial to both happiness and success. In this week’s episode of Don’t Tell Me The Score, Simon Mundie sits down with Professor Steve Peters, the English psychiatrist best known for his work in elite sport. He was integral in helping British Cycling become world beaters, has worked with Liverpool FC and the England football team- and has been credited with making arguably the greatest snooker player ever Ronnie O’Sullivan ‘the player he is today’. Steve famously created a model of the mind that was the subject of his first book ‘the Chimp Paradox’. Learning how to manage your inner chimp is the key to peace of mind, and getting ahead in sport and in life. In this episode, Steve explains what the inner chimp is and why we have to nurture it. He also reveals how negative self-beliefs are formed, and what to do about them, as well as the importance of establishing what your values are. He talks about working with kids – the subject of his new book ‘my hidden chimp’- and the importance of basing your self-esteem on the ‘human’ part of your mind. Crucially, he explains why working on your psychological health is one of the most important things you can do."

Although this podcast is 50 minutes long, and you may not be a professional athlete, it has lots of very important information that can help us all better understand ourselves and our children. The first part of the conversation outlines how our minds work and what is the Chimp Paradox. 

In the second half of the conversation, there are very good insights into why we think the way we do, and how we can approach situations differently by controlling our own minds.


Sunday, September 8, 2019

Food for Thought: Reading comprehension and the words we use

Recently, I was visiting classrooms and an IB Diploma English class was watching  Lera Boroditsky's TED talk, How Language Shapes the Way We Think. Looking at the students in dawned on me the nature of the challenge that we face as educators in international schools where 80% of our students are non-native English speakers. I stayed and watched all of the talk because it started me thinking about the complexity of our role not only as subject or skill teachers but also as teachers of the English language. This complexity is exaggerated by the fact that each nationality with its own mother tongue construction of meaning could lead to very different understandings. Although having successfully completed two courses of 'ESL in the Mainstream' during my days of teaching, I realized from this video that there was a big gap in my understanding of EAL students and the immense challenge they face in not only learning English but in the interpretation and application of the language which is needed for high grades in the Diploma.

Hence this week's Food For Thought raises the question of our own understanding of supporting the 80% of our ISHCMC students who are not only learning words in English but also their meaning and interpretation, whilst at the same time carrying their own language's interpretation of the same words/ sentence construction.

In this article from Mindshift, How testing kids for skills hurts those lacking knowledge, two researchers in Wisconsin, Donna Recht and Lauren Leslie, constructed a miniature baseball field and installed it in an empty classroom in a junior high school. They peopled it with four-inch wooden baseball players arranged to simulate the beginning of a game. Then they brought in sixty-four seventh- and eighth-grade students who had been tested both for their general reading ability and their knowledge of baseball.

"The goal was to determine to what extent a child’s ability to understand a text depended on her prior knowledge of the topic. Recht and Leslie chose baseball because they figured lots of kids in junior high school who weren’t great readers nevertheless knew a fair amount about the subject. Each student was asked to read a text describing half an inning of a fictional baseball game and move the wooden figures around the board to reenact the action described."

"Churniak swings and hits a slow bouncing ball toward the shortstop, the passage began. Haley comes in, fields it, and throws to first, but too late. Churniak is on first with a single, Johnson stayed on third. The next batter is Whitcomb, the Cougars’ left-fielder.""I

The conclusion, below, again links to Hattie's work on the effect size of some forms of inquiry pedagogy, where he shows that the effect size is increased when students are pre-loaded with direct instruction before undertaking the inquiry. One could draw the same conclusion from this research about reading comprehension. If this research is applicable to all ages, and in particular our learners of English, then it shows us that we need to be careful when asking students to read as their first introduction to a topic or in the process of understanding a topic/ concept without us having previously provided some direct instruction that provides a background on to which a student can scaffold their understanding.

"It turned out that prior knowledge of baseball made a huge difference in students’ ability to understand the text—more of a difference than their supposed reading level. The kids who knew little about baseball, including the “good” readers, all did poorly. And among those who knew a lot about baseball, the “good” readers and the “bad” readers all did well. In fact, the bad readers who knew a lot about baseball outperformed the good readers who didn’t."

Embedded in our mission we have the achievement culture, and one of its strands revolves around Kind Words. Expanding this concept a little, this last article is from an AEON essay, The way words mean.  As related to our mission it made me wonder if the words we use in our teaching are always as kind as we think because of the embedded culrure and philosophical meaning that so many carry without us realizing. The article links to Lera Boroditsky's research and asks the question; Perhaps the meaning is more sunken into words than we realise? The thinking raised in this essay is useful for all of us as teachers of language but also specifically in subject-specific teaching and use of words and in ToK and its exploration of meaning. 

n his Philosophical Investigations (1953), Ludwig Wittgenstein draws a distinction that mirrors the one between these two ways of meaning. ‘We speak of understanding a sentence,’ he writes, ‘in the sense in which it can be replaced by another which says the same; but also in the sense in which it cannot be replaced by any other........"
"The first kind of understanding points to a peculiar aspect of words and sentences: two of them can mean the same thing. As Wittgenstein points out, we’d never think of replacing one musical theme with another as if they amounted to the same thing. Nor would we equate two different paintings or two different screams. But with many other sentences, understanding the meaning is demonstrated by putting it in other words.
However, the meanings of the music, the painting and the scream seem to be immediately there. ‘A picture tells me itself,’ Wittgenstein writes. There is no way to replace one expression with another without changing the meaning. In these cases, there isn’t really a sense of a meaning apart from the expression itself. It would be perverse to ask someone who has just let loose a chilling scream: ‘What exactly did you mean by that?’ or ‘Could you put that another way?’
Although these two examples of ‘understanding’ might seem of completely different kinds, Wittgenstein insists that they not be divorced from one another. Together, they make up his ‘concept of understanding’. And, indeed, most of our language does seem to lie somewhere along a spectrum between simply designating its meaning and actually embodying it.
On one end of the spectrum, we can imagine, as Wittgenstein does, people who speak a language consisting only of ‘vocal gestures’ – expressions such as ‘hmm’ that communicate only themselves. On the other end lies ‘a language in whose use the “soul” of the words played no part’. Here, ‘meaning-blind’ people, Wittgenstein writes, would use words without experiencing the meanings as connected to the words at all. They would use them the way a mathematician uses an ‘x’ to designate the side of a triangle, without the word seeming to embody the meaning in any way."
The essay leads to this interesting conclusion:

"These problems are not only philosophical. In all kinds of domains – science, technology, politics, religion – we are prone to taking useful interpretations and turning them into frozen and potentially dangerous ideologies. Instead of looking at the concrete application of the words, we disengage them from practice and instill them and the pictures they generate with greater reality than reality itself. We side with the words even when they begin to contradict the reality."

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Food for Thought: Nutrition

For me, nutrition is an interesting strand of the Global Be Well Day programme. It is an area that we all think we know something about, have a perspective on, but in reality, do we know what is right for each of our students? How do we let our own biases affect the way we perceive nutrition or a good or bad diet? 

Hence I thought the best place to start this Food for Thought from is information relating to the question: What is the best diet for humans? The talk below by Eran Segal gives us insight into how what we eat impacts us. Its key finding is that the results show that it isn't just about the food it is about the person eating it. Some of the data that Eran's team discovered goes against what is traditional nutritional advice. We have talked a great deal about the threat of AI and algorithms but in this talk, you will hear about the power of them to help us as individuals shape our diet so it is right for us. This talk links with personalized learning, because as in education Eran's research shows that there is no perfect diet to suit everyone, our response to the food we eat depends on who we are and our microbiomes. 

If we take the information in the talk by Eran Segal it immediately undoes much of the nutritional information that determines how we feed ourselves, our family and students in the school cafeteria. Hence, as personalizing nutrition isn't that easy I just wanted to share some generalized and traditional information that you might find useful when dealing with this topic. The first piece of information comes from the, The Dietary Guidelines that are published every 5 years by the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services. It is designed for professionals to help all individuals ages 2 years and older consume a healthy diet that meets nutrient needs. The focus of the Dietary Guidelines is on disease prevention and health promotion. Although the Dietary Guidelines are not intended to treat disease, it can be adapted by nutrition and health professionals to describe healthy eating to patients and clients.

Finally, I looked at this site, Health Engine, that provided good nutritional information for school students in Australia. The post that I read ended by saying: 

"Habits developed in the formative years of life have a lasting effect on health. As a result parents need to set positive food culture through meal planning, keeping a variety of foods in supply, and setting a good example. The key points to remember as a parent/caretaker include the following:

  • Adequate nutrition will help your child develop maximal intelligence (IQ) and well being.
  • The child should be guided to make independent food choices and eat a variety of foods.
  • Malnutrition and its consequences will be prevented by eating the right kinds and amounts of foods.
  • Encourage your child to practice proper hygiene at all times."

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Food For Thought: Sleep

The second strand from Global Be Well day that I'd like to support your thinking about is sleep. I think that we are far more aware of the importance of sleep and its impact on learning and health than we were ten years ago. Understanding about sleep, its impact on health and wellbeing, doesn't only apply to students, we as adults also need to ensure that we are getting enough sleep so that we are energized and healthy for our lives. So how much sleep do we need?

Below are the recommended sleep times for different age groups as reported in the Independent newspaper article:

Newborns (0 - 3 months): 14-17 hours per day

Infants (4 - 11 months): 12-15 hours per day

Toddlers (1 - 2 years): 11-14 hours per day

Pre-school children (3 - 5 years) 10-13 hours per day

School age children (6 -13 years) 9-11 hours per day

Teenagers (14 - 17 years) 8-10 hours per day

Younger adults (18 - 25 years) 7-9 hours per day

Adults (26 - 64): 7 - 9 hours per day

Older adults (65 years+) 7-8 hours per day

Experts have updated guidelines for the ideal amount of sleep for each age group has run a series of article about the importance of sleep and sleep patterns for adolescents. I have picked out two articles that I think are worth you taking a look at. The first is about why teenagers are sleep deprived. Here is the worrying conclusion to this article

"With more than half of American teenagers living with chronic sleep deprivation, parents and teachers tend to overlook the profound effects it has on kids’ physical, mental and behavioral health. The sleep deficit is not in fact, a normal part of being a teenager. It’s part of an invisible epidemic that we need to start addressing."

The second article is about the consequences of not getting enough sleep. The article raises the question that perhaps the teenage angst, stress depression, and anxiety that we are seeing today is not normal and is partially the result of sleep deprivation.
"It’s a radical thought, but what if the behavior we casually dismiss as “teenage angst” — the moodiness, the constant battles, the sleeping all day, the reckless, impulsive and careless behavior — is not in fact a normal part of being a teen? Or at least, not to the degree we assume it is. What if instead we are doing our teenagers a disservice by writing off as “normal” what are in reality the symptoms of chronic and severe sleep deprivation?
We know that the radical changes that occur in adolescence, including tremendous hormonal shifts and significant brain development, affect teenage behavior. But the physical, mental and behavioral consequences of chronic sleep deprivation are profound, too. With studies showing that 60 to 70% of American teens live with a borderline to severe sleep debt, we need to know how going without their recommended (optimal) nine hours a night affects them."

This article, Synchronizing education to adolescent biology: ‘let teens sleep, start school later’ is an academic paper on sleep and its importance and the link between our biorhythms and our ability to focus and concentrate. Below is the abstract to the article that starts with a good 4-minute Vimeo outlining the research findings. 

"Arne Duncan, US Secretary of State for Education, tweeted in 2013: ‘let teens sleep, start school later’. This paper examines early starts and their negative consequences in the light of key research in the last 30 years in sleep medicine and circadian neuroscience. An overview of the circadian timing system in adolescence leading to changes in sleep patterns is given and underpins the conclusion that altering education times can both improve learning and reduce health risks. Further research is considered from education, sleep medicine and neuroscience studies illustrating these improvements. The implementation of later starts is briefly considered in light of other education interventions to improve learning. Finally, the impact of introducing research-based later starts synchronized to adolescent biology is considered in practical and policy terms."

Here at ISHCMC over the past five years, we have done several things to address the importance of student sleep, most importantly moving the school day fro a 7:25 start to an 8:50 start in secondary. But we must not be complacent as there are still questions we have to ask ourselves about the pressures that students feel to work late on homework as they move up through the school, student time management skills and the use of technology and screen time late at night.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Food For Thought: Understanding being well.

I know that you have all been working hard on Global Be Well Day (GBWD) last week and that we are very close to having our programme for the day, and surrounding days sorted. Over the next few weeks, I am going to dedicate Food for Thought to ensuring that you feel comfortable in your knowledge and understanding regarding each strand so that you can discuss both with students and parents. This week I am sharing information about the brain and its link to mindfulness.

During the summer I obtained a copy of Altered Traits; Science Reveals How Meditation Changes Your Mind, Brain and Body. It is certainly a good book for those who want to discover more about the science behind mindfulness and meditation as this review from PenguinRandom House explains:

"In the last twenty years, meditation and mindfulness have gone from being kind of cool to becoming an omnipresent Band-Aid for fixing everything from your weight to your relationship to your achievement level. Unveiling here the kind of cutting-edge research that has made them giants in their fields, Daniel Goleman and Richard Davidson show us the truth about what meditation can really do for us, as well as exactly how to get the most out of it.Two New York Times–bestselling authors unveil new research showing what meditation can really do for the brain.

In the last twenty years, meditation and mindfulness have gone from being kind of cool to becoming an omnipresent Band-Aid for fixing everything from your weight to your relationship to your achievement level. Unveiling here the kind of cutting-edge research that has made them giants in their fields, Daniel Goleman and Richard Davidson show us the truth about what meditation can really do for us, as well as exactly how to get the most out of it.
Sweeping away common misconceptions and neuromythology to open readers’ eyes to the ways data has been distorted to sell mind-training methods, the authors demonstrate that beyond the pleasant states mental exercises can produce, the real payoffs are the lasting personality traits that can result. But short daily doses will not get us to the highest level of lasting positive change—even if we continue for years—without specific additions. More than sheer hours, we need smart practice, including crucial ingredients such as targeted feedback from a master teacher and a more spacious, less attached view of the self, all of which are missing in widespread versions of mind training. The authors also reveal the latest data from Davidson’s own lab that point to a new methodology for developing a broader array of mind-training methods with larger implications for how we can derive the greatest benefits from the practice.
Exciting, compelling, and grounded in new research, this is one of those rare books that has the power to change us at the deepest level.

Sweeping away common misconceptions and neuromythology to open readers’ eyes to the ways data has been distorted to sell mind-training methods, the authors demonstrate that beyond the pleasant states mental exercises can produce, the real payoffs are the lasting personality traits that can result. But short daily doses will not get us to the highest level of lasting positive change—even if we continue for years—without specific additions. More than sheer hours, we need smart practice, including crucial ingredients such as targeted feedback from a master teacher and a more spacious, less attached view of the self, of which are missing in widespread versions of mind training. The authors also reveal the latest data from Davidson’s own lab that point to a new methodology for developing a broader array of mind-training methods with larger implications for how we can derive the greatest benefits from the practice."

In this 25 minute talk (not TED) Daniel Goleman talks about his background in studying meditation, levels of study, how we all benefit regardless of our different levels of mindfulness experience, data on student benefits and how it can impact our desire to take action to help others. He summarizes the key content of the 6,000 peer-reviewed research papers that show the changes that mindfulness practice can bring to us.

This article from Tricycle links with the above works and reinforces how consistent practice, as we have been told many times, is needed to develop altered traits. The article identifies traits that may also occur beyond those associated with a well being focussed approach to meditative practice.

The sense of a life mission centered on practice numbers among those elements so often left behind in Asia, but that may matter greatly. Among others that might, in fact, be crucial for cultivating altered traits:
  • An ethical stance, a set of moral guidelines that facilitate the inner changes on the path. Many traditions urge such an inner compass, lest any abilities developed be used for personal gain.
  • Altruistic intention, where the practitioner invokes the strong motivation to practice for the benefit all others, not just oneself.
  • Grounded faith, the mindset that a particular path has value and will lead you to the transformation you seek. Some texts warn against blind faith and urge students to do what we call today “due diligence” in finding a teacher.
  • Personalized guidance, a knowledgeable teacher who coaches you on the path, giving you the advice you need to go the next step.
  • Devotion, a deep appreciation for all the people, principles, and such that make practice possible. Devotion can also be to the qualities of a divine figure, a teacher, or the teacher’s altered traits or quality of mind.
  • Community, a supportive circle of friends on the path who are themselves dedicated to practice.
  • A supportive culture, traditional Asian cultures have long recognized the value of people who devote their life to transforming themselves to embody virtues of attention, patience, compassion, and so on. Those who work and have families willingly support those who dedicate themselves to deep practice by giving the money, feeding them, and otherwise making life easier. This is often not the case in modern societies.
  • Potential for altered traits, the very idea that these practices can lead to a liberation from our ordinary mind states—not self-improvement—has always framed these practices, fostering respect or reverence for the path and those on it."

How a Consistent and Stable Meditation Practice Leads to Altered Traits