UNIT: Basic Theories of Learning and Education
Issue: Can Psychological Science Improve the Quality of Education?
Yes: Edward L Thorndike, from "The Contribution of Psychology to Education," Journal of Educational Psychology (1910)
No: John Dewey, from "Education as Engineering," The New Republic (1922)
Edward Thorndike argued that psychology forms the basis of educational practice and the knowledge generated by the discipline will promote better practices. Moreover, he argued that the procedures psychologists use to generate knowledge can be used directly to improve progress toward educational goals. John Dewey acknowledged that while psychological science may be good at improving current practices, it is limited in making progress in education. Psychological science does not promote revolutionary changes that support progressive education.
Issue: Should Students Be Free?
Yes: Carl Rogers, from "Difficulties and Opportunities: The Challenge of Present-Day Teaching," Charles Merrill Publishing (1969)
No: B. F. Skinner, from "A Technology of Behavior,” “Values,” “What Is Man?” in Beyond Freedom & Dignity, Hackett Publishing (1971)
Founder of humanistic psychology Carl Rogers argued that students learn best when they are allowed to be autonomous and can exercise choice. He proposed that learning be based on students’ own curiosity and inner meaning. Founder of behaviorism B. F. Skinner argued that any notion of personal freedom is an illusion. He offers a critique of “inner freedom” and proposes that all learning and motivation is influenced by external forces.
Issue: Are Constructivist Teaching Methods Superior to Traditional Methods of Teaching?
Yes: Sam Hausfather, from "Content and Process in Constructivist Teacher Education," Kendal Hunt Publishing (2002)
No: R. E. Clark, P. A. Kirschner, and J. Sweller, from "Putting Students on the Path to Learning: The Case for Fully Guided Instruction," American Educator (2012)
Sam Hausfather argues that constructivism, which challenges the stability of content knowledge, improves teaching by focusing teaching students not only on content knowledge but also on the processes involved in producing it. Richard Clark and colleagues argue that ideal learning environments differ between experts and novices and that constructivist pedagogy, which fosters individual discovery without full guidance from the teacher, has not proven to be ideal for novice learners.
Issue: Should Schools Aim for Students' "Happiness"?
Yes: Nel Noddings, from "What Does It Mean to Educate the WHOLE CHILD?" Educational Leadership (2005)
No: Kenneth R Stunkel, from "Quality in Liberal Education and Illusions of the Academy," Liberal Education (1999)
Nel Noddings argues that schools should be “genuinely happy places” to remind us why we engage in academics and to address children as they are, “whole persons.” Kenneth Stunkel observes that the decline of liberal studies in college is fostered by an increasing number of academically unprepared students every year and identifies that a major problem has been in accepting and enforcing academic standards regardless of student background.
UNIT: Basic Educational Issues
Issue: Are International Comparisons Helpful?
Yes: OECD, from "Learning from High Performing Education Systems," OECD Publishing (2011)
No: Anna Dall, from "Is PISA Counter-Productive to Building Successful Educational Systems?" Social Alternatives (2011)
The OECD argues that if a country is committed to children and their education, the real test of their commitment is how they prioritize education against other commitments, such as youth sports. International comparisons therefore help illuminate why the United States is outperformed by other countries in math, science, and reading. Anna Dall argues that the PISA model is problematic and is counterproductive to building a successful educational system. She critiques the testing culture and believes that there needs to be a paradigm shift away from test performance.
Issue: Do Recent Discoveries About the Brain Have Implications for Classroom Practice?
Yes: Judy Willis, from "Building a Bridge from Neuroscience to the Classroom," Phi Delta Kappan (2008)
No: Dan Willingham, from "When and How Neuroscience Applies to Education," Phi Delta Kappan (2008)
Judy Willis argues that current research on brain function does inform educational practice and she provides some examples from recent brain science findings. Dan Willingham argues that not every finding about how the brain works can or should lead to an accommodation of educational practice.
Issue: Can Schools Close the Achievement Gap between Students from Different Ethnic and Racial Backgrounds?
Yes: Carol Corbett Burris and Kevin G Welner, from "Closing the Achievement Gap by Detracking," Phi Delta Kappan (2005)
No: William H. Schmidt, Leland S. Cogan, and Curtis C. McKnight, from "Equality of Educational Opportunity: Myth or Reality in U.S. Schooling?" American Educator (2010-2011)
Carol Burris and Kevin Welner argue that the achievement gap between whites and African American and Latino students can be closed by “detracking” and having similarly high expectations and similar curricular demands on all students. William Schmidt and colleagues argue that minority students are exposed to pervasive and persistent inequalities that make school-based reforms unrealistic.
UNIT: Best Practices
Issue: Does Grading Help Students Learn?
Yes: Kyle Spencer, from "Standards-Based Grading," Harvard Education Letter (2012)
No: Alfie Kohn, from "The Case Against Grades," Educational Leadership (2011)
Kyle Spencer argues that grades provide useful information if they are linked to standards, or targeted competencies to be acquired. Alfie Kohn argues that grades interfere with learning because they subvert one’s enjoyment of learning and lead the student to work for grades instead.
Issue: Is Full Inclusion Always the Best Option for Children with Disabilities?
Yes: Michael F Giangreco, from "Extending Inclusive Opportunities," Educational Leadership (2007)
No: James M. Kauffman, Kathleen McGee, and Michele Brigham, from "Enabling or Disabling? Observations on Changes in Special Education," Phi Delta Kappan (2004)
Michael F. Giangreco argues that even students with severe disabilities are best served within the “regular” education classroom along with their typically developing peers. James M. Kauffman and colleagues argue that the goal of education for students with disabilities should be to increase their level of competence and independence.
Issue: Are Single-Gender Classes Necessary to Create Equal Opportunities for Boys and Girls?
Yes: Frances R. Spielhagen, from "How Tweens View Single-Sex Classes," Educational Leadership (2006)
No: Kelley King and Michael Gurian, from "Teaching to the Minds of Boys," Educational Leadership (2006)
Frances Spielhagen argues that single-gender classes are viewed as more conducive to learning than are coeducational classes by students, especially younger students. Kelley King and Michael Gurian argue that coeducational classrooms can be made to be more accommodating to the learning profiles of both boys and girls.
Issue: Does Homework Improve Student Achievement?
Yes: Swantje Dettmers, et al., from "Homework Works if Homework Quality Is High: Using Multilevel Modeling to Predict the Development of Achievement in Mathematics," Journal of Educational Psychology (2010)
No: Harris Cooper, et al., from "Relationships Among Attitudes About Homework, Amount of Homework Assigned and Completed, and Student Achievement," Journal of Educational Psychology (1998)
On the basis of a one-year, two-time point, longitudinal study of a nationally representative German sample of high school students in Grade 9, Swantje Dettmers and colleagues demonstrated that high homework quality fosters motivation to do homework, which in turn leads to higher achievement over time among high school students. Although advocates of homework in general, Harris Cooper and colleagues conducted a study of parents, teachers, and students at lower and upper grades and found that the amount of homework assigned was associated with negative student attitudes weakly related to student grades.
Issue: Is Parental Involvement in Education Critical for Student Achievement?
Yes: Nancy E. Hill and Diana F. Tyson, from "Parental Involvement in Middle School: A Meta-Analytic Assessment of the Strategies That Promote Achievement," Developmental Psychology (2009)
No: Cecilia S. S. Cheung and Eva M Pomerantz, from "Value Development Underlies the Benefits of Parents' Involvement in Children's Learning: A Longitudinal Investigation in the United States and China,” Journal of Educational Psychology (2015)
Nancy Hill and Diana Tyson conducted a meta-analysis and found a positive and significant association for most types of parental involvement even after considering publication biases. Cecilia S. S. Cheung and Eva M. Pomerantz demonstrated that the association between parental involvement and students’ academic achievement could be explained by the parent–child transmission of values placed on academics.
Issue: Should We Be "Tiger" Parents?
Yes: Ruth K. Chao and Christine Aque, from "Interpretations of Parental Control by Asian Immigrant and European American Youth," Journal of Family Psychology (2009)
No: Su Yeong Kim, et al., from "Does 'Tiger Parenting' Exist? Parenting Profiles of Chinese Americans and Adolescent Developmental Outcomes," Asian American Journal of Psychology (2013)
Ruth Chao and Christine Aque argue that parental control can be viewed as a virtue, especially in Asian-influenced cultures. They conduct a cross-sectional study that demonstrates that Asian youth report lower levels of anger on average in reaction to parental strictness and limit setting compared to European Americans, and that parental control will be effective as long as it does not make youth angry. Su Yeong Kim and colleagues found that tiger parenting was not common perhaps because it is maladaptive. They conducted a 3-point longitudinal study spanning 8 years to demonstrate that tiger parenting existed among Chinese immigrant families in the United States but did not have beneficial influences over time.
UNIT: Educational Interventions
Issue: Should Schools Use Cash Incentives to Promote Educational Goals?
Yes: W. David Pierce, et al., from "Positive Effects of Rewards and Performance Standards on Intrinsic Motivation," The Psychological Record (2003)
No: Roy F. Baumeister, from "Choking Under Pressure: Self-Consciousness and Paradoxical Effects of Incentives on Skillful Performance," Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (1984)
W. D. Pierce and colleagues demonstrated that cash rewards can promote intrinsic motivation, particularly if the rewards are used progressively (i.e., after work is completed, more work is given to individuals after cash is given) compared to when rewards were not used and/or given work constantly. Thus, rewarding individuals with cash followed by giving them more work communicates positive messages that significantly enhance intrinsic motivation. Roy Baumeister conducted a classic series of experiments that underscore how situations that demand performance, including the use of cash incentives, cause the individual to “choke”—or fail—due to increased self-consciousness. The role of cash in this study was to communicate “pressure.”
Issue: Is There Anything Good about Abstinence-Only Sex Education?
Yes: Elaine A Borawski, et al., from "Effectiveness of Abstinence-Only Intervention in Middle School Teens," American Journal of Health Behavior (2005)
No: Kathrin F. Stanger-Hall and David W. Hall, from "Abstinence-Only Education and Teen Pregnancy Rates: Why We Need Comprehensive Sex Education in the U.S.," PLoS One (2011)
Elaine Borawski and colleagues tested an abstinence-only sex education curriculum against a matched control group of middle school students in seven schools. They demonstrated that an abstinence-until-marriage curriculum can positively influence abstinence as well as reduce the frequency of sex among sexually experienced youths. Kathrin Stanger-Hall and David Hall argue that as a matter of policy an abstinence-only curriculum is ineffective in reducing teen sex. They show that the more the states emphasized abstinence in sex education programs, the higher their teen pregnancy and birth rates.
Issue: Does Reducing Class Size Improve Student Achievement?
Yes: Jeremy D. Finn, Susan B. Gerber, and Jayne Boyd-Zaharias, from "Small Classes in the Early Grades, Academic Achievement, and Graduating from High School," Journal of Educational Psychology (2005)
No: Eric A Hanushek, from "The Tennessee Class Size Experiment (Project STAR)," Economic Policy Institute (2002)
Jeremy Finn and colleagues analyzed longitudinal data based on a subsample of children who were tracked from kindergarten to high school because they participated in Project STAR. They found that 4 years of small classes in K-3 during Project STAR was associated with a significant increase in the likelihood of graduating from high school. Eric Hanushek contends that there is little evidence that supports any beneficial effects of classroom reduction, nor does it indicate what effects could be expected from reductions.
Issue: Are School-Wide Anti-Bullying Programs Effective?
Yes: Antti Kärnä, et al., from "Going to Scale: A Nonrandomized Nationwide Trial of the KiVa Antibullying Program for Grades 1-9," Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology (2011)
No: Sabina Low and Mark Van Ryzin, from "The Moderating Effects of School Climate on Bullying Prevention Efforts," School Psychology Quarterly (2014)
Antti Kärnä, with support from a team of experts and colleagues, reported upon the positive effects of a nationwide school-based anti-bullying program in Finland. Sabina Low and Mark Van Ryzin propose and provide evidence that a positive psychosocial school climate plays a foundational role in the effective prevention of bullying.
Issue: Are Charter Schools Advancing Educational Reforms?
Yes: RAND Education, from "Are Charter Schools Making a Difference? A Study of Student Outcomes in Eight States (Research Brief)," RAND Corporation (2009)
No: Martin Carnoy, et al., from "Worth the Price? Weighing the Evidence on Charter School Achievement," Education Finance and Policy (2006)
Based on the results from data gathered across eight states, RAND researchers found that charter schools can make a difference with regard to long-term student attainment despite their lack of progress on achievement-related indicators compared to traditional public schools. Martin Carnoy and colleagues question whether any gains observed by charter schools is worth the price of closing down traditional public schools. They point out that charters have not made any progress related to achievement when compared to traditional public schools and recreate many of the same problems associated with public schools rather than take advantage of the autonomy to create educational innovations.