Monthly Archives: September 2012

In the News: More on Algebra!


Here’s something we found online that seems like a good math resource for adult education practitioners:

Check out this article/lesson plan from Patrick Honner in the New York Times:
N Ways to Apply Algebra With The New York Times *

In this article/lesson plan, Patrick shares some real world applications of math that can be investigated using information in the New York Times (or many other newspapers), such as:

  • Mathematically Modeling Mortgages
  • Ranking and Evaluating Colleges
  • Calculating Car Costs
  • Algebra of the Election
  • Olympic Algebra
  • Solving for Stocks

All too often workbooks teach the algebra embedded in these examples with a “one-right-way” plug-it-into-the-formula process. The examples in this article foster a much more open ended, problem-solving approach to applying Algebra in real-world settings.

This approach fosters the development of algebraic thinking, not just the short-term ability to plug numbers into formulas.  As we stated previously:

Algebraic thinking involves recognizing and analyzing patterns, studying and representing relationships, making generalizations, and analyzing how things change. It is about making predictions based on patterns or relationships, making decisions, and solving real problems. It is about creating models based on phenomena that occur around usDonna Curry  (emphasis added)

What creative and innovative approaches have you used to teach these traditionally ‘formula-based’ algebra problems?  What other types of meaningful real-world applications have you used in teaching algebraic thinking?


*Part of The Learning Network: (Teaching and Learning with the New York Times)


Have you recently found something interesting ‘in the news’? If so – let us know at eff@utk.edu.

Advertisements

How DO They Learn Best? Using Learning Preferences in the Classroom and Beyond


How do you prefer to learn?
When attending professional development, taking a class or gaining a new skill, do you prefer to read? Listen? Watch someone do it? Learn by doing?

Based on just our own personal experiences, we can pretty easily figure out that different people use different styles of learning (or learning modalities) for different purposes.  The concept of “learning styles” has gotten a lot of attention in the adult education community over the past few years, especially among teachers who are trying to meet the differing needs of individual students while providing instruction in a group setting. It various forms, is also a commonly addressed in workplace professional development.

How have others’ learning preferences’ affected you in the workplace? Have you participated in ‘learning styles’ type training activities as an employee?

Learning Style theories propose that different people learn in different ways and that it is good to know what your own preferred learning style is. Often we hear learning styles defined as “visual, auditory, and kinesthetic” –  referring to how we use the senses to learn or demonstrate knowledge. Another popular model was developed by  John Gardner in the 1980s –  Multiple Intelligences Theory. 1  While he didn’t provide any direct empirical support for his theory, Gardner presented evidence from many areas of study including biology, anthropology, and the creative arts. 2  In the early 90’s he looked at how his theory might apply to the learning that goes on among children in school.His basic points were these:

  1. Individuals should be encouraged to use their preferred intelligences in learning.
  2. Instructional activities should appeal to different forms of intelligence.
  3. Assessment of learning should measure multiple forms of intelligence.

While Gardner did not include adult learners in his research, teachers working with our highly diverse groups of adult learners have found success in using this approach, as well as other learning style theories.  These days it is possible to find numerous tests, inventories and checklists that can be used by adults to help them identify their own preferred intelligences, or learning styles.

Have you used any of these ‘learning style/intelligences’ inventories/tools to determine your own preferences? Do you feel they were accurate? Helpful?

As an Instructor, how have you used (or might you use) information on your students’ preferred learning modalities? Do you feel it was (or is likely to be) important to your instruction?

Below is a story about one teacher’s ‘ah ha’ moment with her students – does her story sound at all familiar to you? Have you tried anything similar to the strategies she mentions?

Elizabeth Gardner is a Workforce Preparation Instructor at Suits for Success in Jersey City, NJ. For thepast 2 years she has been using EFF’s Preparing for Work curriculum to help prepare groups of clients for workplace success. In the Orientation Module at the beginning of the curriculum, an activity called “How Do I Learn Best?” guides students through the process of reflecting on and learning about their own preferred learning styles and strategies (including the use of an inventory). Elizabeth has facilitated this activity with several different groups of students, but note that one time it seemed to “work” above and beyond her expectations.

In this group, like others, some of the students had never done a learning style inventory, and several who had done one before noted that their preferred learning style had changed since the last time they did it. Because of the interest and enthusiasm they showed for the topic, I decided to take the activity beyond individuals just looking at their own preferences, and see if I could move them towards concepts in the Cooperating With Others Standard.

I asked my students to describe what they had learned about themselves to the whole class, and then to talk about how the class could play to their learning styles. As a result, in addition to talking about their own learning styles, they listened to each other, and some students started spontaneously brainstorming ideas for each other. Without being asked, they started thinking about how each of their peers might learn best!  Then the class ended up talking not only about how knowing your own learning style(s) can be used in the workplace, but also about how identifying other people’s learning styles can allow you to help out coworkers, i.e: How might you show consideration for someone else’s learning style at work? This conversation seemed to have a longer-lasting impact than I expected. I observed learning from students based on that discussion weeks later – such as a student ‘recorder’ for one activity drawing a picture next to the text “for visual learners” or one student asking another what was said because “I know you’re a listener.”

I think my experience of this one activity really affected how I plan other learning activities. It really helped me to understand that each group I work with will be made up of individuals with various learning styles, so each group dynamic will be different. This will cause students to respond differently to activities in the curriculum I follow; something that doesn’t work with one group could be a favorite with the next group of students. One group, for instance, might enjoy and learn from a role-playing type activity, but are much less likely to respond or stay engaged in more static “think and talk” activities –  while the next class  might be just the opposite! I think it is really important to figure out up front how students learn best, and then choose or change learning activities [from ANY curriculum] to match up with the learning styles/preferences/goals of each group of students.

Please share with us your experiences in using information about students’ preferred learning styles in your instruction – how that information helps you meet your students’ needs, how you address the differences you find, any ‘ah-has’ you’ve had, etc.  Any of the questions posed in this post can help you get started.

We look forward to an exciting conversation!


Click to learn more about EFF Preparing for Work curriculum or contact us via eff@utk.edu.

For more information on Learning Styles, you can start by visiting this page.
Note that the links ‘For Further Study’ listed on the right hand side lead to some sample inventories.


Post Contributors:
Peggy McGuire, EFF Trainer & Content Expert, Center for Literacy, Education and Employment
Duren Thompson, Program Coordinator and EFFTIPS Technical Editor, Center for Literacy, Education and Employment
Elizabeth Gardner, Workforce Preparation Instructor at Suits for Success in Jersey City, NJ

References:

1 Gardner, H. (1982). Art, Mind and Brain. New York : Basic Books.

Gardner, H. (1983). Frames of Mind. New York: Basic Books.

3 Gardner, H. (1993a). Multiple Intelligences: The Theory in Practice. New York: Basic Books.

How Do You Support Adult Education and Family Literacy?


aefl 2012This week, EFFTIPS joins practitioners and organizations across the United States as we celebrate Adult Education and Family Literacy Week, declared by act of the US Congress for the 4th year in a row.

According to the latest national survey of adults, more than 93 million American adults have Basic or Below Basic literacy skills that limit their ability to advance at work and in education, help their children with school work, take care of their family’s health, and participate in their communities.

Have you, or has your program, sponsored any activities in support of this celebration? If so please comment and share!

The (US) National Coalition for Literacy spearheads this annual effort to raise awareness of and promote adult education and literacy, family literacy, and English language development in the United States – nicknamed AEFL. In partnership with CLASP, they developed and disseminated a great summary of the need for and importance of adult education efforts: Adult Education, Jobs, and the Economy Fact Sheet. More information on this campaign can be found on NCL’s AEFL website.

EFFTIPS wholeheartedly supports this awareness effort! The Equipped for the Future project is grounded in a belief that ALL adults should have the “… knowledge and skills necessary to compete in a global economy and exercise the rights and responsibilities of citizenship.” [Goals 2000]  This belief is reflected throughout EFF’s work, and drove the development of the framework , which began with an analysis of adult’s critical work functions and key activities in the goal’s three primary roles: Worker, Parent and Family member, and Citizen and Community Member.*

Now while EFFTIPS is based in the US, we are proud to have subscribers from other nations – Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and others – and Wordpress tells us we have readers from all over the world.  Reflecting upon this US National campaign, we wondered about adult education and literacy awareness/support in other nations. So to our international readers we ask:

What are the issues in Adult Literacy and ESL education in your country (or area)?  How great is the need? Do you have national support and/or adequate funding?

What do you do to raise awareness and increase support in your country (or area)? Do you involve your learners, and if so how? 

These questions fit our US readership as well, so we look forward to a great international conversation!


*For more information on the EFF Role Maps, or the development of the EFF Framework, visit http://eff.clee.utk.edu  or contact us via eff@utk.edu.

In the News: Combating the Negative Effects of Math Anxiety


Duren Thompson
EFFTIPS Editor/Admin

Here’s something we found online that seems like an interesting idea for adult education practitioners:

Today I ran across this from Science Daily:
Math Anxiety Causes Trouble for Students as Early as First Grade

…which brings together two articles co-written by researcher Sian L. Beilock from the University of Chicago (see references below). Beilock and his co-authors have been involved in research focused on causes and solutions for math anxiety in very young learners.  Aware that many adult learners describe or exhibit math anxieties (based on my own experiences and those related by adult education practitioners), I thought this information might be applicable to what we do.

One result of the research examined in this article1 is a better understanding of the relationship between working memory and math anxiety – in even the youngest learners. In the Science Daily article, Beilock is quoted as saying:

“You can think of working memory as a kind of ‘mental scratchpad’ that allows us to ‘work’ with whatever information is temporarily flowing through consciousness.  It’s especially important when we have to do a math problem and juggle numbers in our head.”

Worries about math can disrupt working memory, which students could otherwise use to succeed.”

This research goes on to posit that those with stronger working memory are likely to be more affected by math anxiety  (an interesting implication for those with learning disabilities in math), but Beilock also strongly cautions that:

“Educators should not only consider math learning in terms of concepts, procedures, math curricula and instruction but also the emotions and anxieties children may bring to the learning situation.”

We’ve touched on the importance of addressing math fears previously in a post where Donna Curry recommended that algebra fear can be combated by, “Activities based on real-life examples, solved with concrete tools like [play] money or other manipulatives…”  More ideas can be found in another article cited by Science Daily,2 in which authors Beilock and Maloney state, “… regulation of the negativity associated with math situations may increase math success, even for those individuals who are chronically math anxious.”

Two techniques for helping learners to regulate or ‘reframe’ math anxiety suggested by the authors are:

Expressive writing: Have students write about their worries regarding math ahead of time. This is believed to help students to, “…download worries and minimize anxiety’s effects on working memory.” For students with low writing ability (or very young students), “…expressive picture drawing, rather than writing, may also help lessen the burden of math anxiety.”

Support an emotional shift: Anxiety is a ‘heightened’ or aroused emotional state. Teachers can help students to shift their thinking to a more advantageous heightened emotional state like anticipation. For example, “…when students view a math test as a challenge rather than a threat,” their performance increases as their emotions are heightened (vs anxiety which reduces performance as it grows stronger).

What do you think? Is this information useful to you?  Please share your thoughts about math anxiety!

What are your experiences with students with math anxiety? Do you have other ways you help learners to reduce their fears?

Have you used either of these approaches with Adult Learners?  I’m wondering if expressive writing could also tie into strengthening writing fluency or confidence?

Have you recently found something interesting ‘in the news’? If so – let us know at eff@utk.edu.

mm


References:

1 Ramirez, G., Gunderson, E.A., Levine, S.C. and Beilock, S.L. (2012 in press) Math anxiety, working memory and math achievement in early elementary school. Journal of Cognition and Development.  Retrieved on 9/13/12 from http://home.uchicago.edu/ramirezg/RamirezG_MathAnxietyManuscript_workingdraft.doc
(Note, I had trouble downloading this – right clicking on the link and choosing ‘save target as’ worked for me.)

2 Maloney, E. A., & Beilock, S. L. (2012). Math anxiety: who has it, why it develops, and how to guard against it. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 16(8), 404-406.  Retrieved on 9/13/12 from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1364661312001465


Announcing: The Center for Literacy, Education and Employment


 The Center that hosts the EFF Project and EFFTIPS has a new name!

Please help us celebrate and spread the word!

The former Center for Literacy Studies at the University of Tennessee is now the Center for Literacy, Education and Employment (CLEE). This new name better reflects the breadth of the Center’s scope of work and interests as an organization, and more closely aligns with our recently revised mission:

…to support continuous  improvement in the fields of education and workforce development through  training, resources, advocacy and research.

Our Center also has a new web site – we invite you to take a look:  New CLEE website.

And this means our address has changed as well – efftips.clee.utk.edu.

The official announcement appears below – please feel free to pass it on!