Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Early Planning, Later Success

Gwen sent me this research brief of an interesting study -- The Effects of Students’ Middle-School and High-School Experiences on Completion of the Bachelor’s Degree: How Can School Counselors Make a Difference?

The study followed over 5,000 college-bound 8th Graders for 12 years and found that eight years after high school, 53% of participants had realized their goals of completing the bachelors and 47% had not. The researchers found that there were a few main variables from middle school and high school that "predicted" later success in completing degrees:
• The strongest effects were from the academically intensive science and math courses that participants took in high school. For example, when students added one high-school unit in intensive math (Algebra 2, trigonometry, pre-calculus, or calculus), their likelihood of completing the bachelor’s increased by 73%. Adding one unit in intensive science (biology, chemistry, or physics) increased the likelihood of completing the degree by 45%.
• The effects of intensive course-taking extended well beyond the effects of eighth-grade reading and math ability. That is, the intensive science and math courses that students completed in high school were more important to degree completion than the levels of ability they brought to high school.
• Socioeconomic status (SES) had a strong effect. A one-standard-deviation increase in SES increased the likelihood of degree completion by 62%.
• Students’ good attendance behavior in high school (not skipping school or classes) had a positive effect on degree completion.
• When students participated more in school-sponsored extracurricular activities, they were more likely to complete the bachelor’s degree.
• There was a moderate gender effect. Women were more likely than men to complete the bachelor’s degree.
• Asian Americans and White Americans were more likely than Latinos or African Americans to complete the bachelor’s.
• When parents were more involved in their children’s education and when parents had higher postsecondary educational expectations for their children, young people were more likely to complete the bachelor’s.
• Eighth-grade reading ability had a modest, positive effect on degree completion.
The second part of the brief focuses on strategies for guidance counsellors and other educators to help students avoid pitfalls and take advantage of this knowledge. I thought this one was most interesting:
2. Develop and use an effective system for individual education-career planning.
a. Help every student develop an appropriate, written (electronic or printed) education-career plan. In schools where student-to-counselor ratios are high, use guidance as a format for developing plans.
b. Pay particular attention to students’ long-term education-career goals and the degree of consistency between goals and academic effort.
c. Inform students of various postsecondary education-career options; and when appropriate, help students develop back-up plans (alternative plans).
d. Include parent and teacher input into education-career planning.
e. Use students’ education-career plans as a means for helping them become involved in rewarding extracurricular activities.
I don't think many of these things are done in any systematic way in most schools. The most college-focused middle and high schools in wealthier neighbourhoods may require very specific post-secondary education plans, but usually without reference to career possibilities or other future goals. You'd think they'd be more interested in this stuff...or maybe they're interested, but don't know how to go about it? Also, this focus on the four-year degree as the only path worth pursuing is obviously limited, but it represents the perception of the majority of high school students right now.

Friday, May 20, 2005

One Size Fits All

Education as Commodity explores the implications of the standards/testing movement on a wider scale, and the discussion emerging below is excellent.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Could this be your life?

I've often blathered here about a vision for a sort of simulator for visualizing and "trying out" future lifestyles. It may become the focus of my masters thesis if I can buckle down. A career plan builder is a step in the right direction, but it doesn't really go far enough. Could This Be Your Life? is an interesting take on the concept. It's not exactly a rich experience, but yields some interesting results.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

The Learning Landscape for Groups

I'm excited about the latest installation of the open-source ELGG platform, called TeacherEd, not because it's anything earth-shaking (although it appears to be an excellent start), but because it shows how easily the application can be adapted to different purposes. At its core, it's basically a blogging application with the ability to host and share files, but it also has functions for forming communities with user-defined permissions on everything. It was originally billed as a type of e-portfolio application, which it certainly could be, but I'm thinking that other possibilities may be more fruitful.

I'm thinking that ELGG could be used as the platform for association and club web sites -- basically any group of people who want control over who sees their content and interactions. For example, our local citizens' association could have sections that were open to the public (news, membership info, links and documents) as well as private discussions or strategic documents that were only for members. Members could form project teams with their own posts and files, and individuals could post their individual feedback and research. It would be more personal and accessible than a discussion board, less annoying than a listserv and more flexible than the group blog we've got now.

Perhaps this is an example of how the web is changing and a possible display of how powerful it could be for groups. The tools themselves have been around for a few years, but the application of free, open networking software to very specific niches is where things could really take off. What about study groups and homeschooler networks, sports clubs and project teams? Dave and Ben have done great work here, and I think it's only a matter of time before customized versions of their alpha applications (and the related work of others) are changing the way groups interact online.