Friday, 4 December 2015

Behavioural insights in education

Newschools is "a non-profit venture philanthropy firm working to transform public education for low-income children through funding and guidance of entrepreneurial organisations. It aims to make sure every child receives an excellent education."

Alive in the Swamp: Accessing Digital Innovations in Education is a report presented jointly by Newschools and Nesta.

Nesta claims to be an independent charity which helps people and organisations bring great ideas to life. But how independent are they?

The Behavioural Insights Team also known as the Nudge Unit (a unit designed to use behavioural modification techniques to alter the public`s perceptions and behaviour) is now a social purpose company. It is partly owned by the Cabinet Office, employees and Nesta. The relationship between Nesta, the Government, and the Social Research Unit who are going to analyse our children`s data, could not be cosier.

The report Alive in the Swamp: Accessing Digital Innovations in Education was written by Michael Fullan and Katelyn Donnelly.

Michael Fullan works with systems around the world to accomplish whole system reform in education. He is quoted as saying:
"Every time we have learned something on scale it`s because we`ve created a living laboratory. This is my third laboratory of substance. The first was in England when Tony Blair focussed on literacy and numeracy ...."

Katelyn Donnelly is an executive director at Pearson which produces books and learning tools. So no conflict of interest there !

In their report they provide an index to gauge successful digital innovations which they hope will be refined and used - not least by Nesta.
(W)e must stress that the changes we are describing represent a fundamental shift in the culture of schooling on almost every dimension imaginable: the roles of students, teachers and administrators; the culture of the school in terms of collaborative learning; the culture of the district and the larger infrastructure, with much greater vertical and horizontal permeability; the relationships to parents, the community and business, and so on.
Assessments that provide questions, collect responses and then feedback their correctness to the learner are solid traditional models. However, the next generation of assessments will likely focus on activities which result in a product or performance. In this model, the assessment system should be able to identify features of student behaviour and make observations on it, not in terms of binary correctness, but in the form of useful information on the ways in which the learner has engaged with the activity.
The analysis of the data into useable, actionable outputs is critical. Additionally, to ensure continuity at the level of the individual student, assessments should start with access to the learners previous history and data and not be ignorant of previous activity.
Studying the learner`s behaviour and nudging it in the right direction is the `name of the game` with exciting new digital products.

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