Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Red flags in education research - Anna Stokke with Ben Solomon


The clip above is copied from Anna Stokke’s Tweet dated 28.1.2024. Anna is a math professor and has a podcast that will be useful for all those interested in Math. I have only listened in full to 2 of her podcasts and think it is one of the best podcasts I've heard.

The clip refers to claims in a particular paper on Math but the word math may be replaced by decoding. LINK.

Math (decoding) competency must develop early in life, first with MEMORISATION, then recognition of patterns in the memorised material and, after that, understanding of why those patterns exist.

Decades ago, reading education theorists got the ear of education policymakers and convinced them that memorisation is not necessary as an essential tool but detrimental, and that students should be rushed from the pedagogical stage to the ‘figuring out stage’ to avoid the hard work of memorisation.

The theorists were wrong because they didn’t account for biology…

My comment:

Memorisation plays an important part in learning to read. For example, there is no way but to memorise the letters of the alphabet and numerals, repeating the multiplication tables, repeating state capitals, or spelling tricky words.

Many educators say that phonics does not work because many of the words are not phonetic. Most of these words are those frequently used words. If that is so why not get kids to rote memorise these words and together with phonics learn to read right from the start?

It would appear that people like Dr. Sam Bommarito, Emina McLean and many others must be influenced by such reports. They accept what is written without the least bit of thinking. Read the post here to see how confident a Twitter was that memorisation of Dolch Words is harmful. LINK

[00:09:30] Anna Stokke:

And we'll come back to this later. We'll have a discussion about what you think about teaching the standard algorithm, but I'd like to examine where this claim that standard algorithms are harmful actually came from. And I'm quite familiar with this because, as I said, this happened here in my province and the justification given was a paper or a series of papers written by Constance Kamii.

 [00:12:12] Ben Solomon:

I don't know if you've ever seen the movie Catch Me If You Can. There's this scene towards the end where Leonardo DiCaprio's character is given a fake check and the FBI is trying to determine whether he, how quickly he can figure it out because they want to see how useful he might be to them. And he picks up the check and within a half second, he can tell its fake.

And I thought of that scene when you shared this paper with me because within a half second, you can determine that the validity of the claims is very questionable and that we shouldn't be making deep inferences from this paper. And minimally, we shouldn't be using it to guide policy for millions of students.

My comment:

The initial papers by Constance Kamii were written more than 30 years ago. How they have survived until now and are being discussed is beyond me. This is especially so when Ben says that one can determine the validity of the claims within a half-second.

For those who have not been following my blog allow me to write a few of my experiences on this.

i.                 By 2010, after having taught so-called dyslexic kids for 6 years I was convinced that the theory that then had existed for more than 35 years that it was a phonological awareness deficit was the cause of dyslexia was incorrect. I wrote to more than 20 researchers and Universities to no avail. I wrote more than 100 comments and articles disagreeing with that theory. It fell on deaf ears until it was finally debunked in 2017. You may read the comments by Timothy Shanahan in 2015 and again in 2017 in my blog post. LINK

Any ordinary person could have easily understood what I wrote but no researcher or educator wanted to agree because that theory was written by an expert many years earlier.

Again and again, I was asked for evidence and research reports backing up what I had said. Can’t so-called educators think for themselves anymore. Does everything one discovers need research reports to support one’s findings?

ii.              Another research expert, Dr. David Boulton attached links to his post on LinkedIn. These links were YouTube videos teaching the sounds represented by letters. I commented on the post by David Boulton that teaching kids sounds as per those videos was one of the causes of kids shutting down from learning to read. He immediately blocked me. But within a few days, he deleted two of the videos I had complained of. You may read more of this in my blog post. LINK


iii.            Two years ago I disagreed with the brain research video by Professor Dehaene Stanislas. Not a single person on social media commented on my post. On 13.1.24, Timothy Shanahan wrote a post that echoed what I had said 2 years ago and immediately many shared his posts. What this may mean is that the public believes what is written by those with a title but are unable to think for themselves when an ordinary person writes the same matter. Read more in my blog post HERE and HERE.


iv.             In December 2023 I wrote a hypothesis as to why Singapore is consistently number 1 in the PISA exams while the UK and the US are not even in the top 10. I asked why the dyslexic population in Singapore in between 3.5 and 10% while that of the US and the UK as well as Malaysia is between 10 to 20%. The answer to this question may be why Singapore is consistently number one. The kids who had shut down are remediated by the end of grade 1 while in the US and the UK as well as Malaysia the kids are classified as dyslexic and are waiting to leave school as illiterates. LINK, LINK, LINK.


Ben Solomon:

The other thing I noticed immediately was the size of the sample. It was 56 students. Studies range in their sample size, and a lot goes into thinking about what a good sample size should be. It depends on what you're trying to do; it depends on sort of the rarity of the problem you're addressing.

My comment:

This reminds me of the comment from Timothy Shanahan. He said that I could not base my conclusions based on the 50 students that I had taught up to 2015. 

There is a Tamil proverb that says that to test if a pot of rice is cooked you need to test just one grain. Of course, this will not apply to teaching kids to read but let us not get into this debate that the sample size must be 92 or whatever as if that is a magical number brought down by Moses. Let common sense prevail.

Similarly, Sam Bommarito said that teaching a few students by myself should not be the criteria. He asked me if this method had been replicated elsewhere. I don’t understand why it should be replicated elsewhere. Can’t these educators/ researchers test it out themselves?

Anyway, I replied to Sam by saying my book was dispatched to Perth in 2019 and a few voluntary teachers taught some kids including a 4 ½ year-old Tamil-speaking girl. A 5 ½ year old Tamil-speaking boy as well as a 7 year-old dyslexic kid. Here is a video of the 7 year old dyslexic kid in Perth in 2019. LINK You may read my post on the 4 1/2 year old kid reading in 2019. LINK.

An accomplished teacher in Australia got her son interested in learning to read and started reading as soon as the sounds of the letters he had learned wrongly were corrected. LINK

A grandma in California taught her dyslexic grandchildren to read using the free of charge lessons on my blog. LINK

Dr. Sam Bommarito did not respond.

To be continued...


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