An interesting book by Gladwell

Its dangerous for me to have holiday time to actually read a few books. I was able to do that over the break, completing two books and going back to re-read a third.

There were some interesting ideas put forward by the authors that directly go to higher education. In Gladwell’s What the Dog Saw and other adventures, he states the following about effective teaching in K-12 Schools:

In a value-added analysis based upon standardized test scores, there is significant evidence that shows student learning gains in classrooms where teachers are effective can be as high as 2 years of growth for the one year a child spends with that teacher. Less effective teachers show less than 1 year of growth during that year.

Gladwell cites research done at the Curry School of Education at the U. of Virginia showing that the following factors/skill sets are what separates effective teachers from less effective teachers:

1. Regard for student perspective…bringing students into the learning through engagement in dialogue and planning by allowing students flexibility;

2. Direct personal response from teacher to student when there are questions, learning opportunities, etc. that arise;

3. High quality feedback where back and forth exchange create deeper understandings;

4. Inclusion of everyone in the learning process/approaches used in the class (high expectations and routes to engage everyone);

5. An overall ‘withitness’…eyes in the back of the head…perception of the whole while addressing the one.

Gladwell states that there is no evidence to support advance degree attainment as having a significant impact on learning outcomes of students. Test scores and certifications needed to become a teacher aren’t correlated by increased learning outcomes among students either.

He points to evidence that supports the key to student learning is a teacher with adequate content knowledge coupled with the 5 items listed above.

Interesting…and a somewhat simplified version of a very complex topic, but there may be something here worth exploring?

Gladwell also took on the topic of talent and interviewing for talent. He believes talent is highly overrated and that there are other factors much more relevant to future success, and he actually cites examples of organizations who pursued talent at the expense of all other factors to consider when hiring resulted in disasters.

For interviewing, he cites evidence that most places really don’t know how to effectively interview, question the interviewee, and analyze the results of those questions. He even suggests that due to ineffective interviewing/hiring practices, you may as well have people watch a videotape of the person in action (in his example a teacher teaching) for about 15 seconds and then vote on whether or not the person should be hired. He states that the results of the hiring will be the same whether you do the 15 seconds or 90 minutes of interviewing…due to the kinds of questions that are typically asked in an interview and the biases that we all carry into the interview setting.

He does suggest an alternative approach to interviewing and considerations other than talent…but its too long to type all of that here.

I know…nasty thing to leave someone hanging…but you can borrow the book.