Saturday, February 18, 2017

Personalized learning goals: New information is built over reusing of previous information

Some students perform better, while others not. What are the main reasons?

1) Study material provided. It simply doesn't meet the learning criteria. Students are feed with so much of abstract stuff as a result only those students excel who have a better memory retention capacity of abstract information and those who work too hard for it. But such a hard work is meaningless, as you will forget such information after exams are over.

2) Not teaching kids from where they are. 
I will explain it with a concrete example.

While teaching chemistry, one of my students was so fast in holding information and doing the problems, while other was slow. The reason for her/his slowness is not that he/she is less intelligent, it's because (s)he is taking more time for processing due to lack of previous foundational information. 

When (s)he does the processing, (s)he has to take the account of many kinds of stuff that (s)he has not learned before. For example, while teaching chemical kinetics I found out that (s)he does know the even the BDMAS operation of maths. Chemical kinetics chapter is math heavy, but I tried to explain everything with concrete representation, but still students were unable to do the problems or reach the solution accurately because it requires so much practice of math fundamentals before doing those problems. But the good thing is that they have understood everything that I taught.

From this, I learned that you can explain stuff catching anyone from the street if you are explaining it with the simplest way possible, so that (s)he can understand it.

Similarly, while teaching redox reactions, one of my students was too slow, because (s)he doesn't know about periodic table much. What are the electronegative elements? Also (s)he was making the error in calculation while solving for x. Changing values from LHS to RHS or vice versa problem that most students face while solving an equation.

So the fast student needn't have to spend so much time in doing because her/his brain is already trained for the fundamental stuff that is required. So (s)he requires less processing to reach the solution.

So the message is "New information is built over reusing of previous information"  For example, one has to know the alphabets to write words, words and grammar rules to write sentences.

Designing a personalized syllabus based upon quality study material they follow:

1) A central institute will design a core template of the syllabus and list down the study material available throughout the world.
2) Students and schools/colleges should first decide the material (books, moocs, video lectures, scientific journals, magazines, blogs) they will follow that meets the learning criteria, then design the syllabus using the core template given. They have to add rigorous specific details to the syllabus based upon the study material they will follow, and they can add or remove some part of the core syllabus.
3) Then students and schools/colleges have to submit the study material list which they will follow and syllabus to a central institute for approval which will check the quality of study material and the syllabus, whether the syllabus design and material meet the 21st-century learning skills.

Ideas for designing the core template is given in the following the link:

The core template will provide only the main keywords for the syllabus, which can be used to design the syllabus of a student by the school.
The teacher can adapt the syllabus according to the quality material.
e.g. Schools can follow book "Doing Math with Python: Use Programming to Explore Algebra, Statistics, Calculus, and More!" by  Amit Saha, along with teaching Calculus, Statistic, Algebra and also decreasing the load of student in some areas of mathematics
The National Curriculum Framework work is to provide assistant and feedbacks in designing the student syllabus.

Pre-test to identify pre-learning topics:

Identifying what preceding knowledge is required for doing the course and teach them accordingly.

Students should give a pre-test for example mathematics, in order to identify their preceding knowledge. In case of mathematics, do student know solving equations, can they solve problems of fractions, are they comfortable with shifting decimal places of the result while multiplying

Identification process should also continue during the course, and corrective measures need to taken.

The syllabus of the student must also include these pre-learning topics

A personalized template:
Need to be designed for student with the help of a teacher/ school

How will board exams be done?

All the unique topics (along with its specifics) of the syllabus need to be sorted out and compiled. Then prepare lots of questions based upon each topic according to the study material provided. Only topics that are chosen by the student will be given for testing in the examination.

The purpose of such a method?

  • It will give the liberty to an author to prepare study material and innovate on the study material based on the 21st-century skills.
  • It will give liberty to the schools to innovate and bring the 21st-century skills without being hitched by the syllabus.
  • Students will have freedom of choice, they can learn with their won pace, based on their previous skills and improve upon it.
  • Students will learn according to the availability of quality material, not according to the random syllabus prescribed to them. Syllabus without quality material is meaningless.
Why follow books instead of the syllabus?
Books are written in a more systematic way taking into account "New information is built over reusing of previous information". Syllabus makes learning random and haphazard and brings trouble in learning.

Why personalization and shared learning both are important?
Shared learning helps children to work like humans in a cooperative and collaborative manner. It also saves the time of the teacher. Complete personalization will lead to isolation. Personalization and shared learning should co-exist together but should be done in a correct way with working practices based upon evidence in context.

Learning Without Limits

How to design pretest and posttest to check the progress of the students?

Pretest checks where you were, and posttest checks where you are after intervention or experimental manipulation.

pretest and posttest should run in a chain that checks the improvement. 

Question design is important, and it should be more personalized. If a student doesn't perform well in some topics of the exam, such topics should be noted down and intervention needs to be taken, then again a posttest with questions based on the performance of pretest.

These tests should be of low stakes.
Questions design should meet the learning strategies, not random questions only to test students.
Each unit should undergo this chain, till the learning goals are reached.

Some of the more questions are 
What time interval these tests need to be taken? That depends upon the study material, and students learning time and should be done carefully by the teacher by proper observation.
But it increases too much workload for teachers?
Most work will be designing questions and checking of answer scripts. But this workload can be decreased by the use of technology.
Question design has to be done with the collaboration of all teachers throughout the country or the world. Why not a website the take quizzes, and teacher can select questions based upon student requirement.
Most often the study material has questions, so they can manipulate values and give it again, or giving only a few questions (not all questions in the material) for each topic in each test.

Probiquery: A single page application to share questions with students
Source Code (in github):

Discovering Merit

The purpose of education is the progress of students, but when we look at the industry they require the scaling that help them to discover merit.

Here, the need for comparison between students is required. In education comparison between students, not necessary mean competition. The comparison helps us to construct a critical nature in us, that helps us to progress. The purpose of comparison is to discover what is effective and what is ineffective or less effective.

We need an effective methodology that helps students to track their progress, also scaling system that helps the industry to appoint candidate based on merit.

The summative assessment or exam should meet the following specification:

1) Each unit should be given time for at least half hour to solve the questions. In a single day, 6 units need to be covered, instead of all units.
2) Questions from each concept should be present for each unit.

Grades for each unit should be given, instead of for total grade for a subject. It will give a more comprehensive and fair picture of your education as all concepts are covered in the exam.

Peer review of questions and answers:
All questions and answer script must come under peer review with striping out of names of students. Questions and answer scripts can be uploaded in IPFS. It uses a decentralized client-server model where each computer act as both client and server.  No need for any charges for handling such humongous amount of data for all students. Least maintenance charges. Such a website can be built in 5 to 6 days. Feedback can be given to schools through email or through the website.

Project based learning
Instead of practicals, project-based learning must be introduced. Practicals in India has become an unproductive ritual to get marks. All most in every schools and college, teachers don't give much attention to learning by practicals. So instead of practicals, project-based learning must be introduced.

How to implement project based learning?
A website for submission of links to blogs where ideas and procedure of projects are written. They should share few photographs and/or videos about the projects that being done, along with the caption that explains the photograph. Also, use social networking sites like tweeter to share the links
Students record of the projects must be uploaded to a website, which will undergo plagiarism checker and review. Then provide feedback to the students and schools to improve on it.
Website should also act as an interface for sharing ideas, feedback and criticism between different schools and colleges so that everyone refines and improves their projects

All these different kinds of websites should only act as a feedback system to share and improve ideas, and can be used to narrate statistical information, but should not be used for any lawful step against/ in for of students, schools or colleges. 

These websites will bring awareness towards effective learning strategies so that no one remains ill/less/misinformed due to lack of communication.

The action plan will act as collective intelligence to transform education.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Critical Analysis on NEET Biology Questions, comparison with Campbell Biology Questions

All entrance exams only test rote memorization of abstract concepts without testing critical thinking and in-depth knowledge. Questions don't let you think, just requires a recall of abstract data that you have memorized.

Today I will review few questions of NEET and compare those questions with Campbell book

Look at the question, it's very descriptive, and promotes critical thinking, just reading the question itself makes you think even if you don't know the answer

But what NEET will ask
The equivalent of a structural gene is:
1) Operon 2) Recon 3) Muton 4) Cistron

Believe me, students would have just memorized or linked structural gene with cistron by attempting previous years questions. The questions simply don't make you think. Do the questions address the answer to the question why Cistron is called a structural gene?
From the internet:
A structural gene is a gene that codes for any RNA or protein product other than a regulatory factor (i.e. regulatory protein)
It is the functional unit which can synthesize one polypeptide.
Does it mean a regulatory protein is not a polypeptide? Does it mean all structural genes are not cistron?
These questions are not at all addressed. Just memorize previous year questions day and night, you are ready for the exam.

Next question from NEET:
Taylor conducted the experiment to prove semiconservative mode of chromosome replication on
1) Drosophila melanogaster
2) E. Coli
3) Vinca rosea
4) Vicia faba

Another rote learning question, where the student would have memorized it from previous year questions.
Who cares which organism he chose? What is important is why he chose vicia faba? Don't have the reason, but I think he chose to see the effect in the plant.

First, the plant name given is scientific (abstract), very difficult to memorize. One can't distinguish between vinca rosea and vicia faba even if the student knows it was a plant, root tip and all other procedure and mechanism.

Again look how NEET gives the question:
Which of the following is not a component of downstream processing?
1) Preservation 2)Expression 3) Separation 4) Purification

The question itself is simply laughable. Lacks specificity. What is downstream?
So many definitions:
situated or moving in the direction in which a stream or river flows.
"the bridge spanned the river just downstream of the rail line"
situated in or towards the part of a sequence of genetic material where transcription takes place later than at a given point.
"a termination signal was found downstream from the coding region"
at a stage in the process of gas or oil extraction and production after the raw material is ready for refining.
Seems its means the last definition, process of gas or oil extraction etc.

And most questions are like this.

Final Note:
In such an Indian education system, students are just donkeys who are not allowed to think anything. They are just slaves of masters who are burdened with heavy books that fill the vessel with junk via hard work.

Monday, February 6, 2017

CBSE and other boards, All about rote memorization of abstract information

Most questions of CBSE 12th board, all requires rote memorization of abstract information that adds no understanding to the subject.

Let us analyze the style of question in CBSE:

This is the question from book Nivaldo J Tro:

The question gives some background knowledge,  structures are already given and the question really tests your understanding, not how much you have memorized.

Answer:  Option Vitamin C and Vitamin B5 are water soluble as it contains many polar groups and others have large nonpolar groups (Vit K3 and Vit A) so its fat soluble.

What type of questions you will expect in CBSE?
Name the water soluble vitamins and fat soluble vitamins?
or Something like is Vitamin C water soluble? (The structure of Vitamin C will not be given)
How are vitamins classified? Name the vitamin which is fat soluble.

"All these questions require rote memorization of vitamins:"

Fat soluble vitamins are A D E and K
Water soluble vitamins are Vitamin B

So, just rote memorization is enough, you needn't have to understand why A, D, E and K are fat-soluble. Even if you understood it, still you have to do lot of rote memorization (may be using mnemonics)

Let's compare some more questions:

Questions on polymer:

So in the question itself, monomers structures are already given. You have to use your understanding to get the polymer out of it.

In CBSE questions will be like this:

Write the names and structures of the monomers of the following polymers:
i) Polystyrene ii) Dacron iii) Teflon

Arrange the following polymers in the increasing order of their intermolecular forces (the structure are not given, so you have to memorize all those abstract structures to get the answers)
Polystyrene, Terylene, Buna-s

Our book contains about 30 complicated structures and complicated names of polymers and its monomers, which you have to rote memorize.

And the harsh truth is almost all questions of CBSE are like this. Without rote memorization of abstract concepts, you can't do a single question. No matter how much you have understood the concepts. Also, the ncert books are horrible ones.

In science, using only a few fundamental concepts, all other concepts are built upon it.

Take the example of organic chemistry, it's all about book-keeping of electrons and mechanisms (e.g. ARIO: Atom, Resonance, Induction, Orbital).

In organic chemistry or any subject, questions must be descriptive with diagrams (pairing graphics with words study strategy) that make you curious to solve, even if you don't know the answer.

Look at this question:
Compare the following compounds, which compound is more acidic?

It tests the understanding of the induction effect. Even if you don't know about induction effect, you will try to think about it and predict something, if you know Cl is more electronegative.

But our board will only ask rote memorization abstract questions just as
ISC question in Organic Chemistry

"All books must be removed from recommendation if it doesn't meet the learning criteria from next session. This is the most important thing we need to do to save our children and all future generations."