Drug Education News

News and views from the Drug Education Forum

‘MTV generation learns through fun’

I’ve covered the idea of “mini-lessons” before, so hopefully this isn’t too off piste, but reading this piece from Times Higher Education, about the role of humor in teaching and how long students can be expected to concentrate for, struck me as being something that those delivering drug education need to think about as much as any other teacher.

“The old guy who stands there and just lectures to the class – these days are gone. Their [students] attention span is in the minutes now,” he said.

Mr Dever [winner of the Bill and Ginny McKeachie Award] said that studies as far back as the 1970s had shown attention spans of only 15 to 20 minutes at a time. But today’s bricks-and-mortar institutions now faced a threat from online courses that engaged students and avoided the problems of one-way lectures.

I doubt whether online learning is such a threat for school aged young people, but boredom and a failure to engage clearly is.

The findings from the Blueprint Delivery Report indicated to me that one of the key challenges for some practitioners was finding ways to introduce new ways of working without feeling that discipline in the classroom would be lost.  Here’s the relevent section:

A number of teachers observed that in their normal, day-to-day subject-based teaching they were used to a more didactic approach with predictable outcomes and found the emphasis on active and interactive learning and open-ended discussion very challenging.

“When you have been chucking acid on metals for donkey’s years you don’t have to worry too much about the next thing, you know there is going to be a whiff and a pop.”
(Teacher, Area B, School 12, Year 7)

“I have to say I didn’t feel very comfortable with discussion because that’s not something I do very often. I found it difficult not to preach…….I’m more used ‘This my way, this is the way we do it’.”

(Teacher, Area C, School 3, Year 8)

Filed under: educational theory

Improvements shown with increased lesson breaks

I know this is a bit of a stretch, but interesting none the less. The NUT have a piece about an experiment that a school has been running which seems to improve young people’s learning:

A secondary school has begun teaching its pupils ‘mini-lessons’ in a bid to boost learning by catering to small concentration periods.

And pupils at Monkseaton Community High School in Tyneside are apparently increasing their results by half a grade, reports the Times, after taking part in the eight-minute lessons that are interspersed with breaks for educational games.

This seems quite similar techniques that will be very familiar to non-formal educationalists, and would fit quite well with some of the small group work and active learning that seem to have been promising in the Blueprint findings.

Filed under: educational theory,

Children being failed by progressive teaching, say Tories

According to the Guardian the Conservatives’ education spokesman Michael Gove thinks skills based teaching is failing pupils.

Generations of children have been let down by so-called progressive education policies which have taught skills and “empathy” instead of bodies of knowledge, the shadow education secretary, Michael Gove, said yesterday.

A Conservative government would reinstate traditional styles of fact-based lessons, he told teachers at a conference at Brighton College in Sussex yesterday.

Gove condemned “pupil-centred learning” theories that gained currency in the 1960s for “dethroning” the teacher. “This misplaced ideology has let down generations of children,” he said. “It is an approach to education that has been called progressive, but in fact is anything but. It privileges temporary relevance over a permanent body of knowledge which should be passed on from generation to generation … We need to tackle this misplaced ideology wherever it occurs.”

The NUT’s acting General Secretary isn’t impressed:

“All children need both skills and knowledge – there is no contradiction,” adding: “Teachers will be appalled at Michael Gove’s failure to understand how children learn.”

Mr Gove needs to understand the benefits of personalised tuition for the children in the greatest need, said Ms Blower.

Mr Gove’s website doesn’t yet carry the speech so I’m unable to see how relevant it is to our subject area, but as I’m sure you’ll be aware our definition of drug education does include a belief that it ought to try to affect children and young people’s knowledge, skills and attitudes.

Filed under: Conservatives, educational theory,

Just what can normative messages achieve?

This isn’t one of those light hearted blogs that links to all and sundry, but if you’ll allow me a moment, I thought that an article in Social Influence might tickle those of you who are thinking about normative education and the impact it has on behaviour.

The study looks at the:

ability of printed normative messages to influence conservation behavior among hotel guests. While prior research has shown that social norms can both guide and spur behavior, there are a number of questions about the generality of the effects, the impact of aligning descriptive and injunctive norms, and the relative impact of normative information about a specific versus general referent group.

In other words can written messages make us not ask for new bath towels when we stay at a hotel.

See also:

(via The Research Digest Blog)

Filed under: educational theory,

Talk more in class, experts say

The BBC:

Children should be allowed to talk more in class, education experts have argued, despite the traditional view that chatter can be disruptive.

The Cambridge University study also said that a competitive atmosphere in class could be counter-productive.

It questioned the theory that encouraging pupils to compete increases their motivation to learn.

Instead, it argued, tasks should aim to encourage co-operation and group cohesion instead of competitiveness.

This seems significant to me because of the findings from Blueprint, which suggested that a number of the PSHE teachers in the Blueprint secondary schools weren’t confident in applying active learning techniques in their classrooms.

Admittedly this research, which is part of the Primary Review, is drawn from evidence in primary schools so there may be different factors at work for pupils in secondary school, though I’m a bit doubtful about that.

I’m afraid that I won’t be able to read all 4 of the reports they launched at the end of last week, but I have taken a look at the briefing that lies behind the BBC’s story.  Here are the highlights:

Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: educational theory, , ,

Institute of Effective Education

Every so often we get told that drug education doesn’t work, by which it is usually meant that it isn’t easy to tell if it changes young people’s behaviour.

Most of the people I talk to from the sector argue that this isn’t what it sets out to do, and it shouldn’t be judged against the same criteria as drug prevention initiatives. Rather drug education’s effectiveness should be judged on educational outcomes and on whether it impacts on risk and protective factors.

Either way the Drug Education Forum have been consistent in calling for investment in the evidence base for drug education. Which makes me certain we’ll welcome the creation of the Institute of Effective Education.

Writing in The Guardian Estelle Morris, who is chair of the strategy board for the new body, says:

The Institute will develop and evaluate new programmes and approaches to education, assemble a robust knowledge base, and make it publicly accessible. We shall work with schools, educators and policy makers, in the UK and throughout the world, to help them use evidence in making their decisions about education policy and practice. Our goal is to add substantially to the impact of evidence-based reform of pre-school through to secondary education.

My guess will be that other subject areas will get a lot more attention than drug education, but I’m sure there will be things we can learn and contribute to the Institute’s work.

In the meantime I’ll just point back to a few posts we have done on research around effectiveness:

And two papers we’ve produced:

Filed under: educational theory,

Prevention, Prevention, Prevention

Martin Barnes writing on the Druglink Blog has this to say about the ACMD report Pathways to Problems:

Last year the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) emphasised that preventative measures to tackle hazardous tobacco, alcohol and drug use among young people needed to be much broader than drug education. Prevention is about tackling child poverty, supporting families, the importance of stable family relationships, all ‘upstream’ issues highlighted by the Unicef report.

It’s a good point, and one that DrugScope are well placed to make as it is their document, The Right Responses, which outlines all the things that schools (as one institution) can do to help enhance the protective factors and reduce the risk factors that some children and young people have around drug misuse.

The Drug Education Forum has summarised this on our website – here – and there is now further research published by the Home Office which has examined the literature on risk and protective factors.  One of the papers has this to say about risks associated with education, school performance and school management:

Several studies reported significant relationships (e.g. Hallfors et al., 2002 [2.268]; Johnson et al., 1995 [19.119]; Stronski et al., 2000 [36.161]; Ljubotina et al., 2004 [46.206]) while one did not (Morgan et al., 1999 [3.357]). The latter study was unusual in that it examined country level associations between school performance and levels of drug use. Case and Haines (2003, [5.331]) found that “exposure to risk factors within the main domains of the young person’s life (family, school, neighbourhood, psychological) significantly increases the likelihood that they will ever become involved in drug use (‘ever takers’)”. They also reported that bullying, poor school performance and low school commitment were all associated with level of drug use. Study 36.161 (Stronski et al., 2000) reported that school performance was associated with last month cannabis use, while study 2.268 (Hallfors et al., 2002) reported that school performance was associated with ever cannabis use. This study, which used meta-analytic techniques, concluded that truancy had a higher predictive value for drug use. Reinherz et al. (2000 [12.72]) found that teacher-rated attention problems or ADHD at age nine were predictive of later drug use.

Or in simpler language:

There is considerable evidence linking school pupils’ behaviour (e.g. truancy, drop out, poor attendance) to drug use.

In another paper published by the Home Office has this to say about developing resiliance:

The findings from Stage 2 of the research show that young people’s resilience is facilitated by a range of factors, some of which are related to their character and some to the context in which they are based. There appear to be three processes running concurrently for young people when they are resilient: they operationalise a schema in which they view drug use as harmful to themselves and therefore a behaviour in which they do not want to engage (schema theory), alongside which they have developed a set of resilience-focused goals (selfregulation theory). They then draw on a strong sense of self-efficacy so that they are able to put this decision not to use into practice (self-efficacy theory). Based on these findings, a number of policy implications are suggested to encourage, promote and facilitate young people’s resilience.

To develop and maintain an effective resilience to drugs schema: a strategy of providing accurate and credible information, using relevant appropriate language could help provide young people with the facts necessary to begin developing a resilience to drug use collection of beliefs and attitudes. The experiences of young people included in this study could be used to inform future advertising campaigns and awareness-raising resources such as FRANK. The case studies presented in the report, motivations for not using drugs and the range of strategies suggested for refusing them could all be used in this context and in school drugs education.

To develop and maintain appropriate approach goals: appropriate agencies, including schools, could help young people develop realistic and achievable goals, for example in terms of what career they would like to pursue in the future. Particular challenges may be faced where young people are based in a social context characterised by high levels of unemployment and social deprivation.

To develop and maintain strong self-efficacy: the skills required to be able to maintain a decision not to use drugs in practice, including general social skills such as assertiveness, appear to be used by young people in a wide range of contexts. This would suggest that these skills could be developed and promoted in a variety of settings including both drug education and citizenship school-based classes.

Programmes that promote discussion and tolerance of diversity within peer groups that are based on a ‘normative’ approach to education should be encouraged. These programmes could facilitate resilience by creating an environment where young people feel confident in expressing their personal choice about whether or not to use drugs and in which peer pressure to use would be minimised.

In terms of resiliance this is one of the reasons I had the research on how children and young people learn brought to my attention.

Filed under: ACMD, drug prevention, educational theory, risk and protective factors

Day of the dad

This is a bit tangential, but I hope useful. The Telegraph picks up on research about how children learn:

New research inside the city’s schools has challenged one of the iron laws of New York behaviour – namely that just as you can never be too rude to a grown-up, you can never be too gushing over a child.

Ah, but apparently you can (the second bit at least), according to psychologists from Columbia University. Their 10-year research suggests – in an exaggeration – that if you over-praise your child, you might just as well cut off their writing hand, as that’s how damaging it is to their future prospects and development.You

You can read more about it here where the research is described in more detail:

Dweck sent four female research assistants into New York fifth-grade classrooms. The researchers would take a single child out of the classroom for a non verbal IQ test consisting of a series of puzzles—puzzles easy enough that all the children would do fairly well. Once the child finished the test, the researchers told each student his score, then gave him a single line of praise. Randomly divided into groups, some were praised for their intelligence. They were told, “You must be smart at this.” Other students were praised for their effort: “You must have worked really hard.”

Why just a single line of praise? “We wanted to see how sensitive children were,” Dweck explained. “We had a hunch that one line might be enough to see an effect.”

Then the students were given a choice of test for the second round. One choice was a test that would be more difficult than the first, but the researchers told the kids that they’d learn a lot from attempting the puzzles. The other choice, Dweck’s team explained, was an easy test, just like the first. Of those praised for their effort, 90 percent chose the harder set of puzzles. Of those praised for their intelligence, a majority chose the easy test. The “smart” kids took the cop-out.

Why did this happen? “When we praise children for their intelligence,” Dweck wrote in her study summary, “we tell them that this is the name of the game: Look smart, don’t risk making mistakes.” And that’s what the fifth-graders had done: They’d chosen to look smart and avoid the risk of being embarrassed.

I’ve been passed a copy of the opening chapter of the book that Carol Dweck has written to explain her research. She suggests there are two theories of intelligence – fixed or malleable. If students think they have a fixed intelligence they look for ways of showing they’ve got enough to fit in, they need to “look smart, and at all costs, not look dumb”, and in those circumstances they avoid intellectual challenges can threaten self-esteem.

She then says that if students think that intelligence is malleable they’ll want to learn. “Why waste time worrying about looking smart or dumb, when you could becoming smarter?” She argues that children and young people with that self image thrive on challenges and “easy tasks waste their time rather than raise their self-esteem.”

I notice that the Institute of Education have been carrying out research which suggests that young people may want a bit more challenge in school. Professor Hallam, who lead the research which spoke to 6,000 pupils, is quoted as saying:

The crucial thing is getting the work set at the right level so that it is challenging, and difficult, therefore, but not so difficult that they can’t cope with it

Filed under: educational theory

About this blog

This blog tries to pick up relevant media and research stories about drug education. It mainly focuses on information in England as this is the geographical remit for the Drug Education Forum. We welcome comments that are on topic.

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