Not either or but both- if they promote different cognitive skills in students?

Traditional raises achievement in the  knowledge domain-Modern in the reasoning domain, according to new research


New research- Teaching practices and cognitive skills – by Jan Bietenbec of Cemfi, Madrid – uses data from the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) to show that traditional and modern teaching practices in effect promote different cognitive skills in students. Some educationalists have called for a decrease in the use of traditional teaching practices (such as learning by rote) and an increase in the use of modern teaching practices (such as working in small groups) in schools. Yet a small literature in economics has consistently found that traditional teaching raises test scores, while the effect of modern teaching appears to be small and sometimes even negative.(Professor Hattie)This research, however, finds that Traditional practices promote factual knowledge and routine problem-solving skills. Whereas Modern, student-centred practices promote reasoning skills.

Gabriel Sahlgren, of CMRE, who describes himself as an ‘empirical economist’ commenting on this research writes:

’ By decomposing scores in three different domains, he is able to separate the effects of different teaching practices on ‘knowing’, ‘applying’, and ‘reasoning’ domains, with the weight being about 35%, 41%, and 24% respectively in mathematics, and 37%, 41%, and 22% respectively in science. Importantly, it is the last domain that measures skills that many advocates of modern teaching practices seek to promote.

‘The author analyses how differences in teaching methods that pupils experience in science and mathematics are related to test-score differences in these subjects, which means that he can hold constant unobservable pupil characteristics, such as intelligence, maturity etc., that affect their results equally in science and mathematics.

‘Interestingly, he finds that traditional teaching methods are clearly best for raising achievement in the two ‘traditional knowledge’ domains: a 100% increase in traditional teaching methods raises achievement in those domains by fully 0.42 standard deviation in the ‘knowing’ domain, and by 0.36 standard deviations in the ‘applying’ domain. However, modern teaching practices are best for raising achievement in the ‘reasoning’ domain: a 100% increase in modern teaching practices increases achievement by 0.24 standard deviations in this domain. While the differences are only statistically significant in the first two domains, this indicates that the different teaching practices are good for different things’

 Teaching practices and cognitive skills -Jan Bietenbec-2014


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