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What Infrastructure Do We Need to Build to Promote
Education Research to a True Science?
(a presentation prepared for Forbes UNDER 30 Summit in Boston (Oct 16 – Oct 18, 2016);
here https://youtu.be/jCE_Z_bat74 is my “mock” interview during the Summit,
and here https://teachologyforall.blogspot.com/ is some thoughts right after the Summit)
Eradicating Polio (Bill and Melinda Gates: http://www.gatesfoundation.org/What-We-Do/Global-Development/Polio);
Finding cure to all diseases (Mr. Zuckerberg and Dr. Chan: https://chanzuckerberg.com/);
Space tourism (Richard Branson: http://www.virgingalactic.com/);
Space cargo (Jeff Bezos: https://www.blueorigin.com/;
Colonizing Mars (Elon Musk: http://www.spacex.com/ or President Obama http://www.cnn.com/2016/10/11/opinions/america-will-take-giant-leap-to-mars-barack-obama/index.html)
- what do all these goals have in common?
The tasks of achieving these goals are all doable! ( a.k.a. all these missions are possible! )
No doubt, achieving each goal requires an enormous amount of money, and effort, and R&D, and manpower, and intellectual breakthroughs, and organization, and logistics, and … the list can go on and on.
But the process for achieving each goal has a well-defined structure, clear stages, manageable tasks such that when one task is finished it opens doors for the next one. In the end,
all these goals are achievable!
That is why all these goals have been proposed – because businessmen do not set unachievable goals. Businessmen do not “burn” money, neither literally, nor figuratively.
If businessmen do not see any realistic and positive (for them, for society) outcomes of a project,
they do not finance that project.
Establishing this notion, we can conclude that businessmen do not see as feasible, or achievable such a goal as “eradicating stupidity/illiteracy/ignorance” - a slang and short version for “providing sufficient education to all”.
Giving here and there a couple of dozen of millions of dollars to support students and teachers in economically suppressed/underprivileged areas might help to easy some of the social issues like insufficient teacher preparation in local schools, or helping students with having textbooks, etc. However, these actions look nothing like setting apart several billions of dollars to … (please, read again the first paragraph).
It looks like for businessmen colonizing Mars, or eradicating all diseases seems easier to do than providing high quality education to all students. Isn’t this strange?
One might ask, how do businessmen decide if a goal is achievable or not, if a mission is possible or not?
The answer is simple – science!
All goals listed above are based on a solid science: physics, mathematics, engineering, biology, chemistry, medical science.
Science of education does not exist.
Subconsciously (at the minimum), all billionaires know this.
One cannot build a multibillion business without having a strong intuition about the things.
All billionaires intuitively know that currently there is no basis for an “Eradicating Stupidity” Project (evidently, building a city on Mars is just easier!).
But accepting the fact that there is no such a thing as a science of education could lead to stating an actually achievable goal –
investing into the development of infrastructure needed for the development of a science of education!
This 6-minute video describes what can be done to achieve this goal.
OR check below a presentation prepared for Forbes UNDER 30 Summit in Boston
OR download a pdf file with the slides.
1. Hello, I’m Dr. Valentin Voroshilov.
2. Billions of dollars have been spent to build research facilities to study
3. or to conquer the physical world.
4. Billions of dollars are being spent for building research facilitates to study biology, and medicine.
5. However, despite the fact that too many U.S. schools cannot provide sufficient education to too many graduates,
6. there are no investments in building research facilities designed specifically to studying learning and teaching processes.
7. The Government, the NSF, charitable and philanthropic organizations do finance various projects in the field, but the majority of the projects aim at solving social issues, like insufficient teacher preparation, adoption of new standards, bringing technologies in a classroom, and others.
8. According to Dr. Kauffman and others, the research in the field is currently in a pre-science state. Most of the research conclusions can be summarized in a single statement: if we take two large groups of similar students, and one group of students will have a more extensive or divers learning experience (for example, more contact hours, or more time spent on certain exercises, or training through more, or more difficult, or different exercises) students from that group, on average, will demonstrate better learning outcomes than the students in a controlled group. Period.
9. This conclusion does not really need special research; it becomes almost obvious if we employ the notion that a brain is basically a muscle, or a collection of muscles, the development of which strongly correlates with the variety and intensity of exercises it goes through.
10. In order to move beyond the obvious and to make a transition from a pre-science state (like alchemy) to becoming a true science (like chemistry) we have to treat education as space exploration, i.e. the field of education needs research facilities designated specifically to studying learning and teaching processes.
11. But first, two questions have to be answered: What to study, and how to structure this facility?
12. I’ve been teaching math and physics for many years, and I know that everyone can get an A, but different people need a different path and a different time to achieve that. However, teaching today is like telling every marathon runner: “You have 2 hours to run, whoever runs the farthest – wins.”
13. Many words are said about differentiation in learning. Those words however are just proclamations not based on any solid data. Nowadays we know only in general how people learn. But we have no idea how much time would Ben Smith need to spend to learn “Breaking numbers apart by addition”.
14. Yes, different people have different learning styles. We know that.
15. But how much time would it take to a child of a specific gender, race, socio-economic background, attention span, temperament, and other individual characteristics to master a given skill of a given subject? That we do not know.
16. For every child, there is a finite number of individual characteristics describing his or her learning, behavioral, and social styles. There is a finite number of subjects to learn, and within each subject there is a finite volume of knowledge to learn, and a finite number of skills to master. It should take a finite amount of time to study all relevant correlations.
17. The research facility for conducting such a study must be developed around a specifically designed school, or a network of schools. Each school will be the nucleus of a facility where all students and professionals work together, with the whole world watching 24/7 (click here for more info on the structure of the facility).
18. It will generate data sufficient for promoting current educational research to a true science. The research will lead to development of new teaching tools and learning aids.
19. Two of the founders of the Breakthrough prize, Mark Zuckerberg and Yuri Milner, pledged to spend one hundred million dollars on the search for extraterrestrials. It did not occur to them, or to anybody else, that for many teachers their students do look like aliens.
20. Today I am calling on philanthropists to spend money on building research facilities designated specifically to studying learning and teaching processes, so in the coming decades every educator could point to scientific data supporting the method he or she uses, or recommends.
21. Thank you. This would have been my presentation offered to the judges of 2016 Forbes Boston “30 under 30” Forum, if I would have been under 30.
22. However, I can assure you, there is no-one under 30 who could have made this presentation, because it is based on both, wide and deep, and both, teaching and research experience, which in the field of education takes decades to grow.
Thank you (more at http://www.TeachOlogy.xyz)
Click here (and scroll down a page) to see my application and what the judges said!
What is the difference between a science and a religion?
This is a heavily loaded question, which have been igniting many heated discussions.
If you read various publications on the matter you see that the most of the authors boil their views down to one statement: “A science is evidence based, and a religion is faith based.”
For example, the following quote represents an example of a very common sentiment on the difference between a science and a religion:
“The important difference between science and religion is that religion comes with ABSOLUTE statements, that neither can be proved or disproved, and science evolves from relative truths and statements, that can be testified and proven false (which means: science has to develop, in order to replace (partly) untrue theories, and replace them with better ones). Science does not claim it has absolute knowledge on anything. Religion claims it has.” (Reference https://www.physicsforums.com/threads/difference-between-science-and-religion.2248/)
This is statement is not incorrect, but it is missing a very important part of any science.
Every science is also based on absolute statements, i.e. on the statements in which every scientist deeply believes without really having them logically derived from indisputable evidence.
In other words, every scientist has a faith.
Every scientist has a faith in that:
* The world (a.k.a. the universe, a.k.a. the nature) exists.
* The existence of the world does not require human presence.
* The functioning of the world has certain patterns (under similar circumstances objects undergo similar processes). Those patterns do not depend on the existence of intelligent species.
* Humans are intelligent enough to uncover and understand the patterns governing the world (a.k.a. laws).
* I – a scientist – am intelligent enough to uncover and understand the patterns governing the world (otherwise why would I be going into doing a science?)
Diving into a specific science, like mathematics, or physics, or chemistry, shows that all those sciences are also based on a set of absolute statements, although in a science those statements called postulates or axioms, not commandments.
Those postulates cannot be logically derived from certain observations or experiments. Yes, they are related to certain observations or experiments, and during the search for those postulates some reasoning, of course, have been used. However, the final formulation of a postulate is usually a result of an insight. Then, after the postulates had been formulated, scientists use logical procedures to derive various consequences/predications, and if those predictions are consistent with observations and experiments that gives us the confidence in the truthfulness of the postulates.
There are many good books on a logical structure of science (just run an Internet search on “structure of science). Here I would only point at one of my favorite examples, namely, Albert Einstein’s postulates of The Special Relativity Theory.
In conclusion, we cannot say that a science does not include any faith at all: there is a faith in a science, but just different one from a faith in a religion.
If the difference between a science and a religion is not based on the presence of absence of a faith, then what does make them different? The answer is – people.
A science and a religion are just two of many human practices.
The most important difference is between the people practicing those practices.
A person who practices a science – a scientist – does not claim that his knowledge is absolute and cannot be changed. A scientist is not the one who knows everything and is always right. A scientist knows that his/her knowledge is limited, can and most probably will be changed in the future (even the postulates!), and because of that a scientist is always ready to be wrong.
People practicing religion will never accept any possibility for their postulates to be wrong, they practice a dogmatic thinking.
To be fair, some people who call themselves scientists also practice a dogmatic thinking.
Maybe this is why Max Plank said, that “A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.”
If you check what the judges said about my proposal, you will see that their opinions were very much opposite. Interestingly, the similar case happened when two judges evaluated one of my papers (http://www.teachology.xyz/msm.html). If you read my official student evaluations, you do not find many neutral views like "He was OK", but the most of the opinions are either "great"-like or "sucked"-like (and ratemyprofessor.com shows a similar pattern). Evidently, one way or another, I touch most of the people I meet - like I am a "Donald-Trump/Hillary-Clinton type of person - love me or hate me. I want to add that I have no intention making people feel that why about me, I just have noticed the pattern.
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