Dr. Terrence Sejnowski on Context Switching

Interview with Dr. Terrence Sejnowski (Video Lecture 1-8)
Coursera. Learning How to Learn: Powerful mental tools to help you master tough subjects
by Dr. Terrence Sejnowski, Dr. Barbara Oakley
UC San Diego. August 2014

02:30 A general principle: you learn more by active engagement rather than passive listening.

04:38 We can’t actually do two things consciously, at the same time, because these will get mixed up

Context switching: some people are better than others. In other words sometimes takes a while to get into the swing of things if, you’re in the middle of writing a paper.
For example, it may take hours before you get to the point where you can actually be productive, actually able to get something accomplished.



programming tasks take so long to task switch

“Constant, constant, multi-tasking craziness”: managing multiple working spheres

A diary study of task switching and interruptions


Intelligence testing: Role of test motivation

Role of test motivation in intelligence testing
Angela Lee Duckworth, et al.
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2011 May 10;108(19):7716-20.

Intelligence tests are widely assumed to measure maximal intellectual performance, and predictive associations between intelligence quotient (IQ) scores and later-life outcomes are typically interpreted as unbiased estimates of the effect of intellectual ability on academic, professional, and social life outcomes.
The current investigation critically examines these assumptions and finds evidence against both.

First, we examined whether motivation is less than maximal on intelligence tests administered in the context of low-stakes research situations.
Specifically, we completed a meta-analysis of random-assignment experiments testing the effects of material incentives on intelligence-test performance on a collective 2,008 participants.
Incentives increased IQ scores by an average of 0.64 SD, with larger effects for individuals with lower baseline IQ scores.

Second, we tested whether individual differences in motivation during IQ testing can spuriously inflate the predictive validity of intelligence for life outcomes.
Trained observers rated test motivation among 251 adolescent boys completing intelligence tests using a 15-min “thin-slice” video sample.
IQ score predicted life outcomes, including academic performance in adolescence and criminal convictions, employment, and years of education in early adulthood.
After adjusting for the influence of test motivation, however, the predictive validity of intelligence for life outcomes was significantly diminished, particularly for nonacademic outcomes.

Collectively, our findings suggest that, under low-stakes research conditions, some individuals try harder than others, and, in this context, test motivation can act as a third-variable confound that inflates estimates of the predictive validity of intelligence for life outcomes.

a quality journalistic analysis:


Online peer assessment

Online peer assessment: effects of cognitive and affective feedback
Instructional Science. March 2012, 40(2): 257-275
Jingyan Lu, Nancy Law

This study reports the effects of online peer assessment, in the form of peer grading and peer feedback, on students’ learning.

One hundred and eighty one high school students engaged in peer assessment via an online system—iLap.
The number of grade-giving and grade-receiving experiences was examined and the peer feedback was coded according to different cognitive and affective dimensions.
The effects, on both assessors and assessees, were analyzed using multiple regression.

The results indicate that the provision by student assessors of feedback that identified problems and gave suggestions was a significant predictor of the performance of the assessors themselves, and that positive affective feedback was related to the performance of assessees.
However, peer grading behaviors were not a significant predictor of project performance.
This study explains the benefits of online peer assessment in general and highlights the importance of specific types of feedback.
Moreover, it expands our understanding of how peer assessment affects the different parties involved.

This article is cited by:
A Beginner’s Guide to Irrational Behavior
Duke University

Quantitative studies of student self-assessment in higher education: a critical analysis of findings
Higher Education, 1989, Volume 18, Issue 5, pp 529-549
David Boud, Nancy Falchikov

Student self-assessment occurs when learners make judgements about aspects of their own performance. This paper focuses on one aspect of quantitative self-assessments: the comparison of student-generated marks with those generated by teachers. Studies including such comparisons in the context of higher education courses are reviewed and the following questions are addressed: (i) do students tend to over- or under-rate themselves vis-á-vis teachers?, (ii) do students of different abilities have the same tendencies?, (iii) do students in different kinds or levels of course tend to under- or over-rate themselves?, (iv) do students improve their ability to rate themselves over time or with practice?, (v) are the same tendencies evident when self-marks are used for formal assessment purposes?, and (vi) are there gender differences in self-rating? The paper also discusses methodological issues in studies of this type and makes recommendations concerning the analysis and presentation of information.

This article is cited by:
An Introduction to Interactive Programming in Python
Rice University. 2014

‘Unproductive Anxiety’ & Essay Writing

‘Unproductive Anxiety’ And The Solo Act Of Essay Writing
by Scott Simon
March 08, 2014

the College Board announced it will make the essay on the SAT exam optional.

There may be “unproductive anxiety” for the College Board, too.
The SAT was once considered essential for college admissions.
But last year, more U.S. students took the ACT exam.

Most educators seem convinced that a high school student’s classroom record is a better indication of academic aptitude than the ACT or SAT

School Testing Systems Should Be Examined In 2014

Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education

School Testing Systems Should Be Examined In 2014
December 26, 2013

The United States has spent a decade trying to improve the standing of its schools compared to the rest of the world. Education researcher Linda Darling-Hammond says the result is disappointing.

LINDA DARLING-HAMMOND: We’re actually not doing any better than we were doing a decade ago. In fact, the PISA tests, the international assessments, just came out a couple of weeks ago, and basically the story for the United States over the last decade or more is flatline.

GREENE: Darling-Hammond advised President Obama, but she’s dismayed to see his administration continue the high-stakes testing introduced with President Bush’s No Child Left Behind law. Darling-Hammond now directs Stanford University’s Center for Opportunity in Education.

INSKEEP: So is the lesson here that we’re just going to leave some children behind?

DARLING-HAMMOND: Well, the bar that was set was a completely unrealistic bar. The proficiency level is above grade level. It’s kind of like striving to be Lake Woebegone, you know, where everybody is above average. It’s not a realistic goal, and there are lots of elements of the law that are unattainable. For example, English learners are taken out of that category when they become proficient. So that category of students can never become 100 percent proficient, because as they become proficient, we no longer count them.

DARLING-HAMMOND: Well, you know, in general, our schools do better with the challenges they have to face, than I think is trued of most high-achieving nations around the world. We have the highest rate of childhood poverty, mortality, lack of health care, homelessness of any developed country in the world at this point. And we have unequal funding, so that we give more money to the education of rich kids than poor kids.

So our affluent districts in schools do quite well, and are still the envy of many in the world. Our low-income schools and districts are struggling with all these responsibilities and challenges and very little and inadequate public support. And yet, they perform extraordinarily well, given the circumstances they have to meet.

INSKEEP: Education is the way out of poverty. Listening to you, it sounds like you actually would suggest that that’s exactly backwards, that, in fact, attacking poverty might be a way to improve education.

DARLING-HAMMOND: I think that both things are true, that certainly good education is a way out of poverty. That means we have to provide equitable education to kids in low-income communities. At the same time, until we address some of these issues that adhere to poverty itself – kids coming to school without health care, often without homes, without the supports in the communities – we’re going to spend a lot more money in education try to address those problems. The two are completely intertwined, and we have to work on both at the same time.

The trends of global education.
January 25, 2013
Linda Darling-Hammond, Charles E. Ducommun Professor of Education at Stanford University.
Download Duration: 55:22

Student Self-efficacy. The Testing Effect.

How To Create Cheat-Free Classrooms
December 26, 2013

More than half of high school students admitted to having cheated on a test over the past year. Even more say they’ve copied homework or other assignments. That’s according to a recent survey by the Josephson Institute.

Jessica Lahey wrote about this recently for The Atlantic and the New York Times.
She’s also author of the forthcoming book “The Gift of Failure” and a former middle school teacher.
And James Lang is a professor at Assumption College in Massachusetts. He’s author of “Cheating Lessons: Learning from Academic Dishonesty.”

the teaching-learning transaction

principled cheating. And unfortunately, I think what he’s done is abdicated his responsibility and abdicated his character because he was looking for anyone other than himself for blame.

It’s called self-efficacy. If the student feels that they’re not capable of doing the work that they have been assigned, or if they feel they’re not going to be fairly evaluated, they are more likely to cheat.

testing students can help their learning. This is kind of counterintuitive to the way most of us think, which is that testing measures learning.
There’s a real well-established body of research on what they call the testing effect, which tells us that sort of getting things out of our memory is almost like a skill that we need to be able to practice so that the more times you try and get some thing out of your memory, the more you kind of strengthen the neural pathways that allow you to do that more easily. So if we have students that we know are going to be taking standardized tests, one of the best things we can do actually is give them frequent kind of low-stakes opportunities in the classroom to practice at those tests.