Jan 1, 2019
Graham Nuthall was an education researcher from New Zealand who spent most of his career on classroom observation, both by directly sitting in on lessons and by recording them by the hundred, watching them back, and analysing them with his team. He also made extensive use of interviews with students to clarify their thought processes. This short book communicates his most important findings to other researchers and to teachers.
His most impressive achievement is being able to predict, with some accuracy, what concepts or facts children have learned based solely on classroom observation. His team would analyse what different students were doing at key moments in lessons, noting whether they were paying attention to the information being taught or discussed. They found that if a student had been paying attention at least three times when the full information necessary to understand a concept was being stated, then they would almost always have formed the concept and be able to articulate it after the end of the unit. If they had paid attention only two or fewer times, they had not learnt the concept.
His work emphasises the individual lives of students, and particularly peer interactions. It's not only "distraction" either - for some students, over half of what they learned had been from peers. He goes over detailed examples of classroom conversations, both the public and the clandestine, showing how these affect both student learning and broader behaviour and culture.
Although the main points of the book concern peers and the number of exposures required to learn something, given that the book is a summary of the most important things that Nuthall has to say, it touches on many other points and ideas in education.
Although I was hoping to make this a short episode, as per my Public Service Announcement (last "episode"), it ended up having to be around 50 minutes long to cover the most important things that he had to say, even briefly. Maybe 50 minutes is still short for me.
Enjoy the episode.