UUK response to HEFCE’s Review of quality assessment

From The Disorder of Things:

UUK has just circulated their response to HEFCE [see HEFCE’s Review of quality assessment] which endorses the use of student outcomes data […]. They write:

We agree that a core set of quantitative student outcome metrics should be included in institutional reporting. These should be the benchmarked UK performance indicator set, covering retention, widening participation, 6 months destination of leavers from higher education, plus relevant benchmarked results from the national student survey, primarily question 22 ‘overall satisfaction with course’…

“Discrete Analysis”: standards are set high

Tim Gowers set up  a new journal, Discrete Analysis — an arXiv overlay journal. 

His new blog post shows that the Journal’s standards are set high:

I imagine most people reading this will already have heard that Terence Tao has solved the Erdős discrepancy problem. He has blogged about the solution in two posts, a first that shows how to reduce the problem to the Elliott conjecture in number theory, and a second that shows (i) that an averaged form of the conjecture is sufficient and (ii) that he can prove the averaged form. Two preprints covering (i) and (ii) are here and here: the one covering (i) has been submitted to Discrete Analysis.

Discrete Analysis — an arXiv overlay journal

Tim Gowers starts a new journal:

This post is to announce the start of a new mathematics journal, to be called Discrete Analysis. While in most respects it will be just like any other journal, it will be unusual in one important way: it will be purely an arXiv overlay journal. That is, rather than publishing, or even electronically hosting, papers, it will consist of a list of links to arXiv preprints. Other than that, the journal will be entirely conventional: authors will submit links to arXiv preprints, and then the editors of the journal will find referees, using their quick opinions and more detailed reports in the usual way in order to decide which papers will be accepted.

Read the rest.


OECD: Students, Computers and Learning

This OECD Report is in news (see, for example, Too much technology ‘could lower school results’ at the BBC). What follows are some quotes from the Report related to mathematics.

The results also show no appreciable improvements in student achievement in reading, mathematics or science in the countries that had invested heavily in ICT for education. And perhaps the most disappointing finding of the report is that technology is of little help in bridging the skills divide between advantaged and disadvantaged students. Put simply, ensuring that every child attains a baseline level of proficiency in reading and mathematics seems to do more to create equal opportunities in a digital world than can be achieved by expanding or subsidising access to high-tech devices and services. (p. 3)

What the data tell us
• Resources invested in ICT for education are not linked to improved student achievement in reading, mathematics or science. […]

• Overall, the relationship between computer use at school and performance is graphically illustrated by a hill shape, which suggests that limited use of computers at school may be better than no use at all, but levels of computer use above the current OECD average are associated with significantly poorer results. (p. 146)

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Project-Based Mathematics

Does any one know of any country, state, school which has adopted PBM as the way to teach and assess mathematics in the final two or three years of secondary school (before sixth form)? I don’t mean the use of projects to enhance the lessons or help children learn and apply concepts, but the whole three years based on projects with, say, 60% of the final assessment based on class-based project work and 40% on a written exam, for the O level.

Jo Johnson on graduate employment

Jo Johnson, Minister for Universities and Science, said in his recent speech
Higher education: fulfilling our potential:

We have all been reminded of the scale of the challenge by a recent CIPD survey suggesting that almost 60% of graduates are in non-graduate jobs.

While it may overstate matters — official statistics show that in fact only 20% of recent graduates did not find a graduate level job within 3 years of leaving college — it is clear that universities must do more to demonstrate they add real and lasting value for all students.

In my humble opinion, there are essentially two ways to improve the percentage of graduates finding graduate level jobs:

(a) Increase the number of  vacant graduate positions available, and

(b) decrease the number of graduates.

All other solutions are log-linear combinations of these two. The only option under control of universities is (b). Is this what Jo Johnson wants from the universities?

Added 11 September 2015: A detailed analysis of Jo Johnson’s speech is given by Martin Paul Eve in his post at THE blog, TEF, REF, QR, deregulation: thoughts on Jo Johnson’s HE talk.

INDRUM2016 Update

First conference of the International Network for Didactic
Research in University Mathematics (INDRUM)
March 31 – April 2, 2016 – Montpellier (France)
Second Announcement & Call for Papers

Information on how to contribute to and attend the conference:

INDRUM 2016 is an ERME Topic Conference:

INDRUM2016 is the first in a series of biennial and bilingual conferences that will address all aspects of research in didactics of mathematics at tertiary level, including students’ and teachers’ practices and the teaching and learning of specific mathematical
topics. The conference aims to attract researchers in didactics of mathematics at university level, mathematicians and any teacher or researcher with interest in university mathematics education (UME). The conference programme consists of: a plenary lecture, a panel discussion, thematic working groups (6h each), short communications in parallel (two sessions of 1h30m each) and a permanent poster exhibition. Michèle Artigue (University Paris Diderot, France) will be the plenary speaker. The conference proceedings will be available before the conference and we aim to publish a post-conference book. This conference is part of the work of INDRUM (International Network for Didactic Research in University Mathematics), an international network initiated by a team of researchers in university-level didactics of mathematics. INDRUM aims to contribute to the development of research in didactics of mathematics at all levels of tertiary education, with a particular focus on building  research capacity in the field and on strengthening the dialogue with the mathematics community.

We now invite paper and poster proposals on the following two broad Thematic Working Groups (TWG):

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Teachers Aren’t Dumb

An Op-Ed piece in the New York Times, by

Mediocre teacher preparation extends to mathematics. An international study of new middle school teachers showed that Americans scored worse on a math test than teachers in countries where kids excelled, like Singapore and Poland. William Schmidt of Michigan State University identified the common-sense explanation: American teachers take fewer math classes. Instead, they take more courses in general pedagogy — coursework, that is, on theories of instruction, theories of child development and the like.

Can anyone give references to “an international study of new middle school teachers”? What was UK’s results in the study?