Monday, March 26, 2007

Krashen on mind-wandering

Sent to the Taipei Times, March 23, 2007.

It seems that most scientists who study why our mind
wanders assume it is a bad thing ("Scientists explore
the 'wanders' of the human mind," March 23).

Sometimes it is a bad thing, but often it isn't.
Creativity research consistently shows that
"incubation," some quiet time in which the thinker is
not concerned with the problem at hand, helps
problem-solving. Piaget, for example, went for walks
when faced with hard problems in his work and Einstein
played his violin. Both found that solutions came
easily after a short period of relaxation. Research
also shows that good thinkers actually schedule in
"idle time" after periods of hard work.

When the mind wanders, in at least some cases, it may
be because the mind needs to "incubate" over a
problem. Artificially forcing the thinker to stay
"focused," without allowing incubation, might inhibit
creative thinking.

Remember when you were staring at the ceiling in
elementary school, and the teacher asked you whether
the answer was on the ceiling? Maybe it was.

Stephen Krashen

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Krashen on cramming and "fun stuff"

Sent to the Taipei Times, March 12

Cramming for tests vs. "fun stuff" in school

"In Taiwan, we don't dare open our mouths in the
classroom. We just cram for tests here. But in the US,
the students there do stuff -- fun stuff." Angel Chen,
student (quoted in "Stint at US school an eye-opener
for Hualien students," March 11)

Guess what, Angel. Students in the US are getting
less and less of a chance to "fun stuff" and are
spending more and more time cramming for tests, thanks
to "No Child Left Behind" (NCLB) a program that is
turning schools in the US into test preparation
centers. The Bush administration is claiming that
NCLB is working, but every scholar who has examined
the actual data has found that it has had no effect on
national test scores.

Cramming for tests does not seem to help students do
better on tests. All the extra testing has, however,
been of great benefit to the companies that produce
the tests.

Stephen Krashen

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Krashen on NCLB and testing

Don't Increase Testing

Sent to the Venture County Star, March 4
John Walker ("Legislation needed so NCLB doesn?t leave
schools behind," March 4) makes excellent points in
his criticism of No Child Left Behind. Among other
things, he is right when he says that NCLB has
narrowed the focus to English/language arts and math, neglecting other subjects.
I am concerned, however, that the remedy will be more
testing of more subjects, more standardized tests
given to students who are already over-tested, and
even more focus on test preparation rather than real
learning. There are already plans to introduce
standardized tests in science. Once that happens, we
can expect tests in social studies, music, art,
physical education, etc. etc., a great boon to the
test publishers, but a nightmare for students.
We owe it to the students not to test anymore than is necessary. Every unnecessary minute spent testing is stolen from teaching and learning.

Stephen Krashen