ResearchEd 3: Laura McInerney

What problem in education would you pay £1,000,000 to solve? Laura talks about the Millennium Prize problems, and their predecessor, when the key 23 problems in maths were identified, the solving of which would have a huge impact. Hilbert thus reminded everyone what was important.

Education’s touch paper problems, then (because McInerney’s problems is too difficult to say). Laura has been considering what she needed to help her in the classroom. What can be done to help students learn? for example.

There needs to be some base of something, though – it can’t be all gut feeling. But, as a phd student in Missouri, Laura has found it difficult to work with schools due to timings, locations, a mismatch of methods and data and also of priorities – so randomised control tests aren’t the whole answer either.

Laura therefore thought that identifying seven problems, the solving of which would help teachers in the classroom and improve education. Others have done this: Australia and the cane toad, Feynman and the encyclopaedia on the head of a pin. But, it is the principles that are important. Not “there’s this computer program…” but “there are these principles on which I based is computer program…”. TedMed have some problems for solving on the cutting edge of practice but did not choose cancer because a lot is already known about it.

So, the problems…
– should be specifically focused on cognitive and or social development
– need to be about the principles and not the inventions
– need a defined end point. We’ll know when we’ve solved it that we’ve solved it.

We spend some time talking about what the problems might be. This is much harder than it thinks. Laura gives us a couple of suggestions, beginning with “What is the shortest time in which a person with dyslexia can be taught to spell the thousand most common words?” and “If a child needs to remember 20 chunks of knowledge from one lesson to the next, what are the most effective homework to set?” which is funny because it’s close to something I’ve been considering this week. They’re helpful because they provide a starting point, but there need to be more. Laura invites us to spend some time thinking about what they might be.

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One Response to ResearchEd 3: Laura McInerney

  1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this! It was really interesting to see what you had picked out of the talk (obviously in my head it goes a certain way, so a bit like when you need to check with the class what they are picking up, it was nice to see which messages got out there as I hoped they would!).

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