Three things to read this weekend

Happy Friday! Here are our top picks for what you should be reading this weekend (in between watching college basketball, of course).

Finland’s school reforms won’t scrap subjects altogether (The Conversation): In case you missed it, Finland is planning some changes to its national curriculum that have caused a few waves in the international press. In this piece, Pasi Sahlberg, a Finnish educator and visiting professor at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, explains that Finland is not, in fact, getting rid of traditional subject (e.g., math, history, etc.) altogether. Schools will continue to teach those subjects but will also be required to spend some on multi-disciplinary modules – Sahlberg calls this “phenomenom-based” teaching. I think this integrated approach makes a lot of sense: how often in the workplace do you do a task that only calls for one particular skill or source of knowledge? What do you think?

How much should you pay for a degree? (The Hechinger Report): California Competes, a California nonprofit focused on higher education, has proposed creating an online tool that would help students determine whether college is the right choice for them, given certain factors like grades, SAT scores and excitement about school among other things. Robert Shireman, the nonprofit’s executive director, argues that such a tool could help puzzled or overwhelmed 12th graders make decisions about their future that will help lead them to college success. Reading a description of the proposed tool, however, raises questions for me about whether it would just discourage kids who are on the bubble from trying for college at all. Shireman acknowledges that there’s a need for a human advisor to help students understand the options generated by the tool. I wonder if there’s a way to apply this concept much earlier in a student’s academic trajectory, say in middle school, to help kids understand how the grades they get and the courses they take inform the options they will have years down the line. Would that increase motivation, or would it turn kids off?

Does student motivation even matter? (The Atlantic): This article about a recent Brookings Institution report highlights several of the report’s counterintuitive findings, including the fact that increasing a student’s enjoyment of reading doesn’t correlate with higher reading scores and that many countries whose students report higher levels of motivations on math actually posted declining math scores. Also, girls outperform boys – in some cases dramatically so – in every wealthy country in the world, including the U.S. – and yet by adulthood that gap disappears. More than anything, I think what these results highlight is the difficult in figuring out policy solutions for some of long-running educational problems.