Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Done and Dusted

Sharp-eyed readers will know that I've been working these last few weeks on a huge project. It's involved a fair bit of research, plodding through piles and piles of data and writing. Now, of the three, typically I like writing. But, in this case, the research and the data analysis were the easy parts. The writing, man, that was work. It's a style of writing I'm not comfortable with, nor good at. Journal writing involves a different set of skills and a manner of presenting information that I find really, really, difficult. When done, my handy statistics page on Word told me I'd spent 856 minutes on writing. That for a measly few thousand words!

But it's done.

It's in the hands of editors now.

What I wanted to tell you was that in doing the data on three of our classes, Self Esteem, Relationship Training and Abuse Prevention, there was significant learning for those attending. But here's the thing. Every single person who attended classes came out with a higher post test scores. Sometimes the increase was remarkable, sometimes the increase was modest, but there was an increase 100 percent of the time. That's 100 per cent of the time.

Those who attended weren't hand picked, they were just on the wait list for training. Those that attended were a broad cross section of people with intellectual disabilities that Vita serves. And to a one they learned.

Here's something else we found that isn't in the journal article. We measured confidence in answering questions in both Relationship Training and in Abuse Prevention. What was notable was that when the confidence increased for an individual, so did the post test scores in an astonishing manner. Remarkable. Improbable. Astounding.

Now I know our trainers at Vita are good. But they will forgive me for saying, 'no one is that good a trainer'. What was clear to me was that lack of confidence in self pushed down the pre test scores. People with disabilities expected less of themselves and performed down to their expectations. I found some research that showed that people with intellectual disabilities who see their disability as meaning 'unable' perform less well. Learning that they are people with disabilities who can learn may be the most important lesson that was taught.

I've always said that whenever you are teaching a person with an intellectual disability anything, you are automatically teaching two things. First, whatever it is you think you are teaching. Second, you are teaching that learning is possible - for them.

That's what was achieved.

I've always believed it but to see it in black and white. To see the numbers tumble out the bottom of my pen. To read a pre test, read the post test, and then, sit startled at the results and then go check to ensure that I didn't mix up the data sheets was mind bending. But there it was time and again, confidence up, scores shoot up. Stunning. Amazing. Incroyable!

Learning that learning is possible.

Learning what disability doesn't mean.

Learning to expect of self.

We thought we were teaching skills, but something bigger happened. Much bigger.

I found myself weighed down by gritty research into the bad things that happen to people with disabilities, first in the world, then in the justice system. But I come out of it believing, again, that once we get it right, and I believe we will one day get it right:

the world will change.


Anonymous said...

"The world will change", and thanks to people like you it will change into something better not worth!

Sorry that I havent commented for a longer time or participated in the day of remembering an mourning. I had bad kidney problems. Now I am better.

Thank you for going on writing and researching. Your blog certainly makes a diference for me.


Anonymous said...

Sorry worse not worth....

dang sometimes you really notice that englisch ist not my native language....

Dave Hingsburger said...

Julia, welcome back! I did wonder where you had gone and hoped that you were OK. Nice to hear from you again. Thanks for continuing to be part of this community! We all make a difference in each other's lives.

Andrea S. said...

Julia, glad you are doing better!

Dave, I vaguely remember reading a study somewhere where students from different ethnic backgrounds were given some standardized test. If students of color were told that "students of color tend to do poorly on this test" then test scores immediately went down. But if they were told that students of color did fine, then test scores were higher. Confidence can make a huge and immediate difference indeed.

Clairesmum said...

My wisest professor taught me that one must always offer a bit of genuine hope to a client in order to show empathy, support change,validate the person or whatever term is being used to describe how therapy works this is hope measured and quantified and shared in terms that bureaucrats and evaluators can begin to believe! Thanks for sharing the hope and transforming it into data and analysis. It is needed to show what you know with heart and soul.

Alison Cummins said...

To Andrea’s point, evem without an explicit message, being asked for your sex and/or ethnicity beside your name at the top of the test will push down test scores if you are a woman or from the African diaspora.

To Dave’s point, was there any kind of control? Post-test scores are always higher than pre-test scores even if there is no formal training between. That is, if 50 people take a pre-test at 9h00, 25 people do a workshop, then all 50 take a post-test at 16h00, everyone’s scores will improve. The measure of the effectiveness of the workshop is how much the participants’ test scores improve relative to the non-participants.

I don’t mean to rain on your parade — I am sure your results are great. Huge improvements are unlikely to be the result of familiarity with the test or the chance to think about it on one’s own for a few hours. It’s just a question of how to present results (and possibly how to improve evaluations that you intend to publish for next time).


Princeton Posse said...

It reminds me of a Jack Layton quote that I keep close at hand. "My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we'll change the world.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Dave (and Joe),
for having an interesting place to come back to.



Shan said...

Well, re: Alison's comment, above: consider the parade rained! As my ex boyfriend used to say, "kaboom."

As to the post itself, that phenomenon is part of "learned helplessness", which I recently found out about through a YouTube referral. It has made a huge difference in how I homeschool.

Dave Hingsburger said...

Alison, thanks for your comment. I am sure you can appreciate that this is a blog post, not a scientific presentation of data. I just wanted to make the point that in our trainings where confidence increased the scores were much, much higher. The actual paper is over 20 pages long and has all the methodology laid out there. I cannot publish it here for obvious reasons and thus have been purposely vague - only wanting to bring forward something that I thought could be usable to readers, especially parents - make sure that, when you teach, you bolster confidence. I think this is a tidbit to remember and worthy of a blog post. I'll let people know if the article is accepted and published and then will be able to be a little more forthcoming.

Nan said...

A rule of thumb for our daughter,when first learning a skill/concpet/to read/to count etc. ... is to teach to success. This, for many with Down syndrome, is the best way to learn. Through success. This works as well for learning lines of scripts! (so we break them down into tiny increments, so, for example when learning a clown monologue from Two Gentlemen of Verona [yes, she's a Shakespeare addict] we start with the first line until she's go it each time, then add a line, until she's got it etc... and in no time she knows the whole monologue. But if we start with the whole thing she often doesn't learn it and thinks she is incapable) While it may not be true for all students, it is often true for students with Down syndrome. So confidence (and success) sure helps in developing mastery, for many.
thanks for the research . . .

Ettina said...

Will it be publicly available once the editors etc are done with it? I really want to read it. Did you submit it to a peer-reviewed journal, or some sort of internal thing at Vita?

Dave Hingsburger said...

It's in for consideration for a peer reviewed journal. I'm not sure what the availablity will be as I've not published with them before. But, never fear, I'll let people know what's up when I know.

Shan said...

Nan, you said "it may not be true for all students" -- in fact it IS true for non-disabled students as well.

Watch this vid.
Learned helplessness

The important part is up to about 4:30 - after that she goes into social implications such as dating.