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I heard an interesting study on a good podcast recently, don't think it was Freakonomics, but could have been. Also could have been TED talks.

Anyway, they ran a randomized experiment with 3 arms. 1/3 of students were the control group, their parents received no info. For 1/3, the teachers sent text messages to parents saying things like "your child did well today". For the last 1/3 the texts indicated improvement was possible such as "Johnny did well, but he could have done this or that better".

They found that the "improvement" texts made a significant difference over the control group. A very cheap way of creating improvements without lengthy parent teacher meetings.

In another podcast, or maybe same, a researcher noticed how his daughter and a new friend got to know each other. One would say, "I like ice cream" and the other would say "I like ice cream too". This went on and on and he realized a big part of friendship is finding what you have in common. (eHarmony?). So he decided to apply this to teaching. He had teachers do this with students that were not like them, which seemed to be mostly disadvantaged students. Amazingly, they found that once common ground was found the test scores improved. In fact, it closed 40% of the "achievement gap" these students had shown compared to more "advantaged" students. However, to his surprise, the researcher found that the students did not really feel closer to the teachers. He concluded that the teachers had changed and were giving more of an effort toward those students. So if you are a teachers, it might be a simple thing to try.

Ah, I think I found the podcast: "Hidden Brain" another very interesting series.

http://www.npr.org/podcasts/510308/hidden-brain Episode 4. 20 minutes and well worth the time
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