Robert Glaser, American Psychologist, 1921 - 2012 (Norman Costa)
The New York Times printed an obituary for the renowned American psychologist, Robert Glaser. You can read it HERE.
Bob Glaser's major contributions to American psychology were in the fields of learning (educational psychology) and psychological testing. My doctoral degree is in educational psychology. It was impossible to write a paper on the subject of school learning and not have a reference or two to research by Glaser.
So, I went back to my graduate school bible on educational psychology to note the references to Glaser's research. The text was, "Educational Psychology, A Cognitive View," by David P. Ausubel, 1968. Here are some highlights of Glaser's research:
1. For meaningful verbal learning, as opposed to rote learning, the reinforcing value of Skinnerian feedback is discounted. Learners who respond covertly, or read the correct answer, are just as likely to learn and retain as those who produce an overt response that is reinforced.
2. One result of this is a more efficient learning experience. Learners do not need reinforcement at each and every step in the learning of meaningful verbal materials. Having a student construct a response, rather than reading it, shows no difference in outcome, except that response construction takes longer.
3. Breaking down learning tasks into small steps reduces learning errors, but increases total time to learn. In general, programmed learning is equal to, or slightly better than, more conventional methods of teaching.
4. When teaching the meaning of scientific terms, "...repetition has only a transitory effect upon retention...." "Spaced reviews produce significant facilitation in retention of the reviewed material."
5. Glaser made the distinction between norm referenced testing and criterion referenced testing. Norm referenced testing places the score of the individual relative to the average and standard deviation of a larger group (for example, all 8th graders in Houston, Texas public schools.) Criterion referenced testing compares a person's score to an agreed 'absolute' standard of performance. You find this in vocational testing for doctors, airline pilots, life guards, handlers of very hazardous materials, etc.
Bob Glaser came out of a corps of military psychologists who served during World War II. His research on programmed instruction came out of military research on training.
The technology and theories of psychological testing were developed for the selection of servicemen and servicewomen, and Army Airforce pilots, bombardiers, and navigators (the US Navy as well.)
Experience and knowledge gained in the war effort were transfered to universities after the war.
Bob Glaser was among many psychologists who cautioned the public and educators about the limitations of testing. "In a report that called test results “fallible and partial indicators of academic achievement,” the panel [headed by Glaser] warned educators to avoid letting them become “the major goals of schooling.”"
In my personal view, Bush's "No child left behind" legislation is a monument to the failure to heed that warning. It is also a monument to the politicization of testing, education, and the war on teachers.
Glaser was only 4 years younger than my father, Frank Costa (1917 - 2010.) My father grew up in Manhattan on the East Side. Glaser grew up in the Bronx, where my family moved in the early 1950s.
Glaser had to leave New York University, a private institution, when his father suffered a business reversal. However, he enrolled at The City University of New York, a public institution, which provided tuition free education for all who were accepted. CUNY was able to provide free college education to the children of New Yorkers, even in the depths of the Great Depression. It was a high yield investment in the students, our city, state, and the country. When the population of the City University of New York became more black, yellow, and brown, it was discovered that the City and State of New York could not afford free college education for its citizens.
I am sorry the NY Times chose to cite Diane Ravitch's 2010 book in support of Bob Glaser's views, “The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education.” Ravitch was an intellectual goon in the Bush Department of Education who did as much as she could possibly do to discredit the views of people like Glaser, beat the crap out of teachers, and organize the transfer of many millions of tax payer dollars to politically connected testing corporations.
After leaving her post she had a conversion experience on her Road to Damascus, confessed her sinful life of murder and assassination, and embraced the teachings of the righteous educators who knew what they were doing all along. They could have found a more deserving person to contribute to Bob Glaser's eulogy.