Site Map
Lee Cronbach
Section › 10   Set    Search  Previous Next


Reservations   Contents    

Lee Cronbach

Lee J. Cronbach (1916-2001) was an American educational professor. As a boy of five or so in 1921, he was given an IQ test, getting a test score of 200. He graduated from Fresno State College (majoring in chemistry and mathematics) at eighteen.

Cronbach made major contributions in the fields of educational psychology. After he received a doctorate in educational psychology from the University of Chicago in 1940, he eventually settled at Stanford University in 1964. Cronbach was the president of the American Psychological Association for a period, and other associations.

Cronbach's research included work on evaluation and instruction. He argued as early as the 1950s that learning environments should be designed to match the abilities of individuals. And he sought to bridge the gap between different theories of psychology by showing the importance of both the environment and individual behaviour.

The source of the observations and quotations that follow, is the second edition of the educational textbook Educational Psychology by Lee J. Cronbach when at the University of Illinois. Page references are included too.

In 1977 a third edition was published as well.


Chapter 1 ☼

1. Socialisation is for solving deep life problems in the first place

Descriptions are less useful for thinking than exact principles (cf. 59).

Broad and abstract concepts generate principles that are powerful aids to thought (cf. 60).

Orderly directed thoughts and efforts, and respect for good ability may be useful in solving practical and everyday problems. Survival and easily rising into a superior job tend to rest on things like that (cf. 43, 48, 47, 37).

But merely accepting impulses and making analyses will hardly do. There are many unwise marriages and adult drinking problems to show that. (cf. 42, 48, 34).

Five qualities are to be sought as aims of socialization: (1) solve problems; (2) have enough good self-confidence; (3) satisfying lives; (4) absorbing goals and interests; (5) conforming in a praiseworthy manner to certain ways and values (cf. 64).

Affiliation for communities and contribute well to Tao [of means, skills, ways etc.] (cf. 50).

It may serve you to learn a neat handwriting and some basic philosophy of education (cf. 55, 63).

Principles are organized into systems of thought, into disciplines. And, hopefully, the persons who do well in school are those who have the talents needed in responsible positions. However, the achievement-oriented person is a striver, for good and bad and so on (cf. 65, 64, 66).

To establish a law solidly, many independent arguments using different sources of evidence are needed. Valuable systematic understanding gives central place to the most general, most powerful principles, it adds meaning to each subordinate principle, and it provides a way of coming to grips with unprecedented situations (62, cf. 61).

Preverbal knowledge is developed from direct experience and is not easily transferred (cf. 65).

The attitude called "Do your best" is very task-oriented (cf. 49).

What to learn in order to function well? Much in a life depends on respecting good quality (cf. 30).

Being persistent enough involves no trick (cf. 42). (2)

A discipline rests on sources and conclusions that are generalizations, prescriptions, or decisions which it points to, according to John Dewey (60).

2. Generalization eventually contribute when their relevance is recognized, if not before.

By exposure to stimulating models it happens that more or less "other-directedness" gets superseded by being "inner-directed" (cf. 44, 47). (3)

A pupil should grasp that generalizations oversimplify (62).

Knowledge certainly does not always transfer (57). (4)

One is to teach ground rules of science well. As a result, recipients can learn and develop and eventually contribute (55, cf. 48).

Recognizing the relevance of situations for understanding ideas and skills therein (cf. 57).

3. Luck may count more than efforts, a worthy education, and living a sedentary life

A Principle or broad generalization is a higher type of knowledge than a description or a prescription (60) (5).

A physical law is established over an certain range of phenomena and within a certain range of accuracy (62).

It pays to consider that in some cases luck counts more than effort (cf. 48).

Central or key concepts of various disciplines are worth learning and remembering well. Postponing little in the education and getting fine grades is also much worth (cf. 60).

Well, one should value a fit education (cf. 36).

The most important qualities of the mature individual versus the widely incomplete and handicapped person are self-confidence, effective dealings; living satisfying; having interests; being praiseworthy; conforming neatly enough (cf. 39).

Throughout adulthood observation of regularities must precede formulation of laws (32, 62).

While appreciating fine and fit traditions, learn to ask critically beforehand as to desirable outcomes (cf. 45, 56). ✪ 

We gain a sense of competence to build on by going deftly for important achievements (cf. 44, 49).

One is supposed to try for an adequate picture first and foremost, so as to respond to this and that adequately - and systematic knowledge is a boon in itself..

The simplest principles are little more than descriptions (60).

To understand such as qualities and the raising into some discipline, infidelity and reactions to it can help in ascertaining what may be at stake (cf. 65).

True mathematical talent is intuitive rather than systematic (64).

What education is to perform, determines the favoured educational procedures. What in the student should education try to develop? (cf. 63 and 40).

Effectiveness depends on the choice of worthwhile problems, on persistence, on willingness to take an independent position (cf. 65). (7)

Getting along with others and having fun all marks affiliation-oriented ones (cf. 66).

How the person behaves depends on his goal, knowledge and skill, and his confidence (65).

Intellectual knowledge may be harmful unless turned to a good social purpose. Besides, intrinsic connectedness and precision of thought marks a discipline. A discipline may be harmful unless linked to good (64, cf. 60).

"See what you can do" stems from a relaxing attitude and may work better than an outer-directed and achievement-oriented "Do your best", but it depends (cf. 49).

Verbal knowledge has four levels of complexity: (1) descriptions, (2) prescriptions; (3) generalizations; and (4) systematic knowledge (cf. 65).


Deep problems are tough to deal with, and thus a worthy education may be tough at times too.

No other, nowhere else . . .

ANECDOTE The Chinese philosopher Teng Shih lived in the 6th century BC. Once a wealthy man in his state had drowned in the Wei River. The corpse was recovered by someone who would not hand it over to the mourning family until he had got a large payment. The relatives of the drowned man sought Teng's advice.

Teng said to them, "Wait, no other family will pay for the body."

After some time the finder of the corpse grew worried and also consulted Teng.

"Wait," said Teng, "for nowhere else can they get the body."

EGR What normally helps is to channel feelings into constructive patterns.

Cronbach's Educational Psychology: The Drift

In itself, a decent, fine education is a boon. I hope you get it. And if not, help your children to it somehow.

Fourteen years after its second edition, in 1977, the third edition of Cronbach's Educational Psychology was launched. In it, Cronbach is much into psychological testing and measurement, into correlational psychology applied to schooling, but there are many other sides to education and classroom education than testing people, and many of them can be hard to measure, for example attitudes, the long-term changes of attitudes or heart, inspirations, and much other material. Sometimes measuring pupils and students is irrelevant too. Besides, there are many sides to public schooling that should be described as offences to little children and youngsters, but how often do we see these legitimate issues described well, although they matter?

So let us suggest that some of Cronbach's studies and findings are not ideal for home schoolers, home learners and pupils of unschooling - for children who are allowed to be spared of much detrimental involved in public schooling, including adapting themselves through their delicate, sensitive growth phases to classroom settings where the curriculum is enforced, forced on pupils and students, and bullies are not rare either. Public schooling is mainly compulsory education, and breeds marked Unlust, dislike, in rather many who stop being motivated too. For the many who do not perform well, public schooling drains the enthusiasm, and may stop being well liked and appreciated altogether. Negative experiences breed negative emotions, which are often generalised. In Norway there is statistics which shows that a quarter of the pupils in the intermediate degree have such problems [Harald Rørvik]

Safe home schooling may offer some relief against being forced to learn without due adjustment to one's experiences, preferences and attainments. Mastery learning leads to similar conclusions. What is more, if tended well, the tender plant of interests may grow and branch out as years go by, in a life-long, welcome learning process. [Gross 1999]

Cronbach contributions

The more time you spend on testing, the less time you have for the hard work of learning and attainments resulting from it. In other settings than conformism-serving ones, comparing oneself to others loses much relevance. The same goes for sanctions of children. The more time you spend on constructive, well-adapted activity, the less need there will hopefully be for negative sanctions. That is, by the way, a deep side to the Rudolf Steiner-designed Waldorf Education.

I will not brush aside that sound forms of testing have a place in the learning process, nor will I talk down on Cronbach's alert and research-founded contributions. They are clustered into three main areas: measurement theory, program evaluation, and instruction. He goes into sides to the teaching-learning process; measurements of instructional interactions; and aspiring educational programs. Educational psychologists have benefitted from Cronbach's bright work toward a better explanation of learning in response to instruction; of how different learners cope with demands in different learning environments; and of the use of extensive local studies and field methods, producing useful narratives of teaching and learning.

Cronbach also found that the learning context is just as essential as improved interpretations of educational processes. He believed that the purpose of evaluation is to offer constructive feedback - as monitoring feedback is. The design, implementation and analysis behind such evaluation should all be helpful to the learner. Often they are not.

Cronbach shared with the humanistic scholar and the artist in the effort to gain insight into contemporary relationships, and to align the culture's view of man with the found realities. He learnt among much else that the particular items used in any given test are only small indicators from a wider domain of knowledge, and may not be very helpful and representative of what the learners really know and master.

School tests need to be understandable, reliable and valid enough if they are to be welcomed over a span of many years, and Cronbach worked toward making tests so, but largely within the public schooling system with its drawbacks. Among them are:

  1. Curriculum is forced on people, and disregarding many forms of differences.
  2. The quality of the academic programs in public school education may not be as high as those of private schools. Public schools vary widely.
  3. Classrooms are usually larger in public schools, meaning that there are more students and less individual attention from teachers.
  4. Public schools adhere to state and federal regulatory standards.
  5. Dropout and violence rates are generally higher in public schools, even though public schools differ.
  6. Pupils and students may be tested in ways that do not suit their differences. Tests can be be misleading.
  7. The teaching tends to be averaged, to the disadvantage of those who are not average. [WP, "Lee Cronbach," "Public school"]

Summing Up

Lee Cronbach did valuable research on testing and how to apply it to school children. He did not adapt it to children who learn in their own pace, in their own ways, without having standardised tests hovering over their heads much of the time. Standardised tests tend to breed merely shallow and not much differentiated learning anyhow. The taxonomy of learning seeks to unveil higher sides to learning than mere rote learning.

Cronbach also wrote a decent textbook on educational psychology, published in three editions. Many observations and points in that book can be lifted over into more humane settings, including self-help learning, home learning and other ones.

In search of excellence, or fit and fair educational deals for their children, those who can afford it could profit from dropping public schooling for their children and youths. It stands out that such as Waldorf education and well structured homeschooling yield better outcomes than public schooling, also when it comes to grades. There is research on it. [Some results]. Those involved could profit from self-help learning too.


Lee Cronbach, Literature  

Cronbach, Lee. Educational Psychology. 3rd ed. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1977.

Cronbach, Lee. Educational Psychology. 2nd ed. London: Hart-Davis, 1963.

Gross, Ronald. Peak Learning: A Master Course in Learning How to Learn. Rev. ed. New York: J. Tarcher/Putnam, 1999.

Harvesting the hay

Symbols, brackets, signs and text icons explained: (1) Text markers(2) Digesting.

Gordon Allport, learning theorist, To top    Section     Set    Next

Gordon Allport, learning theorist. User's Guide   ᴥ    Disclaimer 
© 2006–2019, Tormod Kinnes, MPhil [Email]