13, 2016: Despite localized efforts by many
school districts, the US education system remains frustrated
with the levels of STEM (science, technology, engineering
and math) achievement in its students. Researchers are
now looking at ways to manipulate social structures
surrounding these disciplines at an early age, in a attempt
to increase participation. A new study out this month saw
some promise. Researchers introduced math and spatial
tasks to preschoolers (4 - 5 year olds). They had
groups of children working on tasks alone and others in
small assigned groups. What they found was that when
children worked on math tasks in small groups they persisted
longer, did more accurate work, reported high self-efficacy
and had higher interest in the task than those students who
worked alone. Based on this and other similar
research, it appears that incorporating social factors, such
as group membership, into STEM curricula may boost student
Master, A., et al. (2016). Social Group Membership Increases STEM Engagement Among Preschoolers. Developmental Psychology, Sep 5 preview, nps
8, 2016: Looking to increase positive affect in your
students? Want to reduce boredom and dread in your school? A
new study out in the Apr 21st edition of "Emotion" shows
that walking (not exercise, per se, but just plain old
"incidental ambulation" as they call it) boosts mood,
especially reduces the effects of low interest...overrides
boredom and dread. So, WHY do we have students sit all class
period?? Get the students out of those desks and moving!
Miller, J. & Krizan, Z. (2016) "Walking Facilitates
Positive Affect (Even When Expecting the Opposite)",
Emotion, Apr 21 preview, nps.
8, 2016: A new study out shows the results of
examining white-matter differences along with neuron
connectiveness measures in children with reading
disabilities. Other cognitive abilities being equal, brain
images show that white matter in a region associated with
reading (left arcuate fasciculus) has altered structure in
children with reading disability. Interesting, they also
measure the degree of neuron connectiveness in this area and
found low connectiveness scores in both children with a
reading disability AND in children with superior pseudoword
reading ability. The researchers concluded that this paradox
of connectedness associated with both these groups indicates
that this area involved in reading has great variation in
white matter maturation rates during this initial time of
reading acquisition. Christodoulou, J., et al (2015)
"Relation of White-Matter Microstructure to Reading Ability
and Disability in Beginning Readers." Neuropsychology, Mar 7
9, 2016: While there have been studies conducted
measuring the effects of emotional exhaustion among
teachers, most of them have focused on the effect it has on
teachers - performance and career engagement. A new study
out this month looked at the relationship between teacher
emotional exhaustion and students' educational outcomes.
Using 380 teachers and 8,000 4th grade students researchers
measured teacher emotional exhaustion and school grades,
standardized achievement test school and school
satisfaction, as well as noncognitive outcomes. They found a
strong negative correlation among all of them. Student
achievement suffers as teacher emotional exhaustion
increases. Arens, A. et al. (2016). "Relations Between
Teachers' Emotional Exhaustion and Students' Educational
Outcomes. Journal of Educational Psychology, Jan 18 edition
10, 2016: The largest gender disparity in STEM
courses is found in Computer Science. Unfortunately girls
are stereotyped out of computer science at a young age.
Researchers have recently found that we can alter girls'
interest in Computer Science simply by changing the physical
classroom environment in our schools. Schools where
classrooms were specifically set out to be more
"girl-friendly" and promote women in Computer Science, found
a higher incidence of girls' interest in Computer Science
and more of a sense of belonging. Therefore, it is
imperative that schools begin a conscious attempt to
increase girls interest in Computer Science by removing the
traditional gender stereotypes which signal to girls that
they do not belong. Master, A. et al. (2015, Aug 17).
Computing Whether She Belongs: Stereotypes Undermine Girls'
Interest and Sense of Belonging in Computer Science. Journal
of Educational Psychology, preview, nps
2, 2015: Executive Function (EF) is frequently
studied due to its involvement with learning and learning
challenges (particularly for persons with ADD and /or head
trauma). Executive Function, our ability to maintain control
of our actions and our thoughts, is mainly a function of the
prefrontal cortex - the region behind your forehead.
Research released this month tracked adolescent twins from
teens through their early 20's to see how stable EF is
during this time period and whether variance in function is
more likely to be from genetics or environmental factors.
Tracking 420 sets of twins for 6 years, they found that EF
is relatively stable by age 17 and that genetics appears to
play the biggest role in variation. So while environment can
play a small role, most executive function appears to be
something inherited. Friedman, N. et al. (2015, Nov 30).
"Stability and Change in Executive Function Abilities From
Late Adolescence to Early Adulthood: A Longitudinal Twin
Study." Developmental Psychology, preview, nps.
15, 2015: Young persons who perceive themselves as
being racial discriminated against are at higher risk of
depression. A new study recently released looked at the
long-term consequences of perceived racial discrimination,
as well as factors that may act as a buffer. The researchers
tracked African American and Latino youth through
adolescence. They found that those in particular who felt
ethnic or racial discrimination from peers were the most
likely to suffer depression with greater symptoms. However,
those who began high school with high levels of positive
racial affect were at a much lower risk for depression over
time. So positive racial affect appears to buffer the
effects of perceived racial discrimination. Stein, G. et al
(2015). "A Longitudinal Examination of Perceived
Discrimination and Depressive Symptoms in Ethnic Minority
Youth: The Roles of Attributional Style, Positive
Ethnic/Racial Affect, and Emotional Reactivity." Journal of
Developmental Psychology, Nov 16 preview, nps.
13, 2015: New research shows that when teaching math
fractions to students with poor working memory, it helps to
teach students how to explain their process when comparing
fraction magnitudes. If working with students who have
strong reasoning ability, teaching word-problem intervention
is more effective. Fuchs, L. et al(2015, Sept). "Supported
Self-Explaining During Fraction Intervention." Journal of
Educational Psychology, preview, no page specified.
15, 2015: Hippocampal Neurogenesis involves the development
of new neurons in the region of the brain responsible for
memory. This process of neurogenesis may help clear out old
memories as well as stabilize new memories for long term
retention. Researchers are now looking at the effects of
chronic stress and depression on this process. Both appear
to interfere with normal hippocampus function and in
particular cloud long term retrieval. Dery, N. et al. (2015,
June) "A Role for Adult Hippocampal Neurogenesis at Multiple
Time Scales: A Study of Recent and Remote Memory in Humans".
Behavioral Neuroscience, preview, nps.
20, 2015: Helping students with metacognitive skills
improves motivation, learning and future learning - So says
new research out this month. The study involved a 6 hour
training session with middle school students, teaching them
the process skills of planning, monitoring and evaluation.
When compared later to a control group, the students taught
metacognitive strategies performed better on tests and had
higher levels of motivation. Zepeda, C. et al. (2015).
"Direct Instruction of Metacognition Benefits Adolescent
Science Learning, Transfer, and Motivation: An In Vivo
Study.", Journal of Educational Psychology, Mar 16 preview,
16, 2015: Teachers, use your big words! New research
out compars reading comprehension progress with
middle-schoolers. They compared beginning of year scores to
end of year, from a variety of classrooms. They then
recorded and analyzed teacher's speech in those same
classrooms. Students whose teachers used the more
sophisticated vocabulary in class, significantly improved
their reading comprehension as the year progressed. Gamez,
P. & Lesaux, N. (2015) "Early-Adolescents' Reading
Comprehension and the Stability of the Middle School
Classroom-Language Environment." Developmental Psychology,
Feb 16 preview, nps
4, 2015: Children who experience close teacher-child
relationships during their early elementary years have
stronger receptive language development. Spilt, J. et al
(2014, Dec). "
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