Welcome Back, CEC, & IMBES

Welcome Back, CEC, & IMBES

Educational Research High School Middle School The Study Academy Report

Greetings! Welcome back! I hope your summer was everything you’d ever hoped it would be and more.

First off, please let me introduce myself: My name is Ariana. I enjoy long walks on the beach, sunsets, and filing OSRs. In other words, I am the new School Administrator, and I am pleased to handle all of your administrative needs. I have also assumed the role of Blog Master, so here we go:

Once again, welcome back! We’re glad to see so many new and returning faces, and we’re excited about everything that this year has in store. Already, we’ve had our high school trip to the Canadian Ecology Centre, Parent Welcome Meeting, taken student card photos, had our first assembly and fire drill of the year (which everyone aced), and will soon begin our extracurricular clubs and activities. We’re powering through and loving every second of it. On to thing two!

Various balls on the groundDuring the first week back, we had our start-of-year high school trip to the Canadian Ecology Centre (CEC). For those of you who don’t know, the CEC is a non-profit environmental science education and research facility. They share the landscape with Samuel de Champlain Park, as well as the goal of “conserving and protecting our natural environment.” Their aim is to “[facilitate] informed choices [for all of their visitors] – presenting a better understanding of the conservation and development issues related to the environment and [associated] sectors. The CEC is also home to the Canadian Institute of Forestry”, and from September 6th to 9th, they housed our high school students. During that week, Grades 9 – 12 got to engage in some awesome activities, including: Team building and other group exercises, swimming, canoeing, drumming, astronomy, night vision and campfire construction, wilderness survival, stream and aquatic study, Creatures of the Night and Living Discovery Lab, orienteering and introduction to GPS, and intro to GIS. It was a packed week, but the group had a great time and learned some important information about our environment, and themselves, in the process. Trips like this are a great way to supplement classroom learning, facilitate teamwork, and present an opportunity for students to participate in outdoor education, but they also provide a practical understanding of nature and the environment, situating it in a context that then becomes more relatable and, thus, more actionable. We are dedicated, through these experiences, to the growth of our students both in the classroom and beyond; at present and into the indefinite future.

Lastly, we are very pleased to announce that our very own Jason Krell, Patrick Dolecki, and Anderson Todd have been accepted to present their research at the International Mind, Brain, & Education Society’s (IMBES) 2016 conference here in Toronto! IMBES’ mission is to “facilitate cross-cultural collaboration in biology, education, and the cognitive and developmental sciences.” They aim to “improve the state of knowledge in, and dialogue between, education, biology, and the developmental and cognitive sciences; create and develop resources for scientists, practitioners, public policy makers, and the public; and create and identify useful information, research directions, and promising educational practices. [They] invite researchers and practitioners at all levels of education to explore the questions and proposed solutions that emerge at the intersection of mind, brain, and education.” This year’s conference featured keynotes from Dr. Clancy Blair, on The Development of Self-Regulation in Early Childhood; Dr. Tania Lombrozo, on The Good, The Bad, and the Beautiful (evidence for broad/simple explanation preference in children and adults); Dr. Marla Sokolowski, on Gene-Environment Interplay in Individual Differences in Behaviour; Dr. Janet Werker, on Perceptual Foundations of Language Acquisition; and Dr. Pasi Sahlberg, on About the Facts and the Myths about Education in Finland: Mind, brain, and smart education policies.

Neurofeedback schematic diagramKrell, Dolecki, & Todd (2016)’s poster, Executive Functions Through Attention, covered their research on the effects of neurofeedback training (NT) on attention and executive functioning (e.g., self-regulation, cognitive flexibility, reasoning, problem-solving, planning) in Gr. 5 – 8 students. NT teaches individuals to self-regulate by providing direct feedback on temporal and spatial patterns in brain activity. Using EEG measurement, it rewards individuals for attending effectively, encouraging them to attend further. In their presentation, they noted the changing landscape of education, with increasingly personalized learning, expanded accessibility, and new desired learning outcomes centred on adaptive competencies. Despite this, as well as the promising evidence of its effectiveness for individuals with and without ADHD, educational research on NT is presently scarce. This motivated them to examine the relationship between the use of this specific technology and student attention/executive functioning. After acquiring the appropriate assent and consent, data was gathered from semi-weekly, 30-minute training sessions, and performance was assessed by parents and teachers. Results support that both teachers and parents observed decreases in the relative occurrence of inattentive behaviours over the course of the NT sessions. This supports the hypothesis that NT can be effectively used in a classroom setting to supplement student learning and existing growth, and improve attention, planning, and organizational skills. In short, we’ve not seen the end of NT at The Study Academy, and we’re excited to see what else we can do with it moving forward.

That’s all for now! Stay tuned for more exciting news and events.

Theoretical Thursday: To Shrink or Not to Shrink? That is the question!

Theoretical Thursday: To Shrink or Not to Shrink? That is the question!

The Study Academy Report

Hello first time and regular Readers,

I hope you are enjoying the last few days of your March Break before the kiddies have to return to school. And, as I mentioned above, returning to small classes sizes, like at those at The Study Academy, can definitely make the whole “having to get up early again for school” less of an issue.

There has been several studies on class size reduction that have yielded rather interesting results. For example, research has shown that students in smaller class sizes tend to learn more as measured by standardized tests, their engagement in learning is enhanced, and overall students expend more effort academically and initiate own learning. The effects of small class size has also been shown to have long lasting affects as well, indicating that in the future they continue to do better academically and socially as evidence by highschool graduate rates and grades.

There is something to be said for the influence this academic research on class size has had on educational decisions that has taken place in Ontario, across several jurisdictions.

Primary class size reduction sprang into being as a specific well defined election promise that very quickly became a provincial government objective. It was the government’s way of improving student achievement and reduce difference in educational outcomes across groups of students. Implemented incrementally from 2004, it has been influencing our Educational system ever since and yet still remains a highly debated topic.

One of the reasons for this is because there are perceived costs in reducing class sizes that are recognized, yet highly arguable in the scientific and educational communities. Firstly, while I have stated that smaller class sizes can provide the opportunity for teachers to provide more specialized teaching for students, there are those who disagree.Just because a situation can allow an opportunity does not mean that an opportunity will necessarily happen. Just because a teacher has the opportunity to specialize their lessons towards the needs of the student or the small student groups, does not mean that they will.

This argument is particularly interesting in so that it calls in question the motivation of teachers. Perhaps some will not, but you cannot discount the idea based off a simple “if”.  Motivation affects every realm. Gosh, who’s to say that just because you order a coffee next morning that the server will not simply give you a darker blend than you prefer, simply because they don’t have the motivation to brew another batch. I know my example is a bit out there, but I hope you get my point.

Secondly, there has been the assumption than a reduction in class sizes meant there had to be additional space must be found or invented. If such things are not taken into account, schools districts may discover budget short falls later on.  I don’t believe this is necessarily always the case, because it is very easy to have small class sizes within the same room, however just increasing the number of teachers. Students can be put into small groups and assigned to teachers. Heck, for different subject matters the student groups can rotate to the next teacher too!

There are many variables to consider, some of which are constantly changing depending on the circumstances of the situation. In the case of Education, nothing is ever “cookie cutter” simple. However, scientific research has been  increasingly showing the benefits of such an educational structure. Hopefully, there will be a continual push for smaller class sizes throughout Canada, so students can benefit as they do at The Study Academy.

I do encourage you all to read more on this topic if it is of interest, and for that reason I have provided several additional readings.

Tell me what you think!

ADDITIONAL READING

American Federation of Teachers. (2010). Benefits of small class size. Washington, DC: AFT, 1-7.

Bascia, N. (2010). Reducing class size: What do we know? Toronto: Canadian Education Association, 1-19.

Bascia, N., et al. (2010).Ontario’s primary class size reduction initiative: Report on early implementation Toronto: Canadian Education Association, 1-121.

And even more if you follow the links available at this website:

http://www.bctf.ca/IssuesInEducation.aspx?id=6248

Discussing the Benefits of Our Small Class Size

Discussing the Benefits of Our Small Class Size

Middle School

Hello Readers,

Thank you for coming back for another Tuesday’s Study Report. I hope you are enjoying your March Break, but not so much as to forget about The Study Academy! During my time thus far, I have found one thing in particular very fascinating- the small class sizes. In both the Highschool and Middle school classes, The Study features a 5:1 Promise, there is one teacher for every 5 students.

Our 5:1 student to teacher ratio in actionI remember when I was in Middle school, I was stuck in a class with usually 23 other students with only one teacher. In some schools I believe that is still a common occurrence. Can you imagine how challenging that must have been, for both the student as well as the teacher?  At The Study Academy that is not an issue, so don’t you fret, readers.

At The Study Academy, a student is fortunate enough to be in a smaller class size where teachers actively develop student’s learning skill development, as well as self efficacy, in a supportive environment. Nevertheless, I recognize there has been rather faulty arguments made against the push towards smaller class structure, one of which has to do with a child’s social skills. Some are concerned that with a smaller class size, there are fewer chances for a child to interact with enough children to sufficiently develop their social skills. I find this argument ignores activities in educational institutions that bring large number of students together. Also, it is not the quantity that matters, so much as the quality of interactions.

One of our teachers demonstrating our 5:1 promise in action!However, this argument does have one thing right – that school environment does play a role in the well being of a child. For that reason The Study Academy incorporated a structured Pastoral care component that goes along quite well with its small class sizes.  The Study Academy website perfectly expresses their educational strategy as having a” commitment to the holistic development of its students helping exceptional children achieve exceptionally.” Run by Byran Levy-Young,  He assists the children through guided strategies that helps them to manage both academic and personal aspects of their life. You can learn more by following the following link to his web page:

http://blyconsulting.com/about2/

I think in this way, the small class sizes and pastoral care component really help the students  of The Study Academy to develop into strong adults who are ready to walk out into the world and create themselves through their experiences.