The Impact of Nature AND Nurture on Your Child’s Reading Development

The Impact of Nature AND Nurture on Your Child’s Reading Development

Educational Research

Hello Readers,

I want to tell you about one of the first studies to show their relative roles of nature and nurture in how quickly or slowly children’s reading skills improve over time (http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/dev/49/10/1971). Dr. Sara Hart (http://www.psy.fsu.edu/faculty/hart.dp.html) and colleagues from The Ohio State University they tested the environments and reading abilities of children to discover the differences in children’s reading abilities. 371 twin pairs of fraternal and identical twins from ages 6 to 12 were put into groups and tested every year for six years. Each child was given a 90-minute battery of reading-based measures including word and letter identification, the ability to sound out words and the speed at which children could name a series of letters.

http://cdn2.hubspot.net/hub/92785/file-5415157-jpg/images/nature-vs-nurture-resized-600.jpg

http://cdn2.hubspot.net/hub/92785/file-5415157-jpg/images/nature-vs-nurture-resized-600.jpg

The researchers compared how twins scored on the tests and then used a statistical analysis to determine how much growth in their performance could be explained by genetics and how much by environmental factors.They used a technique “phenotypic and genetically sensitive latent growth modeling” to pull apart the influences of  nature and nurture on kids’ reading levels”. Essentially what this means is that the inclusion of fraternal and identical twins allows for them to discover how much was due to genetics and how much was due to environmental reasons for a child’s reading development. If identical twins read identically while fraternal read differently than the difference would be genetics as opposed to environment.

The results found that when children start out reading, both genetics and environment play a role in reading skills. For example in their tests word and letter identification, genetics explained about one-third, while for vocabulary and sound awareness, it was 50/50 for genetics and environment. However, the author commented that, “ the genetic influences related to how quickly or slowly a student grows in their reading skill are not the same as the genetic influences on their skill at the first assessment. In other words, some new genetic component related to growth is coming online after that first assessment wave, and it is influencing development.” This means that some another genetic reason for reading development activates at a later point in at child’s educational years, in particular around kindergarten age.

Afterwards, however when “environmental factors increase mean reading performance across all children”. For reading skills that are taught, such as words and letters, the environment is almost completely responsible for growth.In addition, the awareness of sounds in reading, 80 percent of growth was explained by the environment.The authors of the study commented that it is indeed quite critical in the early years to choose a school that will serve your child’s reading development well. The moral, i suppose, is to choose a school and to choose it very wisely!

Theoretical Thursday: Enriching Benefits of Drama Education

Theoretical Thursday: Enriching Benefits of Drama Education

Educational Research High School

Hello Readers,

I hope you booked some time off work either Monday or Tuesday next week to see the Highschool students’ performance! If not, then hop to it ladies and gentleman because you have the great opportunity of seeing the enriching benefits of Drama education. Speaking of which, in today’s post I hope to demonstrate the benefits of Drama education in a child’s development.

What I have found through a meta analysis of research is that Drama Education can have a highly positive impact on a student’s physical, emotional, cognitive and social development. Being on stage and acting as whole, requires a great amount of movement! With practice it has been shown to improve flexibility, coordination, balance and control. These physical activities can also reduce the pain of physical stress that would otherwise negatively impact a child’s physical development. Not bad, eh? Well, I’m not done yet, so keep reading, my fellow Readers.

http://www.meaningcentered.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Figure3.jpg

http://www.meaningcentered.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Figure3.jpg

Emotionally, a child also benefits from being engaged in Dramatic education. For instance, acting roles from different time periods, situations and cultures promotes tolerance of other people’s feelings, as well as a a deeper understanding of child’s own emotions. It will encourage self understanding as well as self confidence in a child’s own ideas and abilities which can be applied apply to all aspects of their lives.

There has indeed also been experimental results on benefits of theatre on a child’s cognitive development as well. Studies have indicated that children who were involved in theatre show higher levels in concentration & self discipline, problem solving as well as memory. There are various reasons for this, but I will keep it short and sweet.  While rehearsing and performing, memory is strengthened no differently than like a muscle. it also requires a good deal amount of focus attention & self control, both of which help students, especially those who experience attentional difficulties.

Probably the most obvious benefit theatre has is to a child’s social development. A child involved with theatre develops both their cooperative as well as communicative skills. Verbal and non verbal expression, as well as, listening and observation skills are key skills when rehearsing or performing. This also requires cooperation while negotiating ideas and boundaries. In addition, children can experience an increase in social awareness beyond their self. In this way, Drama can teach a child of the world and help them put things into perspective.

I know that I have written quite a bit today, so I would like to provide you with a link for point form note son the many benefits of a drama education. You can find it at the following link:

http://www.dramaed.net/benefits.pdf

In addition, if you are a teacher and would like to learn more on how to integrate drama into your classroom, may I suggest you check out the wonderful magazine article from Canada’s educational magazine:

http://www.cea-ace.ca/education-canada/article/dramatic-ways-engage-every-student

 So, taking into consideration all the benefits Drama can provide a child, don’t you think it’s about time to get your child on stage? Tell me what you think, Readers!
The Study Academy Helps Children Put their Goals in Check

The Study Academy Helps Children Put their Goals in Check

The Study Academy Report

Hello Readers!

In today’s The Study Academy Report, we are going to look beyond the events of the classroom and into the educational research being conducted at The Study Academy. Previously, I wrote about the wonderful neurofeedback work that is currently being done in the lab that will benefit individual students with attentional difficulties. Well, this coming week the lab will be venturing forth on yet another scientific endeavor! They will be integrating their newly developed Goal Setting Suite in the Executive Function class for the Middle School students. It is their intent to use the Suite to help each child understand their personal goals and benefit from them in the longer term.

But you must be wondering, ‘When did this all start?” Actually, the idea for the Suite originated from Jason Krell, The Study Academy ’s Principal. He wondered how a child chose their goals out of the variety of dreams they had. For instance, one child may say they want to be a fire fighter one day and then a clown the next. Or to use a smaller goal, one child may want to spend an entire weekend playing the latest xbox game, but the next moment he could be wondering whether to read the next book in his favorite series. These may not seem like tough choices to you, but to a child they might certainly hold some weight. Thus, it was then the new mission of the lab members, Jason Krell, Anderson Todd and Patrick K. Dolecki, to discover which goals are really worthwhile aspirations for children.

Patrick K Dolecki, a current teacher of The Study Academy and The Study Hall, is the primary organizer for the Student Goal Setting Suite. He first began getting involved in the lab by setting up the neurofeedback machine on select students, and finds this new opportunity quite exciting. In an interview, he detailed the structure of the Goal Setting Suite and its benefits: “The suite itself is set up based on the 5 facets of virtue. It is composed of 21 questions that a student would answer about one of their goals, and the results would reveal, in a pass or fail answer, whether the goal was virtuous and worthwhile.” The lab members hope that  the kids will then strive towards more worthwhile goals, especially those with academic content.

However, Patricks confesses that the team recognizes the challenge in constructing The Student Goal Setting Suite. In particular as an educator and a researcher, there is concerned with the degree to which children will understand the types of questions being asked. Some of the emotional questions may beyond their point of emotional and cognitive development. Ultimately, if the children are unable to fully understand what is being asked of them the results may not be as true a reflection as could be possible.

For that reason, I was also told that for those who are interested, the Student Goal Setting Suite is being temporarily released, to test it out on willing participants. The next step after testing and perfecting the Suite, will be to construct a  subscription based model for other school boards so other students can also benefit. While there is still the need for a bit more paperwork, it will nevertheless be a great instrument for the school and for the lab. As The Study Academy  lab moves toward forming their succinct mission statement, they will continue to strive to provide to both the scientific and educational community alike.

Keeping Their Brain Active with Brain Camp

Keeping Their Brain Active with Brain Camp

Middle School

Hello Readers,

I hope you all are enjoying the nice weather this past week, and had fun in the sun during the long weekend too! I guess this also means that the school session is quickly coming to an end, however, this doesn’t mean that your child has to sit around the twiddle their thumbs this summer- at-least not at The Study Academy!

Fun scientific experiments

Every year, for the past three summers, The Study Academy has set up an early summer  day camp for middle school students. The camp runs for two weeks, right after the completion of the regular school year and is an ideal opportunity to invigorate the mind, challenge oneself and have fun outdoors! It is called Brain Camp!

The idea for this  camp actually arose from a conversation between Bryan Levy- Young, the head of Pastoral care, and Jason Krell, the Principal.  They were having a discussion regarding the detriment of having such a prolonged summer has on student cognitive development. The idea behind Brain Camp was to do two things. Firstly, it was to break the assumption that learning occurs only when a child is immersed reading textbooks or listening to lectures. Secondly, it was also to provide a summer tune-up for the brain. Essentially Brain Camp originated as a way for students to keep mentally active during a few weeks of the summer and show them, all the while, that learning can be fun!

This year, Meaghan Patrick  will be running the camp and has quite a few exciting things in store for the children. The day is split into two parts. In the morning students will be engaging academic subjects. In the past, morning have usually been spent at The Study Academy location mastering recipes with math, or conducting scientific experiments in the classroom.

Afterwards, in the afternoon, the children get to have some fresh air, go outside to play sports and develop their team work and leadership skills. Children will work in teams for scavenger hunts, participate in delightful improv games, run around playing Ultimate frisbee and go off on exciting field trips! Some ideas for field trips are already up in the air, such as the Science Centre, Humber Arboretum, Kensington and History walks throughout Toronto.

http://www.tahaphoto.com/

http://www.tahaphoto.com/

One very exciting opportunity this summer that I simply must share with you is that Taha Muharuma of Taha Photo fame (tahaphoto.com) is going to do some lessons on photography and photo editing with the students! Isn’t that exciting?  So, children are going to learn about composition, framing and other key components of photography and will follow up with a local outing to try out their new found techniques.  The second lesson will have them take their shots and work through post-processing — applying colour corrections, filters, and other visual effects.  At the end of camp, each student will receive back a printed copy of their work that they can to you, their lovely parents!

So, don’t forget to register your child for something exciting this summer, and why not Brain Camp!

Theoretical Thursday: Education, Neurofeedback Training and Attention

Theoretical Thursday: Education, Neurofeedback Training and Attention

Middle School

Hello again!

Today on this Theoretical Thursday I want to continue from Tuesday’s post by expanding our discussion on Neurofeedback. I know, that in my first Theoretical Thursday Blog post last week that I had hinted there was going to be discussion on the scientific literature on study habits, but I feel that this is far more relevant to you, my readers. Don’t you worry, there will be plenty of time to get into that later on.

So, in my Tuesday post, I had defined Neurofeedback as, “ a type of feedback based off of the ionic current flows within the neurons of the brain.The electrical recordings from the scalp measure the flow of the ionic current that changes depending on the mental activity.” I had also mentioned that it is of current scientific interest in how Neurofeedback can be used to reduce attentional issues.

I believe this is an incredibly important issue that needs to be addressed by Science for the sake of our Educational system. The reason for this is because such a growing population struggles with deficits in attention of a neurologically based that affect their ability to learn, and prosper in an academic setting.

Aside from The Study Academy, there have been a good amount of research that has come out recently on the prospects of Neurofeedback training for those diagnosed with ADHD.

At the Tuffs Medical Center in Boston, where the team of the Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics department, tested the the efficacy of two computer-based attention training systems, one with and one without neurofeedback using 19 schools. Students received three 45 minutes sessions a week over the span of four months. After each session results were measured using three measures:

T-SKAMP- completed by teachers which assessed symptoms of ADHD in the classroom

PERMP- completed by students which was assessed based off of a student’s speed and accuracy.

BOSS- this was a double-blind objective classroom observations

The results indicated that those students in the Neurofeedback group showed improvement in all three measures; improvement in accuracy and speed, a decreased in attentional issues, and increased engagement within the classroom.

These sort of results are particularly exciting for the Educational and Health community when one also considers that Neurofeedback has recently been shown in research to have long term beneficial effects on ADHD! This is a factor that medicine based care has had considerable trouble in doing for those who are diagnosed with ADHD.

Palliative pharmaceutical therapy has dominated both research investment and publication. However, while these methods of palliative care have received the most attention, it leaves the underlying causes predominately unchanged.  It is the the Anterior Cingulate Cortex (ACC) which is so key in regulating attention, and with which whose dysfunction has been shown to be associated with attentional issues.

Studies in Neurofeedback training do in fact show the capacity to counteract, and normalize the dysfunctions in the ACC with regards to attention. Having participants engage in a process where they are attenuating peripheral signals and enhancing relevant signals, individuals initiate one of the necessary conditions for cognitive development. Furthermore, through repetitive reinforcement  of this regime, individuals can further reinforce the same neural pathway.

In this respect, i seem to find Neurofeedback to be an exciting alternative to palliative methods of dealing with attentional issues, especially within our Educational setting.

If you are interested in some extra reading, may I suggest the following:

Gani, C., Birbaumer, N., Strehl, U. (2008) Long term effects after feedback of slow cortical potentials and of theta-beta-amplitudes in children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). International Journal of Bioelectromagnetism, 10 (4), 209 – 232.

http://www.ijbem.org/volume10/number4/100402.pdf

Arns, M., De Ritter, D., Strehl, U., Breteler, M., Coenen, A. (2009). Efficacy of neurofeedback treatment in ADHD: The effects on inattention, impulsivity and hyperactivity: A meta-analysis. Clinical EEG and Neuroscience, 40(3), 180-189.

http://www.addcentre.com/page35/Pages/neurofeedback.html

They are both insightful and quite interesting in their conclusions.