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.

A Year in Review at The Study Academy

A Year in Review at The Study Academy

Educational Research High School Middle School

Hello Readers,

with classes ending, its been making me think of all that’s happened through the year. I’ve tried to share them all with you each and every week. We have also discussed many of the recent and pressing issues in Education and research. I must say, it  has definitely been quite exciting each and every week.

When I first was approached to write for The Study Academy’s blog, I was shocked. The first concern that came to my mind was how could I make these posts relevant to you, the Reader. I knew it had to be about The Study Academy, but I felt there just had to be something more. It came to me one morning- Theoretical Thursdays!  In addition to Tuesday’s The Study Academy Reports, Theoretical Thursdays has come to comprise the basis for this blog.Neurfeedback training for ADHD

The posts these past few months have been diverse, but I hope they have been informative. On every Tuesday’s The Study Academy Report I tried to detail to you all the exciting happenings going on at school, both in the Highschool and Middle School sections. In some of my posts, I’ve written about the Neurofeedback training at The Study Academy lab, or the Study Academy’s small class sizes.  I also detailed to you about the exciting volunteering abroad opportunity that some of the students took in Nicaragua and the array of activities during Inspire Week. In the last remaining weeks, as things slowed down I spoke about the music classes available, the anti bullying policies at the school, the structured educational system, the theatrical performances by students, and the exciting new work happening at The Study Academy lab.

Teaching methods based on graduate research in action!Likewise , every Theoretical Thursday you, the Reader, were provided with the exciting research happening around the world and its relevance to Education and your child. You learned about the lasting effects of smaller class sizes, the self control technique of Mindfulness, the importance of divergent thinking in children, and the exciting new method of detecting autism.  In addition, I discussed the importance of music and goal setting for children, while using the most up to date and relevant research. Those who read my previous posts also learned the dangers of stereotype threat for young girls who like Math and the ways to prevent their impact, as well as how to use the structure of memory to one’s advantage so children will not forget their lessons over the break.

To say the least, we have had some very good time this year at The Study Academy, however summer is finally here, so we are going to have to say goodbye to our regular Tuesday posts, The Study Academy Report. The final The Study Academy Report will be next week . It will be detailing the last days of Brain Camp. However, it will be replaced with a new opinion section. All my readers will now get an opportunity to interact and really give your opinions about Education and Research. So, definitely don’t stop dropping by on Tuesday; instead come as you are and bring your opinions with you!

Theoretical Thursday: Challenges of Executive Dysfunction in Academic Setting and Possible Treatment

Theoretical Thursday: Challenges of Executive Dysfunction in Academic Setting and Possible Treatment

Middle School

Hello Readers,

Our executive functions involve high level cognitive activities such as flexible thinking, focusing,regulating one’s alertness, regulating emotions, organizing and prioritizing, the ability to access one’s working memories, a well as one’s ability to self monitor their own thoughts and behaviors. In exercising our executive function, we are able to set goals, organize our tasks, prepare  our documents for the day and double check that we have everything we need before we dash out the door.

ExecutiveFunctionTasks

For a student the activities of their executive function helps them to meet the demands as they enter middle school and high-school where independence and efficiency are necessary skills. However what about those individuals who have dysfunctional  executive functioning? How do they function and manage with everyday activities? So today, I want to continue with our discussion on major executive functioning in the brain. In particular, I would like to pay attention to how executive dysfunction can impact a student’s academic as well as everyday life and possible methods for them to overcome it.

Typically those with ADHD have dysfunctional executive functions (http://www.webmd.com/add-adhd/executive-function). The addition of a Learning Disability to an ADHD diagnosis appears to be associated with even worse executive dysfunction, and those with Executive Function Disorder struggle with executing daily tasks. For those individuals who suffers from these diagnoses, an analogy has been created to explain their executive function weaknesses- the “clogged funnel”. Essentially, the skills coordinated by the executive function areas of the brain become “stuck”, causing the information for the task to get “clogged” and so the student struggles to produce the correct results to complete the task.

executive-functions-impaired-ADD-ADHDThis is why such students may have trouble with open ended/ independent tasks due to inability to ‘unstick’ the higher cognitive skill set necessary to prioritize and organize their thoughts and or tasks. Likewise they may also have difficulty constructing a “bigger picture”. These students who cannot seem to “unclog the tunnel” may try incredibly hard and yet still be labelled lazy, or become frustrated or anxious, and as a result, make less effort towards their school work.

However, there are working solutions, research shows, that can assist students with executive weakness and help them overcome their personal challenges. For instance, Cognitive Behavioral therapy is a frequently suggested treatment and has showed a significant increased in positive treatment outcomes compared with individual therapy. 16 different executive related items were reduced following the treatment. Psychosocial treatments is another promising alternative. It is complicated and difficult to apply, however has been shown to show improvements in areas of time management and organization.

In addition, there are a few things parents can do to help students in addition. Firstly, parents can help their children set well defined goals for projects and studying for tests. In addition to this helping their child divide and conquer upcoming assignments will make it more likely to accomplish such goals. Encouraging their children to design personalized checklists based off of common mistakes also ensures that tasks completely to the criteria and handed in on time.

 

Assessing, Evaluating and Executive Functioning

Assessing, Evaluating and Executive Functioning

Middle School

Hello Readers,

I’m sure many of you can recall the distaste you may have had when you were younger every time a time came around. Perhaps, some of you even became anxious. Nevertheless, despite people’s aversion to assessments and evaluation, they play such a pivotal role for school’s to understand students learning and also the development of a very important concept in the mind, one’s executive function. “Executive functioning” is a term used to describe the many different cognitive processes that individuals use to control their behavior and to get ready to respond to different situations. Ok, this sounds rather simple, but its a tad more complicated than that. If you are interested in learning more, may I suggest you check out this wonderful introduction on Executive Function in children: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1076/chin.8.2.69.8725#.UswZSc1mhxw

ExecutiveFunctionTasksAnyways, to get back to the point, it is incredibly important to develop one’s executive functioning as it affects almost every aspect of our lives. For instance, we make use of executive function when we make good use of past knowledge or current situation, so we know how best to proceed. For a student, they can use their assessment and evaluations to take the next step, and this can carry on into adulthood.

The Study Academy creates a school environment where through assessments and evaluation a child can improve their learning and develop their executive functioning. Firstly, an Executive Function course is taught as a non credit course to all Middle School students and is linked though the use of the technology available at the school. However, the learning and executive functioning skill development is also provided through Assessments for Learning, Assessments as Learning and Assessment of Learning and Evaluation component in all other classes. Do those three sound the same? Well then allow me to clarify!

Assessment for Learning- Teachers provide students with feedback for how they can improve. This can indeed development one’s learning and executive functioning with as simple the task as repeating a given strategy or trying a strategy for an assignment. When the child receives feedback, they can learn which strategy works and which one doesn’t.

Learning Assessment TriangleLearning Assessment TriangleLearning Assessment TriangleLearning Assessment TriangleLearning Assessment TriangleAssessment as Learning- Teachers help students develop capacity to be independent autonomous learners so they can become an individual with stronger executive functioning (set own goals, watch own progress, determine next steps and reflect) Student are taught how when and why specific strategies should be used and when they can modify to suit their own learning preferences.  Teachers also help students set realistic goals and use self-monitoring and self-management strategies to identify areas of weakness and self-correct behaviors and performance.

Assessment of Learning -this is an evaluation and is based on already established performance standards and assigning value to represent what students know and can apply.Teachers indeed count “strategy use” as part of a student’s grade (focus on the “how” of learning, not just the “what”). In addition, the application process required in certain learning tasks is indeed another aspect of executive functioning that a student can strengthen through these forms of assessments.

The Ontario Ministry of Education also provides further description of these three interconnected assessments and how they benefit the many students of Ontario, including those at The Study Academy:http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/policyfunding/success.html

Overall, The Study Academy provides a wonderful environment that fosters a child’s learning of subject matter, as well as their development of higher cognitive processes in executive functioning. This, is most definitely an asset for any student’s future.