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: Mindfulness Meditation to Benefit Students

Theoretical Thursday: Mindfulness Meditation to Benefit Students

The Study Academy Report

Hello Readers and welcome to the Fourth Week of Theoretical Thursday!

As I mentioned on Tuesday’s blog, there has been an integration of Mindfulness and Meditation practices into the Educational System, so today I want to talk to you more about the beneficial effects that Researchers have found. However first off I want to try to provide you a better understanding of Mindfulness.

The Buddhist tradition has a long history of dealing with problems of the mind and body. In fact, it already predated Western Psychology as a science by more than eighteen and  a half centuries. To be particular, the Abhidhamma, a collection of writings that outline the doctrines of Buddhism, revealed an explicitly psychological content, providing  details on such sensation, perception, emotion and cognition. That being the case, there were already ways of dealing with many of the problems that society still faces today.

As I previously mentioned Mindfulness Meditation combines both an open mind as well as a focused attention. One focuses on one’s breath and is open to their environment. With time and practice this practice is integrated into how one see’s their every day life. So in this way, the mechanisms of mindfulness meditation, with their emphasis on developing openness and awareness to one’s inner thoughts, represent a powerful coping strategy and more adaptive way of processing in everyday life (Shapiro et al., 2006).

There has been several studies of Mindfulness and Meditation in schools that have yielded results that coincide with Shapiro’s sentiment, such as:

  • Improved self-control and self-awareness among children ages 7-9 who initially lack such skills (Flook et al. 2010)
  • Improved attention skills among elementary school children (Schonert-Reichl and Lawlor 2010; Napoli, Krech, and Holley 2005; Zylowska et al. 2008)
  • Decreased anxiety among students in grades 7-8 (Semple, Reid, and Miller 2005)
  • Decreased test anxiety in students grades 1-3 (Napoli, Krech, and Holley 2005)
  • Decreased blood pressure in youths ages 6-18 (Black, Milam, and Sussman 2009; Barnes, Beiser, and Treiber 2004)
  • Reduced misbehavior/aggression among children and adolescents (Schonert-Reichl and Lawlor 2010; Black, Milam, and Sussman 2009; Barnes, Treiber, and Johnson 2003)

If you are interested in finding out more about the many benefits, I suggest you read the meta-analysis Sedlmeier and colleagues from the Chemnitz University of Technology: http://www.ashanamind.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/physiological-effects_Sedlmeier_12.pdf

I believe that part of the reason for these results is that Mindfulness and Meditation teach students how to engage in cognitive restructuring. What I mean is that by bringing one’s attention to oneself and their surroundings, as well as incorporating an open mind to situations, an individual can adjust their normal and potentially negative reactions. Research in neuro-imaging studies has indeed shown this, where  through inhibition that an automatic reactive attitude shift towards a more open minded attitude (Brown and Ryan, 2003; Ryan et al., 1997).

This type of reconstrual is  done through breaking up the relevance of objects constructed in their mind.One is metaphorically stepping back, looking through the thought and in doing so they can break apart chunks of sequential thought patterns.The cognitive restructuring of what the individuals finds salient opens up the opportunity for a more open-minded mindset that can positively affect the appraisal process of many situations anxiety, blood pressure, and social interaction.

There has been programs popping up in Toronto that teach students Mindfulness and Meditation, however it is not fully introduced into the Educational system as of yet. However, I believe with time and the persistence of certain programs like Mindfulness in Schools (http://mindfulnessinschools.org/), it will be, and at that point Education will no longer simply consider what it puts into the minds of the children, but also how it can change the mind within it too!

Thank you and I hope you drop by next week!

Cya!

 

 

 

 

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.