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: Preventing Female Students from Losing their Love of Math!

Theoretical Thursday: Preventing Female Students from Losing their Love of Math!

Educational Research

Hello Readers,

Do any of you have or know little girls who like math? Are they good at math? The reason why I am asking you these questions is because there has been a growing concern that young girls are shying away from mathematics as they grow older. In this month’s journal of Child Development (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/cdev.12128/abstract) , it was shown that girls as young as six subconsciously bias themselves away from mathematics, which negatively impacts the development of their math ability. Essentially, her confidence fades and eventually her skills and drive to learn fade away too.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/65/Stereotype_threat_-_osborne_2007.png

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/65/Stereotype_threat_-_osborne_2007.png

One of the reasons postulated was based off the idea of Stereotype threat. Stereotype threat is the idea that one becomes fearful that one will act in ways that confirm the perceived stereotype. Girls, therefore, may be anxious that they may act according to the stereotype of girls being poor of math, and therefore shy away from the subject. Studies have shown this to be the case. Stereotype threat claims space in one’s working memory and therefore leaves one with less space for the mental manipulation that express themselves through intelligent thought patterns.

Researchers from this month’s Child Development worked with 276 first-graders to examine the boundaries of Stereotype threat and how girls can overcome it. The children were divided into groups and were asked to colour a picture. Simple enough, right? Well wait, there’s more. A third of the children colored a picture showing a girl solving a math problem at a blackboard while a boy sat in the front row watching, while another third colored a picture of a boy solving a math problem while a girl watched, and lastly another third colored a landscape. After the students were done then the researchers had students do a few math questions .

The results indicated that girls who felt they were under stereotype threat were negatively impacted by colouring the picture of a math-active boy and a math-passive girl. They added numbers more slowly and with less accurately. A little girl’s love and confidence in her math skills should not be dictated by her social surroundings. It only takes an active approach from a mother, a father, a brother, a sister, or even her teachers to help feed the young girl’s thirst for knowledge and confidence so she can succeed!

Till next time!

Theoretical Thursday: Making the Memories Last!

Theoretical Thursday: Making the Memories Last!

Middle School The Study Academy Report

Hello Readers,

Welcome to yet another Theoretical Thursday written by me, The Study Academy’s humble blogger. I felt that, considering how majority of you are probably deciding whether to sign up your child this summer for camp (hopefully Brain Camp), I wanted to give you a bit more incentive.  As I mentioned in this week’s The Study Academy Report, there is indeed a concern by many Educators that students forget the material taught during the academic year while they are on break. Actually, this has been termed as brain drain syndrome, but don’t be alarmed there are ways to prevent it!

http://01.edu-cdn.com/files/static/wiley/9780470591963/WHY_DO_STUDENTS_REMEMBER_EVERYTHING_THAT_S_ON_TELEVISION_AND_FORGET_EVERYTHING_I_SAY_01.GIF

http://01.edu-cdn.com/files/static/wiley/9780470591963/WHY_DO_STUDENTS_REMEMBER_EVERYTHING_THAT_S_ON_TELEVISION_AND_FORGET_EVERYTHING_I_SAY_01.GIF

First, however, why is it happening? Well, the  Educational calendar has definitely changed over the years. For instance, there has been a gradual movement towards fewer school days in the classroom by having the children stay longer on school days to make up the minutes. Thus, with longer breaks between lessons children can fall prey to brain drain. On average, children can lose up to two months of what they were taught in school over the summer break. Why? Well this has a lot to do with the child’s memory. You see there are many different kinds of memories. Long-term memory is our brain’s system responsible for storing, managing, and retrieving information that we can keep for long periods of time. There are many different forms of long-term memory. explicit memory, or declarative memory, is a type of long-term memory, which requires conscious thought for us to retrieve it. We have to consciously think of what page of math we have in order to retrieve the memory and say, “Aha! It was page 102, questions 1 to 12!” Closely related to “working” memory, short-term memory is the very short time that you keep something in mind before either dismissing it or transferring it to long-term memory.

It takes, however, quite a bit of work for a memory to be transferred and stored in long term memory so that it can be kept for long periods of time. Memories can be encoded into long term memory most commonly through two ways: repetition and meaningful encoding. Repetition is probably the most used way. It is when you have your child review their material a bit each day or read a book each week during the summer break. I fondly recall how my parents had me write 2 to 4 book reports each summer, and this really helped to expand my vocabulary from an early age.

http://www.asa3.org/ASA/education/teach/z-vthink.gif

http://www.asa3.org/ASA/education/teach/z-vthink.gif

However, getting a child to go back to the books after they have been looking so forward to the relaxing and fun times of summer may be a bit of a challenge, to say the least. Can you blame them? Both adults and children alike want to have a bit of fun after they work hard.  This is why, meaningful encoding may be the better option. Meaningful  encoding allows for memories of what your child has learned to reach long term memory by attaching relevance to the information. It is making the details personally important to the child. In this way, the memory can be encoded and transferred through what they refer to as dual encoding process- the memory is encoded through both as information and through the emotions the child relates to the information.

Well, children can certainly have a meaningful time at camp! Academic camps are structured around the idea of meaningful encoding and therefore are a great option for reducing brain drain! Studies have shown that students in academic camps, such as Brain Camp, benefit in a number of ways including enhanced problem solving skills and memory. In fact, 98% of campers continue to use these skills after camp is over. Children certainly gain invaluable knowledge and skills at such camps  that helps them succeed in school and later in the working world.

So, what’s your decision now going to be for your child this summer?

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.