Author Archives: Pedro

What we sometimes tend to forget: we are all only human, children included (on distributed practice)

Tim Surma tweeted this study on distributed practice and while what the study describes is as logical as it can be for any parent, still it’s often overlooked: distributed practice is rarely realized in self-regulated mathematical learning. Or to be put in simple words: a lot of students won’t do it by themselves, because, well, they’re human.

The clear written abstract describes the study by Katharina Barzagar Nazari and Mirjam Ebersbach:

The purpose of the present study was to investigate the effect and use of distributed practice in the context of self-regulated mathematical learning in high school. With distributed practice, a fixed learning duration is spread over several sessions, whereas with massed practice, the same time is spent learning in one session. Distributed practice has been proven to be an effective tool for improving long-term retention of verbal material and simple procedural knowledge in mathematics, at least when the practice schedule is externally guided. In the present study, distributed practice was investigated in a context that required a higher degree of self-regulation. In total, 158 secondary school students were invited to participate. After motivational and cognitive characteristics of the students were assessed, the students were introduced to basic statistics, a topic of their regular curriculum. At the end of the introduction, the students could sign up for the study to further practice this content. Eighty-seven students did so and were randomly assigned either to the distributed or to the massed practice condition. In the distributed practice condition, they received three practice sets on three different days. In the massed practice condition, they received the same three sets, but all on one day. All exercises were worked in the context of self-regulated learning at home. Performance was tested 2 weeks after the last practice set. Only 44 students finished the study, which hampered the analysis of the effect of distributed practice. The characteristics of the students who completed the exercises were analyzed exploratory: The proportion of students who finished all exercises was significantly higher in the massed than in the distributed practice condition. Within the distributed practice condition, a significantly larger proportion of female students completed the exercises compared to male students. Additionally, among these female students, a larger proportion showed lower concentration difficulty. No such differential effects were revealed in the massed practice condition. Our results suggest that the use of distributed practice in the context of self-regulated learning might depend on learner characteristics. Accordingly, distributed practice might obtain more reliable effects in more externally guided learning contexts.

So the study seems to be a failure, but the fact that many students dropped out of the experiment is an interesting result in itself:

One of the main purposes of the present study was to investigate the effect of distributed practice on the mathematical performance of high school students using curriculum-relevant material. However, due to a severe dropout rate over the course of the study as a consequence of the study relying on self-regulated-learning, the effect of practice condition on final test performance has a low validity.

But there is more:

First of all, the proportion of students who finished the study was significantly higher in the massed practice condition than in the distributed practice condition. Furthermore, within the distributed practice condition, additional differential effects were found: The proportion of students who finished their exercises was significantly higher among female students than among male students. In addition, within female students who practiced in a distributed manner, the proportion of students who finished the study was significantly higher for girls with low concentration difficulty than for girls with high concentration difficulty. None of these differential effects were found for the massed practice condition. That is, not only did the students complete their exercises more often in the massed practice condition, but for the distributed practicing students, personal characteristics had an additional influence on the completion of the exercises. Taken together, these results imply that distributed practice in self-regulated learning, contrary to massed practice, favors specific students in terms of their willingness to realize this strategy, while others are at a disadvantage.

Therefore this conclusion, which probably wasn’t the thing the researchers were looking for:

The main finding here was that – in contrast to massed practice – distributed practice in semi-self-regulated learning (as the schedule was externally given and not chosen by the students themselves) seems to favor students with particular characteristics: in the current study, female students with lower concentration difficulty. Because self-regulated learning plays an important role especially in high school and at university, these differential effects concerning the application of distributed practice may be problematic if they result in performance improvements of a particular group of students while disfavoring others. Teachers may prefer strategies that improve the performance of all students equally. Therefore, it is vital to know whether and which learners are capable of successfully implementing distributed practice into their own learning schedule.

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This post may cause stress for many parents, do be warned

Well, don’t say I didn’t warn you but a new study shows that the time parents spend with children can be key to academic success. But wait… it can be more complicated than that because they found a quite distinct way to measure this: the researchers analyzed data on children in Israel who lost a parent through death or divorce and looked at the remaining parent (quotes from the press release):

They found that when it came to one measure of a child’s academic success, the educational attainment of the surviving or custodial parent had more impact than the educational level of the parent who died or left the home.

And the longer the absence of a parent, the less impact his or her education had on the child’s success and the greater the impact of the remaining parent.

The study is quite large, to say the least, as it involved more than 22,000 children in Israel who lost a parent before age 18, more than 77,000 whose parents divorced and more than 600,000 who did not experience parental death or divorce. But what do we learn from this?

“We found that if a mother dies, her education becomes less important for whether her child passes the test, while at the same time the father’s education becomes more important. If a father dies, the reverse happens,” he (Gould, one of the main authors) said.

“These relationships are stronger when the parent dies when the child is younger.”

In other words, Gould said, parenting matters.

“Student success is not coming just from smart parents having smart kids,” he said.

Study results rejected the argument that the parents’ income is really what helps the children of the highly educated succeed academically.

And now it gets really interesting:

If that were so, then losing a father should hurt children academically more than losing a mother because fathers tend to earn more.

“That’s not what we found. The loss of a mother – who tends to spend more time than the father with her children – had a bigger effect than loss of a father in our study,” Weinberg said.

But what about parents who remarry after losing a spouse? The study found that the negative effect on academic success of losing a mother can at least be partially minimized if the child gains a stepmother. If the father does not remarry, the effect of the loss is more acute: No one can compensate for the loss of the mother except for the father.

The study didn’t find any differences in academic success for children whose mothers remarried after their father died, versus those who did not. That may be because mothers’ education levels generally had more impact on their children’s success than that of fathers because of the more time moms spend with their kids.

Results also showed that mothers’ education was more closely linked to children’s academic success in larger families. The researchers believe that was because women with more children spent more time with their kids and less time working outside the home, according to findings.

Overall, the effects of losing a parent were stronger on girls than on boys, the study showed.

Similar results were also found with children whose parents had divorced. The educational level of the mother – whom the child typically lived with – had a larger effect on academic success than did the education of the other parent, Weinberg said.

“We found similar results in those children who experienced parental death and parental divorce. That provides strong evidence that our results are more general than just for children who suffered a parental death,” Weinberg said.

“Other studies show that highly educated parents tend to spend more time with their children. Our results may suggest one reason why they do: It has a strong impact on academic success.”

And… the importance of mothers.

Abstract of the study by Gould et al.:

This paper examines the transmission of human capital from parents to children using variation in parental influence due to parental death, divorce, and the increasing specialization of parental roles in larger families. All three sources of variation yield strikingly similar patterns which show that the strong parent-child correlation in human capital is largely causal. In each case, the parent-child correlation in education is stronger with the parent that spends more time with the child, and weaker with the parent that spends relatively less time parenting. These findings help us understand why educated parents spend more time with their children.

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Funny on Sunday: When the phone was tied with a wire

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by | February 3, 2019 · 7:04 am

She’s got the looks, but does she have the brains? New study on how sexy looks influence our thinking about capabilities

Looks can deceive, but it’s important to know that this deception is often in the head of the perceiver. This new, quite depressing study shows that female students who dress sexy at their graduation are perceived as being less competent and are believed to have performed worse in their degree than their peers who dress more professionally. From the conclusion:

Overall, female students chose their graduation outfit in order to appear beautiful and to express their personality and less so to appear competent. Hence, appearing competent seemed not to be their main concern. At the same time, outfit had a reliable impact on observers who attributed less effort and poorer outcomes (thesis points and higher final mark) to the students dressed in a sexy fashion (Study 1 and Study 3). Sexy outfits were even associated with fewer thesis points actually obtained by students in real life (Study 2). This result suggests that graduation committees may have been influenced by the students’ attire when evaluating their theses.

From the press release:

Females who dress ‘sexily’ at their graduation are perceived as being less competent and are believed to have performed worse in their degree than their peers who dress more professionally, new research from the University of Surrey reports.

During this unique study, published in Frontiers in Psychology, researchers investigated perceptions of female clothing at university graduations in Italy. Participants were presented with 24 photographs of females who had recently graduated: 12 of these photographs involved ‘sexy’ outfits consisting of short dresses or skirts, low necklines and high heels, and 12 photographs of females in professional outfit of a jacket and trousers. Participants were then asked to estimate the final mark of the females in the pictures and, to rate their sexiness, competence and outfit appropriateness.

Female graduates who dressed more professionally were perceived by participants as having a higher final mark and thesis points and to be more competent than their peers who dressed in short dresses and skirts. Participants also deemed professional attire more appropriate for graduation.

Examining perceptions further, researchers exposed an additional group of 573 participants, namely female students, university professors and members of the general population, to photographs of 37 female students who were asked to wear two outfits, one professional and one ‘sexy.’ Participants were asked to rate the students’ performance, future career success and whether they would have worn the outfits they were presented with. Similar to previous results, participants viewed students who dressed more professionally to be more competent and as having achieving a higher final mark.

Interestingly, female student peers perceived the professionally dressed students as more likely to find a job and to have a successful career than when the same students were dressed in a ‘sexy’ outfit. Conversely, adult participants judged the students wearing a ‘sexy’ outfit as having an advantage, and having higher chances of success in the job market. Also when asked which outfit they would have chosen, professional or ‘sexy’, male participants were more likely than female participants to claim that they would have chosen to wear the ‘sexy’ outfit if they were the student.

Dr Fabio Fasoli, Lecturer in Social Psychology at the University of Surrey, said: “The intelligence and competence of females is unfairly linked to how they present themselves. A top student who decides to wear a short dress to her graduation is perceived to be less capable than another who chooses to wear trousers and a jacket.

“It is often thought that how we dress is a reflection of our personality but this may not be the case for women, given that they are constantly scrutinised for their appearance and that unmerited conclusions are drawn about them, including their intelligence and professional capability.”

Abstract of the study:

This research investigates how female students choose their graduation outfit and how clothing affects observers’ judgments. In Study 1, we manipulated the students’ graduation outfit so as to look professional or sexy. Female peers, adults, and professors formed a first impression about the students, their thesis work and guessed their graduation scores (thesis points and final mark). All participant groups judged the professionally dressed students as more competent, as having put more effort in their thesis, and as having obtained better scores than when the same students dressed sexy. In Studies 2 and 3 we replicated previous findings by using photos portraying real students in their actual graduation outfits. We found that sexy clothing, considered inappropriate for the occasion, affected estimated and actual graduation scores negatively and that this effect was mediated by perceived incompetence. Results are discussed with respect to women’s evaluation on the basis of their appearance.

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Interesting: babies who hear two languages at home develop advantages in attention

There has been a lot of debate about the benefits of being raised bilingual, this new study shows a possible positive effect on attention as this new study shows that infants who are exposed to more than one language show better attentional control than infants who are exposed to only one language.

From the press release:

The advantages of growing up in a bilingual home can start as early as six months of age, according to new research led by York University’s Faculty of Health. In the study, infants who are exposed to more than one language show better attentional control than infants who are exposed to only one language. This means that exposure to bilingual environments should be considered a significant factor in the early development of attention in infancy, the researchers say, and could set the stage for lifelong cognitive benefits.

The research was conducted by Ellen Bialystok, Distinguished Research Professor of Psychology and Walter Gordon Research Chair of Lifespan Cognitive Development at York University and Scott Adler, associate professor in York’s Department of Psychology and the Centre for Vision Research, along with lead author Kyle J. Comishen, a former Master’s student in their lab. It will be published January 30, 2019 in Developmental Science.

The researchers conducted two separate studies in which infants’ eye movements were measured to assess attention and learning. Half of the infants who were studied were being raised in monolingual environments while others were being raised in environments in which they heard two languages spoken approximately half of the time each. The infants were shown images as they lay in a crib equipped with a camera and screen, and their eye movements were tracked and recorded as they watched pictures appear above them, in different areas of the screen. The tracking was conducted 60 times for each infant.

“By studying infants – a population that does not yet speak any language – we discovered that the real difference between monolingual and bilingual individuals later in life is not in the language itself, but rather, in the attention system used to focus on language,” says Bialystok, co-senior author of the study. “This study tells us that from the very earliest stage of development, the networks that are the basis for developing attention are forming differently in infants who are being raised in a bilingual environment. Why is that important? It’s because attention is the basis for all cognition.”

In the first study, the infants saw one of two images in the centre of the screen followed by another image appearing on either the left or right side of the screen. The babies learned to expect that if, for example, a pink and white image appears in the centre of the screen, it would be followed by an attractive target image on the left; If a blue and yellow image appeared in the centre, then the target would appear on the right. All the infants could learn these rules.

In the second study, which began in the same way, researchers switched the rule halfway through the experiment. When they tracked the babies’ eye movements, they found that infants who were exposed to a bilingual environment were better at learning the new rule and at anticipating where the target image would appear. This is difficult because they needed to learn a new association and replace a successful response with a new contrasting one.

“Infants only know which way to look if they can discriminate between the two pictures that appear in the centre,” said Adler, co-senior author of the study. “They will eventually anticipate the picture appearing on the right, for example, by making an eye movement even before that picture appears on the right. What we found was that the infants who were raised in bilingual environments were able to do this better after the rule is switched than those raised in a monolingual environment.”

Anything that comes through the brain’s processing system interacts with this attentional mechanism, says Adler. Therefore, language as well as visual information can influence the development of the attentional system.

Researchers say the experience of attending to a complex environment in which infants simultaneously process and contrast two languages may account for why infants raised in bilingual environments have greater attentional control than those raised in monolingual environments.

In previous research, bilingual children and adults outperformed monolinguals on some cognitive tasks that require them to switch responses or deal with conflict. The reason for those differences were thought to follow from the ongoing need for bilinguals to select which language to speak. This new study pushes back the explanation to a time before individuals are actively using languages and switching between them.

“What is so ground-breaking about these results, is that they look at infants who are not bilingual yet and who are only hearing the bilingual environment. This is what’s having the impact on cognitive performance,” says Adler.

Abstract of the study:

Bilingualism has been observed to influence cognitive processing across the lifespan but whether bilingual environments have an effect on selective attention and attention strategies in infancy remains an unresolved question. In Study 1, infants exposed to monolingual or bilingual environments participated in an eye‐tracking cueing task in which they saw centrally presented stimuli followed by a target appearing on either the left or right side of the screen. Halfway through the trials, the central stimuli reliably predicted targets’ locations. In Study 2, the first half of the trials consisted of centrally presented cues that predicted targets’ locations; in the second half, the cue–target location relation switched. All infants performed similarly in Study 1, but in Study 2 infants raised in bilingual, but not monolingual, environments were able to successfully update their expectations by making more correct anticipatory eye movements to the target and expressing faster reactive eye latencies toward the target in the post‐switch condition. The experience of attending to a complex environment in which infants simultaneously process and contrast two languages may account for why infants raised in bilingual environments have greater attentional control than those raised in monolingual environments.

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Strict and Nurturing Parents: Cycles in Child Rearing and Schooling

Maybe the most importante sentence: “From Montessori schools to Core Knowledge to KIPP parents choose schools that mirror their beliefs and values about child rearing.”

Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice

In 2011, Amy Chua laughed all the way to the bank at the fuss she kicked up about her tough-love parenting of daughters–no sleepovers–in “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.”  Time magazine reported that her Wall Street Journal op-ed garnered over a million readers, 5000 comments, and an animation made in Taiwan. (video of Chua describing book is here).

For educated, financially comfortable non-Tiger Moms, however, the thought of giving up “Baby Mozarts,” chants of “well done” to build self- esteem, and, yes, even sleepovers–is too much.  In response to Tiger Moms, Ayelet Waldman said, developing empathy in children, nurturing them, and giving them room to decide things for themselves, while still achieving high grades and gathering awards, are traits that she and other non-Tiger Moms want to develop.

Competing ways of rearing children, of course is nothing new. Since the 17th century, ministers, mothers, and, later, physicians…

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How do children draw themselves? Well, it depends on who’s looking (study)

Past week Andreas Schleicher (OECD) referred to children’s drawings of the future in one of the talks related to the new Trends Shaping Education report. Thinking and using children’s drawings is nothing new, e.g. in a therapeutic setting. A new study does shed an interesting light on what happens when children are asked to draw themselves: children vary how they draw themselves depending on the profession of the audience, and whether or not they are familiar to the child.

This doesn’t mean that these kind of drawings are unusable, but it helps finetuning how they should be interpreted.

From the press release:

It’s the archetypal child’s drawing – family, pet, maybe a house and garden, and the child themselves. Yet how do children represent themselves in their drawings, and does this representation alter according to who will look at the picture?

A research team led by academics from the University of Chichester has examined this issue and found that children’s expressive drawings of themselves vary according to the authority of and familiarity with the adult who will view the picture. The study is published today, 25th January 2019, in the British Journal of Developmental Psychology.

The results of the study are significant, because it is important to understand children’s drawings for different audiences. Drawings are often used in clinical, forensic, educational and therapeutic situations to garner information about how a child feels and to supplement verbal communication.

The research team worked with 175 children aged eight and nine, 85 boys and 90 girls. The children were arranged in seven groups – one where no audience was specified and six audience groups varying by audience type. These groups represented professionals (policeman, teacher) and men with whom the children were familiar, and those with whom they were not.

The children were invited to draw three pictures of themselves – one as a baseline, one happy and one sad.

The results of the study show that children’s drawings of themselves are more expressive if the audience for those drawings is familiar to the child. Girls drew themselves more expressively than boys.

Some anomalies appeared in the results. For example, boys and girls performed differently in happy and sad drawings for the familiar and unfamiliar policeman groups. Girls showed more expressivity than boys in their happy drawings when the audience was a policeman they knew, whereas boys’ sad drawings showed more expressivity than girls’ in the unfamiliar policeman group. While the authors of the study suggest reasons for this, they see merit in further study.

They also suggest that this current study could be used as the basis for future studies investigating other professional and personal interactions, such as between a doctor and their patient.

The study was led by Dr Esther Burkitt, Reader in Developmental Psychology at the University of Chichester. She commented: “This current study builds on the findings of previous studies carried out by our team. Its findings have implications for the use of children’s drawings by professionals as a means to supplement and improve verbal communication. Being aware that children may draw emotions differently for different professional groups may help practitioners to better understand what a child feels about the topics being drawn. This awareness could provide the basis of a discussion with the child about why they drew certain information for certain people. Our findings indicate that it matters for which profession children think they are drawing themselves, and whether they are familiar with a member of that profession.”

Abstract of the study:

This study investigated whether children’s expressive drawings of themselves vary as a function of audience authority and familiarity. One hundred and seventy‐five children, 85 boys and 90 girls, aged between 8 years 1 months and 9 years 2 months (= 8 years 5 months) were allocated into seven groups: a reference group (= 25), where no audience was specified, and six audience groups (= 25 per group) varying by audience type (policeman vs. teacher vs. man) and familiarity (familiar vs. unfamiliar). They drew baseline then happy and sad drawings of themselves, rated affect towards drawings type, and rated perceived audience authority. Audience familiarity and authority impacted expressive drawing strategy use and this varied by gender. There was higher overall expressive strategy use for happy drawings and for girls, and influences of affect type, familiarity, and authority were found. The implications of children’s perceptions of audience type on their expressive drawings are discussed.

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Funny on Sunday: Periods when you know the most about dinosaurs

H/T Jos Reulen

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Whatever Happened To the Non-Graded School?

Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice

Ask a teacher, principal, superintendent, or school board member about the non-graded school and you will get a “huh” or perhaps a blank stare. The educator might whip out a smart phone and tap away at the tiny keyboard, wait a few seconds and then get a raft of websites and definitions. The non-graded school does exist. Few know about it, however.

This post is part of a continuing series about what happened to educational innovations that spread virally at first (before there was Twitter) but within a few years nearly disappeared from the U.S. landscape of schooling.

Where and When Did the Idea Originate?

Throughout the 19th century, non-graded schools were everywhere. At that time, such places were called the one-room school. Children and youth from age 6 to 14 or so gathered in the schoolhouse every morning and over the course of the day, the teacher taught different…

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Best Evidence in Brief: Does personality matter for effective teaching and burnout?

There is a new Best Evidence in Brief with among others, this study (with bold by me):

Lisa Kim and colleagues recently conducted a meta-analysis to try to identify whether personality characteristics are associated with effective teaching.

The study, which was published in Educational Psychology Review, looked at 25 studies (total number of participants = 6,294) that reported on relationships between five teacher personality traits (openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and emotional stability) and two teacher job-related outcomes (teacher effectiveness and burnout).

Overall, the results showed that teacher personality may be associated with teacher effectiveness and job burnout. For teacher effectiveness, extraversion was found to have the largest effect size (+0.17), and agreeableness the lowest (+0.03). The characteristic most associated with less teacher burnout was emotional stability (effect size =+0.21), and openness had the smallest effect size (+0.04). However, as the effect sizes for burnout were very small, the authors suggest that the results should be approached with caution.

The researchers also looked at whether the source of the teacher personality report (i.e., self-report vs. other-report) and educational level had any moderating effects on the relationship between personality and job-related outcomes. The findings indicated that other-reports of teacher personality were more strongly associated with effectiveness and burnout than self-reports. There were no differences in the strength of the associations between the educational levels.

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