Category Archives: Education

Research Counts for Little When It Comes to Adopting “Personalized Learning”

Good oversight by Larry Cuban

Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice

The K-12 sector is investing heavily in technology as a means of providing students with a more customized educational experience. So far, though, the research evidence behind “personalized learning” remains thin.

Ben Herold, Education Week, October 18, 2016

The pushers of computer-based instruction want districts to buy products and then see if the product works. Students and teachers are being used for marketing research, unreimbursed research. Districts are spending money based on hype and tests of the educational efficacy of an extremely narrow range of products as if this is a reasonable way to proceed in this era of extreme cuts in budgets.

Laura Chapman, comment on above guest post, May 21, 2017

Both Ben Herold and Laura Chapman are correct in their statements about the thinness of research on “personalized learning” and that districts spend “money based on hype and tests of the educational efficacy of an extremely…

View original post 1,601 more words

Leave a comment

Filed under Education

Learning diversity through music

A new study states that listening to music from other cultures furthers one’s pro-diversity beliefs.

I’m not that surprised as one of my own little studies I conducted showed a similar effect (check here).

From the press release:

Jake Harwood turned his lifelong hobby as a musician into a scholarly question: Could the sharing of music help ease interpersonal relations between people from different backgrounds, such as Americans and Arabs?

To explore the issue, and building on his years of research on intergroup communication, Harwood began collaborating two to three years ago with his graduate students and other researchers on a number of studies, finding that music is not merely a universal language. It appears to produce a humanizing effect for members of groups experiencing social and political opposition.

“Music would not have developed in our civilizations if it did not do very important things to us,” said Harwood, a professor in the University of Arizona Department of Communication. “Music allows us to communicate common humanity to each other. It models the value of diversity in ways you don’t readily see in other parts of our lives.”

Harwood is presenting his team’s research during the International Communication Association’s 67th annual conference, to be held May 25-29 in San Diego.

In one study, Harwood worked with UA graduate researchers Farah Qadar and Chien-Yu Chen to record a mock news story featuring an Arab and an American actor playing music together. The researchers showed the video clip to U.S. participants who were not Arab. The team found that when viewing the two cultures collaborating on music, individuals in the study were prone to report more positive perceptions — less of a prejudiced view — of Arabs.

“The act of merging music is a metaphor for what we are trying to do: Merging two perspectives in music, you can see an emotional connection, and its effect is universal,” said Qadar, who graduated from the UA in 2016 with a master’s degree in communication.

The team published those findings in an article, “Harmonious Contact: Stories About Intergroup Musical Collaboration Improve Intergroup Attitudes.” The article appeared in a fall issue of the peer-reviewed Journal of Communication.

Another major finding: The benefits were notable, even when individuals did not play musical instruments themselves. Merely listening to music produced by outgroup members helped reduce negative feelings about outgroup members, Harwood said.

“It’s not just about playing Arab music. But if you see an Arab person playing music that merges the boundary between mainstream U.S. and Arab, then you start connecting the two groups,” Harwood said.

As part of his ongoing research in a different study, which he will present during the International Communication Association conference, Harwood and Stefania Paolini, a senior lecturer at the University of Newcastle’s School of Psychology, measured people’s appreciation for diversity, gauging how they felt about members of other groups. After doing so, the team asked people to listen to music from other cultures and then report how much they enjoyed the music and what they perceived of the people the music represented.

The team found that people who value diversity are more likely to enjoy listening to music from other cultures, and that act of listening furthers one’s pro-diversity beliefs.

“It has this sort of spiral effect. If you value diversity, you are going to listen to more music from other cultures,” Harwood said, noting that that research is continuing. “If all you are doing is listening to the same type of music all the time, there is homogeneity that is not doing a lot to help people to increase their value for diversity.”

For Harwood and his collaborators, these findings are affirming given the decades-old world music explosion and more recent examples of performers around the world who regularly sample and cross-reference outgroup musical traditions and elements.

Harwood pointed to Paul Simon’s “Graceland” album as an early and notable example. Released in 1986, the album drew influence from South African instrumentation and rhythms.

“It was the start of the world music phenomena,” Harwood said. “Suddenly, everyone wanted to listen to African music. Then Indonesian, then Algerian music. Then you see this modeling of new music with different musical cultures and different people collaborating with each other.”

Harwood also said artists such as Eminem and Rihanna are among those who are experimenting with music that crosses cultural boundaries. “This whole new type of music is emerging that would not exist if you did not have that kind of cross-collaboration.”

Harwood also said his team’s findings build on earlier research and emergent models of intergroup dialogue that encourage direct contact and conversation to help build cross-cultural understanding and cohesion.

“We must think about music as a human, social activity rather than a sort of beautiful, aesthetic hobby and appreciate how fundamental it is to us all,” he said. “We can then begin to see people from other groups as more human and begin to recategorize one another as members as the same group.”

Abstract of one of the studies mentioned in the press release:

Watching contact between members of one’s ingroup and members of an outgroup in the media (mediated vicarious contact) improves intergroup attitudes. We compare mediated vicarious contact with observing only members of the outgroup (parasocial contact), and examine whether the activity of the portrayed contact matters. Building on theory, we predict that watching outgroup members playing music should reduce prejudice more than watching them engaged in nonmusical activities, particularly with vicarious (vs. parasocial) contact. Results show that vicarious musical contact enhances perceptions of synchronization, liking, and honesty between ingroup and outgroup actors in a video, which in turn results in more positive attitudes toward the outgroup. Counter to predictions, parasocial musical contact results in less positive outcomes than parasocial nonmusical contact.

1 Comment

Filed under Education, Psychology, Research, Youngsters

A tour of Stock Photos Academy

Great post!

Othmar's Trombone

We are delighted to welcome you to Stock Photos Academy, a brilliant new free school located in the heart of the country.

We are proud of our focus on learning and on nurturing the next generation.

We hope you enjoy having a look around our school, which we think is a very special place.


We’ll start the tour in the sixth form, where we stream the students depending on how photogenic they are. This is the top set in Maths. Here, Maths teacher Mr. Smith is making his pi/pie joke. The sixth formers bloody love that joke.


Whilst the sixth form offers traditional subjects, we are also able to offer special courses too to get those valuable UCAS points. Here, our pupils are taking a short course in, erm, Spectacles Studies.


As you can see here, we have invested heavily in technology and have whole class sets of tablets. Unfortunately, we only…

View original post 391 more words

Leave a comment

Filed under Education

Surprising: Early English language lessons less effective than expected

Get them while they’re young seems to be a popular adagio for language learning. That’s why many educational systems now opt to introduce a second or third language early in the curriculum. A new study conducted in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, with longitudinal data gathered between 2010 and 2014, puts a bit of rain on this parade. Seven years later, children who start learning English in the first grade achieve poorer results in this subject than children whose first English lesson isn’t until the third grade. But for people promoting CLIL, read carefully, because you might be positively surprised and for all promoting multilingualism: no the study isn’t against learning more languages in school. At all.

From the press release (bold by me):

Highly recommended, yet not scientifically proven

“Starting foreign-language lessons at an early age is often very much commended, even though hardly any research exists that would support this myth,” says Nils Jäkel from the Chair of English Language Teaching in Bochum. Together with his colleagues from Bochum and from the Technical University Dortmund, they analysed data of 5,130 students from 31 secondary schools of the Gymnasium type in North Rhine-Westphalia. The researchers compared two student cohorts, one of which started learning English in the first grade, the other in the third grade. They evaluated the children’s reading and hearing proficiency in English in the fifth and seventh grade respectively.

In the fifth grade, children who had their first English lessons very early in elementary school achieved better results with respect to reading and hearing proficiency. This changed by the seventh grade. By then, the latecomers, i.e. children who didn’t start to learn English until the third grade, were better.

Results from other countries confirmed

“Our study confirmed results from other countries, for example Spain, that show that early English lessons with one or two hours per week in elementary school aren’t very conductive to attaining language competence in the long term,” says Jäkel. In the next months, he and his colleagues are going to analyse additional data to investigate if the results can be confirmed for the ninth grade.

A possible interpretation of the results: “Early English-language lessons in elementary school take place at a time when deep immersion would be necessary to achieve sustainable effects,” describes Nils Jäkel. “Instead, the children attend English lessons that amount to 90 minutes per week at most.”

Critical transition from elementary school school to grammar school

Moreover, the authors point out a rupture that takes place during the transition period from elementary school to grammar school. “Broadly speaking, the predominantly playful, holistically structured elementary-school lessons make way for rather more cognitive, intellectualised grammar-school methodology,” says Jäkel.

In elementary school, English is taught through child-appropriate, casual immersion in and experience of the foreign language through rhymes, songs, movement and stories. Secondary schools focus primarily on prescribed grammar and vocabulary lessons. This would explain why the early advantages in listening proficiency that are identified in the fifth grade are partially forfeit by the seventh grade, as the authors elaborate; this is possibly due to a lapse in motivation, as students feel the rupture more keenly after experiencing four years of English lessons in elementary school.

It is also possible that the potential of English lessons at an early stage had not been fully exploited, as they had been rather hastily adapted for the first grade. “When English lessons were introduced in elementary school, many teachers had to qualify for lateral entry on short notice,” explains Jäkel.

Consequences and recommendations

With their findings, the researchers do not question early English lessons as such. On the contrary, it is an important factor contributing to the European multilingualism we aspire to, as it paves the way for further language acquisition in secondary schools. Early English lessons might help make the children aware of linguistic and cultural diversity. “But it would be wrong to have unreasonably high expectations,” says Jäkel. “A reasonable compromise might be the introduction of English in the third grade, with more lessons per week.” And it is just as important to better coordinate the didactical approaches on elementary and grammar school levels. Here, teachers at these two different types of school could learn from each other.

Abstract of the study:

Foreign language education has now been implemented at the elementary school level across Europe, and early foreign language education has gained traction following language policies set by the European Commission. The long-term effects of an early start, however, have not received ample scientific scrutiny. The present study assessed early receptive skills of two cohorts of English language learners in Year 5 (beginning of secondary education in Germany) and two years later in Year 7. The factors distinguishing between these two cohorts were onset of foreign language education and the amount of language exposure. The effects of the earlier start were found in the results for Year 5, when the early cohort outperformed peers with less and later exposure to English. However, in Year 7, the late starters surpassed their early starting peers.

1 Comment

Filed under Education, Research

What’s the effect of code clubs on computational thinking and more? (Best Evidence in Brief)

There is a new Best Evidence in Brief and this study will be of interest to many…

The National Foundation for Education Research (NFER) in the UK has published the results of a randomized controlled trial and process evaluation of Code Clubs – a UK network of after-school clubs where children aged 9-11 learn to program by making games, animations, websites, and applications. Code Club UK produces material and projects that support the teaching of Scratch, HTML/CSS, and Python. The clubs, which are supported by volunteers, usually run for one hour a week after school during term time.

The evaluation, conducted by Suzanne Straw and colleagues, assessed the impact of Code Clubs on Year 5 (4th grade in the U.S.) students’ computational thinking, programming skills, and attitudes toward computers and coding. Twenty-one schools in the UK took part in the trial which used a student-randomized design to compare student outcomes in the intervention and control groups. Intervention group students attended Code Club during the 2015/16 academic year, while control group students continued as they would do normally.

The results of the evaluation showed that attending Code Club for a year did not impact students’ computational thinking any more than might have occurred anyway, but did significantly improve their coding skills in Scratch, HTML/CSS, and Python. This was true even when control children learned Scratch as part of the computing curriculum in school. Code Club students reported increased usage of all three programming languages – and of computers more generally. However, the evaluation data suggests that attending Code Club for a year does not affect how students view their abilities in a range of transferable skills, such as following instructions, problem solving, learning about new things, and working with others.
Or in short: transfer is a bitch.

1 Comment

Filed under Education, Research, Technology

What drives rejection amongst children? Not what a child does, but how other children feel about it

Feeling rejected at school? Don’t start me talkin’! A new study asked the children doing the rejecting, the ‘rejecters,’ for the reasons they disliked certain children. The study revealed the act of rejection is complex — the behavior of the rejected child is only partly, or not at all, to blame.

Abstract of the study:

Children learn how to make friends and interact with others in the first few years of school. Unfortunately, rejection is part of daily life in a classroom and we can all remember the bitter feeling of being left out by classmates. Some children suffer widespread rejection at school and this can this can have a long-term effect.

In an effort to reduce negative relationships, research has traditionally focused on the behaviour of the disliked child, asking, ‘What did they do to warrant rejection?’ Blaming rejection on a child’s behaviour, however, does not explain why an aggressive child might sometimes be a popular classmate. In addition, the bad behaviour of a rejected child may not actually be the cause, but rather the consequence, of being rejected.

New research, published in the open-access journal Frontiers in Psychology, approaches this subject in a different way. It asked the children doing the rejecting, the ‘rejecters’, for the reasons they disliked certain children. The study revealed the act of rejection is complex – the behaviour of the rejected child is only partly, or not at all, to blame.

“We find that the rejected child’s behaviour does not lead directly or inevitably to rejection”, says Francisco Juan García Bacete, a Professor in the Department of Developmental, Educational and Social Psychology and Methodology, at the Jaume I University, Spain. “Instead, what actually leads to rejection are the rejecters’ interpretations of the child’s behaviour, and whether they think it will have a negative impact on themselves or their social group.”

Professor Garcia Bacete and his co-authors interviewed hundreds of 5- to 7-year olds and asked them to describe who, in their class, they liked least and why. The researchers were left with a long list of reasons, such as “I don’t like playing football”, “He’s boring”, “He’s new”, and “She cheats”, to sort through to find common themes. To do this, they used a method called ‘Grounded Theory’.

“Grounded Theory starts from the reasons provided by the children and, by constantly comparing them, categories emerge that explain differences between the motives for rejection”, describes Professor Garcia Bacete. “So rather than forcing the data to be grouped under preconceived headings, we let the data speak for itself.”

He continues, “Most of the reasons could be grouped under what the rejected child does, says or tries, such as aggression, dominance, problematic social and school behaviours, and disturbance of wellbeing. However, we also noticed that these reasons came with context – specifically, which classmates or groups were involved in the rejection and the frequency it happened.”

It became clear they had discovered that rejection does not appear to be the direct result of the behaviour of the disliked child, but whether the rejecters saw this behaviour as harmful to the needs of themselves or their friends.

The Grounded Theory method also revealed two new categories of reasons that do not usually appear in traditional rejection studies – preference and unfamiliarity. Professor Garcia Bacete explains, “Preference highlights the power of particular likes and dislikes in that it strengthens personal identities. Sometimes it manifests in a negative context, for example, when prejudices are shared, which reinforces the feeling of belonging to a group.” He continues, “Reasons governed by unfamiliarity highlight our tendency towards choosing and doing what has already been preferred and done, or the fear and mistrust to what is unknown or unfamiliar.”

The authors hope this study will provide a solid framework for developing programs to tackle rejection. “This research highlights the importance of teaching children how to be aware of and tackle negative reputations, stereotypes and prejudices, as well as understanding the consequences of their behaviour on themselves and others. Positive relationships should be encouraged – you should respect others, not just your friends.” concludes Professor García Bacete.

Further research hopes to delve deeper and examine if there are particular reasons that lead to persistent rejection. Additionally, research should focus on the relationship between the rejecter and rejected child, examining how other children may influence the reasons for rejecting a peer.

Abstract of the study:

Objective: The aim of this research was to obtain the views of young children regarding their reasons for rejecting a peer.

Method: To achieve this goal, we conducted a qualitative study in the context of theory building research using an analysis methodology based on Grounded Theory. The collected information was extracted through semi-structured individual interviews from a sample of 853 children aged 6 from 13 urban public schools in Spain.

Results: The children provided 3,009 rejection nominations and 2,934 reasons for disliking the rejected peers. Seven reason categories emerged from the analysis. Four categories refer to behaviors of the rejected children that have a cost for individual peers or peer group such as: direct aggression, disturbance of wellbeing, problematic social and school behaviors and dominance behaviors. A further two categories refer to the identities arising from the preferences and choices of rejected and rejecter children and their peers: personal identity expressed through preferences and disliking, and social identity expressed through outgroup prejudices. The “no-behavior or no-choice” reasons were covered by one category, unfamiliarity. In addition, three context categories were found indicating the participants (interpersonal–group), the impact (low–high), and the subjectivity (subjective–objective) of the reason.

Conclusion: This study provides researchers and practitioners with a comprehensive taxonomy of reasons for rejection that contributes to enrich the theoretical knowledge and improve interventions for preventing and reducing peer rejection.

Leave a comment

Filed under Education, Research

A very interesting article on Google: How Google Took Over the Classroom

This is an interesting NY Times article with a lot of stuff to be both thrilled and alarmed about.

Some excerpts:

  • [M]ore than half the nation’s primary- and secondary-school students — more than 30 million children — use Google education apps like Gmail and Docs … Chromebooks, Google-powered laptops that initially struggled to find a purpose, … account for more than half the mobile devices shipped to schools.”
  • Why it matters: “Google is helping to drive a philosophical change in public education — prioritizing training children in skills like teamwork and problem-solving while de-emphasizing the teaching of traditional academic knowledge, like math formulas.”
  • 50,000 feet: “It puts Google, and the tech economy, at the center of one of the great debates that has raged in American education for more than a century: whether the purpose of public schools is to turn out knowledgeable citizens or skilled workers.”
  • “Every year, several million American students graduate from high school. And not only does Google make it easy for those who have school Google accounts to upload their trove of school Gmail, Docs and other files to regular Google consumer accounts — but schools encourage them to do so.”
  • “[S]ome parents ... warn that Google could profit by using personal details from their children’s school email to build more powerful marketing profiles of them as young adults.”

But this excerpt shows another, big problem:

The director of Google’s education apps group, Jonathan Rochelle, touched on that idea in a speech at an industry conference last year. Referring to his own children, he said: “I cannot answer for them what they are going to do with the quadratic equation. I don’t know why they are learning it.” He added, “And I don’t know why they can’t ask Google for the answer if the answer is right there.”

Really? Because you can’t download creativity? Because you need a point of reference to check if Google is correct – and we know this is often not the case. Because you still need knowledge if you want to do things without being dependent of a big tech company. That and more is why. But if a director of Google’s education apps group knows so little about learning and education? Well, that’s scary.

3 Comments

Filed under Education, Myths, Technology

Why teaching is the best job in the world

I wrote this originally in Dutch, but Sara Hjelm asked me again and again to translate it to English. So I tried. As the original text used quite a lot of typical Dutch expressions, translating the text was pretty hard. Do send possible corrections if you spot a mistake.

Being a teacher is the best job in the world. The teachers who read this will agree with me, others will probably disagree, but they’re wrong.

Teachers are the lucky ones who can teach kids the miracle of reading. Suddenly they enter the world of written language after hours, days, weeks, months of hard labour. But there are also the discussions you have with your teenagers who test their and your thinking and possibilities … too many to mention.

It is a job where the whole world can enter your classroom. Think of all the good and all the evil that happens in society, and now a teacher can and will experience it in your classroom, from every war to each new sibling being born. From their first infatuations to their first loss.

It is a job with a huge responsibility, that’s right. We get the children on loan from their parents and we need to prepare these kids for our society. The parents and the society also often point us at those responsibilities. Whenever something goes wrong, they ask education to take it on.

But we are responsible people. We feel responsible. That’s why we talk about our children, our students. Ok, sometimes we also will talk about our little rascals, but still full of love.

It’s also why you can recognize a teacher in this picture:

It is also the reason why some people who do not understand the teacher profession, will advocate something like merit pay. Paying teachers more if their students perform better. They think it is teacher like to be having a great lesson in their file drawer but that they are only waiting for more money to teach the best class they ever did. A real teacher only wants the best for his or her class. A real teacher actually will walk the extra mile by definition. This is also the reason why the teachers will keep on going even if the workload keeps increasing and increasing…

It is also why teaching can become too much. No, it isn’t the hormones, the many meetings, the many demands, … No, it is constantly performing for an audience, for your children. But we have one big luck, if we ever fail a class, there is usually a next chance straight away. And another, and another…

As a teacher you’ll receive ‘thank you’s’ sometimes in the strangest of ways. Most of the time not immediately, sometimes you’ll never get one of a pupil, but sometimes it happens very unexpected when you meet a former pupil or student. Or, for example, what e to me last Tuesday. There was a student in my class who indicated that he would quit his studies. My first thought was “shit, again a teacher lost for education”. But than  told me he still wanted to come to my classes because he learned so much from me. I’m still smiling.

I told you, it’s the best job in the world.

2 Comments

Filed under Education

A study about Learning Styles in the UK

Takeaways?

  • The amount of academics in UK higher education who belief in Learning Styles is getting smaller it seems, but 58% still does.
  • Most of those believers actually never use them.
  • 32% stated that they would continue to use Learning Styles despite being presented with the lack of an evidence base to support them.

While the original authors claim that ‘debunking’ learning styles doesn’t work, I actually think it does – surprise – as the numbers of ‘believers’ seem to going down in comparison to other studies. I do agree with them that promoting evidence-based approaches to education is also needed.

I only have one extra question: how can you be an academic and continue despite being presented with the lack of any evidence?

From the press release:

What is the best way for teachers to teach so students will really learn? That’s an age-old question.

Since the 1970s, one theory that has been popular among schoolteachers and pervasive in education research literature in the United Kingdom and the United States is the idea of “Learning Styles,” the notion that people can be categorized into one or more ‘styles’ of learning (e.g., Visual, Auditory, Converger) and that teachers can and should tailor their curriculum to suit individual students. The idea is that students will learn more if they are exposed to material through approaches that specifically match their Learning Style.

But in recent years, many academicians have criticized Learning Styles saying there is no evidence it improves student understanding.

Now comes a newly published study of 114 academics in higher education in the United Kingdom, led by education researchers Philip M. Newton, Ph.D., and Mahallad Miah, both of the Swansea University Medical School in Swansea, UK. Their study “Evidence-Based Higher Education – Is the Learning Styles ‘Myth’ Important?” was published March 27, 2017, in Frontiers in Psychology.

Their findings are very interesting. Newton and Miah found while 58% of the academics surveyed believe Learning Styles to be beneficial – only 33% actually used the pedagogical tool.

In other words, there is something about the idea of individualized education that appeals, but actually administering a Learning Styles questionnaire to students and then tailoring the class curriculum to suit individual students’ personal learning styles is only done by a handful of faculty.

“There is a mismatch between the empirical evidence and the belief in Learning Styles,” said Newton. “Among those who participated in our study far more reported using a number of techniques that are demonstrably evidence-based.”

These techniques include: assigning formative assessments (i.e., practice tests), peer teaching (i.e., having students teach each other), working problems and examples aloud, and microteaching (i.e., taking video footage of teachers in training so they can reflect on and adjust how they explain material and interact with students).

Furthermore, 90% of the faculty surveyed said that Learning Styles as an approach is fundamentally flawed.

“Learning Styles does not account for the complexity of ‘understanding,'” said Newton. “It is not possible to teach complex concepts such as mathematics or languages by presenting these subjects in only one style. This would be like trying to teach medical students to recognize different heart sounds using visual methods, or teaching them how to recognize different skin rashes using auditory methods.”

Newton and Miah say those faculty who use Learning Styles may in fact represent certain disciplines or subject areas and that to truly evaluate the usefulness of this teaching method would require demographic studies of faculty. But that may not be worth the investment, they say.

Part of the issue seems to lie in the fact that many respondents embrace a “looser definition” of Learning Styles, preferring to think of it as an overarching theme or general trend rather than a pedagogical tool. In other words: they operate from the standpoint that individual students have different ‘styles of learning’ — lowercase — but don’t formally change their teaching techniques. This philosophical leaning may also explain why some dedicated faculty continue to ‘believe in’ Learning Styles even when presented with the evidence that it doesn’t work.

It appears Learning Styles has become more a point of awareness or point of view rather than a teaching tool. Thus, say Newton and Miah, rather than debunking Learning Styles — capital letters — a far better focus for education research would be to promote those evidence-based techniques that survey participants indicated they actually use and that are demonstrably effective.

Abstract of the study:

The basic idea behind the use of ‘Learning Styles’ is that learners can be categorized into one or more ‘styles’ (e.g., Visual, Auditory, Converger) and that teaching students according to their style will result in improved learning. This idea has been repeatedly tested and there is currently no evidence to support it. Despite this, belief in the use of Learning Styles appears to be widespread amongst schoolteachers and persists in the research literature. This mismatch between evidence and practice has provoked controversy, and some have labeled Learning Styles a ‘myth.’ In this study, we used a survey of academics in UK Higher Education (n = 114) to try and go beyond the controversy by quantifying belief and, crucially, actual use of Learning Styles. We also attempted to understand how academics view the potential harms associated with the use of Learning Styles. We found that general belief in the use of Learning Styles was high (58%), but lower than in similar previous studies, continuing an overall downward trend in recent years. Critically the percentage of respondents who reported actually using Learning Styles (33%) was much lower than those who reported believing in their use. Far more reported using a number of techniques that are demonstrably evidence-based. Academics agreed with all the posited weaknesses and harms of Learning Styles theory, agreeing most strongly that the basic theory of Learning Styles is conceptually flawed. However, a substantial number of participants (32%) stated that they would continue to use Learning Styles despite being presented with the lack of an evidence base to support them, suggesting that ‘debunking’ Learning Styles may not be effective. We argue that the interests of all may be better served by promoting evidence-based approaches to Higher Education.

1 Comment

Filed under Education, Research

Again: the lasting effects of bullying

We’ve been here before. I know this. You know this. But there is a new study showing it again. And it’s worth repeating. So here it goes: A new study led by the University of Delaware found that kids who are bullied in fifth grade are more likely to suffer from depression in seventh grade; and have a greater likelihood of using alcohol, marijuana or tobacco in tenth grade.

From the press release:

“Students who experienced more frequent peer victimization in fifth grade were more likely to have greater symptoms of depression in seventh grade, and a greater likelihood of using alcohol, marijuana or tobacco in tenth grade,” said the study’s leader, Valerie Earnshaw, a social psychologist and assistant professor in UD’s College of Education and Human Development.

The study involved researchers from universities and hospitals in six states, who analyzed data collected between 2004 and 2011 from 4,297 students on their journey from fifth through tenth grade. The findings were published online in the medical journal Pediatrics.

The students were from Birmingham, Alabama; Houston, Texas; and Los Angeles County, California. Forty-four percent were Latino, 29 percent were African American and 22 percent were white.

Although peer victimization is common during late childhood and early adolescence and appears to be associated with increased substance use, few studies have examined these associations longitudinally — meaning that data is gathered from the same subjects repeatedly over several years — or point to the psychological processes whereby peer victimization leads to substance use.

“We show that peer victimization in fifth grade has lasting effects on substance use five years later. We also show that depressive symptoms help to explain why peer victimization is associated with substance use, suggesting that youth may be self-medicating by using substances to relieve these negative emotions,” Earnshaw said.

Impacts and interventions

Peer victimization leads to substance use, and substance use can harm adolescent development with implications for health throughout the lifespan, Earnshaw said. Alcohol and marijuana use may interfere with brain development and can lead to injuries. Tobacco use may lead to respiratory illness, cancer and early death.

“Youth who develop substance use disorders are at risk of many mental and physical illnesses throughout life,” Earnshaw said. “So, the substance use that results from peer victimization can affect young people throughout their lives.”

Among the study’s findings, boys, sexual minority youth and youth living with chronic illness reported more frequent peer victimization in fifth grade. Age, obesity, race/ethnicity, household educational achievement and family income were not related to more frequent peer victimization.

Twenty-four percent of tenth graders in the study reported recent alcohol use, 15.2 percent reported marijuana use, and 11.7 percent reported tobacco use. Sexual minority status was more strongly related to alcohol use among girls than boys; it was also related to marijuana and tobacco use among girls but not boys.

Earnshaw used structural equation modeling — a form of statistical analysis — to examine the multiple variables across time and to test if there were relationships among them. She started working with the data in summer 2015 and finalized the model in fall 2016 in her office in UD’s Alison Hall.

An expert in stigma research, Earnshaw wants to understand why people treat other people poorly and how this poor treatment leads to poor health, including through substance use behaviors. She hopes this latest study will enlighten pediatricians, teachers, parents — anyone in a position to help students facing peer aggression.

“We urge pediatricians to screen youth for peer victimization, symptoms of depression and substance use,” says Earnshaw. “These doctors can offer counsel to youth and recommendations to parents and youth for approaching teachers and school staff for support. Moreover, youth experiencing depressive symptoms and substance use should be offered treatment when needed.”

The research team’s messages also extend to teachers.

“Peer victimization really matters, and we need to take it seriously — this echoes the messages educators already have been receiving,” Earnshaw says. “This study gives some additional evidence as to why it’s important to intervene. It also may give teachers insight into why students are depressed or using substances in middle and high school.”

Abstract of the study:

BACKGROUND: Peer victimization is common among youth and associated with substance use. Yet, few studies have examined these associations longitudinally or the psychological processes whereby peer victimization leads to substance use. The current study examined whether peer victimization in early adolescence is associated with alcohol, marijuana, and tobacco use in mid- to late adolescence, as well as the role of depressive symptoms in these associations.

METHODS: Longitudinal data were collected between 2004 and 2011 from 4297 youth in Birmingham, Alabama; Houston, Texas; and Los Angeles County, California. Data were analyzed by using structural equation modeling.

RESULTS: The hypothesized model fit the data well (Root Mean Square Error of Approximation [RMSEA] = 0.02; Comparative Fit Index [CFI] = 0.95). More frequent experiences of peer victimization in the fifth grade were associated with greater depressive symptoms in the seventh grade (B[SE] = 0.03[0.01]; P < .001), which, in turn, were associated with a greater likelihood of alcohol use (B[SE] = 0.03[0.01]; P = .003), marijuana use (B[SE] = 0.05[0.01]; P < .001), and tobacco use (B[SE] = 0.05[0.01]; P < .001) in the tenth grade. Moreover, fifth-grade peer victimization was indirectly associated with tenth-grade substance use via the mediator of seventh-grade depressive symptoms, including alcohol use (B[SE] = 0.01[0.01]; P = .006), marijuana use (B[SE] = 0.01[0.01]; P < .001), and tobacco use (B[SE] = 0.02[0.01]; P < .001).

CONCLUSIONS: Youth who experienced more frequent peer victimization in the fifth grade were more likely to use substances in the tenth grade, showing that experiences of peer victimization in early adolescence may have a lasting impact by affecting substance use behaviors during mid- to late adolescence. Interventions are needed to reduce peer victimization among youth and to support youth who have experienced victimization.

Leave a comment

Filed under Education, Research