What works and doesn’t work with instructional video, a new short overview

There is a special issue of Computers in Human Behavior on learning from video and in their Editorial Fiorella and Mayer give an overview of effective and ineffective methods that are being trialed in the special issue:

What are the effective methods?

…two techniques that appear to improve learning outcomes with instructional video are segmenting—breaking the video into parts and allowing students to control the pace of the presentation—and mixed perspective—filming from both a first-person perspective and third-person.

And what isn’t worth the effort?

…some features that do not appear to be associated with improved learning outcomes with instructional video are matching the gender of the instructor to the gender of the learner, having the instructor’s face on the screen, inserting pauses throughout the video, and adding practice without feedback.

Abstract of the editorial:

In this commentary, we examine the papers in a special issue on “Developments and Trends in Learning with Instructional Video”. In particular, we focus on basic findings concerning which instructional features improve learning with instructional video (i.e., breaking the lesson into segments paced by the learner; recording from both first- and third-person perspectives) and which features or learner attributes do not (i.e., matching the instructor’s gender to the learner’s gender; having the instructor’s face on the screen; adding practice without feedback; inserting pauses throughout the video; and spatial ability). In addition, we offer recommendations for future work on designing effective video lessons.

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A school/district mission statement generator…

I translated Daniel Willinghams book When Can You Trust The Experts into Dutch because I think his book is so important.  Daniel sent out this tweet yesterday with the mission statement generator from this book.

It’s more than a bit tongue in cheek…

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Funny on Sunday: brain surgery versus rocket science

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Not so good news about the Good Behavior Game (Best Evidence in Brief)

There was a new best evidence in brief past week and this item isn’t that great news:

An evaluation conducted for the Education Endowment Foundation in the UK looked at whether the  Good Behaviour Game (GBG) improved students’ reading skills and behavior.
The GBG intervention is a classroom management approach designed to improve student behavior and build confidence and resilience. The game is played in groups and rewards students for good behavior. More than 3,000 Year 3 (equivalent to second grade in the U.S.) students from 77 UK schools took part in a randomized controlled trial of GBG over two years. Around a quarter of the students in the schools were eligible for free school meals, around a fifth were students with special educational needs, and 23% had English as an additional language.
The analysis indicated that, on average, GBG had no significant impact on students’ reading skills (effect size = +0.03) or their behavior (concentration, disruptive behavior, and pro-social behavior) when compared to the control group students. However, there was some tentative evidence that boys at risk of developing conduct problems showed improvements in behavior.

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Good read: An Enormous Study of the Genes Related to Staying in School

While I was on leave in the States I kept reading interesting studies and news articles and I was really impressed by both this study and this article about the study by Ed Yong for The Atlantic. Both the authors of the study and Ed know how touchy the subject of genes and intelligence can be. That is why the researchers wrote an accompanying FAQ that explains what they found and what it means.

What I like in The Atlantic article is the good nuanced reporting, such as:

This isn’t to say that staying in school is “in the genes.” Each genetic variant has a tiny effect on its own, and even together, they don’t control people’s fates. The team showed this by creating a “polygenic score”—a tool that accounts for variants across a person’s entire genome to predict how much formal education they’re likely to receive. It does a lousy job of predicting the outcome for any specific individual, but it can explain 11 percent of the population-wide variation in years of schooling.

And the explaining what it means

“…Now, consider that household income explains just 7 percent of the variation in educational attainment, which is less than what genes can now account for. “Most social scientists wouldn’t do a study without accounting for socioeconomic status, even if that’s not what they’re interested in,” says Harden. The same ought to be true of our genes.”

Do read the complete article in The Atlantic or even better, the original study:

Abstract of the study:
Here we conducted a large-scale genetic association analysis of educational attainment in a sample of approximately 1.1 million individuals and identify 1,271 independent genome-wide-significant SNPs. For the SNPs taken together, we found evidence of heterogeneous effects across environments. The SNPs implicate genes involved in brain-development processes and neuron-to-neuron communication. In a separate analysis of the X chromosome, we identify 10 independent genome-wide-significant SNPs and estimate a SNP heritability of around 0.3% in both men and women, consistent with partial dosage compensation. A joint (multi-phenotype) analysis of educational attainment and three related cognitive phenotypes generates polygenic scores that explain 11–13% of the variance in educational attainment and 7–10% of the variance in cognitive performance. This prediction accuracy substantially increases the utility of polygenic scores as tools in research.

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Again: the bad effect of checking your phone in class

There has been quite some debate because of the French decision to ban mobile phones from schools from this school year on. While I’m also a bit critical – I think we should rather teach children how to deal with phones and focus – I do understand where this thinking stems from, from studies like this: the negative correlation between mobile phone use and grades.

From the press release:

Students perform less well in end-of-term exams if they are allowed access to an electronic device, such as a phone or tablet, for non-academic purposes in lectures, a new study in Educational Psychology finds.

Students who don’t use such devices themselves but attend lectures where their use is permitted also do worse, suggesting that phone/tablet use damages the group learning environment.

Researchers from Rutgers University in the US performed an in-class experiment to test whether dividing attention between electronic devices and the lecturer during the class affected students’ performance in within-lecture tests and an end-of-term exam.

118 cognitive psychology students at Rutgers University participated in the experiment during one term of their course. Laptops, phones and tablets were banned in half of the lectures and permitted in the other half. When devices were allowed, students were asked to record whether they had used them for non-academic purposes during the lecture.

The study found that having a device didn’t lower students’ scores in comprehension tests within lectures, but it did lower scores in the end-of-term exam by at least 5%, or half a grade. This finding shows for the first time that the main effect of divided attention in the classroom is on long-term retention, with fewer targets of a study task later remembered.

In addition, when the use of electronic devices was allowed in class, performance was also poorer for students who did not use devices as well as for those who did.

The study’s lead author, Professor Arnold Glass, added: “These findings should alert the many dedicated students and instructors that dividing attention is having an insidious effect that is impairing their exam performance and final grade.

“To help manage the use of devices in the classroom, teachers should explain to students the damaging effect of distractions on retention – not only for themselves, but for the whole class.”

Abstract of the study:

The intrusion of internet-enabled electronic devices (laptop, tablet, and cell phone) has transformed the modern college lecture into a divided attention task. This study measured the effect of using an electronic device for a non-academic purpose during class on subsequent exam performance. In a two-section college course, electronic devices were permitted in half the lectures, so the effect of the devices was assessed in a within-student, within-item counterbalanced experimental design. Dividing attention between an electronic device and the classroom lecture did not reduce comprehension of the lecture, as measured by within-class quiz questions. Instead, divided attention reduced long-term retention of the classroom lecture, which impaired subsequent unit exam and final exam performance. Students self-reported whether they had used an electronic device in each class. Exam performance was significantly worse than the no-device control condition both for students who did and did not use electronic devices during that class.

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Out of office

Dear readers,

tomorrow I’m flying to DC to be part of the CTTL-academy and after that – finally – some time off.

This means I will try no to blog for 2 weeks. The past has thought me that this will be difficult, but who knows. Maybe I’l succeed this time.

In the meantime, do check what I did last year in when I tied to forget education for a while. Check our album on Spotify or check the live video of the openings track of Edward:

 

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Dear students, take note: ADHD drugs do not improve cognition in healthy college students

Dear students who need to redo their test in August, I’m feeling your pain! No, really. Maybe you’re planning to try to do it differently this time. One way that doesn’t work, is using ADHD drugs, according to this new double-blind study – for which a rather small group of respondents was used. Studying might actually help…

From the press release:

Contrary to popular belief across college campuses, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) medications may fail to improve cognition in healthy students and actually can impair functioning, according to a study by researchers at the University of Rhode Island and Brown University.

Study co-investigators Lisa Weyandt, professor of psychology and a faculty member with URI’s George and Anne Ryan Institute for Neuroscience, and Tara White, assistant professor of research in behavioral and social sciences at Brown University, had anticipated different findings. “We hypothesized that Adderall would enhance cognition in the healthy students, but instead, the medication did not improve reading comprehension or fluency, and it impaired working memory,” she said. “Not only are they not benefitting from it academically, but it could be negatively affecting their performance.”

This first-ever multisite pilot study of the impact of so-called “study drugs” on college students who do not have ADHD comes at a time when use of prescription stimulants such as Adderall, Ritalin and Vyvanse is common among young adults who believe the drugs will improve their academic performance. Research by Weyandt and others has estimated that 5 to 35 percent of college students in the United States and European countries without ADHD illegally use these controlled substances, buying or receiving them from peers, friends, or family.

Results of the new study, published last month in the journal Pharmacy, show that the standard 30 mg dose of Adderall did improve attention and focus — a typical result from a stimulant — but that effect failed to translate to better performance on a battery of neurocognitive tasks that measured short-term memory, reading comprehension and fluency.

Weyandt has a theory about why working memory would be adversely affected by the medication. Brain scan research shows that a person with ADHD often has less neural activity in the regions of the brain that control executive function — working memory, attention, self-control. For people with ADHD, Adderall and similar medications increase activity in those regions and appear to normalize functioning. “If your brain is functioning normally in those regions, the medication is unlikely to have a positive effect on cognition and my actually impair cognition. In other words, you need to have a deficit to benefit from the medicine,” Weyandt said.

Participants in the study also reported their perceived effects of the drug and its impact on their emotions, with students reporting significant elevation of their mood when taking Adderall.

In contrast to the small, mixed effects on cognition, the drug had much larger effects on mood and bodily responses, increasing positive mood, emotional ratings of the drug effect, heart rate and blood pressure. “These are classic effects of psychostimulants,” said White. “The fact that we see these effects on positive emotion and cardiovascular activity, in the same individuals for whom cognitive effects were small or negative in direction, is important. It indicates that the cognitive and the emotional impact of these drugs are separate. How you feel under the drug does not necessarily mean that there is an improvement in cognition; there can be a decrease, as seen here in young adults without ADHD.”

The physical effects from the drugs, such as increased heart rate and blood pressure, were expected, and underscored the difference with cognition. “They are subjecting themselves to physiological effects but do not appear to be enhancing their neurocognition,” Weyandt said. She stressed, however, that the findings are based on a pilot study and need to be replicated with a substantially larger sample of college students.

The researchers recruited students from both universities, eliminating individuals who had taken ADHD medications or other drugs. After rigorous health screenings, 13 students participated in two five-hour sessions at White’s lab at Brown and at Memorial Hospital in Pawtucket.

In the double-blind study, in which neither researchers nor participants know who is receiving the placebo and who is receiving the study medication, each student received Adderall in one session and the placebo in the other. This allowed the researchers to see the effects of the medication vs. placebo in individuals and across the group.

Given the important and unexpected results from the study, Weyandt and White plan to apply for federal funding to continue the research with a larger group of healthy college students.

Abstract of the study:

Prescription stimulant medications are considered a safe and long-term effective treatment for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Studies support that stimulants enhance attention, memory, self-regulation and executive function in individuals with ADHD. Recent research, however, has found that many college students without ADHD report misusing prescription stimulants, primarily to enhance their cognitive abilities. This practice raises the question whether stimulants actually enhance cognitive functioning in college students without ADHD. We investigated the effects of mixed-salts amphetamine (i.e., Adderall, 30 mg) on cognitive, autonomic and emotional functioning in a pilot sample of healthy college students without ADHD (n = 13), using a double-blind, placebo-controlled, within-subjects design. The present study was the first to explore cognitive effects in conjunction with mood, autonomic effects, and self-perceptions of cognitive enhancement. Results revealed that Adderall had minimal, but mixed, effects on cognitive processes relevant to neurocognitive enhancement (small effects), and substantial effects on autonomic responses, subjective drug experiences, and positive states of activated emotion (large effects). Overall, the present findings indicate dissociation between the effects of Adderall on activation and neurocognition, and more importantly, contrary to common belief, Adderall had little impact on neurocognitive performance in healthy college students. Given the pilot design of the study and small sample size these findings should be interpreted cautiously. The results have implications for future studies and the education of healthy college students and adults who commonly use Adderall to enhance neurocognition.

Btw, last Saturday I saw Richard Ashcroft playing this song live. He knew it all along:

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This study made me wonder if I’m preaching to the choir or singing from the rooftops?

Sometimes a study makes you think. Not because it’s complex or because it’s wrong, but because… well it hits close to home. Isabelle Côté is an SFU professor of marine ecology and conservation and an active science communicator whose prime social media platform is Twitter just like me. Ok, I have a bit more followers than her but my subject is maybe a bit more broad than that from the author of this new study. She wanted to know if her followers are mainly scientists or non-scientists – in other words was she preaching to the choir or singing from the rooftops?

From the press release:

Côté and collaborator Emily Darling set out to find the answer by analyzing the active Twitter accounts of more than 100 ecology and evolutionary biology faculty members at 85 institutions across 11 countries.

Their methodology included categorizing followers as either “inreach” if they were academics, scientists and conservation agencies and donors; or “outreach” if they were science educators, journalists, the general public, politicians and government agencies.

Côté found that scientists with fewer than 1,000 followers primarily reach other scientists. However, scientists with more than 1,000 followers have more types of followers, including those in the “outreach” category.

Twitter and other forms of social media provide scientists with a potential way to share their research with the general public and, importantly, decision- and policy-makers. Côté says public pressure can be a pathway to drive change at a higher level. However, she notes that while social media is an asset, it is “not likely an effective replacement for the more direct science-to-policy outreach that many scientists are now engaging in, such as testifying in front of special governmental committees, directly contacting decision-makers, etc.”

Further, even with greater diversity and reach of followers, the authors concede there are still no guarantees that Twitter messages will be read or understood. Côté cites evidence that people selectively read what fits with their perception of the world, that changing followers’ minds about deeply held beliefs is challenging.

“While Twitter is emerging as a medium of choice for scientists, studies have shown that less than 40 per cent of academic scientists use the platform,” says Côté.

“There’s clearly a lot of room for scientists to build a social media presence and increase their scientific outreach. Our results provide scientists with clear evidence that social media can be used as a first step to disseminate scientific messages well beyond the ivory tower.”

I do agree with some of the conclusions, although I’ve experienced that it can differ from niche to niche. E.g. my wife is also a scientist who blogs with a lot colleagues on early education. For them to get real outreach, they don’t need to use twitter, but both Facebook and Pinterest are great drivers for their outreach-audience of practitioners. It’s just one example, but I do think that different audiences often use different social media platforms thus maybe making this study interesting to replicate in other fields of science. Oh, and the answer for myself? As I have a bit more than 1000 followers I’m pretty convinced I’m doing both.

Abstract of the study:

There have been strong calls for scientists to share their discoveries with society. Some scientists have heeded these calls through social media platforms such as Twitter. Here, we ask whether Twitter allows scientists to promote their findings primarily to other scientists (“inreach”), or whether it can help them reach broader, non-scientific audiences (“outreach”). We analyzed the Twitter followers of more than 100 faculty members in ecology and evolutionary biology and found that their followers are, on average, predominantly (∼55%) other scientists. However, beyond a threshold of ∼1000 followers, the range of follower types became more diverse and included research and educational organizations, media, members of the public with no stated association with science, and a small number of decision-makers. This varied audience was, in turn, followed by more people, resulting in an exponential increase in the social media reach of tweeting academic scientists. Tweeting, therefore, has the potential to disseminate scientific information widely after initial efforts to gain followers. These results should encourage scientists to invest in building a social media presence for scientific outreach.

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Funny on Sunday: that day in the library

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