from Edutopia: https://www.edutopia.org/article/2019-education-research-highlights?utm_source=Edutopia+Newsletter&utm_campaign=2791a6e97b-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_121119_enews_2019education&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_f72e8cc8c4-2791a6e97b-79390995
To Remember Something, Draw It (but Be Careful With Doodling)
A 2019 study
found that students remember less of what they’re learning if they’re
doodling at the same time. But the study also addresses a big
misconception: Doodling is not
the same as drawing. Earlier research
concludes that drawing easily beats reading, writing, or listening when it comes to learning and retention.
So what’s the difference? Free-form doodling is often a distraction from what's being learned. At least six decades of studies
show that divided attention impairs learning. But drawing that
reinforces what’s being studied—for example, sketching out and labeling
the solar system—taps into visual, kinesthetic, and linguistic areas of
the brain at the same time, encoding the information more deeply.
Awards Don’t Boost Attendance—Teachers Do
It’s common to see awards being handed out to reward students for good attendance, but a 2019 study
found that these awards can backfire spectacularly, giving students a
“license to miss more school” and actually driving absentee rates up.
Students are more likely to attend school when their teachers notice
absences and make efforts to reach out to them and their families,
according to a 2017 report
from Attendance Works. And a 2019 study
found that highly engaging teachers can decrease absences by 49
percent, making it clear that a teacher’s impact extends well beyond
test scores and grades.
Math Circuitry Looks the Same in Boys and Girls
Advanced imaging technology like fMRI continues to push at the
frontiers of our understanding of the human brain. After analyzing the
brain circuitry of 104 children ages 3 to 10 while they watched math
problems being solved, neuroscientists discovered
that neural activity in areas of the parietal lobe associated with numerical cognition was nearly identical across genders.
The findings tend to confirm that gender differences in math
performance are socially constructed, an argument that’s bolstered by past research
showing that the gender gap in math is not as pronounced in other cultures—and in some countries, like Finland and Korea
, it often reverses to favor girls.
The “Summer Slide” Study Fails to Replicate
While the idea of a “summer slide” is widely accepted and
influential, much of what we know about it is based on a 1980s study
that concluded that kids who spent their summers playing fell further
and further behind those who studied. But a recent attempt to replicate the study
failed, and an in-depth analysis revealed that the original testing methods distorted the gap between student scores.
When applying modern scoring methods to the old data, researchers
discovered that the hypothetical, ever-expanding gap actually shrank as
students got older. Students can still benefit from enriching summer
activities, of course, just as they would at any time of the year, but
the idea that the gap widens over the summer is almost certainly
overblown—and there’s an abundance of evidence that play has significant
emotional and cognitive benefits.
Cut the Arts at Your Own Risk, Researchers Warn
As arts programs continue to face the budget ax
a handful of new studies suggest that’s a grave mistake. The arts
provide cognitive, academic, behavioral, and social benefits that go far
beyond simply learning how to play music or perform scenes in a play.
In a major new study
from Rice University involving 10,000 students in third through eighth
grades, researchers determined that expanding a school’s arts programs
improved writing scores, increased the students’ compassion for others,
and reduced disciplinary infractions. The benefits of such programs may
be especially pronounced for students who come from low-income families,
according to a 10-year study
of 30,000 students released in 2019.
Unexpectedly, another recent study
found that artistic commitment—think of a budding violinist or
passionate young thespian—can boost executive function skills like focus
and working memory, linking the arts to a set of overlooked skills that
are highly correlated to success
in both academics and life.
Studies on Disability Emphasize Early Intervention—and Teacher Training
Failing to identify and support students with learning disabilities early can have dire, long-term consequences. In a comprehensive 2019 analysis
researchers highlighted the need to provide interventions that align
with critical phases of early brain development. In one startling
example, reading interventions for children with learning disabilities
were found to be twice as effective if delivered by the second grade
instead of third grade.
But only 17 percent of teachers say they feel adequately trained by their certification programs, according to a new report
from leading experts—and in the absence of good information,
misconceptions take root. For example, the researchers found that
one-third of teachers believe that learning disabilities reflect a lack
of motivation, not a difference in brain development. To support
students with learning disabilities, then, we also need to tackle the
pervasive myths that can stymie their potential.
More Z’s May Yield More A’s
When the Seattle School District delayed high school start times by
an hour, students caught an extra 34 minutes of sleep per day, and their
grades improved by about 5 percent while absences decreased by 7
percent. The new research
highlights the ways in which traditional high school start times—which
aren’t aligned to teenagers’ natural circadian rhythms—can cause
physical, mental, and cognitive health problems.
While previous studies relied on anecdotal or self-reported evidence
to establish a link between sleep, academic performance, and school
start times, the new research is the first high-quality, scientific
study to quantify the real-world benefits of delaying start times for
high school students.
Fewer Warnings for Black Students
Compared with their white peers, black middle school students were
given fewer chances to correct their misbehavior before being sent to
the principal’s office or being suspended, according to a 2019 study
from the University of Illinois.
The finding is the latest in a long line of similarly disturbing
conclusions about race and discipline in schools, with most research
agreeing that black students are disproportionately suspended or
expelled compared with their peers. Last year, for example, a study
found that while an astonishing 40 percent of black boys were suspended
or expelled by third grade, only 8 percent of boys who were
non-Hispanic white or other races were.
Paper Beats Screens, Says a New Study—but Read the Fine Print
Virginia Clinton, an education professor at the University of North
Dakota, analyzed 33 studies published since 2008 and found that children
and adults tend to remember more
of what they’ve read on paper compared with digital devices such as e-readers, tablets, and computers.
But there’s a catch: Many of the inherent advantages of digital
devices—such as hyperlinking, commenting, and multimedia—were eliminated
to allow for “direct comparisons of the media.” In addition, the actual
advantages of paper were “rather small,” the study conceded. The newest
digital reading tools can enhance note taking
, encourage students to read collaboratively
, and incorporate pop quizzes
—all of which can clearly tilt the benefits in digital’s favor.
Growth Mindset Falters, Then Recovers
One of the most popular theories in education was put to the test last year when a large meta-analysis
found that growth mindset interventions had “weak” benefits—although at-risk students did see bigger gains. But a new national study
, this one encompassing more than 12,000 ninth-grade students, gives new life to the theory.
Unlike previous studies, the new one employed a multipronged
approach. Students were taught a powerful metaphor: “The brain is like a
muscle that grows stronger and smarter when it undergoes rigorous
learning experiences.” They also reflected on their own learning and
gave advice to future students who were struggling. The result? Students
saw modest gains of 0.1 of a grade point and were also 9 percent more
likely to take advanced math courses the following year. Students who
were academically at-risk saw major gains, however: 11 percent were
prevented from being off-track to graduate.