Friday, June 22, 2007

Science and Education

I was perusing today and ran across several articles that pertain to education.

Disclaimer: inclusion on this list does not mean I necessarily agree with all the conclusions.

Early Education:

Childhood Social Skills Linked To Learning Abilities

Early Head Start is a national intervention and support program for income-eligible families and provides comprehensive services to families prenatally until the child is three years old. The Brophy-Herb led group is currently working with EHS providers in six Michigan counties to evaluate an infant/toddler curriculum, targeting early social and emotional development that was developed by the MSU team and their EHS partners. The project is funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

  • Overall, EHS children performed better on measures of cognition, language and social-emotional functioning than their peers at age three. In addition, they were less likely to be in the “at risk” category of cognitive and language functioning.By age five children who had received EHS programming as infants and toddlers continued to show fewer behavior problems and more positive approaches to learning.
  • Parents of EHS children were more supportive of their children’s emotional, cognitive and language development when their children were three years of age. The same results were observed at assessments when the children were five years of age.
  • When impacts were examined by race/ethnicity, African American children continue to show the greatest benefits. They were more likely to be enrolled in formal programs following EHS than those children not in EHS.

Reading/Language Arts

At-risk Readers Can Be Identified Early Through A Combination Of Brain Scans And Behavioral Tests

Taken together, functional brain scans and tests of reading skills strongly predict which children will have ongoing reading problems. What's more, the two methods work better together than either one alone, according to new research in the June issue of Behavioral Neuroscience, which is published by the American Psychological Association (APA).

Neuroscientists at Stanford and Carnegie Mellon universities think this double-barreled diagnostic can help identify at-risk readers as early as possible. That way, schools can step in before those children fail to learn to read or develop poor reading habits that might interfere with remediation, such as relying on memory for words rather than sounding out new ones. Early identification and systematic intervention can very often turn likely non-readers into readers, according to the study authors.

Russian Readers Learn To Read More Accurately And Faster

Children whose mother tongue is Russian and who acquired literacy in their home language before entering first grade received higher grades on reading skills tests than their peers who speak only Hebrew or those who speak Russian but have not learned how to read it. This was revealed in a study recently completed at the University of Haifa. The researcher, Dr. Mila Schwartz, pointed out that because of the linguistic complexity of the Russian language, it can be deduced that knowing how to read and write Russian will give children an advantage when learning to read other languages.


'Teaching Gap' Exists Among US And Asian Math Teachers, Study Says

U.S. teachers incorporate analogies into their lessons as often as teachers in Hong Kong and Japan, but they less frequently utilize spatial supports, mental and visual imagery, and gestures that encourage active reasoning. Less cognitive support may result in students retaining less information, learning in a less conceptual way, or misunderstanding the analogies and learning something different altogether.

Stereotype-induced Math Anxiety Undermines Girls' Ability To Perform In Other Academic Areas

The scholars found that the worrying undermines women's working memory. Working memory is a short-term memory system involved in the control, regulation and active maintenance of limited information needed immediately to deal with problems at hand.

They also showed for the first time that this threat to performance caused by stereotyping can also hinder success in other academic areas because mental abilities do not immediately rebound after being compromised by mathematics anxiety.


Advances In Genetics Should Make Learning Easier, According To Professor

Fischer and Gardner describe some of what has been done so far. Donna Coch, one of the first Mind, Brain, and Education graduates and now an assistant professor at Dartmouth University, tracks electrical activity in the brain as children learn to read. “Everything she does is groundbreaking,” Fischer comments.

He points out that such research can aid in diagnosing disabilities at an early age. “We know that the earlier you catch learning difficulties, the easier it is to overcome them,” he says.

Dyslexia, in which children with normal intelligence have trouble reading, is an example. For many years, dyslexia was not usually detected until fourth or even sixth grade. “We can now detect signs of it in 3- to 4-year-olds,” Fischer notes. “In 10 years, with the help of genetic technologies, we may be able to find it in 1-year-olds, or even at birth.”


Liz said...

Liz from I Speak of Dreams.

Thanks, Rory. Want a betting pool on how long it will take to get these scientific advances in place in the classroom?

I'm betting 25 years. Seriously--there are a lot of places in the US where dyslexia, for example, is routinely ignored, or dismissed as the child being "lazy".


Parentalcation said...

That would be a foolish bet to take...

I liked the article about how US teaches differ from Asian teachers myself.

I also like the prescreening for Dyslexia.

hayesatlbch said...

I don't think that even the MRI researchers themselves believe that there will ever be routine MRI scanning procedures to identify potential dyslexics in the general population. Who would pay for it ? Genetic testing suffers from the same problems. First of all, both are medical procedures, and under existing conditions that means that either the insurance companies would have to include that as a benefit ( not likely ) or the individual would have to pay. Neither are cost effective methods for the identification of dyslexics.

Consider this. If the 5-10% of the population that is dyslexic could be identified by a test, then the effective cost of identifying 1 dyslexic will be 10 to 20 times the cost of the test. If an MRI evaluation costs $2000 then the identification of 1 dyslexic would be $20,000 -40,000.

The reason the researcher in the article above says that a combination of MRI and a reading skills test together would increase the ability to identify a dyslexic is that MRI tests alone can not identify individual dyslexics at this time. Only differences between groups of dyslexics and non dyslexics are reported with so much overlap that individuals can not be put into either group with certainty. MRI studies have their place in generating information about dyslexia but are not ever going to be used for evaluation on a widespread scale.

A more reasonable future screening process for dyslexia would include some skill tests and include a family's IQ and educational history along with a questionnaire about their reading habits and other questions that might be found to be helpful such as how well oral directions are followed. The goal should be to identify not only dyslexics but all who are likely to need extra help developing reading skills. Some screening tests already exist and are possibly something that could find funding from educational budgets.

My niche in dyslexia is for the minority of dyslexics that describe visual problems such as jumping or missing letters that make reading difficult for them. I sell dyslexia glasses that remove described visual problems at . I follow most mainstream dyslexia research and am amazed at the hype that is generated as if dyslexia is caused by a single factor and that the answer has been found. I am also concerned that the % of poor readers is so much higher than any estimate of dyslexics and conclude that the educational system is failing many when it comes to teaching the skills needed to read.

Parentalcation said...

"I am also concerned that the % of poor readers is so much higher than any estimate of dyslexics and conclude that the educational system is failing many when it comes to teaching the skills needed to read."

Amen brother... its dysteachia, not dsylexia that is the real problem.