Posts Tagged ‘Research’

Psychologist Claims Cyberbullying Concerns are Exaggerated

August 5, 2012

I can’t believe a psychologist would go on record claiming that the recent attention on cyberbullying is overstated:

Old-style face-to-face bullying is still the way most young people are victimized, even though it’s cyberbullying that seems to get all the headlines, an international bullying expert told psychology professionals Saturday.

Reports of a cyberbullying explosion over the past few years because of increasing use of mobile devices have been greatly exaggerated, says psychologist Dan Olweus of the University of Bergen in Bergen, Norway. He says his latest research, published this spring in the European Journal of Developmental Psychology, finds not many students report being bullied online at all.

“Contradicting these claims, it turns out that cyberbullying, when studied in proper context, is a low-prevalence phenomenon, which has not increased over time and has not created many ‘new’ victims and bullies,” the study finds.

The reason that such attention has been devoted to cyberbullying awareness is three fold:

1. Cyberbullying numbers are growing. Why should we dismiss something until it becomes a problem we are not prepared for?

2. Cyberbullying is, more than likely, the most destructive for of bullying. Unlike face-to-face bullying that happens in schoolyards and parks amongst a finite group of people, cyberbullying penetrates the safest room (the victim’s bedroom) and can be easily disseminated to an audience of thousands.

3. Teachers can deal with school bullying. It is much harder for significant adults to monitor cyberbullying.

Cyberbullying should never be diminished in any way.

Click on the link to read Social Media: A Playground for Bullies

Click on the link to read Teachers Who Rely on Free Speech Shouldn’t be Teachers

Click on the link to read Bullying is Acceptable when it’s Directed to a Teacher

Click on the link to read Punish Bullies and Then Change Your Culture


Absent-Minded Kids Are Smarter: Study

March 18, 2012

For an absent-minded teacher like myself, this is very encouraging news. To think that we could be smarter, regardless of whether we know what day it is or recall what our passwords are, is surprising to say the least:

Is your child absent-minded? You should feel happy, for a new study says that it may well be a sign that the kid is intelligent. Researchers have found that children who have wandering minds actually have sharper brains — in fact, those who are constantly distracted are able to hold far more information than their diligent peers.

The study has shown that those who appear to be constantly distracted have more “working memory”, giving them the ability to do two things at the same time, the Daily Mail reported.

Those who appear to be constantly distracted have more “working memory”.

Participants in the study had to either press a button in response to the appearance of a certain letter on a screen, or tap in time with their breath. The researchers checked periodically to ask if their minds were wandering.

At the end, they measured the participants’ working memory capacity, giving them a score for their ability to remember a series of letters interspersed with easy maths questions.

Daniel Levinson of University of Wisconsin-Madison, who led the study, said those with higher working memory capacity reported “more mind wandering during these simple tasks” even though their performance was not compromised.

The results are the first to show the association with mind wandering and intelligence. It is thought the extra mental workspace is used, for instance, when adding up two spoken numbers without being able to write them down. Its capacity has been associated with general measures of intelligence, such as reading comprehension and IQ score.

I could sit here and show-off about these findings but I’m too busy trying to find my darn car keys …. again!

Cyberbullying is More Harmful than Traditional Bullying

March 15, 2012

I’ve been of the opinion for quite a while that cyberbullying is the form of bullying that does the most harm and is the hardest to address. By invading the home of the child, cyberbullying takes an environment that was traditionally safe and has ensured that victims of such bullying have nowhere to hide. Cyberbullying also reaches a far wider audience, replacing the half a dozen or so witnesses in a playground incident with literally thousands online.

Children think face-to-face bullying is more harmful than cyber bullying but new research shows that perception to be false.

Researchers from Queensland University of Technology surveyed over 3000 students in Years 6 to 12 from 30 schools nationally and found 45 per cent said they were bullied.

The victims of face-to-face bullying, often referred to as traditional bullying, reported it had harsher impacts than victims of cyber bullying. However, other signs show the opposite to be true.

Lead researcher, Associate Professor Marilyn Campbell, said victims of cyber bullying reported higher levels of anxiety and depression than children who had been bullied face-to-face.

“When we measured their social problems, children who had been cyber bullied had much higher scores than victims of traditional bullying but they didn’t see it themselves,” Campbell told Education Review.

Campbell said children were usually bullied by kids they knew and often because they were different.

“It’s a cycle. They go to school, they get bullied. They go home and get cyber bullied. They go back to school and are bullied again.”

It is absolutely vital that schools stop sitting on their hands and start becoming more proactive when it comes to fighting cyberbullying. Schools are quick to point out that since the bullying is done outside school gates it becomes a parenting issue rather than a school issue. That may be true when it comes to legal obligations but not moral obligations. Schools should be expected to do what they can to ensure that their students are protected from being harassed or bullied by other students, regardless of where the harassment takes place.

Schools have got to stop obsessing about potential lawsuits and handballing issues to other stakeholders. They must show they care and fight for the wellbeing of their students!

Kids Stop Taking Risks When Constantly Tested

March 15, 2012

One of the key skills a primary teacher tries to institute in their class is the freedom of answering a problem without any trepidation. I tell my students that a wrong answer is not a negative. It is rather an opportunity to learn something new, and there is nothing more satisfying than being able to do something that one previously had trouble with.

Such a reasoning can only be effectively conveyed within a certain learning environment. A calm, friendly, supportive environment inspires children to try their best regardless of whether they are certain they have the correct answer. An intimidating and judgemental environment causes students to feel reluctant to take risks.

Standarised testing is an environment changer, and a study confirms that such ordeals make children less likely to develop the skill of risk taking:

Kids perform better in school if they know failure, and trying again, is part of the learning process, according to a new study published by the American Psychological Association.

“Experiencing difficulty when we work on a demanding problem may raise the possibility that we are not that smart after all,” said Jean-Claude Croizet, co-author of the study. “Difficulty makes us nervous because it is often associated with lower ability.”

One experiment included 111 French schoolchildren ages 11 and 12. They were given a difficult anagram problem that was too difficult for any of them to solve. Afterwards, researchers told half the kids that failure is common and to be expected when learning. The other group were simply asked how they tried to solve the problem by the researchers. The group that received the pep talk scored better on further tests than the group of kids who did not receive the talk.

“Fear of failing can hijack the working memory resources, a core component of intellectual ability,” the researchers said. “Fear of failing not only hampers performance, it can also lead students to avoid difficulty and therefore the opportunities to develop new skills. Because difficulty is inherent to most academic tasks, our goal was to create a safer performance environment where experiencing difficulty would not be associated with lower ability.”

While the researchers noted the students’ improvement on tests was likely temporary, working memory may get a boost from a simple dose of self-confidence. The researchers said teachers and parents should provide positive reinforcement and point out kids’ progress rather than test scores.

“The cognitive gains obtained in our research may offer promising prospects for application in education because working memory capacity underlies a wide range of complex activities like learning, problem solving and language comprehension,” Autin said.

Research Suggests That There’s no Such Thing as a Good Divorce

December 19, 2011

I feel very sorry for children of divorced parents who find themelves the center of a tug-of-war act between duelling parents on Christmas Day.

At Christmas time, like no other, family relationships are put to the test.

This time of year seems to bring not only a rise in domestic violence, but family tension and relationship breakdown.

So much for the season of peace and goodwill.

Fights over who will get the kids on Christmas Day are common, and children are often forced to spend Christmas traipsing across town to keep both parents happy.

Many argue that since divorce is so rampant, children are able to adapt with the change extremely well. This is simply not the case.

Research suggests that there’s no such thing as a good divorce: All you can do is have a breakup that is not as bad as it might be.

A US study of 994 families identified three types of post-divorce parents: Those who were co-operatively continuing to parent together, those who were parallel parenting with little communication, and those who were effectively single parents.

Children from the first group – the good divorce group – had the smallest number of behavioural problems and the closest ties to their fathers.

However, the differences were only minor, and the children in this group didn’t score any better than others on 10 additional measures, such as self-esteem, school grades, early sexual activity and closeness to their mothers.


YouTube To Get the Respect of the Educational Community

December 14, 2011

Two weeks I wrote about one of the most underrated learning tools in modern education. I call YouTube underrated because not only is it not given enough credit for being a valuable resource but it is blocked in many schools.

I wrote:

YouTube is the modern-day instructive tool. It clearly and carefully teaches people practical skills in language they can understand. It plays the part of teacher.

At the moment I am teaching my 5th Graders about finding the lowest common denominator before adding and subtracting fractions. As a test, before writing this blog post, I typed some key words into a YouTube search and came up with many fine online tutorials on this very skill that kids can readily access.  It shouldn’t replace the teacher, but it can certainly help a child pick up a concept.

In the space of 2 weeks YouTube has announced that it will introduce its YouTube for Schools, allowing students to access the site without being exposed to inappropriate material:

After making some changes on its home page UI, Youtube now plans to foray into education. To help the cause of spreading education, Youtube plans to unveil a new tool for teachers as well as students.

Youtube for schools is a new idea to introduce collaborative education as head of Youtube Angela Lin says,” This is a technical solution to allow schools that normally restrict access to YouTube to gain access to it.”

Youtube’s official blog post also suggested that teachers have been looking up to leveraging the Youtube platform to access a huge database of knowledge in form of educational videos. But the bone in the throat was those other videos related to entertainment would distract students. This was the main reason behind schools restricting Youtube videos. However, the educational value of Youtube videos in visually interactive learning was much wider in horizon. Thus, Youtube introduced a new platform for learning.

This is a great coup for students and teachers. Well done YouTube!


Wikipedia Becoming Accepted in Educational Circles

November 6, 2011

I read a very interesting article about Wikipedia and its newfound legitimacy in education.

Below are some excerpts from the article:

The Toronto District School Board, for instance, lists Wikipedia as a primary source in a research guide it hands out to students, while Wikipedia will expand its college program to a high school in Virginia next year.

Reliable is not a word that traditionally has been associated with Wikipedia, but that’s changing.

The change began in 2005 when the prestigious science journal Nature compared Wikipedia to Encyclopaedia Britannica and found Wikipedia to be almost as accurate as Britannica, a finding that set off a war of words between the two institutions.

The evidence mounted this year, when Brigham Young University in Utah found that Wikipedia was a reliable place to learn about U.S. politicians. The school’s study found few inaccuracies in the biographical and voting details of gubernatorial candidates.

And, in September this year, a study published in the Journal of Oncology Practice found that cancer information on Wikipedia was as accurate as information on peer-reviewed, patient-oriented websites.

As a teacher, my issue isn’t so much with the accuracy of Wikipedia so much as the laziness it inspires.  I want my students to research using a number of different mediums and publications.  Wikipedia tends to be a ‘one-stop shop’ for students looking for information on the run.
I am really happy to read that Wikipedia have improved their reputation.  I only wish students would extend their repertoire a bit in the name of authentic research skills.

Middle Children More Likely to Become Bullies

June 28, 2011

A recent study has explored the so-called “Middle Child Syndrome”, and came to the conclusion that being a middle child increases your likelihood of becoming a bully.

CHILDREN with both older and younger siblings have a higher chance of becoming bullies, according to research.

The Institute for Social and Economic Research at the University of Essex and the University of Warwick conducted the study covering some 40,000 British households.

It was traditionally assumed that the oldest child is likely to dominate or use violence against his or her siblings. However, it turned out that those in between had a higher chance of being involved in physical conflict while striving for parents’ attention, as well as competing for power among siblings.

The study also showed that children who received corporal punishment are more likely to bully siblings or their peers. Of the about 2,000 children researched, about 42 per cent of those who experienced physical punishment resorted to bullying.

‘We know from experience that sibling bullying increases the risk of involvement in bullying at school,’ Professor Dieter Wolke, the co-author of the study told a local media.

‘Children involved in bullying are 14 times more likely to suffer behavioural and emotional problems; they have no place that is safe for them.’ It is known that the manner of bullying at home showed no relationship to the education or economic level of households.

I am surprised by the findings.  I can see how being the oldest or youngest child can draw one into bullying habits, but I am surprised that it is the middle child who is most likely to become a bully.

Is There Any Benefit in Children Repeating a Year of School?

May 20, 2011

The findings of a study I came across recently claims that not only is there no benefit in making a student repeat a year level of school, but that it actually does some harm:

The study, by Deakin University’s Dr Helen McGrath, also found students who repeated a year were 20 to 50 per cent more likely to drop out, compared to similar students who progressed.

Dr McGrath reviewed dozens of studies by academics in Australia and the United States over the past 75 years comparing the outcomes for students with specific needs who were either held back or allowed to progress.

She said those studies failed to support the popular assumption among teachers and parents that repeating a year helped a student’s academic performance.

“There may be an occasional student who is the exception, but for most students providing them with more of what didn’t work for them the first time around is an exercise in futility,” she said.

“In fact, repeating a year confirms to a student that they have failed.

“They experience stress from being taller, larger and more physically mature than their younger classmates. They miss their friends who have moved on to the next year level.

“They also experience boredom from repeating similar tasks and assignments. Their self esteem drops. All of these factors ultimately lead many to drop out.”

There also appears to be no benefit in holding children back from starting school because they were not seen to be “school ready”.

“If a child is old enough to enter primary school, then holding them back and enrolling them in an additional year of preschool appears to provide no academic or social advantages and may in fact be detrimental in many cases,” she said.

Dr McGrath said simply promoting the struggling student to the next year level was not the answer either.

She said schools needed to consider more effective alternatives to support students who experienced social, behavioural or academic difficulties.

These included identifying problems at pre-school level and developing programs to address them, creating individual education plans, providing specialist support and adapting the curriculum to the needs of the student.

“Multi-age classrooms and peer tutoring also provide ways of supporting students who may be struggling,” she said.

Whilst I respect the findings of this study, the trend of promoting students for no other reason than to protect their self-esteem is quite challenging for teachers.  It means that the child is often far behind, is often missing basic skills and therefore cannot understand advanced concepts and sometimes disrupts the other students.  It means that there will be students that can’t read or write properly entering into high school.

How is that beneficial to the child?  How does being set vastly different work to ones classmates make that child feel any less of a failure?

Teachers will generally do anything they can to accelerate the divide between struggling students and the rest of the class.  The last thing they would ever want is for any of their students to suffer emotionally.

At the same time, the current closed mindedness of education experts when it comes to repeating year levels is a concern.  Surely, at some point, the child has a better chance repeating a year than they do being promoted on the back of under developed skills?

I am in no way an advocate for making children repeat year levels.  But I am also mindful that gaps can grow, and the result of a skills divide in the classroom can have a lasting effect on both class and struggling student.

I suppose it just goes to show the importance of good teaching in the early years, alertness in spotting any learning problems or difficulties and a well run and resourced Special Education/Remedial Education department.

Children’s Books Deemed Sexist

May 6, 2011

It turn out the classic children’s books I have grown up reading have “enforced gender equality.”  Books I appreciated as a child have been among those labeled sexist for featuring a male hero instead of a female one, according to a recent study:

A large-scale study of children’s books published between 1900 and 2000 revealed that they were almost twice as likely to feature a male central character than a female one.

The gender bias was even worse when it came to books with animal characters – often favoured by publishers as ‘gender neutral’ with male animal heroes featuring in three times more books than female animal heroines.

And female characters were even overlooked when it came to star billing – kids’ books were twice as likely to include a male character’s name in their title as a female name.

Researchers from Florida State University, USA, also discovered that while books printed during the 1990s came close to equal representation of male and female human characters, animal characters were twice as likely to be male as female.

In a conclusion that will baffle fans of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Anne of Green Gables and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, researchers said their findings indicated a ‘symbolic annihilation of women’.

They warned that the role of kids’ fiction as a ‘dominant blueprint of shared cultural values, meanings and expectations’ could send a message that ‘women and girls occupy a less important role in society than men or boys.’

Evidence of this inequality was noted in how readers ‘interpret even gender neutral characters as male’ and in the way mums ‘frequently label gender-neutral animal characters as male when reading with their children.’

And in books where the characters are animals – such as The Tale of Peter Rabbit, Fantastic Mr Fox and Winnie-the-Pooh – leading and positive female roles are scarcer.

The likes of Jemima Puddle-Duck and Mrs Tiggy-Winkle had key roles in just 7.5 per cent of children’s books. Male rabbits, bears, owls, dogs, foxes and toads were more prevalent – they were the lead characters in 23 per cent of books.

The study, results of which are published in Gender and Society journal, looked at almost 6,000 children’s books published between 1900 and 2000.

Books were chosen from three different sources, including those which had won the prestigious Caldecott Medal, awarded annually to American kids’ fiction.

Study author Professor Janice McCabe, professor of sociology at Florida State University said: “We looked at a full century of books.

“One thing that surprised us is that females’ representations did not consistently improve from 1900 to 2000; in the mid part of the century it was actually more unequal. Books became more male dominated.”

And on the problem of animal characters, Prof McCabe added: “Together with research on reader interpretations, our findings regarding imbalanced representations among animal characters suggests that these characters could be particularly powerful, and potentially overlooked, conduits for gendered messages.

“The persistent pattern of disparity among animal characters may even reveal a subtle kind of symbolic annihilation of women disguised through animal imagery.”

The study found that the imbalance has worsened since the turn of the 20th century, when the split was even.

In the early 1900s there was a move away from books about fairytales based on heroines such as Cinderella. But there were numerous strong female characters. Nancy was the captain of the Amazon in Swallows and Amazons, and What Katy Did was a major series. Male characters such as Harry Potter and Alex Rider now dominate.

I have no issue with the general findings, and I fon;t think too many would be suprised that there is a disparity between central male and female characters in children’s story.  What I do have a problem is with two statements:
As a huge fan of The Wizard of Oz in all forms, I find it absolutely mind-boggling that the researchers have called it a ‘symbolic annihilation of women’.  Talk about over analysis!  I find this label deeply offensive.

And then there’s this bold statement“The persistent pattern of disparity among animal characters may even reveal a subtle kind of symbolic annihilation of women disguised through animal imagery.”

Annihilation?  Is that the best word they could come up with for books that didn’t pass the gender test, but surely passed the good intentions test?  Is it not possible that while these classic books are a sign of the times when it comes to gender disparity, they are also largely brilliantly written and conceived stories that were written to entertain and engross children rather than to symbolically annihilate women?

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