Posts Tagged ‘Study’

Short Attention Span Blamed for Lack of Interest in Reading

June 22, 2012

People don’t have patience any more. Everything needs to be immediate and instantaneous. I heard someone on the radio last night complain about the 5 seconds of advertising they had to sit through before they could access their YouTube clip.

It is no wonder that children no longer have the attention span for reading:

More than four-in-10 teachers said children failed to read for pleasure at the age of 11, it emerged.

The study – by the publisher Pearson – found that many schools fear children have short attention spans and prefer to spend time online rather than reading a novel.

Teachers also said that books were not seen as “cool” by pupils and raised fears that parents are failing to do enough to promote a love of reading in the home.

Frank Cottrell Boyce, the author, said: “It’s worrying to think that so many young children are not being inspired to pick up a good book and get lost in a story.

“According to Unesco, the biggest single indicator of whether a child is going to thrive at school and in work is whether or not they read for pleasure.”

The poll questioned around 400 secondary school English teachers.

Two-thirds of those questioned said that reading was not seen as “cool” by pupils, according to the study.

Three-quarters said that children’s attention spans were shorter than ever before, while 94 per cent claimed that pupils preferred to be using the internet rather than reading.

It is my belief that a crucial part of my job is to promote the joys of reading. I take pride in selecting books for my class that will appeal and entertain. I also have a Book Club. This allows my students to see that reading is not necessarily a personal experience but it can be a shared experienced too.

Study Reveals Children Aren’t Selfish After All

June 21, 2012

I must say that I was pleasantly surprised by the results of a study that found that children aren’t in fact selfish:

A new study from the University of B.C. shows kids might be generous and giving because it makes them happy, contrary to the popular belief children are inherently selfish.

Adults report feeling better when spending money on other people instead of themselves and research shows the part of the brain that processes rewards is activated when donating to charity.

Three UBC researchers hypothesized very young children — under age two — experience similar emotional benefits from generosity. For adults, the happiness that results from giving could be caused by many things, like conforming with social pressure or receiving rewards.

“But looking at young kids helps us get a little closer to understanding whether this is something rooted in human nature or not,” said Lara Aknin, a PhD in social psychology. Aknin designed the study with her UBC thesis supervisor, Elizabeth Dunn, and developmental psychologist Kiley Hamlin.

This is the first study to look at the emotional benefits of giving in young children.

Aknin cited news and parenting websites that argue young kids are innately selfish and self-absorbed, and she admitted some studies have shown kids can be territorial with their possessions.

“But you also don’t have to look far to see really young kids wanting to share their soggy Cheerios,” she said. “There is this dichotomy when we look at kids, and I think most people’s assumptions are that kids are self-oriented and hoard things for themselves.”

It just goes to show how effectively adults can model good behaviour.

Click here to read my post on teaching children to be grateful.

Children as Young as 7 are Cutting Themselves

June 11, 2012

It is terribly tragic to read of the number of children harming themselves on purpose. What makes it even more unsettling is that these children don’t take up this practice based on peer pressure, television, advertising or any other common triggers for unhealthy child behaviour.

When a child decides to cut themself, they are expressing deep and complex issues such as hopelessness, self-hatred, loneliness and anger. Often a child’s cuts goes unnoticed.

I am grateful that a study has brought this silent but shocking issue to the fore:

Studies have suggested about one-fifth of teens and young adults engage in self-injury at some point to relieve negative emotions or reach out for help, for example. But this report is the first to ask the question of kids as young as seven. Researchers found one in 12 of the third-, sixth- and ninth-graders they interviewed had self-injured at least once without the intention of killing themselves.

“A lot of people tend to think that school-aged children, they’re happy, they don’t have a lot to worry about,” said Benjamin Hankin, a psychologist from the University of Denver who worked on the study. “Clearly a lot more kids are doing this than people have known.”

Hankin and his colleagues spoke with 665 youth about their thoughts and behaviors related to self-harm. They found close to eight percent of third graders, four percent of sixth graders and 13 percent of ninth graders had hit, cut, burned or otherwise purposefully injured themselves at least once. In younger kids hitting was the most common form of self-injury, whereas high schoolers were most likely to cut or carve their skin.

Ten of the kids, or 1.5 percent, met proposed psychological criteria for a diagnosis of non-suicidal self-injury, meaning they had hurt themselves at least five times and had a lot of negative feelings tied to the behavior, the researchers reported Monday in Pediatrics. Youth who self-injure often say they do it to help stop bad emotions, or to feel something — even pain — when they are otherwise feeling numb, according to psychologists.


Connection between Bright Children and Premature Death: House

May 17, 2012

Sometimes experts feel they need to make extreme comments to get the exposure they are looking for:

Pupils should not be subjected to full classroom tuition until the age of six to off-set the effects of premature “adultification”, it was claimed.

Dr Richard House, a senior lecturer at Roehampton University’s Research Centre for Therapeutic Education, said gifted pupils from relatively affluent backgrounds suffered the most from being pushed “too far, too fast”.

He quoted a major US study – carried out over eight decades – that showed children’s “run-away intellect” actually benefited from being slowed down in the early years, allowing them to develop naturally.

Many bright children can grow up in an “intellectually unbalanced way”, suffering lifelong negative health effects and even premature death, after being pushed into formal schooling too quickly, he said.

Most British schoolchildren already start classes earlier than their peers in many other European nations. Children are normally expected to be in lessons by five, although most are enrolled in reception classes aged four.

I agree with the main principles of his argument, I just think the premature death theory is a bit of an exaggeration.

101 Ways to Misdiagnose ADHD

March 20, 2012

I am not sure if ADHD exists or not. Since I am not a doctor or medical professional, I will decide to err on the side of caution and give ADHD the benefit of the doubt. But whether or not it exists doesn’t seem to be the pressing issue. The issue seems more to do with the poor children misdiagnosed with ADHD in what seems to be a completely haphazard fashion:

A STUDY of almost a million Canadian children has found those born in December, the last month of the school year intake, are more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD and medicated for it than those born in January.

Relative immaturity may result in the inappropriate diagnosis of ADHD, the University of British Columbia researchers suggest.

They raise “concerns about the potential harms of overdiagnosis and overprescribing” for the condition. Children given medication for ADHD may suffer adverse effects on sleep, appetite and growth and face increased risk of cardiovascular events, the paper says.

Inappropriate diagnosis may lead teachers and parents to treat the child differently and change self-perceptions.

The study in this month’s Canadian Medical Association Journal, found boys born in December were 30 per cent more likely to receive a diagnosis of ADHD than boys born in January and 41 per cent more likely to be given medication for ADHD.

The medical fraternity has let themselves down with ADHD. It seems from this untrained eye that too many kids are being diagnosed with this condition and therefore, too many kids are needlessly medicated. What this does is bunch real sufferers of ADHD with kids who have come down with a bout of, for example, immaturity.

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!

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.

Kids Need Meaningful Relationships More than Mobile Phones

March 12, 2012

No matter how advanced technology becomes, nothing will stop us from needing human contact and real interaction. You might be able to stockpile Facebook friends, but nothing can replace the loyalty and support offered by a real friend.

Sometimes I feel that we have allowed ourselves to live in glass cubicles, shielded from real people, real conversations and real experiences. The same technology which was devised to bring us closer together has been misused and ultimately, has kept people out.

Teachers have been instructed to keep emotional distance from their students, the local small business operator who cared about his/her community as much as their bank balance, has been replaced by people not interested in the place where they work or the people who frequent their establishment. People are much less likely to say things like, “I just met someone on the train. We got talking and she told me all about her interesting life.” The only talking on trains is via mobile phone.

Is this really a natural way to live? Is this how we want our children to grow up? Are we really surprised to read that children don’t play with other children like they used to?

A new study that found almost 50 per cent of kids don’t play every day has prompted an expert’s warning about a generation of depressed and anxious youngsters.

The study, hailed as the first of its kind in Australia, carried out a total of 1397 interviews, including 344 with children aged between eight to 12.

About 40 per cent of them said they don’t have anyone to play with while 55 per cent say they’d like to spend more time playing with their parents.

Forty-five per cent said they were not playing every day.

The MILO State of Play study, which also interviewed 733 parents and 330 grandparents, found that more than 94 per cent of them believed play was essential for child development.

But it is still rapidly falling off the list of priorities, said child psychologist Paula Barrett.

“The longer we de-prioritise it, the more likely we are to have unhappy and inactive Australian kids which are more likely to be anxious and depressed, resulting in a raft of social problems in adulthood,” she said.

Dr Barrett said unstructured, active play was essential to help children learn important life skills, develop imagination and creativity.

“This finding highlights a concerning yet common misperception that many parents share – they dont think that kids need to play regularly after the age of eight,” she said.

Many will criticise me for drawing a parallel with the state of society and the development of new technologies. Of course technology isn’t solely to blame for a lack of real and personal interactions. But let’s face it, they have made the issue more serious. Just look at the advertisement above. Do we really want life’s pleasures to be about how nifty our touch screens can become?

In 2005 a landmark movie was released entitled, Crash. It depicted New York as a place where people are too insecure and selfish to interact with others. The only way a person can have any dialogue with a stranger is if they, quite literally, crash into each other.

Our children need real friends, not Facebook friends, they need play dates not peer-to-peer gaming sessions and they need the adults in their lives (including teachers) to scrap any notions of emotional distance and become engaged.

Let’s tear down the barriers and bypass the touch screens and actually … talk with each another!

Is Bribing a Worthwhile Teaching Method?

December 15, 2011

I am not a fan of bribing. Even though such a practice usually has some positive effects, I think the students can see right through it. It paints the teacher as desperate and devalues skills that should be developed without the incentive offered.

In 1995, the classroom drama Dangerous Minds became a box-office hit. It depicted a former marine played by Michelle Pfeiffer struggling to control a class full of stereotypical lower class misfits. Her plan, neither ingenious nor responsible was to bribe them. Some may have left the cinema hailing her as a genius. I thought it was lazy scriptwriting and left us with no realistic answers for our own classroom management issues.

A recent study seems to come to a different conclusion on the bribing issue:

If your preschoolers turn up their noses at carrots or celery, a small reward like a sticker for taking even a taste may help get them to eat previously shunned foods, a UK study said.

Though it might seem obvious that a reward could tempt young children to eat their vegetables, the idea is actually controversial, researchers wrote in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

That’s because some studies have shown that rewards can backfire and cause children to lose interest in foods they already liked, said Jane Wardle, a researcher at University College London who worked on the study.

Verbal praise, such as “Brilliant! You’re a great vegetable taster,” did not work as well.

“We would recommend that parents consider using small non-food rewards, given daily for tasting tiny pieces of the food — smaller than half a little finger nail,” Wardle said in an email.

The study found that when parents gave their three- and four-year-olds a sticker each time they took a “tiny taste” of a disliked vegetable, it gradually changed the children’s attitudes.

Over a couple of weeks, children rewarded this way were giving higher ratings to vegetables, with the foods moving up the scale from between 1 and 2 — somewhere between “yucky” and “just okay” — to between 2 and 3, or “just okay” and “yummy.”

The children were also willing to eat more of the vegetables — either carrots, celery, cucumber, red pepper, cabbage or sugar snap peas — in laboratory taste tests, the study said.

Surely such bribes can’t work in the long-term. Stickers become boring, star charts get tired, lollies are hardly responsible rewards and prizes are expensive.

If the only way to get a child to do what they should be doing anyway is to bribe them, have you really done your job properly?

4 Million Children in the UK Don’t Own a Single Book

December 5, 2011

If we continue to sit there passively watching whilst reading and literature dies a slow death, we will be all the worse for it. To read that books are extinct from up to 4 million British homes is quite distressing.

Almost 4 million UK children do not own a book, research suggests.

The latest report by the National Literacy Trust discloses that one in three does not have a book of their own.

The number has increased from seven years ago, the last time the poll was conducted, when it stood at one in 10 youngsters, meaning the number of children without books has tripled.

The latest survey, which was based on a survey of 18,000 children aged between eight and 16, shows that boys are more likely to be without books than girls.

Why parents buy the latest phone for their young children before something they really do need like a library of books is something I’ll never understand.

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