Tag Archives: Student Motivation: An Overlooked Piece of School Reform

Drexel University study: New parts of the brain become active after students learn physics

27 May

Jonathan Cohn reported about an unprecedented experiment which occurred in Romanian orphanages in the New Republic article, The Two Year Window. There are very few experiments involving humans because of ethical considerations.

Drury, Nelson, and their collaborators are still learning about the orphans. But one upshot of their work is already clear. Childhood adversity can damage the brain as surely as inhaling toxic substances or absorbing a blow to the head can. And after the age of two, much of that damage can be difficult to repair, even for children who go on to receive the nurturing they were denied in their early years. This is a revelation with profound implication—and not just for the Romanian orphans.
APPROXIMATELY SEVEN MILLION American infants, toddlers, and preschoolers get care from somebody other than a relative, whether through organized day care centers or more informal arrangements, according to the Census Bureau. And much of that care is not very good. One widely cited study of child care in four states, by researchers in Colorado, found that only 8 percent of infant care centers were of “good” or “excellent” quality, while 40 percent were “poor.” The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development has found that three in four infant caregivers provide only minimal cognitive and language stimulation—and that more than half of young children in non-maternal care receive “only some” or “hardly any” positive caregiving. http://www.tnr.com/article/economy/magazine/97268/the-two-year-window?page=0,0&passthru=YzBlNDJmMmRkZTliNDgwZDY4MDhhYmIwMjYyYzhlMjg

Because the ranks of poor children are growing in the U.S., this study portends some grave challenges not only for particular children, but this society and this country. Adequate early learning opportunities and adequate early parenting is essential for proper development in children. https://drwilda.wordpress.com/2011/12/18/jonathan-cohns-the-two-year-window/

Michigan State University’s Office of Supportive Services succinctly states why math is important:

Why is math important?

All four year Universities have a math requirement

Math improves your skills:

• Critical Thinking Skills
• Deductive Logic and Reasoning Skills
• Problem Solving Skills

A good knowledge of math and statistics can expand your career options

Physical Sciences – Chemistry, Engineering, Physics

Life and Health Sciences – Biology, Psychology, Pharmacy, Nursing, Optometry

Social Sciences – Anthropology, Communications, Economics, Linquistics, Education, Geography

Technical Sciences – Computer Science, Networking, Software Development

Business and Commerce

Actuarial Sciences

Medicine

http://oss.msu.edu/academic-assistance/why-is-math-important

Often, the students who need the best math teachers are shortchanged.

Science Daily reported in New parts of the brain become active after students learn physics:

Parts of the brain not traditionally associated with learning science become active when people are confronted with solving physics problems, a new study shows.
The researchers, led by Eric Brewe, PhD, an associate professor in Drexel University’s College of Arts and Sciences, say this shows that the brain’s activity can be modified by different forms of instruction.
Using fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) to measure blood flow in the brain, the researchers looked to map what areas become active when completing a physics reasoning task, both before a course on the concepts and after.
“The neurobiological processes that underpin learning are complex and not always directly connected to what we think it means to learn,” Brewe said of the findings, which were published in Frontiers in ICT.
More than 50 volunteer students took part in the study in which they were taught a physics course that utilized “Modeling Instruction,” a style of teaching which encourages students to be active participants in their learning.
Before they participated in the class, the students answered questions from an abridged version of the Force Concept Inventory while undergoing fMRI. The Force Concept Inventory is a test that assesses knowledge of physics concepts commonly taught in early college physics classes.
After the volunteer students completed their physics course, they again took the Force Concept Inventory, once more monitored by fMRI.
In the pre-instruction scans, parts of the brain associated with attention, working memory and problem solving — the lateral prefrontal cortex and parietal cortex, sometimes called the brain’s “central executive network” — showed activity.
“One of the keys seemed to be an area of the brain, the dorsal lateral prefrontal cortex, that generates mental simulations,” Brewe said. “This suggests that learning physics is an imaginative process, which is not typically how people think of it.”
After the subjects had completed their class, comparison of the pre- and post-learning scans revealed increased activity in the frontal poles, which was to be expected since they’ve been linked to learning. But there was another area that also became active: the posterior cingulate cortex, which is linked to episodic memory and self-referential thought.
“These changes in brain activity may be related to more complex behavioral changes in how students reason through physics questions post- relative to pre-instruction,” Brewe and his co-authors wrote about the study. “These might include shifts in strategy or an increased access to physics knowledge and problem-solving resources….” https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/05/180524141527.htm

Citation:

New parts of the brain become active after students learn physics
Date: May 24, 2018
Source: Drexel University
Summary:
A new study showed that, when confronted with physics problems, new parts of a student’s brain are utilized after receiving instruction in the topic.
Journal Reference:
1. Eric Brewe, Jessica E. Bartley, Michael C. Riedel, Vashti Sawtelle, Taylor Salo, Emily R. Boeving, Elsa I. Bravo, Rosalie Odean, Alina Nazareth, Katherine L. Bottenhorn, Robert W. Laird, Matthew T. Sutherland, Shannon M. Pruden, Angela R. Laird. Toward a Neurobiological Basis for Understanding Learning in University Modeling Instruction Physics Courses. Frontiers in ICT, 2018; 5 DOI: 10.3389/fict.2018.00010

Here is the press release from Science Daily:

New parts of the brain become active after students learn physics

May 24, 2018 by Frank Otto, Drexel University

Parts of the brain not traditionally associated with learning science become active when people are confronted with solving physics problems, a new study shows.

The researchers, led by Eric Brewe, Ph.D., an associate professor in Drexel University’s College of Arts and Sciences, say this shows that the brain’s activity can be modified by different forms of instruction.

Using fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) to measure blood flow in the brain, the researchers looked to map what areas become active when completing a physics reasoning task, both before a course on the concepts and after.

“The neurobiological processes that underpin learning are complex and not always directly connected to what we think it means to learn,” Brewe said of the findings, which were published in Frontiers in ICT.

More than 50 volunteer students took part in the study in which they were taught a physics course that utilized “Modeling Instruction,” a style of teaching which encourages students to be active participants in their learning.
Before they participated in the class, the students answered questions from an abridged version of the Force Concept Inventory while undergoing fMRI. The Force Concept Inventory is a test that assesses knowledge of physics concepts commonly taught in early college physics classes.

After the volunteer students completed their physics course, they again took the Force Concept Inventory, once more monitored by fMRI.
In the pre-instruction scans, parts of the brain associated with attention, working memory and problem solving—the lateral prefrontal cortex and parietal cortex, sometimes called the brain’s “central executive network—showed activity.

“One of the keys seemed to be an area of the brain, the dorsal lateral prefrontal cortex, that generates mental simulations,” Brewe said. “This suggests that learning physics is an imaginative process, which is not typically how people think of it.”

After the subjects had completed their class, comparison of the pre- and post-learning scans revealed increased activity in the frontal poles, which was to be expected since they’ve been linked to learning. But there was another area that also became active: the posterior cingulate cortex, which is linked to episodic memory and self-referential thought.

“These changes in brain activity may be related to more complex behavioral changes in how students reason through physics questions post- relative to pre-instruction,” Brewe and his co-authors wrote about the study. “These might include shifts in strategy or an increased access to physics knowledge and problem-solving resources.”

One of the aims of the study was to further explore how the form of teaching used, Modeling Instruction, encourages students to use their own mental models to understand new concepts.

“The idea of mental models is something that people who research learning love to talk about, but have no evidence of what is happening inside brains other than what people say or do,” Brewe said. “We are actually looking for evidence from inside the brain.”

As such, Brewe and his fellow researchers think their study provides a good look at what might be typical when these “mental models” take hold.
But why physics? What makes this the ideal subject to study mental modeling in the brain?

Brewe said that there has been some research on the brain networks associated with learning math and reading. But mental modeling especially lends itself to physics, which has not gotten as much attention.

“Physics is a really good place to understand learning for two reasons,” Brewe said. “First, it deals with things that people have direct experience with, making formal classroom learning and informal understanding both relevant and sometimes aligned—and sometimes contrasted.”

“Second, physics is based in laws, so there are absolutes that govern the way the body works,” Brewe finished.

Moving forward, Brewe is excited by what this study opens up in his quest to improve physics learning in the United States and beyond.
“I would like to follow up on the question of mental simulations in physics, to see where that shows up at different levels of physics learning and with different populations,” he said. “But this whole study opens up many new areas of investigations and I’m pretty excited about how it will play out.”

Explore further: Scientists discover how the brain repurposes itself to learn scientific concepts

More information: Eric Brewe et al, Toward a Neurobiological Basis for Understanding Learning in University Modeling Instruction Physics Courses, Frontiers in ICT ( 2018). DOI: 10.3389/fict.2018.00010
Provided by: Drexel University

Moi has written about the importance of motivation in student learning. In Research papers: Student Motivation: An Overlooked Piece of School Reform, moi wrote:

Moi often says education is a partnership between the student, the teacher(s) and parent(s). All parties in the partnership must share the load. The student has to arrive at school ready to learn. The parent has to set boundaries, encourage, and provide support. Teachers must be knowledgeable in their subject area and proficient in transmitting that knowledge to students. All must participate and fulfill their role in the education process. A series of papers about student motivation by the Center on Education Policy (CEP) follows the Council on Foreign Relations report by Condoleezza Rice and Joel Klein. https://drwilda.com/2012/05/30/research-papers-student-motivation-an-overlooked-piece-of-school-reform/

Every child deserves not only a good education, but a good math education.

Related:

Study: Gender behavior differences lead to higher grades for girls
https://drwilda.com/2013/01/07/study-gender-behavior-differences-lead-to-higher-grades-for-girls/

Girls and math phobia https://drwilda.com/2012/01/20/girls-and-math-phobia/

University of Missouri study: Counting ability predicts future math ability of preschoolers
https://drwilda.com/2012/11/15/university-of-missouri-study-counting-ability-predicts-future-math-ability-of-preschoolers/

Is an individualized program more effective in math learning?
https://drwilda.com/2012/10/10/is-an-individualized-program-more-effective-in-math-learning/

Where information leads to Hope. © Dr. Wilda.com

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©

Blogs by Dr. Wilda:

COMMENTS FROM AN OLD FART©
http://drwildaoldfart.wordpress.com/

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http://drwildareviews.wordpress.com/

r. Wilda ©
https://drwilda.com/

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University of Southern California study: Researchers find children who have a plan can overcome adversity

13 Sep

Moi wrote about student motivation in Research papers: Student Motivation: An Overlooked Piece of School Reform https://drwilda.com/2012/05/30/research-papers-student-motivation-an-overlooked-piece-of-school-reform/ One of the citations was Student Motivation: School reform’s missing ingredient:

The summary report and accompanying papers highlight actions that teachers, school leaders, parents, and communities can take to foster student motivation. The following are just a few of the many ideas included in the report:

• Programs that reward academic accomplishments are most effective when they reward students for mastering certain skills or increasing their understanding rather than rewarding them for reaching a performance target or outperforming others.
• Tests are more motivating when students have an opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge through low-stakes tests, performance tasks, or frequent assessments that gradually increase in difficulty before they take a high-stakes test.
• Professional development can help teachers encourage student motivation by sharing ideas for increasing student autonomy, emphasizing mastery over performance, and creating classroom environments where students can take risks without fear of failure
• Parents can foster their children’s motivation by emphasizing effort over ability and praising children when they’ve mastered new skills or knowledge instead of praising their innate intelligence.

Many aspects of motivation are not fully understood, the report and background papers caution, and most programs or studies that have shown some positive results have been small or geographically concentrated. “Because much about motivation is not known, this series of papers should be viewed as a springboard for discussion by policymakers, educators, and parents rather than a conclusive research review,” said Nancy Kober, CEP consultant and co¬author of the summary report…. http://gomasa.org/news/student-motivation-school-reforms-missing-ingredient

Motivation and grit are increasingly becoming research topics.

Science Daily reported in Children overcoming adversity: Researchers find children who have a plan can overcome adversity:

Making a plan can be the difference in overcoming a difficult childhood, while just thinking about those difficulties can drag down the child.

A set of four new studies from researchers at USC and Southwest University in China suggest, contrary to prior belief, children in difficult situations need to do more than dream of a happier and successful future self: They need a strategy for becoming that person.

Two of the studies found eighth graders performed better in school if they had strategies for becoming their future selves, as well as several options for becoming the self that they envision. The other two studies showed that the mere thought of an unhappy childhood was enough to dampen the optimism and the ability of children to plan their escapes.
The set of studies were published online in the Journal Of Adolescence on Aug. 28…. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/09/150908135101.htm

Citation:

Children overcoming adversity
Researchers find children who have a plan can overcome adversity
Date: September 8, 2015

Source: University of Southern California

Summary:

A set of four new studies suggest, contrary to prior belief, children in difficult situations need to do more than dream of a happier and successful future self: They need a strategy for becoming that person. Researchers’ findings of ‘left behind’ children in China could apply to children anywhere enduring adverse situations, say authors of a new report.

Journal Reference:

1. Chongzeng Bi, Daphna Oyserman. Left behind or moving forward? Effects of possible selves and strategies to attain them among rural Chinese children. Journal of Adolescence, 2015; 44: 245 DOI: 10.1016/j.adolescence.2015.08.004

Here is the press article from the University of Southern California:

For children overcoming adversity, dreaming big isn’t enough — they need a plan
USC and China researchers’ findings of ‘left-behind’ children in China could apply to children anywhere enduring adverse situations

BY Emily Gersema

September 8, 2015

Making a plan can mean the difference in overcoming a difficult childhood, while just thinking about those difficulties can drag down the child.

A set of four new studies from researchers at USC and Southwest University in China suggest that, contrary to prior scientific belief, children in difficult situations need to do more than dream of a happier and successful future self: They need a strategy for becoming that person.

Two of the studies found that eighth-graders performed better in school if they had strategies for becoming their future selves, as well as several options for becoming the self that they envision. The other two studies showed that the mere thought of an unhappy childhood was enough to dampen the optimism and the ability of children to plan their escape.
The set of studies were published online in the Journal of Adolescence on Aug. 28.

A population with challenges

The scientists had focused on a population with profound social and economic challenges: rural Chinese children labeled “left behind” because their parents have left them, some as young as 5, usually in the care of elderly grandparents while they seek higher-paying urban jobs far from home.

These parents do not take their children with them because Chinese law requires that children attend school in the area where they were born, said Daphna Oyserman, Dean’s Professor of Psychology and co-director of the USC Dornsife Center for Mind and Society.

As a result, an estimated 40 percent of all Chinese children in rural areas — as many as 60 million — are left behind, according to the All-China Women’s Federation.

“Their parents, like parents everywhere, sacrifice the present for hopes for the future. I started the studies wondering if calling a child ‘left behind’ would have negative consequences with the implication that ‘no one loves me,’ ” Oyserman said. “Or are the parents able to instill in their children this narrative?: ‘We are doing this so our family can move forward.’”
“That is what we found: Like their peers, ‘left-behind children’ who focus on their possible future selves and especially on strategies to attain these possible future selves, fulfill their parents’ ‘moving forward’ narrative,” Oyserman said. “Their academic performance improves, they have fewer problems at school and feel better.”

A universal narrative

The narrative could apply to children anywhere, Oyserman noted. U.S. children, for example, may face homelessness, separation from a parent through divorce or endure the instability of foster care placement.

Daphna Oyserman and her colleagues conducted four studies with four separate groups of children. (Photo/Tania Huiny)
“In our studies, even though children who are left by their parents are clearly emotionally stressed, they are not doing worse academically than the others in their classes,” Oyserman said. “They seem to have gotten this message: ‘Life is hard. Pull yourself up.’”

Oyserman and her colleagues conducted four studies with four separate groups of children, all around 14 years old, in the Chongqing region of China, to gauge their feelings about the future and fatalism, and to determine what helps children rise above difficult circumstances.

Hope and fate

In the first study, 144 students were divided into two groups to ask about their optimism and left-behind status. One group of students was first asked whether it was left behind and then asked about its optimism for the future. Children in the other group were asked the same questions but in reverse order.

“We found that by just thinking about the fact that you could be ‘left behind’ had a negative effect on the kids’ optimism for the future, and it increased their fatalism,” said Oyserman, who conducted the study with Southwest University-China professor Chongzeng Bi.

In the second study, 124 students were again divided into two groups. This time, children were asked about their fatalism, about their images of what might be possible for them in the future and their strategies to get there.

“Again, just thinking about the fact that you could be left behind had a negative impact, in this case, increasing fatalism about the future. These feelings that their fate and future were not in their control also dampened the number of images they had of their future selves, as well as the number of strategies they had to become their future selves,” Oyserman said.
Impact at school

In the next two studies, the researchers asked about the effect of possible selves and strategies on outcomes such as school exams and in behavior. In the third study, 176 ninth-graders described their future selves and strategies to attain them, and answered questions about their left-behind status. The researchers obtained teachers’ reports of these students’ in-school behaviors over a 16-week period and their scores on the final examination, which occurred six weeks after they completed the questionnaire.

Students with more images of their future possibilities scored higher on the exam. For left-behind children, though, having possible selves was a double-edged sword, Oyserman said. Those with more future-self images were more likely to have behavior problems in school. But if they had strategies for attainment, they were less likely to have behavior problems, she said.

In the fourth study, 145 ninth-graders answered the same questions about future selves and strategies as the third study. Researchers also obtained their examination scores twice, once eight weeks after students reported on their future selves and strategies, and again a year later. Also at that later point, students were asked to report on their depressive symptoms using a standardized instrument.

The study revealed that those with more strategies to attain their possible selves scored better on their exams a year later, controlling for their prior test score, and showed that they were less likely to be depressed, Oyserman said.
Left-behind children

Prior research has shown that ‘left-behind’ children experience a higher rate of injury and illness compared to others. They face discrimination by teachers, their communities and the media, Oyserman said.
The children spend their week living at school. When they are at home, they are mostly unsupervised, and that carries risks, Oyserman said.

“Part of why I wanted to look at this particular group is that China is an enormous piece of the world both in terms of population and in terms of future trends, and Chinese parents, like any parents, are willing to sacrifice an awful lot in the hope that things will turn out better for their kids,” Oyserman said.

“Taken together, our results imply that while ‘left behind’ is a stereotyped identity that primes children to be accepting of the hand of fate in their lives, this does not mean that children who actually are ‘left behind’ disengage from school,” Oyserman concluded for the study. “On the contrary, they seem to redouble their efforts.”

The School of Psychology at Southwest University in China funded the studies.
More stories about: Psychology, Research
http://news.usc.edu/85905/children-overcoming-adversity-aim-high-but-have-a-plan/

Education and/or vocational training provide the best opportunity for moving individuals into success. Moi often says education is a partnership between the student, the teacher(s) and parent(s). All parties in the partnership must share the load. The student has to arrive at school ready to learn. The parent has to set boundaries, encourage, and provide support. Teachers must be knowledgeable in their subject area and proficient in transmitting that knowledge to students. All must participate and fulfill their role in the education process.

Where information leads to Hope. © Dr. Wilda.com

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©

Blogs by Dr. Wilda:

COMMENTS FROM AN OLD FART©
http://drwildaoldfart.wordpress.com/

Dr. Wilda Reviews ©
http://drwildareviews.wordpress.com/

Dr. Wilda ©
https://drwilda.com/