Category: Educational

School Kids’ Memory Is Better For Material Delivered With Enthusiasm, Because It Grabs Their Attention

By Emma Young

Like countless other parents across the UK, I’m finding it pretty hard to maintain enthusiasm for my kids’ home-schooling lessons. Or muster it, for that matter. Yet we all know that when an instructor is enthusiastic, those sessions are more enjoyable — and we remember more. While this might be common knowledge, however, “the underlying mechanisms for the favourable effects of teacher enthusiasm are still largely unknown,” write Angelica Moè at the University of Padova, Italy, and her colleagues, in their new paper in the British Journal of Educational Psychology. The team therefore set out to better understand its power. And in a series of studies, they explored the idea that attention is key — that a more enthusiastic delivery grabs pupils’ attention more, which improves their memory for the material.

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What Makes For A “Meaningful” Death In Fiction?

By Emily Reynolds

Death can be a powerful narrative tool. We sob over the demise of a beloved character, cheer at the comeuppance of our favourite villain, or sit at the edge of our seats, shocked at deaths we didn’t see coming. Red Wedding, anyone?

All deaths are not created equal, however, and in a new study Kaitlin Fitzgerald from the State University of New York and team look at what makes certain fictional deaths so memorable. The team reports that although we find some deaths pleasurable — the long-awaited downfall of an antagonist, for example — it’s those we find meaningful that truly stick with us in the long-term.

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Saying That Girls Are “Just As Good” As Boys At Maths Can Inadvertently Perpetuate Gender Stereotypes

By Emma Young

Though girls and boys do equally well on maths tests, the stereotype that girls aren’t as naturally able at maths — or as likely to be extremely smart — is adopted early; even 6-year-olds in the US endorse it. Of course, these stereotypes harm women in an educational setting and in their professional lives, point out the authors of a new study in Developmental Psychology. So it’s important to understand what gives rise to them. Eleanor Chestnut at Stanford University and her colleagues now report that one common and well-intentioned way of attempting to convey girls’ equality with boys actually backfires: saying that girls are “just as good” as boys at something leads the listener to conclude that boys are naturally better, and girls must work harder to equal them.

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The “Learning Styles” Myth Is Still Prevalent Among Educators — And It Shows No Sign of Going Away

By Emily Reynolds

The idea that people learn better when taught in a way that matches their specific “learning style” — auditory, kinesthetic, visual or some combination of the three — is widely considered a myth. Research has variously suggested that learners don’t actually benefit from their preferred style, that teachers and pupils have different ideas about what learning styles actually work for them, and that we have very little insight into how much we’re actually learning from various methods.

Despite this evidence, a large proportion of people — including the general public, educators and even those with a background in neuroscience — still believe in the myth. And a new review, published in Frontiers in Education, finds no signs of that changing.

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Students Enjoy Classes More And Get Better Grades If They Feel Their Professor Has Faith In Their Ability To Change And Improve

By Emily Reynolds

As anyone who’s ever flunked a test will tell you, doing well at school or university isn’t just a simple matter of intelligence, ability, or even of how hard you’ve worked. In fact, there are plenty of things that can affect the way we perform, from the way we take notes to how we revise to how much sleep we get while we’re studying.

And according to a new study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, something else might have an impact on our educational achievements: our assumptions about our professors. If we believe they have faith in our ability to change and improve, suggest Katherine Muenks from the University of Texas at Austin and colleagues, we’re likely to enjoy classes more, as well as achieve higher grades.

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Even Imaginary Barriers Can Prevent Kids From Cheating On Tests

By Emma Young

How can you discourage kids from copying each other on tests? You could always use a simple frame to separate them, or even a ruler to draw an imaginary line between their desks. When these behavioural “nudge” techniques were used in new research published in Current Directions in Psychological Science, they significantly reduced cheating among 5 to 6-year-olds. This shows “that even seemingly unremarkable features of children’s environments can nudge them to act honestly,” write the researchers, led by Li Zhao at Hangzhou Normal University in China.

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Even When You’re A Member Of An Elite Group, It Can Be Demoralising To Rank Lower Than Your Peers

By Matthew Warren

Imagine that you are a high-achieving student at a school which, overall, doesn’t perform that well. You know that your grades are better than most of your peers’, so you probably rate your academic ability quite high. You are, in other words, a big fish in a small pond. 

Now you transfer to a school in which the other students consistently get top marks, perhaps even better than yours. You’re now the small fish in a big pond, and although your own ability has remained the same, you begin to doubt yourself and actually rate yourself lower than you had before.

This “big-fish-little-pond” effect shows that our academic self-concept can be profoundly shaped by how we compare ourselves to our peers. Now a study in Social Psychological and Personality Science has found that the size of this comparison matters: the effect is even more pronounced when people are extremely high achieving in very low ranked groups, or vice-versa.

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Adults Put Off Crucial Conversations About Race Because They Mistakenly Think Young Children Won’t Understand

By Emily Reynolds

Conversations about race are not always easy, as the writer Reni Eddo-Lodge has recently explored in her brilliant book Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race. But they’re no less necessary for it: not talking about racism is simply not an option, particularly for those of us who benefit from structural inequality.

We all have a part to play in this ongoing dialogue — including parents of children growing up in a world full of racial injustice. Previous research has suggested that constructive conversations about race and ethnicity can have positive outcomes for children of all races — increased empathy, an ability to learn about and accept different perspectives, a better understanding of their own identity, and less racial bias.

But a new paper from Jessica Sullivan at Skidmore College and colleagues, published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, suggests that those crucial conversations are being delayed — because parents are misjudging their children’s ability to process and understand race.

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How STEM Fields Can Foster A Sense Of Belonging For Minority And First-Gen Students

By Emily Reynolds

Fostering a positive identification with science is an important part of many programmes trying to make STEM more diverse. This is vital, as underrepresented groups may be faced with cultural stereotypes about science: that scientists are mainly White men, for example. These kinds of experiences can reinforce inequalities: governmental research from 2019, for example, found that girls were far less likely to see themselves as good at science-related subjects, and enjoyed them less — despite outperforming their male peers at exams. .

Identifying as a ‘”science person” might also help other groups currently underrepresented in STEM. A new study in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin suggests that a strong scientific identity can foster belonging and help first-generation and Black and minority ethnic university students feel more at home in the classroom.

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Teacher Trainees Are More Likely To Misread Black Children As Angry Than White Children

By guest blogger Ellie Broughton

Research has shown that Black people are particularly like to be victims of “anger bias”, in which others incorrectly interpret their facial expressions as angry. Past studies have focused on adult faces — but now evidence shows that even young kids face such prejudice. A new study published in Emotion has found that teacher trainees more often misperceive primary-school-age Black children as being angry. Continue reading “Teacher Trainees Are More Likely To Misread Black Children As Angry Than White Children”