Category: Educational

Students Who Want To Cut Down On Their Drinking Often Feel Forced To Compromise For Social Connection

By Emily Reynolds

Drinking culture is a huge part of university, with Freshers’ Week events often revolving near-exclusively around getting drunk. A 2018 survey from the National Union of Students found that 76% of respondents feel an expectation for students to “drink to get drunk”; 79% agreed that “drinking and getting drunk” is a key part of university culture.

This isn’t for everyone, however: a quick search of student forums will show many young people, pre-university, anxious about a drinking culture they don’t want to participate in. Now a new study in the British Journal of Health Psychology, authored by Dominic Conroy from the University of East London and team, has taken a closer look at students’ decisions to reduce their alcohol consumption — and what prevents them from doing so.

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Taking Lecture Notes On A Laptop Might Not Be That Bad After All

By Emma Young

“The pen is mightier than the keyboard”… in other words, it’s better to take lecture notes with a pen and paper rather than a laptop. That was the hugely influential conclusion of a paper published in 2014, by Pam Mueller and Daniel Oppenheimer. The work was picked up by media around the world, and has received extensive academic attention; it’s been cited more than 1,100 times and, the authors of a new paper, also in Psychological Science, point out, it often features in discussions among educators about whether or not to ban laptops from classrooms. However, when Heather Urry at Tufts University, US, and her colleagues ran a direct replication of that original study, their findings told a different story. And it’s one that the team’s additional mini meta-analysis of other directly comparable replications supported: when later quizzed on the contents of a talk, participants who’d taken notes with a pen and paper did no better than those who’d used a laptop.

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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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