Dr Kathie Nunley
___connecting current psychological and neurological research to education

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Articles to Read Now
(for Teachers, Parents & Policy Makers)

Asperger's and PDD Gone! Now What? The new Autism Spectrum Disorder

If the Thought of Flipping Your Classroom Makes You Dizzy, Tip It Sideways Instead

America's Absolutely Wonderful Education System

Multiple Intelligences - 25 Years In

Adolescent depression and self-esteem.

Why Punishment-Based Systems Don't Work

Money as a Reward

Brain Biology: it's basic gardening

Drug Effects on the Brain

Stress and Memory

The Caffeine Craze of Youth

Your Brain on Drugs

How the adolescent brain challenges the adult brain

You're Feeling Very Sleepy

Keeping Pace with Today's Quick Brains

The Advantages of Bilingualism


Video Lessons, Tips & Hot Topics in Research
Attention Deficit Disorder

The importance of PE and Recess

Asperger's vs High Functioning Autism

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Research Making News RIGHT NOW

October 13, 2016:  Results were recently released from a long-term study showing the relationship between early child care and end of high school behaviors. Tracking 1200 children for 18 years, here's what was found: (1) Fewer hours in child care was related to admission into more selective colleges. (2) More experience in center-type (vs private) was linked to higher class ranking in high school and admission to more selective colleges. (3) For girls, more center-type care was also linked to less risk taking. (4). Higher quality child care predicted higher high school academic scores and admission to selective colleges.
Vandell, D; Burchinal, M; & Pierce, K.(2016) Early child care and adolescent functioning at the end of high school: Results from the NICHD Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development. Developmental Psychology, Vol 52(10), Oct, 1634-1645.

September 13, 2016: 
Despite localized efforts by many school districts, the US education system remains frustrated with the levels of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) achievement in its students.  Researchers are now looking at ways to manipulate social structures surrounding these disciplines at an early age, in a attempt to increase participation. A new study out this month saw some promise.  Researchers introduced math and spatial tasks to preschoolers (4 - 5 year olds).  They had groups of children working on tasks alone and others in small assigned groups.  What they found was that when children worked on math tasks in small groups they persisted longer, did more accurate work, reported high self-efficacy and had higher interest in the task than those students who worked alone.  Based on this and other similar research, it appears that incorporating social factors, such as group membership, into STEM curricula may boost student motivation.
Master, A., et al. (2016). Social Group Membership Increases STEM Engagement Among Preschoolers. Developmental Psychology, Sep 5 preview, nps  

May 8, 2016: Looking to increase positive affect in your students? Want to reduce boredom and dread in your school? A new study out in the Apr 21st edition of "Emotion" shows that walking (not exercise, per se, but just plain old "incidental ambulation" as they call it) boosts mood, especially reduces the effects of low interest...overrides boredom and dread. So, WHY do we have students sit all class period?? Get the students out of those desks and moving! Miller, J. & Krizan, Z. (2016) "Walking Facilitates Positive Affect (Even When Expecting the Opposite)", Emotion, Apr 21 preview, nps.

March 8, 2016: A new study out shows the results of examining white-matter differences along with neuron connectiveness measures in children with reading disabilities. Other cognitive abilities being equal, brain images show that white matter in a region associated with reading (left arcuate fasciculus) has altered structure in children with reading disability. Interesting, they also measure the degree of neuron connectiveness in this area and found low connectiveness scores in both children with a reading disability AND in children with superior pseudoword reading ability. The researchers concluded that this paradox of connectedness associated with both these groups indicates that this area involved in reading has great variation in white matter maturation rates during this initial time of reading acquisition. Christodoulou, J., et al (2015) "Relation of White-Matter Microstructure to Reading Ability and Disability in Beginning Readers." Neuropsychology, Mar 7 preview nps.

February 9, 2016: While there have been studies conducted measuring the effects of emotional exhaustion among teachers, most of them have focused on the effect it has on teachers - performance and career engagement. A new study out this month looked at the relationship between teacher emotional exhaustion and students' educational outcomes. Using 380 teachers and 8,000 4th grade students researchers measured teacher emotional exhaustion and school grades, standardized achievement test school and school satisfaction, as well as noncognitive outcomes. They found a strong negative correlation among all of them. Student achievement suffers as teacher emotional exhaustion increases. Arens, A. et al. (2016). "Relations Between Teachers' Emotional Exhaustion and Students' Educational Outcomes. Journal of Educational Psychology, Jan 18 edition preview, nps.

January 10, 2016: The largest gender disparity in STEM courses is found in Computer Science. Unfortunately girls are stereotyped out of computer science at a young age. Researchers have recently found that we can alter girls' interest in Computer Science simply by changing the physical classroom environment in our schools. Schools where classrooms were specifically set out to be more "girl-friendly" and promote women in Computer Science, found a higher incidence of girls' interest in Computer Science and more of a sense of belonging. Therefore, it is imperative that schools begin a conscious attempt to increase girls interest in Computer Science by removing the traditional gender stereotypes which signal to girls that they do not belong. Master, A. et al. (2015, Aug 17). Computing Whether She Belongs: Stereotypes Undermine Girls' Interest and Sense of Belonging in Computer Science. Journal of Educational Psychology, preview, nps

December 2, 2015: Executive Function (EF) is frequently studied due to its involvement with learning and learning challenges (particularly for persons with ADD and /or head trauma). Executive Function, our ability to maintain control of our actions and our thoughts, is mainly a function of the prefrontal cortex - the region behind your forehead. Research released this month tracked adolescent twins from teens through their early 20's to see how stable EF is during this time period and whether variance in function is more likely to be from genetics or environmental factors. Tracking 420 sets of twins for 6 years, they found that EF is relatively stable by age 17 and that genetics appears to play the biggest role in variation. So while environment can play a small role, most executive function appears to be something inherited. Friedman, N. et al. (2015, Nov 30). "Stability and Change in Executive Function Abilities From Late Adolescence to Early Adulthood: A Longitudinal Twin Study." Developmental Psychology, preview, nps.

November 15, 2015: Young persons who perceive themselves as being racial discriminated against are at higher risk of depression. A new study recently released looked at the long-term consequences of perceived racial discrimination, as well as factors that may act as a buffer. The researchers tracked African American and Latino youth through adolescence. They found that those in particular who felt ethnic or racial discrimination from peers were the most likely to suffer depression with greater symptoms. However, those who began high school with high levels of positive racial affect were at a much lower risk for depression over time. So positive racial affect appears to buffer the effects of perceived racial discrimination. Stein, G. et al (2015). "A Longitudinal Examination of Perceived Discrimination and Depressive Symptoms in Ethnic Minority Youth: The Roles of Attributional Style, Positive Ethnic/Racial Affect, and Emotional Reactivity." Journal of Developmental Psychology, Nov 16 preview, nps.

September 13, 2015: New research shows that when teaching math fractions to students with poor working memory, it helps to teach students how to explain their process when comparing fraction magnitudes. If working with students who have strong reasoning ability, teaching word-problem intervention is more effective. Fuchs, L. et al(2015, Sept). "Supported Self-Explaining During Fraction Intervention." Journal of Educational Psychology, preview, no page specified.

June 15, 2015: Hippocampal Neurogenesis involves the development of new neurons in the region of the brain responsible for memory. This process of neurogenesis may help clear out old memories as well as stabilize new memories for long term retention. Researchers are now looking at the effects of chronic stress and depression on this process. Both appear to interfere with normal hippocampus function and in particular cloud long term retrieval. Dery, N. et al. (2015, June) "A Role for Adult Hippocampal Neurogenesis at Multiple Time Scales: A Study of Recent and Remote Memory in Humans". Behavioral Neuroscience, preview, nps.

March 20, 2015: Helping students with metacognitive skills improves motivation, learning and future learning - So says new research out this month. The study involved a 6 hour training session with middle school students, teaching them the process skills of planning, monitoring and evaluation. When compared later to a control group, the students taught metacognitive strategies performed better on tests and had higher levels of motivation. Zepeda, C. et al. (2015). "Direct Instruction of Metacognition Benefits Adolescent Science Learning, Transfer, and Motivation: An In Vivo Study.", Journal of Educational Psychology, Mar 16 preview, nps.

February 16, 2015: Teachers, use your big words! New research out compars reading comprehension progress with middle-schoolers. They compared beginning of year scores to end of year, from a variety of classrooms. They then recorded and analyzed teacher's speech in those same classrooms. Students whose teachers used the more sophisticated vocabulary in class, significantly improved their reading comprehension as the year progressed. Gamez, P. & Lesaux, N. (2015) "Early-Adolescents' Reading Comprehension and the Stability of the Middle School Classroom-Language Environment." Developmental Psychology, Feb 16 preview, nps

February 4, 2015: Children who experience close teacher-child relationships during their early elementary years have stronger receptive language development. Spilt, J. et al (2014, Dec). "


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