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

January 16, 2017:  Students with Autism are more cautious readers, according to new research out this month. Tracking eye movements, researchers examined natural reading in groups of students with and without autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Students with ASD interpret sentence construction at similar skill and speed with non ASD peers. However, they take longer to read sentences on subsequent passes as they do not skip target work (words skipped by students without ASD), suggesting that they adopt a more caustious reading strategy. Thus, they take longer to evaluation sentence interpretation. Howard, P. et al (2017 Jan). "Benchmark eye movement effects during natural reading in autism spectrum disorder." Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, Vol 43(1), 109-127.

December 6, 2016:  It stands to reason that a students' "grit" (consistency of interests and perseverance) would impact academic performance and grades. Researchers looked at high school students and compared their grit to other issues such as self-control and self-regulation. While these factors did correlate with measures of grit, it was students' perseverance of effort, not the consistency of interest which predicted academic grades.
Muenks, K. et al (2016). "
How true is grit? Assessing its relations to high school and college students’ personality characteristics, self-regulation, engagement, and achievement." Journal of Educational Psychology, Dec 05 preview, nps.

November 16, 2016:  Peers play a strong role in gender identity as it develops through middle school years. Researchers compared "between" and "within" gender peer influence on gender identity in 7th and 8th grade students in a longitudinal study. They found that between gender peer bias and pressure for conformity was a strong influence on gender identity. Interestingly, while the middle school students felt pressure for gender conformity from peers of the gender different than their own, there appeared to be no such influence from same gendered peers for gender identity during this developmental period.
Kornienko, O., et al. (2016). " Peer influence on gender identity development in adolescence." Developmental Psychology, Vol 52(10), Oct , 1578-1592.

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.


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