Scientists argue teachers “must ditch ‘neuromyth’ of learning styles”

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The CEN joined with thirty eminent academics from the worlds of neuroscience, education and psychology to sign a letter to the Guardian newspaper voicing their concern about the popularity of the learning style approach amongst some teachers:

“Teachers need to be armed with up-to-date evidence of what has been shown to be effective so that schools are not wasting time or money on unsubstantiated practices that do not help students,” the letter says. “It is hard to establish the cost to the education system of using learning styles. Some schools have it as part of their teaching ethos whereas others bring in external consultants or send teachers on training courses. Aside from the cost in terms of time and money, one concern is that learning styles leads to belief that individual students are unable to learn because the material is inappropriate.”

The letter continues: “The brain is essential for learning, but learning styles is just one of a number of common neuromyths that do nothing to enhance education.”

See the original letter, the accompanying Guardian article, and CEN’s neuro-hit or neuro-myth resource.

 

Is ADHD on the rise in UK schools?

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Is ADHD on the rise? Given that the disorder is associated with poor academic outcomes, long-term mental health issues and low employability, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a matter of serious concern for parents and teachers alike.

ADHD seems to be something of a buzz-word in the press: recently we were told that being overweight, taking paracetamol or having a diet high in fat and sugar during pregnancy all increase the risk of your child developing ADHD. Food additives, fizzy drinks, and video game playing have all been claimed to contribute to the inexorable rise in ADHD rates in children.

But are prevalence rates of ADHD really on the rise in the UK? The CEN Neurohit-Neuromyth Team investigates.

Registration now open for workshop. Neuroscience in the classroom: current progress and future challenges. Friday 17th March 2017

Registration is now open

Neuroscience in the classroom: current progress and future challenges

PhD students from the Centre for Educational Neuroscience are pleased to announce a day conference dedicated to discussing the progress our field has made and the challenges for the future.

Friday 17th March 2017 at the Wellcome Trust, Gibbs Building, 215 Euston Road, London, NW1 2BE

Confirmed keynote: Professor Gaia Scerif (University of Oxford)

Other speakers include: Dr Michelle Ellefson (University of Cambridge) and Dr Denes Szucs (University of Cambridge), Dr Sinead Rhodes.

We will also be having presentations from Wellcome Trust/Education Endowment Foundation funded projects:

Spaced Learning – Alastair Gittner

Teensleep – Dr Chris Harvey

Learning Counterintuitive Concepts – Prof Denis Mareschal

GraphoGame Rime – Dr Anji Wilson

Engaging the Brain’s Reward System – Prof Paul Howard-Jones

Fit To Study – Catherine Wheatley

We are also accepting submissions for poster presentations for research relating to the field of educational neuroscience or mind, brain and education. Places at the conference will be preferentially given to those who submit a poster abstract. There are poster prizes which will be awarded for outstanding work that bridges the gap between neuroscience and the classroom.

If you would like to register for this free event, please fill out the following form.

https://goo.gl/xt14Bq

The form also includes space to submit a poster abstract. If you wish to submit an abstract at a later date, please write this in the abstract box within the form.

We will confirm your place at the event by 10th February at the latest.

Learnus conference on neuroscience and the future of education (London, 9 February 2017)

Our collaborators, the think tank Learnus, are staging their first conference, in partnership with the Association of School and College Leaders, entitled “FutureEd: How can Findings from Educational Neuroscience Reshape Teaching and Learning now and in the Future?”

The conference will be held at the Holiday Inn, Bloomsbury, on Thursday 9th February 2017. For more details, see futureed-conference

The mission of Learnus is to act as a bridge between the latest academic research and the classroom and to share their findings with education policy makers.

New workshop ‘Neuroscience in the classroom: current progress and future challenges.’ Friday 17th March 2017

‘Neuroscience in the classroom: current progress and future challenges’- a workshop supported by the Wellcome Trust and the Bloomsbury Doctoral Training Centre.

We are excited to announce a  new educational neuroscience workshop being organised  by the CEN on Friday 17th March 2017 at the Wellcome Trust.

Confirmed keynote: Professor Gaia Scerif, University of Oxford.

Other speakers include: Dr Michelle Ellefson, University of Cambridge and Dr Denes Szucs, University of Cambridge.

We will also be having presentations from a representation of each of the Wellcome Trust/Education Endowment Foundation funded projects:

https://wellcome.ac.uk/what-we-do/our-work/understanding-learning-education-and-neuroscience

The event will be free to attend and details for registration will be announced soon. We will also be accepting poster presentation submissions.

If you have any queries before then, please email Alex Hodgkiss: alex.hodgkiss.14@ucl.ac.uk 

Would you like to do a PhD in educational neuroscience?

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Studentship applications are now invited for PhD study in educational neuroscience at Birkbeck and UCL Institute of Education, open to UK students or EU students with UK residency.

Applications are open for ESRC studentships via the UBEL Doctoral Training Partnership, which offers a training route in Educational Neuroscience within its Psychology Pathway.

The closing date for PhD applications within the preferred institution is Friday 6 January 2017, for degrees to start October 2017. Interested candidates should approach relevant possible supervisors to discuss their proposed research projects in the first instance (see CEN faculty members). Alternatively, interested students should contact a representative within the relevant department: Birkbeck: Professor Michael Thomas. UCL Institute of Education: Professor Emily Farran.

The importance of language for deaf children’s cognitive development

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Two papers published by CEN member Chloe Marshall and her colleagues at City University of London and UCL’s Deafness Cognition and Language Research Centre stress the importance of language for deaf children’s cognitive development. Deaf children are at risk of having delayed Executive Function (EF) development. It is well established that EFs play a critical role in children’s academic success and social and emotional wellbeing, and that they are closely associated with language skills. A long-standing debate in the research literature concerns whether language supports the development of EFs, or whether EFs support language development.

Marshall and her colleagues argue that deafness, a sensory impairment that negatively impacts children’s ability to take up language from the input, offers a unique way of testing the developmental relationship between language and EF. In a paper just published in the leading journal Child Development, they show that deaf children perform more poorly than hearing children on EF and vocabulary tasks, and that vocabulary level mediates EF performance (but not vice versa). In other words, deaf children’s poor EF can be explained by their low vocabulary levels, whereas their poor vocabulary cannot be explained by difficulties with EF tasks.

In an earlier paper published last year in Frontiers in Psychology, Marshall and her colleagues showed that poor working memory (an important component of EF) is not an inevitable consequence of deafness; deaf children who are native signers (i.e. grow up from birth in a home with parents who use a sign language) have comparable performance on working memory tasks to hearing children, but both those groups perform better than deaf children who are non-native signers.

Taken together, these studies suggest that growing up in an environment that offers a rich and accessible language input can protect deaf children from delayed EF development.

Do children do better in school if they were born in the autumn?

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In the latest addition to our Neuro-hit or neuro-myth? section, we consider the claim that the time of year children are born influences their subsequent academic performance. This is a simple enough idea with potentially large repercussions. Evidence supporting this was first flagged in the 1960s and ever since researchers and educationalists have been accumulating data. We look at the findings of more recent studies in order to evaluate whether the autumn-born advantage is a reality, possible explanations, how far-reaching the effects are, and whether there are ways to level the playing field.

Dr. Natasha Kirkham: Does a multi-sensory approach help learning in the classroom?

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Dr. Natasha Kirkham (Birkbeck, University of London) gave a seminar updating us on the findings of her current project investigating the impact of multi-sensory approaches to learning in the classroom.  Dr. Kirkham’s work investigates what guides attention and supports learning from infancy into early childhood. Recently, she has focused on learning occurring in naturalistic settings, amidst all the noise and distraction of real-life environments.

Children’s formal learning in the classroom takes place in dynamic multi-sensory environments, which can be noisy, distracting and occasionally chaotic. Sometimes the information provided is mutually supportive (e.g., consistent or redundant cues), but at other times it can be de-correlated (independent cues), or even contradictory (conflicting cues). Prior research has shown that multi-sensory information can sometimes facilitate learning in infants (Bahrick & Lickliter, 2000; Lewkowicz, 2000; Richardson & Kirkham, 2004; Wu & Kirkham, 2010) and adults (e.g., Shams & Seitz, 2008; Frassinetti, Bolognini, & Ladavas, 2002).

Consequently, the idea that information received simultaneously from multiple modalities is ‘supportive’ of learning has been used as the basis for educational programs in literacy and numeracy, dealing with both typically and atypically developing children (Bullock, Pierce, & McClelland, 1989; Carbo, Dunn, & Dunn, 1986; Luchow & Sheppard, 1981; Mount & Cavet, 1995).

And yet, beyond its intuitive appeal, there has been no systematic investigation of the effects of multi-sensory stimuli on school-aged children’s basic learning (Barutchu, Crewther, Fifer, Shivdasani, Innes-Brown, Toohey et al., 2011).

Dr. Kirkham presented evidence from her team’s latest work looking at the pros and cons of multimodal information in a learning setting, focusing on the modalities of sight and sound. Thus far, they have used two tasks to tap multi-sensory learning. Both involve learning new categories using audio and visual features.

In the first task (run in collaboration with Prof. Denis Mareschal), the goal is explicit – figure out the categories! In one condition, clues to the categories are in audio features, in a second in visual features, in a third in both audio and visual features together. The results showed that redundant multi-sensory (audio-visual) information offers only a little learning support above and beyond uni-sensory information (audio or visual alone), and only in the youngest age group. In fact, while 5-year-olds seem to show some benefit from multi-sensory information, by 10 years of age children perform best in the auditory alone condition.

The second task (run in collaboration with Dr. Hannah Broadbent) is similar in all ways except that it is an incidental learning task – with children asked to press a button every time they see a frog appear on the screen. There were two categories of frogs, defined, as before, by visual, auditory or audiovisual features. Afterwards, children were asked to identify the categories. In this task, the categories were actually irrelevant to the task at hand – kids just had to spot the frog! In this study, all the age groups (5-, 7-, and 10-year-olds) performed significantly better in identifying the (irrelevant) categories of frog when the categories were marked by multi-sensory cues, rather than just visual or audio features alone.

So, as the team begins to investigate the possible benefits of multi-sensory learning, a more complex picture is emerging. Benefits depend on the type of learning and the age of the child. Multi-sensory presentation may be best for incidental learning. For explicit learning, multi-sensory presentation may be advantageous only for younger children. The project is still on-going.