Learning Styles

Over the next 4 weeks I will be talking about a certain topic relating to the psychological principles that can be applied education. The topic that I have chosen to write about is different learning styles and techniques, this week I’ll start off broad and expand on this over the following weeks. I have chosen this topic because after just receiving my results from semester 1 and comparing to my year 2 scores, I found SUCH a variety of results. It got me questioning – how can I be so much more successful in some of the subjects compared to others? I thought perhaps it was due to the style of learning; the way the lectures were taught, the way I revised, the method of assessment etc. So I’m going to explore some of the explanations! Not just in terms of university but throughout schools and colleges too.

Research suggests that the type of activities and the teaching styles used in classrooms are important, and the wrong type of teaching method can really affect the way a student learns (Wentzel, 2002).

One type of learning method that is considered successful is getting the students actively involved in lessons (Jang, 2008). Research to support this idea comes from Boaler (2002), she found that when students engaged in a lesson and shared their ideas with their classmates, they had more of a positive attitude than the students who didn’t get actively involved! Samuelsson (2008) also found similar results – children who were involved in practical class work where they had to engage with others performed better than children who were either just lectured by a teacher or were asked to work directly out of a textbook. Jang (2008) suggests active involvement in the classroom is effective because they are engaging with the subject, therefore the learning is considered to have more of a personal importance and relevance to the student.

Another thing to consider in terms of learning styles is the way the things are taught to the student. Atkins (1998) suggests that teachers can encourage students to be more enthusiastic with their learning by presenting the information with a performance based approach. So, Atkins (1998) thinks that by using a teaching style which includes anecdotes, humour and impromptu class discussions will keep the learner interested as it is entertaining!! Short and Martin (2011) support this as they found that students not only preferred lectures that used this performance based approach, but they also retained and understood more information from those lectures. This method can unfortunately sometimes be inappropriate as it can be time consuming, but aspects of it can still be used – such as the use of images and what not.

If we are talking about keeping students interested then we can’t forget the use of technology as a learning style (I won’t talk about this too much as I have already wrote a whole blog about it – check it out if you haven’t already). But research suggests that technology can have a positive impact on the way students learn due to its entertainment factor (Eckel, Rojas & Ball, 2006). And I agree with this as I do think modules like this one where we use technology a lot really influences the way we work, in fact I think I may expand on this one day and possibly write a whole post about blogging as a learning style.

So to conclude, I think the way we learn is really important as different types of learning styles are more successful than others. So why is this? Well Atkins (1998) suggests different learning styles could be more effective due to how interesting they are. This could be related to the entertainment factor of technology (Eckel, Rojas & Ball, 2006). Also, Jang (2008) suggests that being more actively involved is an important factor for learning styles.

Thanks!
Comments?

References
Eckel, C., Rojas, C., & Ball, S. B. (2006). Technology improves learning in large principles of economics classes: Using our WITS. American Economic Review, 96(2), 442-446.

Granström, K. (2006). Group phenomena and classroom management. A Swedish perspective. In C.M.
Evertson & C.S. Weinstein (Eds.), Handbook for Classroom Management: Research, Practice, and
Contemporary Issues (pp. 1141–1160). New York: Erlbaum.

Jang, H. (2008). Supporting students’ motivation, engagement, and learning during an uninteresting activity. Journal of Educational Psychology, 100(4), 798.

Samuelsson, J. (2008). The impact of different teaching methods on students’ arithmetic and self‐regulated learning skills. Educational Psychology in Practice: theory, research and practice in educational psychology, 24:3, 237-250

Scott Rigby, C., Deci, E. L., Patrick, B. C., & Ryan, R. M. (1992). Beyond the intrinsic-extrinsic dichotomy: Self-determination in motivation and learning.Motivation and Emotion, 16(3), 165-185.

Wentzel, K.R. (2002). Are effective teachers like good parents? Teaching styles and student adjustment in
early adolescence. Child Developmental, 73, 287–301.

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Your education is what you eat

Research suggests that health and nutrition affects children’s success in school (Leslie & Jamison, 1990). We all know that if you feed a kid a diet made up of fizzy drinks, sweets and endless amounts of take-aways, then they’re going to struggle at school (and no I don’t just mean being bullied for being on the chubby side). But these kinds of foods weaken our immune system meaning that these kids are likely to get ill and miss more time off of school due to this. Research has also found that teenagers at school with a food insufficiency are more likely to have lower academic achievements and there is a higher chance that they will even be suspended from school due to bad behaviour (Alaimo et al., 2001). In this week’s blog I’m going to expand on this as I’m not only interested in whether what we eat actually affects people’s success in education.. but also, what it is that’s so special about certain foods that help us become more successful with our studies.

Foods that contain a vitamin-B-like substance called choline are a good choice for people in education. Apparently choline and B’vitamins are really good for improving memory (Meck, Smith & Williams, 1988). Maaaaany studies have found similar results – mainly by injecting rats with choline and seeing their ability to memorise and improve tasks once they have been injected (eg. Meck & Williams, 1997).  By improving memory this will obviously help in education as students will remember the stuff they have learnt. Foods that contain this magic choline are: eggs – which are really really rich in choline, cauliflower, beef (not horse..), navy beans, tofu and almonds.

Next up is one that most people are familiar with when we think of trying to improve our learning: omega-3 fatty acids. People often squirm at this because they just associate it with fish, but omega-3 is in other foods too; including walnuts! The reason omega-3 works so well is due to the fatty acid DHA which improves brain function as well as mood. Improved brain function includes improved listening skills, reasoning, responding etc! So if we are listening and responding better in class then it is more likely that we will do well in the assessments! Sin and Bryan (2007) support this as it was found that children who were diagnosed with ADHD showed signs of improved behaviour and they were not as restless when they were given a supplement of omega-3 fatty acid. Wild berries also include omega-3 fatty acids, but berries are extra special as they also have antioxidants, so not only do wild berries improve brain function and mood but the antioxidants can also help the blood flow to the brain!

So far so healthy, but fear not, we are in fact allowed some naughty foods in order to become more wise. First of all – CAFFIENE (found in chocolate, red bull and yummy, yummy tea) is thought to help focus energy and improve mental performance (Lieberman, 2001). Seidl et al., (2000) believes that this is due to the effect caffeine has on the purinergic receptors and taurine modulation of receptors. Although please don’t have too much of the stuff, there can be negative consequences (for those of you who watch The Inbetweeners, you’ll know what I’m talking about….). Another one – SUGAR! Galliot and Baumeister (2007)  found that low glucose levels (so not much sugar consumed) are bad for people’s ability to have self-control. Whereas, higher levels of blood-glucose are considered to improve attention-span, resist impulsivity, help to cope with stress and regulate emotions, all of which are extremely helpful for people trying to study. Again, don’t go too crazy on the sugar though, I don’t want you to end up too hyper.

To summarize, we always knew that a healthy diet is key for kids at school and also for adults who are in education, as bad foods can have a negative effect on academic performance. But research explains the reasons why some foods are better than others. Food with choline help improve memory, foods that contain omega-3 fatty acids help with brain function and moods, antioxidants make improvements to the blood flow to the brain and even caffeine and sugar can be beneficial as they are considered to help focus energy and self-control. So to conclude, if we do eat these kind of foods we could potentially be better at our studies!  

If you have any other ideas of what foods you think might help improve the way we learn, or if you think I’m talking rubbish or if there is just anything else you’d like to add then please drop me a comment 🙂

 

Image

REFERENCES

Alaimo, K., Olson, C. M., & Frongillo Jr, E. A. (2001). Food insufficiency and American school-aged children’s cognitive, academic, and psychosocial development. Pediatrics, 108(1), 44-53.
Gailliot, M. T., & Baumeister, R. F. (2007). The physiology of willpower: Linking blood glucose to self-control. Personality and Social Psychology Review11(4), 303-327

Lieberman, H. R. (2001). The effects of ginseng, ephedrine, and caffeine on cognitive performance, mood and energy. Nutrition reviews59(4), 91-102.

 Meck, W. H., & Williams, C. L. (1997). Characterization of the facilitative effects of perinatal choline supplementation on timing and temporal memory.Neuroreport8(13), 2831-2835.

Meck, W. H., Smith, R. A., & Williams, C. L. (1988). Pre‐and postnatal choline supplementation produces long‐term facilitation of spatial memory.Developmental psychobiology21(4), 339-353.

Sinn, N., & Bryan, J. (2007). Effect of supplementation with polyunsaturated fatty acids and micronutrients on learning and behavior problems associated with child ADHD. Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics28(2), 82.

Seidl, R., Peyrl, A., Nicham, R., & Hauser, E. (2000). A taurine and caffeine-containing drink stimulates cognitive performance and well-being. Amino acids,19(3), 635-642.

You can watch this instead of reading it here 🙂
Promise I won’t read so much from my notes next time…

Why do people act differently in group tasks?

Last week http://scied88.wordpress.com/2013/02/05/group-work/ discussed group work in education. This inspired me to expand on the use of group work in schools, but instead, I am going to focus on the way people behave when they are involved in group work.  Although people act differently in group tasks, I do believe that group work in education should be supported!

Think back to when you have been asked to work in a group, the group is formed of people showing different behaviours; there’s usually at least one person who doesn’t pull their weight and others who get stressed and have to do loads of work due to this. Why do we act like this when involved with group work, and how does this affect the way we learn?

Ringelmann (1913) noticed that when individuals were placed in a group, their individual efforts decreased as the group size increased, it is considered that this is due to motivation loss. This loss of motivation has been termed social loafing (Latane, Williams & Harkins 1979) and could explain why some people don’t pull their weight in group activities. It is suggested that social loafing occurs because the individuals within the group feel as though they can get away with not putting much effort into the task because everyone else in the group are working hard anyway. Geen (1991) suggests three reasons for why people loaf:

1 – output equity, people think everyone else is loafing so don’t want to be a ‘sucker’

2 – evaluation apprehension, they are hidden within the group so think no one may actually notice if they haven’t contributed

3 – Matching to standard, they don’t know how to behave as don’t have any standards to match

Social loafing could affect the way students learn because, well simply, they aren’t actually doing any work!  Both points 1 and 2 could be helped by  ensuring that teachers are supervising to make sure every child is working – possibly a work check list could be used so kids have to sign who has done what. To solve point 3, Goethals and Darley (1987) suggest including a clear performance standard so the group members know what standard to match.

What about the group members who do contribute? What are their reasons for working hard?

A study by Zaccaro (1984) revealed that some individuals actually exceeded their individual potential when they were put into groups. The psychology behind the people who ensure the work gets done is considered to be due to ‘social compensation’! This term is when people work harder in groups in order to compensate for the social loafers (William & karau, 1991). Another reason why individual’s may work harder in groups is  purely because they don’t want to look bad as they like the people in the group and don’t want to let them down (Fielding & Hogg, 2000). This could benefit students because the social compensators will see their full potential and realise their true ability! It also improves children’s social skills as they learn that sometimes they will have to be responsible for the sake of others too.

Considering the way we act when put in groups – why do you think schools and education practises still encourage group work? Well group work in education is considered an effective method to motivate students to work hard, to develop their critical thinking, communication and decision-making skills (Centre for Teaching Excellence*). For schools, group work helps children learn how different people work and it teaches them how to compromise with others, how to deal with petty arguments as well as helping them make progress in the chosen study area (an article I found on the Gaurdian told me so!**).  It could also be suggested that group work also gives children an idea of different types of personalities and also that sometimes you have to work harder in order to get a task complete. It may also encourage children to realise that they have to work hard in groups because if they don’t they will let everybody else down.

To conclude, despite the way some people will behave when doing group work; I think that group work should be encouraged in education; especially schools! As it teaches children how to cooperate with others and develops many skills for them. Also the more group work is encouraged, perhaps the less social-loafing will occur, especially if solutions are put in place to try and prevent social loafing (such as teacher supervision and clear standards to meet).

Comments and questions will be much appreciated 😀

cute team work

REFERENCES

http://cte.uwaterloo.ca/teaching_resources/tips/implementing_group_work_in_the_classroom.html *

http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2006/mar/31/schools.uk2 **

Fielding, K. S., & Hogg, M. A. (2000). Working hard to achieve self-defining group goals: A social identity analysis. Zeitschrift fur Sozialpsychologie31(4), 191-203.

Geen, R. G. (1991). Social motivation. Annual review of psychology42(1), 377-399.

Goethals, G. R., & Darley, J. M. (1987). Social comparison theory: Self-evaluation and group life. Theories of group behavior, 21-47.

Latane, B., Williams, K., & Harkins, S. (1979). Many hands make light the work: The causes and consequences of social loafing. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology; Journal of Personality and Social Psychology37(6), 822.

Williams, K. D., & Karau, S. J. (1991). Social loafing and social compensation: The effects of expectations of co-worker performance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology61(4), 570.

Zaccaro, S. J. (1984). Social Loafing The Role of Task Attractiveness.Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin10(1), 99-106.

 

If you want to find out more or if you are too lazy to read this blog post (and managed to stumble across the video first) here is me presenting this post to my classmates at university. Please excuse me on this video as it was my first attempt I was a little nervous 😦 More to come in the later blog posts so hopefully that will improve 😀

“Nothing wrong with a pen and paper, who needs all this fancy technology?” – kids do!

I (and I imagine the majority of you reading this blog) haven’t ever known anything other than modern technology; the existence of computers and the use of the internet. We have grown up with it! But it almost seems to me as though we were discouraged from using it during school (not so much at university). Don’t get me wrong – we had ICT lessons and we did use computers to type up some work and do a bit of browsing, but as I remember: we were forbidden to take mobile phones and other gadgets to school. Computers were only allowed to be used under a teacher’s supervision and even then we could only use specific websites.. social network sites were a definite no-no! We constantly had to scribble notes down as the teachers were talking, “Nothing wrong with a pen & paper, who needs all this fancy technology?” they use to say. We were also told about core text-books we had to buy, what about core websites to browse???

Why weren’t we encouraged to use modern technology at school? Teachers could really take advantage of all the features of modern technology in order to teach children. By incorporating podcasts (kids are always glued to their ipods anyway, why not give them something useful to listen to), text messages, social media sites, emails, apps etc into their class modules.

Bolliger, Supanakorn and Boggs (2010) found that students were more motivated to learn with podcasts and it was an effective learning method for students studying at a distance. This could be applied to children who missed a school day due to sickness; it could also be applied to helping children with homework. Also, Fernandez, Simo and Sallan (2009) found that podcasting increased student’s motivation due to the constant contact between students and teachers, they also suggest that podcasting is a powerful tool but should be used in addition to classes and not instead of. Again this could be applied to out of school work; students could use the podcast for help with homework or revision.

Furthermore, we all know that kids can’t tear themselves away from social network sites such as Facebook and Twitter. So why not use this as another tool for learning? Edutopia* argue that we should teach children the benefits that social networking technology can have on their education; they can share ideas with peers and ask tips from teachers even when not in school. It may even allow some of the quieter of children’s opinions to be heard, as social networking sites have been found to boost self-esteem (Steinfield, Ellison & Lampe, 2008). If we are going to encourage technology and the social media to children, it is important that rules are put in place in order to prevent cyber bullying and other issues. Classes could be held in school where children are taught how to present themselves appropriately on the internet, just like we learn how to present ourselves appropriately ‘in real life’ (Edutopia). As we know, unfortunately, social-networking isn’t always rainbows and butterflies (especially for children) due to the online-dangers of talking to strangers and cyber bullying etc.  So social network sites made especially for schools such as http://socialmediaforschools.org.uk/ and http://www.twiducate.com/ should be incorporated into more schools. This way the children are still getting the benefits of learning with social network but it is also safe too as only the school community have access to their profiles.

To conclude, people always seem to be complaining about the amount of time kids are spent stuck to their gadgets and updating their Facebook page, but I feel that the education system should take advantage of the modern technology that we are fortunate enough to have, and use it to teach kids. This can be done through the use of; allowing them to search on the internet instead of having to learn from the same book that their grandparents probably used at school, using podcasts alongside of class, creating apps for mobile phones and encouraging social-network (safely).

Thanks for reading. Sorry it’s such an essay – I got a bit carried away with my chatting!

🙂

Ps. I wrote most of this blog post whilst on the train, proof that modern technology is awesome – you can work anywhere without having to lug around books and worrying about running out of ink in a pen!

REFERENCES

http://www.edutopia.org/

Bolliger, D. U., Supanakorn, S., & Boggs, C. (2010). Impact of podcasting on student motivation in the online learning environment. Computers & Education,55(2), 714-722.

Fernandez, V., Simo, P., & Sallan, J. M. (2009). Podcasting: A new technological tool to facilitate good practice in higher education. Computers & Education53(2), 385-392.

Steinfield, C., Ellison, N. B., & Lampe, C. (2008). Social capital, self-esteem, and use of online social network sites: A longitudinal analysis. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology29(6), 434-445.