California Educator

February/March 2020

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E V E R Y Y E A R B R I N G S new insights — and cautionary tales — about what works in education. Here are the results of recent research into som e serious teacher topics. To remember something, draw it (maybe don't doodle) A 2019 study published in the Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology found that students remember less of w hat they're learning if they're doodling at the same time. But the study also addresses a big misconception: Doodling is not the same as drawing. Earlier research con- cluded that drawing easily beats reading, writing or listening when it comes to learning and retention. So what's the difference? Free-form do o d lin g i s oft en a di stra ction from what's being learned. At least six decades of studies show that divided attention i m p a i r s l e a r n i n g . B u t d raw i n g t h a t reinforces what's being studied — for example, sketching out and labeling the solar system — taps into visual, kines- thetic and linguistic areas of the brain at the same time, encoding the information more deeply. Awards don't boost attendance — teachers do I t 's c o m m o n t o s e e a w a r d s b e i n g handed out to reward students for good attendance, but a study last year found that th ese award s can backfire sp ec- tacularly, giving students a " license to miss more school" and actually driving up absentee rates. e study found that highly engaging teachers can decrease absences by 49 percent, making it clear that a teacher's impact extends well beyond test scores an d g ra d e s. Al s o, stu d ent s are m ore likely to attend school when their teach- ers notice absences and make ef forts to reach out to them and their families, according to a 2017 report from Atten- dance Works. Math circuitry looks the same in boys and girls Advanced imaging technology like fMRI continu es to push at th e frontiers of our understanding of the human brain. After analyzing the brain circuitry of 104 children ages 3-10 while they watched math problems being solved, neurosci- entists discovered that neural activity in areas of the parietal lobe associated with numerical cognition was nearly identical across genders. e findings tend to confirm that gen- der differences in math performance are socially constructed, an argument that's bolstered by past research showing that the gender gap in math is not as pro- nounced in other cultures — and in some countries, like Finland and Korea, it often reverses to favor girls. "Summer slide" study fails to replicate W hile the idea of a "summer slide" is widely accepted and inf luential, much of what we know about it is based on a 1980s study that concluded that kids who spent their summers playing fell further and further behind those who studied. But a recent attempt to replicate the study by a team at the University of Texas at Austin failed, and an in-depth analysis revealed that the original testing methods distorted the gap between student scores. W h e n a p p l y i n g m o d e r n s c o r i n g methods to the old data , researchers discovered that the hypothetical, ever-ex- panding gap actually shrank as students got older. Students can still benefit from enriching summer activities, of course, Does doodling boost learning? Do attendance awards work? Do boys and girls process math the same way? Findings from 2019 education studies By Youki Terada The Research Is In 52 Teaching & Learning

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