Posts Tagged ‘ learning ’

Are Genes to Blame for Your Kid’s Lack of Motivation in School?

Wednesday, April 8th, 2015

Discouraged boy

If your child is unmotivated to learn despite having an enthusiastic teacher or nurturing parents who encourage school success, there may be another factor to consider.

New research from Ohio State University suggests that a child’s willingness to learn can be inherited through genetics. The study collected data from more than 13,000 sets of fraternal and identical twins, ages 9 to 16, across six countries (United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Germany, Russia, and Japan).

The twins were asked how much they enjoyed various academic activities (like reading, writing, and spelling), and how they rated their ability in different academic subjects. The collected information was then analyzed to see how closely each twin’s answers matched, and to compare the answers of fraternal twins with identical twins (who shared more common genes).

“On average, 40 to 50 percent of the difference between twins in motivation could be explained by genetics,” reports Science Daily. “About the same percentage could be explained by what is called the twins’ nonshared environment – for example, differential parenting or a teacher that one twin has but not the other.”

The most unexpected finding was that only about 3 percent of the differences could be linked to the siblings’ shared environment, or common family experiences.

However, this research doesn’t mean that it’s time to screen for a “motivation for learning” gene, or that you should be less conscious of your child’s education. Another recent study even believes that kids raised in nurturing home environments are likely to be more intelligent. “We should absolutely encourage students and motivate them in the classroom. But these findings suggest the mechanisms for how we do that may be more complicated than we had previously thought,” says Stephen Petrill, co-author of the Ohio State University study.

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Caitlin St John is an Editorial Assistant for Parents.com who splits her time between New York City and her hometown on Long Island. She’s a self-proclaimed foodie who loves dancing and anything to do with her baby nephew. Follow her on Twitter: @CAITYstjohn

Helping Your Child Succeed At School
Helping Your Child Succeed At School
Helping Your Child Succeed At School

Image: Discouraged boy via Shutterstock

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Can You Make Your Kid Smarter? A New Study Says…

Friday, October 31st, 2014

Study Says Genetics Main influencer in Child IQIt’s in the genes, according to a new study published in the journal Intelligence.

Professors from several universities including Florida State University and the University of Nebraska sought out to answer a common nature-versus-nurture question: “Can parents make their kids smarter?”

They found that when it comes to a child’s intelligence in adulthood, genetics—not parental socialization—is key.

Florida State 24/7 reports:

…examined a nationally representative sample of youth alongside a sample of adopted children from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health) and found evidence to support the argument that IQ is not the result of parental socialization.

The study analyzed parenting behaviors and whether they had an effect on verbal intelligence as measured by the Picture Vocabulary Test (PVT). The IQ tests were administered to middle and high school students, and again when they were between the ages of 18 and 26.

“Previous research that has detected parenting-related behaviors affect intelligence is perhaps incorrect because it hasn’t taken into account genetic transmission,” study author Kevin Beaver told Florida State 24/7. “In previous research, it looks as though parenting is having an effect on child intelligence, but in reality the parents who are more intelligent are doing these things and it is masking the genetic transformation of intelligence to their children.”

But don’t stop the bedtime stories and dinner-table discussions just yet. While this study says IQ may not be affected by these activities, there’s certainly another benefit to them: invaluable parent-child bonding.

For more information on reading with your child, check out our age-by-age guide to reading to babies and 7 ways to encourage a love of reading here.  

What Parents Don't Need to Do (When it comes to school)
What Parents Don't Need to Do (When it comes to school)
What Parents Don't Need to Do (When it comes to school)

Photo of mom reading with kids courtesy of Shutterstock.

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Preschoolers Top College Students in Figuring Out Some Gadgets

Tuesday, July 1st, 2014

Young children–just 4 or 5 years old–may be better at college students at catching on when it comes to operating mobile apps, remote controls, and other tech gadgets that often leave adults scratching their heads and fumbling through manuals.  According to new research from the University of California at Berkeley, it’s the tots’ openness to thinking about new challenges in multiple ways that enables them to problem-solve their way to success with gadgets and games.

In the study, more than 100 preschoolers and more than 170 college students were given a music box game and shown how the placement of differently-shaped clay pieces on top of the box might make it turn on.  The subjects were then asked to turn the box on.  NPR reports on the findings:

“What we discovered, to our surprise, was not only were 4-year-olds amazingly good at doing this, but they were actually better at it than grown-ups were,” [psychologist Alison] Gopnik says.

So why are little kids who can’t even tie their shoes better at figuring out the gadget than adults? After all, conventional wisdom contends that young children really don’t understand abstract things like cause and effect until pretty late in their development.

Gopnik thinks it’s because children approach solving the problem differently than adults.

Children try a variety of novel ideas and unusual strategies to get the gadget to go. For example, Gopnik says, “If the child sees that a square block and a round block independently turn the music on, then they’ll take a square and take a circle and put them both on the machine together to make it go, even though they never actually saw the experimenters do that.”

This is flexible, fluid thinking — children exploring an unlikely hypothesis. Exploratory learning comes naturally to young children, says Gopnik. Adults, on the other hand, jump on the first, most obvious solution and doggedly stick to it, even if it’s not working. That’s inflexible, narrow thinking. “We think the moral of the study is that maybe children are better at solving problems when the solution is an unexpected one,” says Gopnik.

Gopnik went on to say that this openness may disappear early in childhood–even by kindergarten, it may be diminishing.

What to Consider Before Handing Your Child a Smartphone
What to Consider Before Handing Your Child a Smartphone
What to Consider Before Handing Your Child a Smartphone

Image: Confused college student, via Shutterstock

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Swedish Town Considers Homework Ban, Longer School Day

Friday, June 20th, 2014

The Swedish town of Hallstahammars is reportedly considering a school-sanctioned ban on homework, in an attempt to encourage students to learn efficiently, which means minimizing the stress that can come with an unmanageable homework load.  More from ABC News:

Leena Millberg, the head of schools in Hallstahammars, said officials for the municipal government are still investigating if the proposal to ban homework makes sense. However, the students of Hallstahammars shouldn’t jump for joy just yet. Millberg said if the proposal does go through it’s likely that the school day would be lengthened.

“When children learn to read, for example … we often give them homework to train,” Millberg told ABC News. “If we want to do that in the school day, we may need to make the school day a bit longer.”

The debate is not unique to the town hall of Hallstahammars, according to education experts.

Arguments for and against homework have raged on and off for decades according to Harris Cooper, professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University, who has researched how homework impacts families.

“It comes in waves,” said Cooper. “Generally it comes into public consciousness, giving kids too much or too little, depending on broader societal [news].”

Cooper said when a country’s reading or math comprehension is ranked lower than expected it can lead officials to want to ramp up homework. However, when studies show children are overworked or stressed, Cooper said officials will look at pulling back on assignments. In 2012, French President Francoise Hollande proposed banning homework in the country, though that proposal did not go through.

Cooper said he did not know of a country or region that has fully banned homework from schools. “Homework has been with us for a century,” said Cooper.

Image: Girl doing homework, via Shutterstock

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Teacher Quits Due to Frustration with Standardized Testing

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

Standardized TestingOne teacher in Massachusetts has taken a bold stand against standardized tests. Susan Sluyter was a teacher for more than 25 years before she quit last month due to the school system’s growing emphasis on standardized testing. Sluyter stated in her resignation letter that teaching for the tests was taking away from developing a healthy learning environment for her students. More from the Today show:

A teacher in Massachusetts who has spent more than a quarter century in the classroom is drawing attention after she quit her job over her growing frustration with the school system’s emphasis on standardized testing.

Because of “so many things that pulled me away from the classroom and fractured my time with the children,” kindergarten teacher Susan Sluyter quit last month.

“It takes the joy out of learning for the children,” she told TODAY. “It takes the joy out of teaching.”

In her resignation letter to Cambridge Public Schools, where she has taught for nearly 20 years, Sluyter said she was leaving “with deep love and a broken heart” but felt her job required her to focus too much on teaching to standardized tests rather than to the needs of her students.

“In this disturbing era of testing and data collection in the public schools, I have seen my career transformed into a job that no longer fits my understanding of how children learn and what a teacher ought to do in the classroom to build a healthy, safe, developmentally appropriate environment for learning for each of our children,” she wrote in the letter, which was published by the Washington Post.

The “No Child Left Behind” set of education reforms signed into law in 2002 by President George W. Bush brought sweeping changes for schools and teachers, holding them accountable in new ways for the academic performance of students. But complaints quickly followed that too much focus was being placed on test preparation, rather than actual learning.

Sluyter said she has seen that emphasis has resulted in the suffering of students, whose confusion in the classroom often gets mistaken for disruptive conduct.

“I recognize many of these behaviors as children shouting out to the adults in their world, ‘I can’t do this! Look at me! Know me! Help me! See me!” she said in her letter.

Sluyter told TODAY her decision to quit was not an easy one to make.

“When I think about all of the children that I know in the school that I have been in for years who I never get to see anymore,” she said tearfully. “And they don’t even all know why I left.”

Jeffrey Young, the schools superintendent in Cambridge, Mass., said educators are working to finding a solution to the problems Sluyter addressed.

“I suspect that in time we will find the right way to achieve that balance between strong academic instruction and high-quality learning,” he said.

Michelle Rhee, president and CEO of StudentsFirst.org, agreed the nation places “an overemphasis on testing” but said that doesn’t discount its usefulness in the education system.

“We can use standardized testing to measure whether or not kids are actually learning what they need to learn,” she said.

She pointed to a recent international survey that ranked the United States 26th in student math scores out of 34 developed countries.

“The bottom line is that the kids who are in school today in America are going to be competing for jobs against the kids in India and China, not against the kids in the state next door, so we really do have to make sure that our kids can compete in the global marketplace,” she said.

TODAY viewers expressed sympathy for Sluyter’s stance. They overwhelmingly voted against the idea in a Facebook survey that asked whether standardized tests were the best way for kids to learn. Only 43 agreed it was, while more than 6,000 voted against it.

“As a parent, I have to say no. Schools are simply “teaching to the test” as so much rides on students scores. There is so much creative, “outside the box” learning that is sacrificed in the process,” said Michelle Swart Neely.

Kerry Murphy tried to compare it testing adults at work: “Can you imagine if we scored employees on how well they performed on their job throughout the year on a test taken in 2 days? Adults would be having nervous breakdowns left and right. But for some reason it’s totally ok to do it to kids?”

Could your child be a teacher when she grows up? Take our quiz to see what career she’s destined for!

What Kids Like (And Don't Like) About School
What Kids Like (And Don't Like) About School
What Kids Like (And Don't Like) About School

Image: Yellow pencil on multiple choice test computerized answer sheet via Shutterstock.

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