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What Learning Looks Like: Researcher Teaches Fake Words To Watch Learning Happen | KPBS

Abel has crafted more than 700 of these sentence sets so she can chart the progression in brain activity as children hear them. In this way, she can actually see learning happening. It starts with a big dip on the line graph during the first sentence, "The boys fought over the shap." That dip means Duncan is confused — his neurons aren't sure what he’s just encountered. The second and third sentences add context. "They played catch with the shap. I like to throw the shap." The dip gets shallower and shallower until it becomes a peak on the line graph. "So the third time they hear the nonsense word, it looks like their brain is processing it like it's a real word," Abel said. "The brain is responding to it the exact same way that the brain responds to a known word."

Midnight munchies mangle memory: Eating at the wrong time impairs learning, memory -- ScienceDaily

Some genes involved in both the circadian clock and in learning and memory are regulated by a protein called CREB (cAMP response element-binding protein). When CREB is less active, it decreases memory, and may play a role in the onset of Alzheimer's disease. In the mice fed at the wrong time, the total activity of CREB throughout the hippocampus was significantly reduced, with the strongest effects in the day. However, the master pacemaker of the circadian system, the suprachiasmatic nucleus located in the hypothalamus, is unaffected. This leads to desynchrony between the clocks in the different brain regions (misalignment), which the authors suggest underlies the memory impairment. "Modern schedules can lead us to eat around the clock so it is important to understand how the timing of food can impact cogitation" says Professor Christopher Colwell from the Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences at UCLA. "For the first time, we have shown that simply adjusting the time when food is made available alters the molecular clock in the hippocampus and can alter the cognitive performance of mice." Eating at the wrong time also disrupted sleep patterns. The inappropriate feeding schedule resulted in the loss of the normal day/night difference in the amount of sleep although the total time spent asleep over 24 hours was not changed. Sleep became fragmented, with the mice catching up on sleep by grabbing more short naps throughout the day and night.

Social tool box improves autistic social responsiveness

In the study, 22 people aged 18 to 24 and their caregivers were randomly assigned either to receive the PEERS treatment or to be part of a control group in which treatment was delayed. Those in the PEERS group received training on social etiquette related to conversational skills, humor, electronic communication, identifying sources of friends, entering and exiting conversations, organizing successful get-togethers, and handling peer conflict and peer rejection. The young adults in the PEERS group also received four sessions on dating etiquette. The PEERS approach teaches skills using concrete rules and steps of social behavior via lessons, role-play demonstrations, behavioral rehearsal exercises and assignments to practice the skills in natural social settings. Caregivers (including parents and other family members, job and life coaches, and peer mentors) are also provided tips to help participants use their skills in the real world. Among members of the PEERS group, social skills, frequency of social engagement and social skills knowledge improved significantly, and autism symptoms related to social responsiveness diminished. In addition, 16 weeks after the treatment ended, most of the gains were still evident, and the researchers observed new improvements in social communication, assertion, responsibility and empathy -- a result the scientists attributed to the involvement of caregivers as social coaches.

Interleaving

Rohrer has conducted a number of studies of interleaving in the laboratory

cramming is 1/3 as effective

in a study of fifth-graders published in Applied Cognitive Psychology in 2011, lead author Hailey Sobel of McGill University reported that students who learned definitions of vocabulary words on a spaced-out schedule remembered three times as many definitions as students who spent the same amount of time learning the material in a single session.

Good tips for a reporter... or an entreprenuer, from WaPo's Dan Zak

Always put your name and contact information on the cover of your notebooks. Stay a little longer. Even just a minute. If you can go, go. Always go. Life doesn't usually conform to narrative, or, at least, a single narrative. Rigorous reporting can reveal arcs and themes and twists and denouements and literary-like symbolism, but in the end life is mostly open-ended, unsatisfying and incomplete. Honor that incompleteness. Respect it. "It's the reporting, stupid." (Someone said this, I don't know who, but Ann Gerhart had it on a Post-It note on her computer at one point.) Don't lose your way. Start to cheat a little, and soon you'll be cheating a lot. Every story, no matter how small, is somehow about the meaning of life (this is the Weingarten Corollary). Say "I don't understand this; help me understand this" early and often. Close interviews with "Who else should I talk to?" and/or "What else should I know?" and/or "Is there a question you wish I'd asked that you've been waiting to answer?" Answer every reader e-mail; return their calls, especially.

Moderate drinking decreases number of new brain cells

The researchers discovered that at this level of intoxication in rats -- comparable to about 3-4 drinks for women and five drinks for men -- the number of nerve cells in the hippocampus of the brain were reduced by nearly 40 percent compared to those in the abstinent group of rodents. The hippocampus is a part of the brain where the new neurons are made and is also known to be necessary for some types of new learning. This level of alcohol intake was not enough to impair the motor skills of either male or female rats or prevent them from associative learning in the short-term. Still, Anderson said, th is substantial decrease in brain cell numbers over time could have profound effects on the structural plasticity of the adult brain because these new cells communicate with other neurons to regulate brain health. "If this area of your brain was affected every day over many months and years, eventually you might not be able to learn how to get somewhere new or to learn something new about your life," said Anderson, a graduate fellow in the Department of Neuroscience and Cell Biology. "It's something that you might not even be aware is occurring."

Improving Students’ Learning With Effective Learning Techniques

Practice testing and distributed practice received high utility assessments because they benefit learners of different ages and abilities and have been shown to boost students’ performance across many criterion tasks and even in educational contexts. Elaborative interrogation, self-explanation, and interleaved practice received moderate utility assessments. […] Five techniques received a low utility assessment: summarization, highlighting, the keyword mnemonic, imagery use for text learning, and rereading. These techniques were rated as low utility for numerous reasons.
The meta-analysis, published online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, concluded that teaching approaches that turned students into active participants rather than passive listeners reduced failure rates and boosted scores on exams by almost one-half a standard deviation. “The change in the failure rates is whopping,” Freeman says. And the exam improvement—about 6%—could, for example, “bump [a student’s] grades from a B– to a B.” “This is a really important article—the impression I get is that it’s almost unethical to be lecturing if you have this data,” says Eric Mazur, a physicist at Harvard University who has campaigned against stale lecturing techniques for 27 years and was not involved in the work.
In the first study, 65 college students watched one of five TED Talks covering topics that were interesting but not common knowledge. The students, who watched the talks in small groups, were either given laptops (disconnected from Internet) or notebooks, and were told to use whatever strategy they normally used to take notes. The students then completed three distractor tasks, including a taxing working memory task. A full 30 minutes later, they had to answer factual-recall questions (e.g., "Approximately how many years ago did the Indus civilization exist?") and conceptual-application questions (e.g., "How do Japan and Sweden differ in their approaches to equality within their societies?") based on the lecture they had watched. The results revealed that while the two types of note-takers performed equally well on questions that involved recalling facts, laptop note-takers performed significantly worse on the conceptual questions. The notes from laptop users contained more words and more verbatim overlap with the lecture, compared to the notes that were written by hand. Overall, students who took more notes performed better, but so did those who had less verbatim overlap, suggesting that the benefit of having more content is canceled out by "mindless transcription." "It may be that longhand note takers engage in more processing than laptop note takers, thus selecting more important information to include in their notes, which enables them to study this content more efficiently," the researchers write. Surprisingly, the researchers saw similar results even when they explicitly instructed the students to avoid taking verbatim notes, suggesting that the urge to do so when typing is hard to overcome. The researchers also found that longhand note takers still beat laptop note takers on recall one week later when participants were given a chance to review their notes before taking the recall test. Once again, the amount of verbatim overlap was associated with worse performance on conceptual items.
The researchers randomly assigned 90 children to conditions in which they learned using different kinds of physical interaction with the material. In one group, children picked up magnetic number tiles and put them in the proper place in the formula. For example, for the problem 4 + 2 + 6 = ___ + 6, they picked up the 4 and 2 and placed them on a magnetic whiteboard. Another group mimed that action without actually touching the tiles, and a third group was taught to use abstract gestures with their hands to solve the equations. In the abstract gesture group, children were taught to produce a V-point gesture with their fingers under two of the numbers, metaphorically grouping them, followed by pointing a finger at the blank in the equation. The children were tested before and after solving each problem in the lesson, including problems that required children to generalize beyond what they had learned in grouping the numbers. For example, they were given problems that were similar to the original one, but had different numbers on both sides of the equation. Children in all three groups learned the problems they had been taught during the lesson. But only children who gestured during the lesson were successful on the generalization problems. “Abstract gesture was most effective in encouraging learners to generalize the knowledge they had gained during instruction, action least effective, and concrete gesture somewhere in between,”
Research shows that people who follow strategy B [read ten pages at once, then close the book and write a one page summary] remember 50 percent more material over the long term than people who follow strategy A [read ten pages four times in a row and try to memorize them]. This is because of one of deep practice’s most fundamental rules: Learning is reaching. Passively reading a book—a relatively effortless process, letting the words wash over you like a warm bath—doesn’t put you in the sweet spot. Less reaching equals less learning.