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COVID-19 and Pupils’ Learning  

Katharina Werner and Ludger Woessmann

The COVID-19 pandemic impacted the life of school children in major ways. In many countries, schools were closed for several months, with various modes of distance learning in place. This challenged pupils’ learning experiences. In addition, social-distancing rules impeded their peer interactions, potentially impeding their socio-emotional development. We summarize the available evidence on how the pandemic affected the educational inputs provided by children, parents, and schools, how it impacted children’s cognitive and socio-emotional skills, and whether the experiences will leave a persistent legacy for the children’s long-run development. The evidence suggests that in most countries, a majority of children experienced substantial losses in the development of cognitive skills. The learning losses tend to be highly unequal, with children from low-socioeconomic-status families and children with low initial achievement suffering the largest losses. The COVID-19 pandemic also interfered with the socio-emotional well-being of many children, although serious longer-term repercussions to their socio-emotional development may be restricted to a limited subgroup of children. Because child development is a dynamic and synergistic process, in the absence of successful remediation the initial skill losses are likely to reduce subsequent skill development, lifetime income, and economic growth and increase educational and economic inequality in the long run.

Article

Reading Comprehension, Language, and Theory of Mind Skills in Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Children  

Kaye Scott and Louise Paatsch

Learning to read is a complex process that is a fundamental skill essential for life in the 21st century. Historically, the reading comprehension skills of many deaf and hard-of-hearing (DHH) children have lagged significantly behind typically hearing children of the same age. In recent years, advances in hearing assistive devices, the introduction of newborn hearing screening, and earlier fitting of appropriate devices leading to earlier intervention have impacted positively on the language and reading comprehension skills of DHH children. Many DHH children, however, still do not develop reading comprehension skills commensurate with their peers. While much is known about how children learn to read, research continues to advance the understanding of these complex and nuanced skills. Recent research supports the inference that Theory of Mind (ToM) skills contribute to reading comprehension development in DHH children. This research emphasizes the interplay between ToM skills and the ability to understand emotional state terms and mental state words, as well as answer “why” questions. Interventions designed to develop ToM skills have been useful in supporting the development of DHH children’s ToM and reading comprehension skills, and this has implications for teachers. Some simple to implement strategies that may contribute to the development of ToM skills in DHH children include the use of “why” questions and the integration of emotional state terms and mental state words into the student’s program. The paucity of research regarding the interplay between ToM and reading comprehension, however, highlights the warrant for further research in this area.

Article

Leadership That Bridges Arts and Social-Emotional Learning  

Marco A. Nava, Imelda L. Nava, and Jan Kirsch

Over the last 40 years, due to the combination of cuts to school and district budgets and an overemphasis on standardized testing, arts instruction has been severely cut back in public schools. Minority and low-income students are the ones most negatively impacted, as the schools they attend generally have lower standardized test scores. A study, Arts and Social-Emotional Learning (ASEL), provided training for 44 elementary school administrators serving high-needs students. Through a theoretical framework of social-emotional and brain-based learning, participating administrators received 40 hours of professional development that supported them in creating safe classroom learning environments to foster creativity, innovation, and collaboration. The research may provide insights to assist school and district leaders to provide all students with equitable access to the arts and social-emotional learning.

Article

Trauma-Informed Practice in Early Childhood Education  

Elspeth Stephenson

Early traumatic experiences can have a profound impact on the developing brain causing a catastrophic effect on a child’s growth and development, the result of which can be lifelong. Early childhood educators have a critical role to play in the lives of children who have trauma histories. These educators are well positioned to undertake this work because early childhood philosophy and pedagogy align with the needs of a child who has experienced early adversity. Beliefs about the role of relationships, attachment, and felt safety are central to this work. To be effective, however, educators need to be trauma informed in their practice. Understanding how adverse experiences cause adaptation to the developing brain and impede development is a good starting place to becoming trauma informed, but translating this understanding into practice is key to success. While there are strategies that can support educators to work effectively with children with trauma histories, strategies alone will not suffice. They cannot simply be applied to any situation. If educators apply strategies without due thought and consideration in relation to the child’s needs and context, at best they may be ineffective and at worst, there is potential to retraumatize the child. All educators and children are unique individuals and therefore bring different attributes to each situation. Educators who understand themselves and their attributes can use this knowledge, along with their understanding of context and the impact of trauma, to make informed decisions about their practice. While this reflective process can sound arduous, educators can quickly become skilled as they hone their craft and see changes to their practice bring successful outcomes for children. In this way, early childhood educators have the capacity to change developmental trajectories for children and make a difference that will be lifelong.

Article

Environmental Education for Climate Justice: An Indian Perspective  

Deborah Dutta

Climate change as a global crisis looms large in the public imagination, along with a widespread acknowledgement of a need to develop educational interventions and strategies that can help people engage with the climate emergency. However, conventional environmental education (EE) for a large part has remained focused on climate literacy and techno-scientific determinism, thus lacking the conceptual tools to engage with the sociopolitical, cognitive, and normative aspects of climate crises. Given the abstract, temporally stretched, and geographically diffused and distributed nature of the issue, the challenge for educators goes beyond an epistemic framing to encompass value-laden ideas of social justice, ecological sustainability, and collective well-being. Pedagogical efforts need to radically expand their reach to include context-specific, historical trajectories and development narratives that have shaped the current debates in climate mitigation and adaptation. The environmental discourse around climate change has been problematic in the Global South given that those discussions tend to eclipse the more pressing, local issues of pollution, soil degradation, water scarcity, or waste management. However, a growing understanding of the complex linkage between climate and other environmental issues has prompted newer forms of discourse and engagement. India faces daunting challenges as a large agrarian economy poised to bear the brunt of climate related events, alongside the material aspirations of a growing middle class. Nevertheless, numerous grassroots experiments are offering pathways for an alternate view of development and well-being through examples of resilience and adaptation. A historical and spatially grounded discussion of the climate change debates along with an exploration of promising initiatives can guide the design of EE for climate justice.

Article

Epistemology and Learning in STEM Education  

Andrew Elby

STEM students’ personal epistemologies—their views about what counts as knowledge and knowing in mathematics, science, and engineering—influence how they approach learning and problem-solving. For example, if algebra students conceptualize “knowing algebra” as knowing how to manipulate symbols and numbers to solve particular kinds of problems, they are likely to approach learning as mastering procedures, not as making sense of why those procedures work. By contrast, consider a student who conceptualizes “knowing physics” as having a qualitative understanding that makes sense to her. When studying, she might practice and reflect on the relevant problem-solving approaches, not just to master procedures but also to understand how those problem-solving approaches make sense in terms of underlying concepts. Although mathematics, engineering, and science differ, certain dimensions or aspects of students’ epistemologies are common across the STEM disciplines. These dimensions include to what extent students: (a) view knowledge as factual and procedural versus conceptual and heuristic, (b) view learning as acquiring separate pieces of knowledge versus linking those pieces into a coherent whole, and (c) think they can make sense of what they are learning by relating it to their own informal knowledge, experiences, and ways of thinking. Crucially, the epistemological views a student exhibits in a course are not necessarily a hardened personality trait or belief. A student might exhibit different epistemological views in different contexts, based in part on how the class is taught. Indeed, common STEM classroom cultures and structures can inadvertently invite students to adopt epistemological views that support superficial learning. Furthermore, broader cultural narratives, most notably the trope that mathematics and mathematical sciences can be understood only by people with innate talent, influence students’ epistemological views, again favoring those associated with superficial learning. Additional epistemological issues arise in integrated STEM units and lessons. In such lessons, mathematics, science, and engineering are “de-siloed,” often in the context of understanding and/or addressing a local or societal problem. However, unless STEM lessons are carefully crafted, students can experience the “problem” as little more than a motivational hook to engage them in mathematics and science business as usual. In that case, students might adopt the same epistemological views as they do in a siloed mathematics or science course. By contrast, when students frame the STEM lesson as an authentic engineering design challenge or attempt to understand an issue in which they learn and/or apply mathematics and science as needed to understand and/or address the challenge, students are more likely to view their learning as sense-making, drawing on multiple streams of both formal and informal knowledge.

Article

Researching Conditions of Learning—Phenomenography and Variation Theory  

Angelika Kullberg and Åke Ingerman

The research tradition of phenomenography and variation theory has contributed to insights on teaching and learning at all levels, from preschool to higher education. Phenomenographic studies contribute knowledge about how learners experience the same phenomenon in qualitatively different ways and thereby shed light on what learners need to discern to experience a phenomenon in more powerful ways. Variation theory, which was developed in relation to the collective empirical outcome and interpretation of decades of phenomenographic studies, is a learning theory that points to variation and invariance as primary mechanisms for learning. The theory may be used to plan teaching and to analyze teaching and learning and can therefore be used to address the relationship between teaching and learning. Learning study combines lesson study as a form for development of teaching in relation to learning with the theoretical input from variation theory, and an action research approach, using teacher experience and insights to systematically enhance teaching practice for learning (of the identified learning object). Recent developments in the field to a larger degree combine elements from phenomenographic and variation theory modes of inquiry and address the whole of teaching–learning as it unfolds in classrooms, as well as teaching and learning across larger knowledge areas and/or the stability of findings across larger sets of classrooms with teachers and students.

Article

Vocational Education  

Stephen Billett

This chapter aims to discuss what constitutes the project of vocational education through the elaboration of its key purposes. Although taking many and diverse institutional forms, and being perhaps the least unitary of educational sectors, vocational education stands as a distinct and long-standing educational provision premised on its own specific set of purposes. It has long been central to generating the occupational capacities that societies, communities, and workplaces need, contributing to individuals’ initial and ongoing occupational advancement and their sense of selves as working age adults. It also has the potential to be, and often is, the most inclusive of educational sectors by virtue of engaging the widest range of learners within its programs and institutions. Yet, because its manifestations are shaped by country-specific institutional arrangements and historical developments, it defies attempts to easily and crisply define or capture the singularity of its purposes, forms, and contributions. In some countries it is a distinct educational sector, quite separate from both schools and universities. This can include having industry-experienced teachers. In others, it is mainly enacted in high schools in the form of a broadly based technology education, mainly intended for students not progressing educationally beyond schooling, which promotes and reinforces its low standing. In others again, it comprises in postsecondary institutions that combine general and occupational education. These distinctions, such as being either more or less general or occupational educational provision, also change across time as policy imperatives arise and decline. Much of vocational education provisions are associated with initial occupational preparation, but some are also seen more generally as preparation for engaging in working life, and then others have focuses on continuing education and training and employability across working lives. Sometimes it is enacted wholly within educational institutions, but others can include, and even largely comprise, experiences in workplaces. So, whereas the institutions and provisions of primary, secondary, and university education have relatively common characteristics and profiles, this is far less the case with what is labeled vocational education. Indeed, because of the diversity of its forms and purposes, it is often the least distinguishable of the educational sectors within and across countries. In seeking to advance what constitutes vocational education, the approach adopted here is to focus on its four key educational purposes. These comprise of (a) preparation for the world of work, (b) identifying a preferred occupation, (c) occupational preparation, and (d) ongoing development across working life.

Article

Changing Perspectives on Adolescence(s)  

Jennifer A. Vadeboncoeur, Paulo Padilla-Petry, Natalia Panina-Beard, and Surita Jhangiani

While descriptions of transitions between childhood and adulthood have existed for millennia, “adolescence” was first defined as a universal developmental stage characterized by instability, conflict, and risk-taking in the early 20th century in American psychology. Research has challenged this view of adolescence—as a biologically determined, universal stage marked by turbulence—and has exposed the assumptions underlying its characterization. Much of this scholarship highlights limitations in the theoretical and methodological assumptions that form the foundation for how research was and is conducted, as well as the claims made from research. The lack of acknowledgment of the ways in which history, society, and culture influence definitions of adolescence and the persistence of historical biases against young people may mask the needs and interests of particular groups of young people and individuals. Reviewing current research in the developmental sciences, with insights from various disciplines, highlights a growing awareness of the significance of interdisciplinarity and the limitations of the current body of scholarship. There is a significant need for theoretical and methodological perspectives that make visible the complexity of learning and developing into and through historical, social, and cultural environments, and the ways in which conditions specific to these environments impact children and youths. Even more urgent, however, is the need for approaches that attend to the ways in which dominant perspectives regarding culture, “race” and ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and gender and sexuality are systematically woven into environments, creating different learning and developmental opportunities for youths. Conceptualizing adolescences and inquiring into variations in the lived experiences of young people requires conceptual and methodological innovation, attention to the ways in which the conduct of research affects the outcomes of research, critical reflexivity on the part of researchers, and balancing research foci to include conducting research with young people as a method for understanding the experiences of groups of young people and individual youths in studies of participation and meaning-making. Cultural-historical approaches, emerging for almost a century, offer both theoretical and methodological advances for making visible how children and young people grow into and through their historical, social, and cultural environments. As individuals and their environments are inseparable, these approaches describe and explain how young people both shape and are shaped by the ecologies within which they are entangled. Further, these approaches acknowledge—and inquire into—the ways in which dominant perspectives regarding culture, “race” and ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and gender and sexuality frame ecologies and are accommodated, resisted, and/or transformed by youths.

Article

Critical Educational Psychology  

Tim Corcoran

Critical educational psychology has developed in response to traditional psychological applications taking place in education. Common amongst this area of work are concerns with reductionist and pathological ways of understanding those involved in teaching and learning. Further alignments occur with the promotion of social justice, empowerment, and recognition of difference, particularly in relation to ableism, racism, and other forms of prejudice. Critical educational psychologists rely upon varieties of psychological theory to support their work including social constructionism, sociocultural theories, and psychoanalytics. The intimate connection between theory and practice is regularly made explicit in critical educational psychology. Depending on geographic location, more regularly outside of North America, the referents educational and school psychology can be interchanged. Areas of applied work in educational settings include assessment, counseling, and working collaboratively with professionals such as teachers and speech pathologists. Critical educational psychologists examine the givenness of hegemonic psychological research and how this informs ways of knowing/being. Scientific methods are commonly targeted in this regard. Whether scientific accounts of people and the world should be dispelled outright provides grounds for ongoing debate. Even so, many critical educational psychologists are committed to working inclusively within and across different cultures and epistemologies. To this end, critical educational psychology is informed by explanations that are often marginalized from psychological discussion, such as critical race theory, contributions recognizing the global south, indigenous knowledges, as well as critical disability studies, posthuman theory, and new materialism. A central interest for critical educational psychology is championing difference differently. This is achieved through acknowledging the relationality of all things—human, nonhuman, material, and discursive—to affirm what is yet to be.