The first is about the relationship between school start times (and subsequent sleep loss) and academic performance among teenagers. We all know that teenagers do not tend to be early risers. It turns out that there are physiological reasons for this. The hormonal changes of adolescence means that level of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin lowers and teenagers have a difficult time going to sleep at a "normal" bed time. This is compounded by the fact that many middle and high schools begin as early as 7:30 am. Put these factors together and you have a recipe for less-than-optimal academic performance among teens. In fact, some studies have shown that delaying start times by only one hour can increase test scores by 1-2 percentile scores. This gain is especially noticeable among students that are typically at the low end of the achievement spectrum. Of course, there are probably other factors at play, but it is impressive to think that something as simple as start times could have a substantial impact on academic achievement.
The next story holds particular relevance to me. It points out the struggle introverted students face in today's often group-oriented classrooms. I tend to be on the more introverted side and I remember the anxiety I experienced in classrooms where "class participation" was a big emphasis. Even in college, I remember my heart racing when the professor would announce that large group discussion was the focus of the day. This article points out that for introverted students like me, the recent shift toward group work presents difficulties. Quiet students often find it hard to contribute and the teacher may see them as unprepared or not as bright. While there are many benefits to classrooms set up in pods instead of rows, and students learning to work together, there also seems to be a need for solitary time as well. As with many educational approaches, it seems the need for balance is evident. Yes, I think introverted students need to learn to speak in front of groups (at times), but extroverted students also need to learn to work alone at times too. I think it's a great lesson for students to learn that individuals learn and function well in different ways and it's good to value these differences. Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking recently presented a great TED Talk on this topic.