Thursday, June 14, 2012

Interesting News Bits


Being the typical geek that I am, I love NPR. I don't have a chance to listen to it as much as I used to since I have a three-year-old in the car most of the time and he really picks up on everything he listens to. I usually get to catch a few stories in the morning, however, and I recently heard two really interesting pieces I thought were worth sharing. These are not directly related to child development, but I think you'll see their relevance to education and child-rearing in general.

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.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I spoke with Susan Cain about her wonderful book and suggested to her, as I am here, looking into Montessori education. In Montessori schools, the quiet lead, and although there is much collaboration in Montessori learning there is also freedom of choice--one can choose to work alone or in a group or one-to-one with another child. Everyone is offered respect--adults and children alike--and therefore everyone is heard. It is a noncompetitive environment, so children are not graded for participation in discussions. I am a Montessori parent and educator, and introvert with introverted children and I cannot say enough about how great it is. But look into it early--an infant/toddler program but at least by age 3, for a child to get the most benefit out of a Montessori education.