Struggling student? Maybe he’s sleepy!

September 27, 2010

Researcher: Daniel Willingham, University of Virginia

Question: “If you could magically make parents do ONE thing this coming school year to support their child, what would it be?”

Answer: Sleep!

Why?: The consequences of sleep deprivation can be harsh: depression, anxiety, inattention, conduct problems, drug and alcohol abuse and impaired cognitive functioning. Sleep deprivation also affects emotional regulation; a mother can tell when her child is tired just by how easily she gets irritated.

Read more!


Research, Research, Research: AP, IB and STRESS!

July 29, 2010

Read the full article in the University of South Florida website



The researchers: Shannon Suldo and Elizabeth Shaunessy, College of Education at the University of South Florida.

The background: An extraordinary number of high school students take Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate exams; about 26.5 % of the class of 2009 in public high school took an AP exam. AP and IB exams cause stress.

The question: How do students deal with the stress induced by AP and IB courses and exams? What strategies do students use to deal with this stress?

The hypothesis:  Smaller scale studies have found that psychologically healthy IB students use coping strategies like:

  • Managing time
  • Managing tasks
  • Keeping perspective of problems



Students face a lot of pressure to take college-level courses in high school. Children are facing much more pressure, much earlier in life. On the other hand, students learn to deal with academic pressure early, as long as students are given appropriate skills to deal with it.

Study Tip: Dream!

May 20, 2010


Dreaming can help you memorize what you’ve learned.




The researchers, Dr. Robert Stickgold and Dr. Erin Wamsley of Harvard Medical School, asked participants to remember a 3D computer maze, which they would have to navigate later. After, some were asked to nap. Those who napped, AND remembered dreaming, also performed better at the maze navigation task.

According to the authors, dreaming may signal that the brain processes the same task on many levels.

What does this mean for students?

Students might consider studying right before bedtime, or napping after a study session.

Find the whole article here!

Research, Research, Research: Teaching Styles

April 23, 2010

For the next few weeks, we’ll be exploring research on education. This week, we’re taking a look at a cross-cultural investigation of the teaching styles.


The researchers: Cothran et al.

The questions: Do physical education teachers from different countries differ in:

  • Their use of teaching styles (self reported)
  • Their beliefs about teaching styles
  • Ability to use the styles (self-reported)

The instrument: Mosston’s Spectrum of Teaching Styles

Researchers used Mosston’s Spectrum of Teaching Styles as a tool to compare teaching styles. The instrument is a continuum of teacher styles from teacher-centered to student-centered. The spectrum includes 11 styles (A through F), which are either Reproduction (teacher centered) or Production (student centered).

Here are some examples:


A Command – The teacher breaks down the skills into parts and demonstrates the right way to perform the skill. Students try to move when and exactly how the teacher tells them. The teacher provides feedback and the students try to look like the teacher’s model.

Between Reproduction and Production

F Guided Discovery – The teacher asks students to discover a solution to a movement problem. The teacher asks students a series of specific questions and the student try out their answers until they discover the right answer that the teacher wanted them to discover.


K Self-teaching – The students decides everything about leaning something new. They even decide if they want to involve the teacher or not. The teacher accepts the student’s decision about learning.

The countries: U.S., Korea, Australia, Portugal, France, UK, and Canada

The numbers: 1,436 physical education teachers (212 from the US), from all levels. More than half had more than 11 years of experience.


Some important SIMILARITIES between the countries

  • Teachers around the world report using a wide variety of styles (remember, this is self-reported and teachers may not be able to provide an accurate description of their own teaching styles)
  • Reproduction styles were more commonly used and viewed more positively than production styles, regardless of country (note, this is for physical education).
  • May be easier to control large group of students with reproduction styles.

Some important DIFFERENCES between the countries.

  • Korea has the highest level of Command and Self Teaching styles (the extremes on both sides of the spectrum). The use of teacher-centered styles makes sense in collectivist societies where teachers might believe in presenting information in a standard way to all the students.
  • The American education system prides itself on being student-centered, while the English system is typically believed to be more teacher-centered. But take a look at the numbers! The larger numbers are bolded… It seems English teachers tends to use the student centered styles more than American teachers.
US England
Teacher centered













Student centered

Guided Discovery

Learner initiated

Self Teaching







  • Guess which country had the least experienced teachers? England, Korea and the U.S. had the least experienced teachers. However, remember, these are self-reported. Teachers rated themselves as very good, good or average for each teaching style; so actually, teachers from England, Korea and the US feel that they are less experienced compared to their perceived standard of “good.”

CAUTION (when interpreting results)

  • First of all, these results may or may not hold through for teachers in different subjects.
  • Second, researchers note that it is how the national curriculum and rhetoric influences teacher’s beliefs, practices and their responses. For instance, a curriculum that stresses lectures or test-taking may make teachers more likely perceive reproduction styles more positively.


We often try to compare educational styles and draw out differences between educational systems, but research, such as this paper, shows that there are significant similarities.

Cothran, D. J., Kulinna, P. H., Banville, D., Choi, E., Amade-Escot, C., MacPhail, A., Macdonald, D., Richard, J., Sarmento, P., & Kirk, D. (2005). A cross-cultural investigation of the use of teaching styles. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 76(2), pp. 193-201.

Research, Research, Research: Future Math Teachers

April 15, 2010

For the next few weeks, we’ll be exploring research on education. This week, we’re taking a look at a study on math teachers.

Read the full New York Times article, U.S. Falls Short on Measures of Future Math Teachers, by Sam Dillon.


Here’s our report…



The researchers: William H. Schmidt (lead author), Michigan State University

The questions: How do American future math teachers fare in their knowledge compared to math teachers around the world? *

The abstract: (52 page report in 1 sentence) American future math teachers “earned a C on a new test.” Basically, according to the report, we have really average math teachers.

The countries: (16 total) Botswana, Chile, Georgia, Germany, Malaysia, Norway, Oman, Philippines, Poland, Russian Federation, Singapore, Span, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, USA

The numbers: 3,300 future math teachers at 81 colleges and universities in the U.S.


Test Scores of Future Elementary School Teachers



Scored well above the USA Singapore, Switzerland and Taiwan

Scores compare to the USA

Germany, Norway, Russia, Thailand and USA

Scored well below the USA

Botswana, Chile, Georgia, Malaysia, Philippines, Poland and Spain.

Also, math and teaching knowledge varied widely across the 81 institutions, and some students score at the level of peers in Botswana.


Dr. Gage Kingsbury, a senior research fellow at the Northwest Evaluation Association notes that the research does not evaluate most of Europe and “to suggest that you can’t be a good middle school math teacher unless you’ve taken calculus is a leap, because calculus isn’t taught in middle school. So I think they overreach a bit.”


The United States may be a developed country, but we lag behind in some key predictors of success, such as education and math scores. While the results are “acceptable,” other “educationally advanced” countries, like Singapore, Switzerland and Taiwan, have much more prepared teachers.

Also, while there are many wonderful aspects of the American higher education system, the lack of standardization means that the value of a teaching degree may vary widely based on the student’s home institution.

* As phrased by the author of this blog, not the researchers

Repatriation and Identity: Craig Storti

September 11, 2009

For the next few weeks, we’ll explore three different theories related to Third Culture Kids (TCKs) and repatriation. Note that these are theories, not facts. As we will see, the theories all have their own merits, but they don’t always agree.

Part IThe Art of Crossing Cultures

Craig Storti[1] uses a model of adjustment to explain how Third Culture Kids (TCKs) reacculturate. Storti argue s that all TCKs have expectations of a culture, especially what they consider their “home culture.” However when a “cultural incident” disproves their beliefs, TCKs react in anger, fear or embarrassment, which causes withdrawal and/or analysis of the situation. Slowly, TCKs develop “culturally appropriate expectations” and approach situations with new insight.

Let’s apply this theory to a (fictional) story.

Lisa, an American Third Culture Kid, grows up in Egypt, Morocco and France. Her mother works for the American State Department. Like her mother, Lisa feels she represents the United States, and her mother often says, “You’re an ambassador as well!”

Lisa brings peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to school and wears Old Navy jeans on the weekends; she plays softball on the school team and friends joke about her American accent. Lisa represents the United States of America abroad.

Storti argues that all TCKs have expectations of a culture, especially what they consider their “home culture.”

Lisa can’t wait to return to the United States. Finally she won’t be the foreigner anymore! Her love of peanut butter, Old Navy and softball will be the norm, rather than the exception. No one will even notice her accent. Finally, Lisa will feel like she belongs—just as everyone fits in at home.

Being measured at schoolHowever when a “cultural incident” disproves their beliefs, TCKs react in anger, fear or embarrassment, which causes withdrawal and/or analysis of the situation.

On the first day of school, Lisa meets her classmates. One girl says, “oh, you have such a cute accent!” Lisa lets it slide. Lisa has to fill out health forms, so she tells the nurse she is 170 centimeters tall and the nurse gives her a look. Lisa turns red, but lets it slide. After a short conversation, a boy says, “you’re kind of like a foreigner!” Lisa fights back tears and wants to go back to France.

Slowly, TCKs develop “culturally appropriate expectations” and approach situations with new insight.

Lisa learns to gauge when her friends are interested in stories from her time abroad, and when she meets someone who doesn’t seem interested, she can usually engage them in a lively conversation about baseball. As she learns what to expect from her friends and teachers, she begins to feel connected to her school community.

Next week, we’ll look at Paul Pederson’s five stages of culture shock.

[1] Storti, C. (1990). The art of crossing cultures. Yarmouth, ME: Intercultural Press.

Living Abroad: Does it Make You More CreAtiVe?

August 7, 2009

The Duncker Candle Problem

Look at the picture below. You should see a candle, a pack of matches and a box of tacks next to a cardboard wall. Can you figure out, using only the objects on the table, how to attach the candle to the wall, so that the candle burns properly and does not drip wax on the table or the floor?

If you’re in the mood to share (and we’d love to hear from you!), scroll down and leave a comment with your answer!

Can you figure out the answer?

Can you figure out the answer?

Now, here’s the correct solution; you need to empty the box of tacks, use the tacks to pin the box to the wall, and place the candle in the box. The box acts as a candle holder! Don’t feel bad if you didn’t get it, I didn’t either.

The Research

In a recent study, William W. Maddux and Adam D. Galinsky used the Duncker Candle Problem, illustrated above, to test creativity. (Were you creative in your answer?) Due to previous research in the field, the psychologists hypothesized that creativity correlates to living abroad. Research has already found first and second generation immigrants and bilingual individuals have comparatively high levels of creativity, and in their article, Maddux and Galinsky presented a long list of creators, including writers (Hemingway and Yeats), artists (Gauguin and Picasso) and composers (Handel and Stravinsky), who created their most famous works during or immediately after living abroad.

The Dream by Picasso

The Dream by Picasso

Maddux and Galinsky conducted five experiments, and found a strong positive link between living abroad and creativity. According to the research, the more time an individual spends living abroad the more likely they are able to solve creativity tests, like the Duncker Candle problem. While the study is not causal—meaning the research does clarify whether creative people tend to live abroad or living abroad fosters creativity—the study does offer some strong empirical evidence for a link between living in foreign countries and creativity.

Surprisingly, traveling abroad (i.e. visiting) did not have the same effect! This suggests that having to adapt or acculturate to a new culture is what really drives this creative ability correlation; living in a different culture and learning cultural norms allows, maybe even forces individuals to see life from different perspectives, positively affecting creativity.

These findings have special implications for children growing up abroad. Maybe this research provides a different perspective in looking at the pros and cons of sending expat children to local schools and exposing them to the culture of the host country? Maybe those of us in the international community can celebrate and share our creativity, a very positive aspect of a sometimes difficult life? Maybe parents can begin to foster creativity in their children, creating an “in” for them into a social network? (This references the article titled “Education Outside the Classroom.” Check it out!) One thing is for sure, this is another piece of evidence that expat kids, TCKs, Global Nomads, and the like, really are the next generation of global leaders.

A special thanks to Joseph Leahy for bringing this article to my attention.

Find this interesting? Read the whole article!

Maddux, W. W. & Galinsky, A. D. (2009). Cultural borders and mental barriers: the relationship between living abroad and creativity. American Psychological Association, (96)5, 1047-1061.