Archive for the EDU514 Category

This week’s outline: Outline

Last year’s multiple choice quiz: Old Quiz

During Monday night’s class we discussed strategy use in young children. We discussed three different memory strategies - rehearsal, organization, and elaboration - in order of their complexity and also their order of use. Even relatively young children will use a rudimentary form of rehearsal when trying to remember but only older children will try to organize information that they are trying to remember and elaboration is the last strategy to gain widespread use (spontaneous, consistent use usually not seen until early adolescence). Another important point to remember is that just because a child is cognitively able to use a strategy doesn’t mean that they will - ability to use a strategy always precedes its spontaneous use. It seemed that most of you knew this already as you mentioned constantly reminding students what strategies they should be using.

We also demonstrated the importance of encoding information deeply when learning — the “does it fit in the sentence” demo illustrated that memory does not necessarily depend on consciously attempting to remember. As a teacher are you encouraging deep encoding of information? What types of activities might lead students to encode information at a shallow level? What could you do to encourage them encode information more deeply?

Just two regular classes left - be sure to sign up for presentation topic if necessary.

This week’s outline can be found here: 10/13 outline

Old multiple choice quiz can be found here: ‘07 quiz

Last night’s presentations were all very good. I think everyone did a better job than they did the first time - congratulations! Your quiz answers look very good as well. It seems that my new, more precise, wording of quiz questions has met with your approval - I will definitely do my best to keep it up.

Don’t forget that this week’s response is due on Wednesday.

I’m a little late this week and so won’t be blogging my thoughts on the use of conditioning in the classroom.

A copy of short answer questions and 5-minute topics for next week’s class can be found here:short answer and 5-minute

Comment on this blog to reserve  topic

Last night’s outline can be found here: Outline

In addition to our usual quiz and student presentations last night we discussed gender differences in cognitive ability and stereotype threat. I expanded the text’s discussion of gender differences by discussing some of the specific differences found in verbal, quantitative, and visual-spatial abilities. I introduced the concept of “effect size” as one way of getting a handle on the practical significance of the findings. For example, the effect size for differences in verbal ability are generally considered to be “small” and perhaps of little practical significance. However, within the domain of “verbal ability” there is wide variability in gender differences depending on the particular aspect being measured. There are little to no differences in vocabulary or reading comprehension, small differences (favoring females) in anagrams and speech production, but larger differences (again, favoring women) in associational fluency (generating synonyms). This, combined with the variability due to individual differences, should make you cautious in overgeneralizing the findings on verbal ability. Similar caution is warranted when examining differences in quantitative ability. It is true that, on the average, boys/men score higher on tests of mathematical ability – however, it is important to note that this difference is not large (slightly larger than differences in verbal ability) and the largest effects are seen in the most mathematically precocious students. On the other hand males are also overrepresented in the lowest achieving groups. Finally we discussed visual-spatial abilities and I demonstrated some of the ways that it is measured. Although findings from these experiments reveal some of the largest gender differences (favoring men) it is important to note that many studies find that they are significantly affected by practice. If you would like to take an online version of the mental rotation experiment that we discussed in class go here:

Our discussion of stereotype threat reiterated some of the primary points mentioned in your text. We also watched a film clip demonstrating some of the ways that this effect has been shown with many different groups – e.g., women, African-American athletes, white, Anglo athletes. We also discussed ways that teachers may combat stereotype threat. This seemed to be an intriguing topic for most of you and I’m happy to share more resources on the subject if you’d like – just drop me an e-mail.

Finally, remember that next week’s class is the mid-term exam. If you have taken all four quizzes and are happy with your grade then you are exempt from the exam (and thus, next week’s class). However, if you choose to take the exam (60 multiple choice and T/F questions) I will select the higher of your two scores to record. If you have missed any of our quizzes then you are, of course, required to take the exam.

Short answer and 5-minute topics for October 13th will be distributed via e-mail and this blog by next Monday, October 6th.

Don’t forget to submit response papers by Wed. midnight.

Class outline can be found here - Outline

Powerpoint will be e-mailed

We started last night’s class in the usual way with a quiz. I wonder if you’re getting the hang of our routine now? I hope so but am still open to suggestions if you have them. We also had a little fun working on the Mensa test after the quiz. I didn’t ask but it sounded like a few of you did really well – maybe you really are geniuses! J.  One thing that I didn’t mention in class were the different types of questions on the IQ test you took. You’ll remember that there were items on the test that would assess fluid intelligence (e.g., complete the patterns) and those that would assess crystallized intelligence (e.g., the questions that assessed vocabulary – “what word is associated with each of the following words…”). The distinction between fluid and crystallized intelligence was important for our discussion of the Flynn Effect.

The “Flynn Effect” – is the name given to the phenomenon of increasing IQ scores each successive generation. Since first identified over 20 years ago (by James Flynn), the causes of the Flynn Effect have been debated and analyzed. Your book mentions education and nutrition as two possible explanations but, as mentioned in class, changes in education would likely have the largest impact on crystallized intelligence but the Flynn Effect is almost entirely the result of improvements in fluid intelligence. The effects of changes in nutrition are hard to dispute simply because it is impossible to obtain good empirical evidence addressing the issue (we obviously can’t randomly assign kids to different nutritional conditions!). However, it seems unlikely that the nutritional value of children’s foods has changed significantly enough in last 10, 20, or even 30 years to account for continuing increases in IQ scores. Similar problems accompany explanations focusing on child-rearing practices and increases in test sophistication.

One of the most intriguing potential explanations for the Flynn Effect is the advancing complexity of the world in which we live. To the extent that children today are exposed to and expected to keep up with greater volumes and more complex amounts of information, this could be an explanation for increasing IQ scores. In class we focused on changes in entertainment during the past 50 years. If you are old enough you are surely aware that video games of 20 years ago bear little resemblance to the video games of today which are unquestionably more complex. Researchers have only recently started investigating the cognitive effects of video games but the results are promising. Recent research has found that playing video games can increase spatial cognition (Feng et al., 2007), improve perceptual abilities (Blumberg & Ismailer, 2008) and even increase the reaction time of the elderly (Goldstein et al., 1997). Some studies are now showing these effects with people who have never previously played video games. Very interesting.

I should also mention that a number of studies point to a darker side of video game play. Several studies have found increased levels of aggression as a result of playing violent video games (see Anderson et al., 2007 for a review of the effects on children) and even an increase in negative stereotypes of women (Klein & Shiffman, 2006). If you would like the full reference for any of the articles mentioned here please send me an e-mail and I’ll be happy to share. If you would like more information on the Flynn Effect you might start by reading a short article by Ulric Neisser in the American Scientist (available online here). For fun you might also check out this book: Everything Bad is Good For You by Steven Johnson.

 Everything Bad

Have a good week and don’t forget to submit assignment by Wednesday evening and sign up for 5-minute presentation for next week.

The class outline can be downloaded here: Cluster 3 Outline

Download Practice quiz here

Quizzes and presentations have been graded and posted at (incidentally -after two quizzes the overall class average is 88%; last year’s class average after two quizzes was 77%).

Random thoughts… I have been pleased with the 5-minute presentations so far. It is obvious that everyone has been prepared. Keep up the good work! I LOVE our new classroom - well except for the poor sight lines for those sitting behind the pole. Still, it is a vast improvement over 291AB.  I had a great time in class last night. It’s probably too much to ask that you have a great time in class but everyone seemed pretty chipper. Maybe it was just because I allowed you to use lined paper for your quiz :-).

My mini-lecture last night focused on the research investigating self-esteem and its relation to various measures - especially school performance. To reiterate my primary point from last night - the correlation between self-esteem and school performance is small to moderate (ranging from r=.12 to r=.30) which should temper any conclusions that we might draw and in fact many people have suggested that this relationship is so small as to be insignificant and not worth pursuing. Of greater concern is the fact that some people assume that because these two variable are related that there must be a causal relationship between the two. As we discussed in class, there is no evidence that this is a causal relationship (i.e., that having higher self-esteem causes children to perform better in school). Much research has been conducted to investigate this relationship and the consensus seems to be that other “third” variables explain this relationship - most likely family background and innate ability (see Baumeister et al., 2003 for review). The mistaken belief of a causal relationship between these two variables has fueled promotion of self-esteem programs in many schools. Research generally shows that these programs do not improve academic performance. If you would like to read some of the research on this topic just drop me an e-mail and I’ll pass it along.

Please comment to this blog to reserve a 5-minute presentation topic for next week’s class or to ask a question.

Important note: Because of last night’s technological mishaps I am moving our classroom - I’ll e-mail details soon.

The outline for the 9/8 class meeting can be downloaded here: 9/8 Class outline

I’m unable to upload the powerpoint file but if you would like to receive just drop me an e-mail and I’m happy to send it.

Our gradebook has been updated and can be accessed here: Remember that you will need the special code given to you in class in order to see your current average.  E-mail if you have problems.

Finally,  as promised, here is a copy of last year’s quiz: Cluster 2 quiz (old)

We began last night’s class with a 3-question short answer quiz and the grades were generally pretty good - class average was a ‘B’. If you did not do well on the quiz I would strongly encourage you to answer next week’s questions and send to me as soon as possible so I can provide feedback. Also please keep in mind the formative nature of these quizzes - they are designed to assess your learning but can be replaced by the mid-term exam at your discretion. Feel free to post comments regarding the quiz - I would love to hear your thoughts.

We spent the majority of class time discussing the basics of Piaget and Vygotsky’s theories and how they might apply to the classroom setting. The lecture and discussion paralleled your book’s presentation and so I won’t repeat it here.


Response paper #2 will be due by midnight Wednesday - see syllabus for details.

Next Monday we will cover cluster 3 in your text and we will begin class with a quiz (see outline for potential questions) followed by 5-minute presentations. Leave a comment below to choose your topic (be sure to read others first to make sure someone hasn’t already chosen).

Handout can be downloaded here: Week 1 Outline

Article discussed below can be downloaded here

Thanks to everyone for making last night’s first class a success. I know it’s easy to have fun when we haven’t really started working yet or as I sometimes say – all the students love you until you grade their first assignment :-). But seriously I have a really good feeling about the class and am looking forward to the semester.

At the beginning of class we talked about the importance of assessing prior knowledge and even though three of you have had an undergraduate Ed Psych class, most of you are relative newcomers to psychology – something I’ll definitely keep in mind.

If there are any lingering questions about the syllabus please feel free to e-mail me or even post a comment on this page. Some of the highlights – we will have weekly quizzes consisting of 2-3 short answer/essay questions to be distributed in advance. Each quiz is worth 25 points and if you are happy with your cumulative grade on the quizzes you will be exempt from the mid-term exam. A similar policy applies to the final exam. There are also weekly “response” papers due each Wednesday evening at midnight. Please see me ASAP if you are unsure how to attach a file to your e-mail or have other concerns. Your rough teaching philosophy ideas will count as your first response paper (please submit by this Wednesday).

After break we spent about 30 minutes discussing various types of research designs employed by Educational Psychologists. Some of the main points – you should recognize that although we are all swayed by personal experience and anecdotal information this type of “data” is inherently biased and not scientific. Furthermore we should be cautious in over generalizing information collected from a single individual. It seems obvious to say that what affects one individual may not affect others in the same way but it is important to remind yourself of this. To avoid over generalizations, psychologists usually study large groups of people to examine general patterns of behavior change. The advantage is that if a type of treatment has a similar impact on a large number of people then we can be more confident in asserting its effectiveness for everyone.

One of the most common research techniques using large numbers of participants is the correlational study. The essential feature of the correlational study is that the researcher is attempting to find a relationship between two or more variables (factors).  For instance, research has consistently shown that there is a positive correlation between the number of books a child has in his home and his standardized test scores. This means that children with lots of books in their homes tend to have higher standardized test scores. Of course this does not mean that EVERY child who has lots of books in their home will have high test scores nor does it mean that every home with few books will have children with low scores – we are simply expressing a probabilistic relationship.

Correlational findings should ALWAYS be interpreted with caution. As you read the findings you probably assumed a cause and effect relationship here. Most people assume that these findings mean that reading to children increases their intelligence (and hence their test scores). But in fact research shows that reading to children every day does NOT improve their test scores. So what is going on here? In other words – how can we explain the relationship between number of books in the home and standardized test scores if this is not a cause and effect relationship? Can you think of any third variables that might explain both – that is, something that might explain why a family might have a large number of books AND why they might have smart kids? Post your thoughts below and/or read this short article summarizing the results.

The only research technique that can be used to establish cause and effect is an experiment. In an experiment the researcher is controlling all variables other than the one (or few) that they are interested in. In a correlational study there is no attempt to control outside (extraneous) variables and so we can never really be sure what is impacting the behavior that we are studying. However, in an experiment we systematically control outside variables and manipulate the variable of interest (independent variable). If the dependent variable changes as a result of manipulating the independent variable then this allows an unambiguous interpretation of the results. See your handout for examples.

This was just a brief summary of our discussion and so you are encouraged to read chapter 1 to make sure you understand research methodology.

What’s due?

  • Typed draft of teaching philosophy this Wednesday by midnight
  • A comment on this blog if you are interested in 5-minute presentation next class (see handout for possible topics). Please read others comments first to make sure no one else selected your topic
  • Read chapters 1 and 2
  • Prepare for quiz covering the seven questions at the end of your handout (I will select 2 or 3 from the list). If you send answers ahead of time I will provide feedback.

Welcome to the website/blog for Educational Psychology (also known by its official, more cumbersome, title: Psychological Interpretations of Learning and Development). If you’ve taken other courses at Spring Hill your professors probably used ERes as a way to post syllabi and assignments. In essence this page will take the place of ERes.

Each week after class I will make a blog post here summarizing important points from the evenings’ lecture, reflecting on lingering issues, and reminding you of upcoming assignments. I will also always post the outline for the week.

To get us started you can download the course syllabus here - Syllabus

Looking forward to meeting everyone on the 25th.

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