Monthly Archives: May 2016

Psychological concepts for teachers to apply in classrooms

“Psychological science has much to contribute to enhancing teaching and learning in the classroom,” said Joan Lucariello, PhD, chair of the Coalition for Psychology in Schools and Education and a contributing author of the report. “Teaching and learning are intricately linked to social and behavioral factors of human development, including cognition, motivation, social interaction and communication.”

For instance, one of the principles outlined in the report makes clear that teachers’ expectations about their students can affect students’ motivation and learning outcomes. Most teachers’ expectations are based on students’ past performance and may be an accurate representation. In some cases, however, if an educator has an inaccurate perception of a student’s abilities and communicates lower expectations (verbally or nonverbally), it could lead the student to perform in ways that confirm the faulty expectations and adversely affect the student’s progress. To counteract this effect, the report recommends that teachers maintain high expectations of all students and check themselves regularly to make sure they are not treating students differently based on their expectations.

“Probably the best antidote to negative expectancy effects is to never give up on a student,” said the report, Top 20 Principles from Psychology for PreK–12 Teaching and Learning.

The report is the result of work done by the Coalition for Psychology in Schools and Education, a diverse group of psychologists, supported by APA, with expertise in psychology’s application to education, including early childhood, elementary, secondary or special education.

Members of the coalition participated in a series of activities, similar to a National Institutes of Health consensus panel, to identify constructs from psychology thought to be most essential for facilitating successful classroom teaching and learning. An initial list of 45 principles was then narrowed down to the top 20.

The report names and describes each principle, provides supporting literature and discusses its relevance for the classroom. The principles are organized into five areas of psychological functioning:

• How do students think and learn? • What motivates students? • Why are social context, interpersonal relationships and emotional well-being important to student learning? • How can the classroom best be managed? • How can teachers assess student progress?

“Psychology is an intrinsic part of education and pre-service teachers often don’t receive sufficient preparation in psychology,” said Lucariello. “At most, teacher preparation programs offer one or two courses in psychology. These are generally disconnected in the curriculum from candidate clinical experience and can be more theoretical than applied in focus. Once in the field, in-service teachers lack handy psychological knowledge that can help.”

“We anticipate that the report will spur discussions among faculty and lead to schools’ reflecting on whether they’re incorporating the principles into their daily practice,” she said, noting the report is not just for teachers but has relevance for the whole school, including administrators, coaches and counselors.

Art of aromatherapy to soothe and heal

images-35Scan the shelves of the local bath and body stores and one is sure to find products labeled for aromatherapy. Many might be surprised to learn the science behind it. So what is aromatherapy, how is it used and will those products actually work?

Cherie Perez, a supervising research nurse in the Department of Genitourinary Medical Oncology, teaches a monthly aromatherapy class to answer those questions for cancer patients and caregivers undergoing treatment at M. D. Anderson Cancer Center. Perez’s classes are offered free of charge through M. D. Anderson’s Place… of wellness, a center within the institution that focuses on helping patients and caregivers deal with the non-medical issues of living with cancer, and is the first complementary therapy facility to be built on the campus of a comprehensive cancer center.

Perez, who first became involved with aromatherapy to help relieve the physical pain and discomfort caused by fibromyalgia, shares her professional knowledge of the basics of aromatherapy, safety precautions and interactive demonstrations in each hour-long class.

Oils and healing

While essential oils may not directly stimulate the immune system, they can complement cancer treatment by boosting the system’s ability to fight off infections, says Perez.

Certain oils can also stimulate lymphatic drainage or have antibacterial properties. Since it has many potential uses ranging from managing anxiety and nausea to helping with sleep, general relaxation, memory and attention, many individuals, including cancer patients, can benefit from aromatherapy [See Sidebar 1: Five Oils to Reduce Stress and Relieve Ailments.]

There are a variety of different products and methods of diffusion to obtain the healing benefits of oils. Some oils – like lavender, ylang ylang and sandalwood can be applied directly to the skin – while others are too concentrated and need to be diluted into carriers such as massage oils, bath soaps and lotions [See Sidebar 2: Everyday Uses for Aromatherapy.] Most typically, Perez advises patients to put a few drops of an oil, or a combination of oils onto a handkerchief and “fan themselves like Scarlett O’Hara.” Burning oils or incense is not recommended because most are poorly constructed and give off unhealthy fumes and soot.

Who should, or shouldn’t, use oils?

Widely sold in health food stores and beauty chain stores, essential oils do have chemical properties that can affect the brain and enter the bloodstream, and for some patients may be toxic when combined with common cancer therapies such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Perez says essential oils, like many medicines, can increase a person’s sensitivity to the sun and should be used with caution. Patients should always inform and discuss with their physicians before using aromatherapy oils to complement a medical condition.

People with high blood pressure should avoid hyssop, rosemary, sage and thyme, while diabetics should avoid angelica oil. Women who are pregnant or nursing should avoid a number of oils that stimulate the uterus including star anise, basil and juniper to name a few and should use with caution peppermint, rose and rosemary in the first trimester. According to Perez, pediatric patients can use aromatherapy essential oils in very low concentrations. [See Sidebar 3: Tips for Buying Oils.]

Aromatherapy’s role in cancer treatment

“The nature of aromatherapy makes it challenging to study due to the fact that it is difficult to create a placebo and every person is different in their nasal sensitivities and skin absorption rates,” says Perez. In the future, however, she would be interested in designing research to examine how aromatherapy can be used to treat/heal burns caused from radiation treatment safely and effectively, soothe pre-treatment anxiety and manage loss-of-memory issues in cancer survivors.

M. D. Anderson is located in Houston and was designated by the National Cancer Institute as one of the first three Comprehensive Cancer Centers in the United States. For 4 of the last 7 years, M. D. Anderson Cancer Center has ranked number one in cancer care in “America’s Best Hospitals,” a survey published annually in U.S. News & World Report. M. D. Anderson has provided care for more than 600,000 cancer patients since 1944.

FIVE OILS TO REDUCE STRESS AND RELIEVE AILMENTS

  • Lavender – First used as perfume by ancient Egyptians 2,500 years ago, lavender is now used to treat insomnia, migraines and provide stress relief.
  • Rosemary – This fragrant plant relieves muscle pain, low blood pressure and cold feet and hands.
  • Spearmint – The oil from spearmint aids digestion and eases nausea and vomiting.
  • Masculine scents – Scents such as bay laurel and ylang-ylang appeal to men for their deep scent. They also treat skin rashes, rheumatism and stomach ailments.

EVERYDAY AROMATHERAPY USES

  • Muscle Relaxation Bath Salts – 2 cups of Epsom salts, 5 drops of each oil – lavender, lemon grass, tea tree & orange. Use 1/2 cup mixture per bath.
  • Room Spray Diffusion – Use any oil 5-20 drops along with 2 to 4 ounces of distilled or spring water. Common sense precaution – don’t spray in your eyes.
  • Energizing Carpet Cleaner – Combine pink grapefruit oil with baking soda and sprinkle before vacuuming.
  • Natural House Cleaner – Blend lemon and ravensara leaf oils with distilled water and non-sudsing soap.

TIPS FOR BUYING OILS

When purchasing oils for themselves, Perez gives the following guidelines:

  • Essential oils from a bath or general store may be of questionable quality; shop for oils in a specialty store, staffed by salespeople with aromatherapy training.
  • Quality oils, which are light and heat sensitive, will be in a blue or brown light protective glass.
  • Labeling on the bottle should provide should provide both the common and botanical name for the oil.
  • Steer clear of concentrated oils with rubber eyedroppers since the oils react with the rubber causing it to break down and contaminate the oil.

Music charts Evolution

The researchers studied trends in style, the diversity of the charts, and the timing of musical revolutions. They find that, contrary to popular belief, the so-called “British Invasion” of US pop music by groups such as The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, did not start a rock revolution, but only followed existing trends. The greatest musical revolution in US pop history was also not 1964, but 1991when hip-hop arrived in the charts.

The study found that 1986 was the least diverse year for the charts, a fact the researchers attribute to the sudden popularization of drum machines and samplers at the time. Diversity recovered after that, and while it was declining again by 2010 the scientists reject pessimistic views of chart diversity: there is no evidence for a general trend towards homogenization in the charts.

The researchers from Queen Mary University of London and Imperial College London, with help from music website Last.fm, used cutting edge methods from signal processing and text-mining to analyze the musical properties of songs. Their system automatically grouped the thousands of songs by patterns of chord changes and tone allowing researchers to statistically identify trends with an unprecedented degree of consistency.

Matthias Mauch, from the School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science at QMUL, lead author of the paper, said: “For the first time we can measure musical properties in recordings on a large scale. We can actually go beyond what music experts tell us, or what we know ourselves about them, by looking directly into the songs, measuring their makeup, and understanding how they have changed.

“No doubt some will disagree with our scientific approach and think it’s too limited for such an emotional subject but I think we can add to the wonder of music by learning more about it. We want to analyze more music from more periods in more countries and build a comprehensive picture of how music evolves.”

Professor Armand Leroi of Imperial College, senior author on the paper, said: “It’s exciting to be able to study the evolution of popular music scientifically. But now we want to go further, and find out not just how the music has changed, but why.”

What is the happier on jazz

While any kind of music improves performance compared to listening to no music at all, jazz is the most effective musical genre for improving putting, according to a study, which was recently published in the Journal of Athletic Enhancement.

The 22 participants in the research were university Division I golfers, an average of 20 years old with at least eight years of golf experience. Each of them completed a series of six trials, which comprised attempting five putts at four pre-designated locations around a hole. In a randomized order, participants were required to listen to either no music or a musical genre that included classical, country, rock, jazz, and hip hop/rap while putting.

Clarkson University Assistant Professor of Physical Therapy & Physician Assistant Studies Ali Boolani says that music can enhance performance in other sports too. “Other research has shown that country music improves batting, rap music improves jump shots and running is improved by any up-temp music. But the benefit of music in fine motor control situations was relatively unknown. Hopefully, this is the first step in answering this question.”

Boolani conducted the study along with Assistant Professor Timothy Baghurst, Assistant Professor Tyler Tapps, and Regents Professor Bert H. Jacobson of Oklahoma State University, and student Richard Gill of Tennessee State University.

The paper indicates that future research will be needed with a larger sample to see if the findings can be replicated.

Easy is it to spot a lie

Dr. Zarah Vernham from the University of Portsmouth in the UK and her colleagues looked at 20 studies which examined deception in groups. Their review of the results was published inFrontiers in Psychology. The researchers discovered that in only one third of the studies were the participants interviewed collectively.

“Before commencing our research into the area of group deception, we were surprised at the lack of research within the area and the fact that group deceit had been primarily ignored. This was a particular concern to us because of the significant number of crimes — and investigative situations) — that involve more than one perpetrator (or interviewee),” Dr. Vernham explained.

Vernham says that in most of the studies, participants were interviewed separately. This raised concerns because how people respond in a group may be different from how they respond in when alone. She highlights that research is lacking in understanding how deception occurs in a group environment and how best to detect it.

“My interest into group deception developed as a result of my interest in collaborative memory, group dynamics and deception detection. It was though merging these three topic areas that my ideas for studying group deception developed. In particular, I am interested in collective interviewing and the novels cues to deceit that emerge from such a technique,” she says.

While nothing seems more individual than memory, a group will have a collective memory of a shared event. As a group tells the story of an experience, members will interrupt each other, ask others within the group for clarification, and help each other remember. This active, dynamic process will be absent in a deceitful group which has merely memorized a script to make all their individual stories consistent.

Consistency is vital in police investigations. Unfortunately, in scientific studies, individuals who have memorized an account and prepared for an interview can have a very high degree of consistency within their own stories and between the stories of other suspects. Therefore using consistency as the main marker of truth isn’t always accurate, and it must be used in tandem with other evidence.

Criminals, who are prepared with a script and prepared for an individual interview, make it more difficult for investigators to determine deceit. Standard procedures and police manuals all presume that groups of suspects will be interviewed separately in order to determine if they are telling the truth or being deceitful. Criminals also expect to be interviewed separately.

As suspects have become more sophisticated and learned means to counteract investigative tactics, we need to learn new procedures. Collective interviewing could be a valuable method of deception detection and must be more thoroughly researched.

Music lessons for your school life

According to the results, the differences between the extended music classes and the comparison classes were significant in majority of factors at Year 6, namely general satisfaction, opportunities and achievement, identity in the class and the classroom climate. There were no differences between the groups at Year 3, which suggests that a particular factor affects pupils’ attitudes during the primary school years. The most likely explanation is the amount of music lessons which was four hours per week for the extended music classes and one lesson per week for the normal classes.

Merely attending an extended education class at Year 3 did not cause differences in school satisfaction. To explore whether belonging to any extended education class would confer the same benefits in the quality of school life, some extended education classes with an emphasis on visual arts and sports were included in the analysis. However, school satisfaction in these classes did not differ from the normal ones at Year 6.

“Singing in a choir and ensemble performance are popular activities at extended music classes. Other studies have established that people find it very satisfying to synchronize with one another. That increases affiliation within the group and may even make people like each other more than before. Other subjects in the school do not have as intensive training in synchrony and coordination as music lessons, which could explain part of the phenomenon,” says Doctoral Student Päivi-Sisko Eerola, the principal investigator of the study at the University of Jyväskylä, Finland.

A partial answer to the observed results may be that girls usually tend to give more positive scores on satisfaction towards school in school satisfaction studies and they also comprise the majority of pupils at extended music classes. However, the gender differences do not fully explain the observed results. In fact, it seems that extended music classes improve the quality of school life more for boys than girls.

The Finnish school system has been especially appraised in international evaluations for its equality. Extended music education is almost the only case when pupils in the primary school are selected according to their abilities — in music.

“The Finnish system of extended music education is quite unique in the world. This is why similar studies have not been done elsewhere,” says Eerola. However, she finds it plausible that singing and making music together, the main ingredients of the extended music education, could be incorporated to any school system — naturally within the bounds of national curriculum. The benefits of having a few extra hours of art and self-expression via music every week are dramatic and indispensable.

“There is a strong correlation between the children’s enjoyment of school and the amount of teachers on sick leave. In this respect, pupils’ satisfaction makes the school better place for all!” Eerola concludes and wishes everybody a nice autumn term at school.