ModAnnie: Welcome to tonight’s chat. Thanks so much for coming along this evening! For this chat, we are topic-free, and talking about anything at all relating to the science of learning! I’m Annie, a PhD student researching science and maths reasoning in adolescence, and of course I help to run the zone!
Carole: I’m Carole, an assistant professor of psychology. My research is primarily on multimedia learning and metacognition. Happy to be here!
Paula: Hi I’m Paula, an associate professor in School of Education at the University of Leeds – my research is primarily on reading comprehension intervention and assessment.
Victoria: I’m a postdoc at the University of York, where I work on the role that sleep plays in language development over childhood. I enjoyed the blog post you shared about educational neuroscience, ModAnnie – I’ve signed up for updates! It’s a great introduction to educational neuroscience https://bold.expert/bringing-scientific-evidence-to-the-classroom/
ModAnnie: Carole, how do you define multimedia learning?
Carole: Really anything that involves learning from words and images. I’ve usually looked at it with narrated videos, but it can also be labelled diagrams or instructions.
ModAnnie: I see, thanks. And do you look at that in relation to metacognition, or separately?
Carole: Generally in relation, especially in terms of what learners like about videos versus what might be helpful for learning (e.g., the amount of text on screen during a video).
ModAnnie: That sounds really interesting, what are your key take home findings?
Carole: Interestingly, a lot of our participants preferred having more text on screen when they were watching a narrated video, even though it was harmful for learning. We found that having simpler or re-worded text on screen helped students think through the narration and learn better. It’s a fine line when you’re looking at self-directed learning; you want to motivate learners to stay engaged, but you also want to make sure they’re learning.
ModAnnie: That’s very interesting and seems to fit in neatly with the “desirable difficulties” work.
Carole: Yes, absolutely.
ModAnnie: It reminds me of undergraduate lectures where I could never understand why the lecturer didn’t put everything on the slides!
Victoria: Could you tell us a bit about your PhD research Annie?
ModAnnie: Sure! I am looking at the theory that when we learn something new, we never really get rid of our old knowledge, and we need to inhibit it in order to reason effectively. People used to think that if you learn something new, you replace the old incorrect knowledge. But this new theory suggests we keep the old knowledge and have to use inhibitory control (our ability to stop an automatic response) to get to the right, counterintuitive, answer. So for my research, I am looking at the association between inhibitory control and counterintuitive science and maths reasoning. We have found that adolescents who are better at inhibitory control tasks are also better at counterintuitive reasoning. We think this may be because they are inhibiting the incorrect, intuitive response. And this association holds when we control for general performance in science and maths outside the context of misconceptions. So for education, this may mean that in science and maths, we need to encourage students to stop and think before they answer, and be aware of the existence of misconceptions.
[ModSu: To find out more about Annie’s research, here is a link to her recent paper –
Victoria: That sounds really interesting. So when we learn science concepts in school and we start off learning what is essentially the wrong thing because it’s simpler, does that result in a greater cognitive load later when we have to inhibit that wrong knowledge in order to learn what is more complicated but also true?
ModAnnie: Yes that’s the theory – simplification may actually make it harder to learn new information in the future.
Carole: That’s very interesting; do you look at how students might recognize that they have a misconception?
ModAnnie: I haven’t looked at that, I’ve mostly looked at whether or not this association between inhibitory control and counterintuitive reasoning exists (through neuroimaging work too). There is a related research project called Unlocke, where they are telling primary pupils to stop and think before answering in science and maths, and they highlight what the misconception is (without using that term).
Paula: Annie, your work sounds fascinating – and has clear and potentially quite far reaching implications to teaching – best of luck with it.
ModAnnie: Thanks Paula! It has been really fascinating to work on. It’ll be very interesting to see how this develops in the future because there’s also the concern of encouraging too much inhibition – it may be good in some circumstances. Lots of interesting research for the future!
Carole: Very interesting, thanks!
Carole: Victoria, could you talk a little bit about your work? I’m not familiar with the research on sleep as it relates to children’s language development.
Victoria: Sure Carole, we’re looking at children who struggle with language acquisition, many of whom also have difficulties with sleep, and trying to untangle whether there’s a causal role for sleep there.
Carole: Interesting. So this is toddler-aged?
Victoria: We’ve been looking at brain activity in sleep in 8-12 year old children with Autism and language disorders, but also exploring whether early sleep in children at risk of going on to show symptoms of autism is atypical. 4-6 year old children are next on my wish-list!
ModAnnie: Does that mean you have to do your research at nighttime?
Victoria: When we’re doing polysomnography to measure overnight brain activity in children’s homes, then yes, but we also do studies where children are just tested on two consecutive days to see how behaviour (or whatever) changes over a night of sleep.
ModAnnie: I bet it’s extra hard for them to sleep if there’s a researcher there? How does it work practically in their homes?
Victoria: Lots of sleep researchers are, ironically, pretty sleep deprived!
ModAnnie: Paula, can you tell us a bit more about your research?
Paula: Sure. I am interested in how we can support poor readers at the latter stage of primary school and in the transition to secondary school. My work involves developing and evaluating ‘catch up’ style interventions, which are typically delivered by teaching assistants. The most recent project was funded by the EEF – called REACH – my collaborators on the project were Maggie Snowling and Charles Hulme – who I have been fortunate to have worked with for the past 18 years.
ModAnnie: By poor readers, do you mean children with dyslexia, or is there a distinction?
Paula: Two groups of learners I am particularly keen to help are 1) poor readers who have difficulties with decoding and comprehension components of reading and 2) poor comprehenders who can decode words but struggle to make sense of the text.
ModAnnie: So would you call the first group ‘dyslexic’? Or do you not tend to use that term?
Paula: The first group could include those who are dyslexic.
Victoria: That’s brilliant you’re working so closely with TAs – often a neglected resource!
ModAnnie: Yes that’s true, I rarely hear about TAs.
Paula: Yes, I agree TAs have a lot to offer and one of the most enjoyable aspects of the work is watching them develop professionally and become highly skilled and confident in delivering quite complex interventions and assessments.
Victoria: Do you ever get feedback from schools on the long term benefits of training TAs?
Paula: I would love to follow up the long term impact on TAs developing knowledge and skills – I am writing a bid at the moment that includes this as an additional strand of enquiry.
Carole: Are the interventions for those two groups of readers very different?
Paula: The work I do follows the Simple View of Reading and therefore those in the first group recieve a programme targeting word recognition and decoding plus oral language comprehension. those in the second group recieve oral language training only.
Victoria: I was just having a look at your reading intervention work in Chile. That sounds really exciting. Is the work exclusively with children?
Paula: The work in Chile is being led by colleagues at the University of Oxford – it has been evaluating reading intervention in the context of a tiny island in the middle of the ocean – I am attending a meeting next month to hear about the findings.
Victoria: Wonderful work. I look forward to reading about how it’s gone.
ModAnnie: Best of luck with the bid Paula, it sounds like really great work.
ModAnnie: So we’ve got a few minutes left – does anyone have their one line takeaway message for teachers? What’s the one thing you would like teachers, or indeed TAs, to know about your research area?
ModAnnie: For me, it’s that students who get the answer wrong don’t necessarily not know the answer – they may know the answer but find it difficult to inhibit their intuitive response.
Victoria: Probably not so much about my research area as to say in general the more dialogue and exchange of ideas we can have the better we can work together to drive evidence-based learning for all children.
Carole: I certainly agree with Victoria – we know intuition can be persuasive in informing our teaching or students’ learning practices, but it can also be incorrect. It’s important to look at interventions that are supported by research.
Paula: That reading with meaning is highly complex but fascinating – also, dont assume that if a child is reading aloud accurately and fluently that they are also proficient at understanding what they are reading.
Carole: And don’t make complicated visual aids! 🙂
ModAnnie: Brilliant, thanks very much everyone! It was great to hear about your work, thank you for sharing. The next chat will be on Tuesday 26 June from 8-9pm, our final chat of the zone!