Both psychological and physiological factors play a role in learning, but how do they contribute to successful learning? The Transfer Center for Neurosciences and Learning is investigating the role that individuality, food, emotions, age and TV have on successful learning.
It is often noted that talents, interests and school performance differ greatly within a school class. Yet to what extent do students from the same school and in the same class really differ? In order to get a glimpse into the learning worlds of different students, researchers at the Transfer Center are assessing the following variables in schoolchildren aged 10-19: mood, interests, reading habits, personality traits, general opinions regarding teaching and their need for cognition. A questionnaire will also be used to assess the students’ engagement in and enjoyment of working with thinking problems. In order to provide teachers with methods of dealing with heterogenity in the classroom, the Transfer Center is translating, adapting and evaluating the pedagogic concept of “enrichment clusters”. This concept allows students with the same interests to come together once a week in order to develop a product, or a presentation, etc. based on their common interest.
“Good food- good grades!”
This slogan comes from a brochure that advertises food products in the context of the beginning of a new school year. But is it really true? Does good food lead to good grades? Does eating breakfast mean better grades? Even though researchers have been asking this question for about 30 years, no study has ever examined this relationship. Therefore, researchers from the Transfer Center are planning to probe this issue via a study conducted in a boarding school. They will examine to what extent breakfast influences the cognitive performance of school children. Each child will be tested twice: once with breakfast and once without breakfast. In the course of the morning, children will be tested with standardised psychological tests in order to investigate their cognitive performance, e.g. attention, and long- and short term memory.
Emotions influence learning success, which is why researchers at the Transfer Center want to gain an insight into the emotional demands of teenagers in school and during leisure time. Students’ heart rates will be measured over the course of about 23 hours and the heart rate data will be supplemented by data from subjective questionnaires. This study will examine the extent to which influences from daily life – such as school, games, mobile phones, TV, etc. – have an impact on the subjective and objective demands and behaviours during school and leisure time (itemised according to different lessons and leisure time activities). The influences of different ages, sexes and school types on emotional demands and behaviour will also be taken into account. The results of this study will have consequences on the educational style of both teachers and parents. A further study will examine the use of expressive writing as a primary method for training emotional regulation in stressful situations for children.
The quality and velocity of learning decrease with age. At the same time, the variability of memory performance increases. These effects can be traced back to the brain: older people’s brains show a different and more wide-spread neuronal activation pattern. It is possible that this finding reflects a compensation mechanism in that additionally recruited brain areas compensate for the relevant areas’ lack of efficacy and in this way guarantee the successful completion of certain tasks. However, not all older people show such a compensation pattern. With this as the background, Transfer Center researchers are investigating how neuronal activity changes, depending on the learning rate in younger and older people.
Scientific studies have shown that a heightened consumption of screen media has a negative effect on the psychological and physical well-being of children, as well as negative long-term effects in adulthood. For example, one study in the USA showed that a reduction of the consumption of screen media significantly reduced aggressive behaviour at home and in school. In addition, children’s desire for advertised products decreased and they were eating less frequently in front of the TV, resulting in a positive influence on weight and muscle tone. Based on these results, Transfer Center researchers are investigating the influence of the consumption of screen media on the psychological and physical well-being of children in the second and third grade. Furthermore, new teaching material for the reduction of the consumption of screen media will be developed and tested.
Play is fun! During play, children also learn and this is mostly done without any effort on their part. Play is one source of a child’s development and thus the game playing could be considered a teaching method. In one of several studies concerning teaching methods, researchers at the Transfer Center will investigate the effectiveness of learning games as part of successful learning. Learning games will be distributed in kindergartens and primary schools, where educators will assess their efficacy for learning. Further studies will evaluate a newly developed teaching method for maths and natural sciences in kindergarten, as well as a newly developed method for the faster learning of type-writing. Furthermore, one study will investigate knowledge acquisition based on two different teaching methods: a teacher-centred teaching style compared to a student-centred teaching style.