Posts Tagged ‘education’

By Alejandra Viviescas

A higher level of education is not related to better cognitive reserve — the ability of the adult brain to maintain normal cognitive function in the presence of neurodegeneration — in old age, a study suggests. However, the study, titled “Education and cognitive reserve in old age,” did find that it allowed people to store more information before reaching old age. It was published in the journal Neurology.

Higher education levels are widely associated with a higher cognitive reserve, lower risk of dementia, and delayed cognitive decline — the reduced storage capacity in the brain that usually occurs as a person ages. However, scientific evidence supporting these claims is controversial. Some studies suggest that this association is mostly due to the connection between education and a higher acquisition of knowledge rather than higher adaptability.

To assess the contribution of education to cognitive reserve in old age, researchers from Rush University in Chicago analyzed 2,899 participants (older than 50 years of age; average age of 77.8 years) who participated in two ongoing clinical studies: the Religious Orders Study, which began in 1994 and included older Catholic clergy members from across the U.S.; and the Memory and Aging Project, which began in 1997 and involved older laypeople from the Chicago metropolitan region.

At the time of enrollment, none of the participants had been diagnosed with dementia.

They were followed for an average of eight years; 2,143 (73.9%) were women, and 2,569 (88.6%) were white. All participants took cognitive tests once a year, and data were collected between 1994 and 2018.

Researchers evaluated two subgroups, the first one — the incident dementia subgroup — consisted of 696 participants who developed incident dementia during follow-up over a mean of 10.5 years. The second one — the incident dementia neuropathologically examined subgroup — included 405 individuals who died during follow-up and underwent an autopsy to assess if they had any neurodegenerative conditions.

Participants had a mean of 16.3 years of education, ranging from zero to 30. Higher education was associated with an initial higher rate of global cognition at a younger age but not with more significant cognitive change. This means that more educated people had a high storage capacity at the beginning of the study, but did not show greater cognitive adaptability.

There was a quicker decline in cognition in patients who developed dementia about 1.8 years before diagnosis. The level of education did not alter this decrease.

In the patients who had died, there was a faster cognition decline approximately 3.4 years before death. The level of education did not alter this decline, but researchers noted that in individuals with higher education, this decline started about 0.2 years earlier.

People with higher education were less likely to have areas of dead tissue in the brain. “There have been previous reports linking higher level of education with a lower risk of stroke consistent with the present findings,” according to the researchers. Higher education was not associated with any other neuropathology.

“The results suggest that the contribution of education to cognitive reserve is limited to its association with premorbid cognitive level and does not involve an association with cognitive aging trajectories,” the researchers wrote.

“That education apparently contributes little to cognitive reserve is surprising given its association with cognitive growth and changes in brain structure. However, formal education typically ends decades before old age begins … This implies that influences on cognitive reserve vary over time, with recent experiences more influential than remote experiences such as schooling,” they added.

The researchers noted that most individuals had some level of education, which might underestimate the effects on a non-educated group. Therefore, further studies that evaluate a higher sample of participants with less education would help them better understand the association between education and cognition.

https://alzheimersnewstoday.com/2019/02/13/education-brain-adaptability-old-age/

By Conn Hastings

A study recently published in open-access journal Frontiers in Psychology finds that 9-10 year-old children are significantly more attentive and engaged with their schoolwork following an outdoor lesson in nature. This “nature effect” allowed teachers to teach uninterrupted for almost twice as long during a subsequent indoor lesson. The results suggest that outdoor lessons may be an inexpensive and convenient way to improve student engagement in education — a major factor in academic achievement.

Scientists have known for a while that natural outdoor environments can have a variety of beneficial effects on people. People exposed to parks, trees or wildlife can experience benefits such as physical activity, stress reduction, rejuvenated attention and increased motivation. In children, studies have shown that even a view of greenery through a classroom window could have positive effects on students’ attention.

However, many teachers may be reluctant to hold a lesson outdoors, as they might worry that it could overexcite the children, making it difficult for them to concentrate on their schoolwork back in the classroom. Ming Kuo, a scientist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and her colleagues set out to investigate this, and hypothesized that an outdoor lesson in nature would result in increased classroom engagement in indoor lessons held immediately afterwards.

“We wanted to see if we could put the nature effect to work in a school setting,” says Kuo. “If you took a bunch of squirmy third-graders outdoors for lessons, would they show a benefit of having a lesson in nature, or would they just be bouncing off the walls afterward?”

The researchers tested their hypothesis in third graders (9-10 years old) in a school in the Midwestern United States. Over a 10-week period, an experienced teacher held one lesson a week outdoors and a similar lesson in her regular classroom, and another, more skeptical teacher did the same. Their outdoor “classroom” was a grassy spot just outside the school, in view of a wooded area.

After each outdoor or indoor lesson, the researchers measured how engaged the students were. They counted the number of times the teacher needed to redirect the attention of distracted students back to their schoolwork during the observation, using phrases such as “sit down” and “you need to be working”. The research team also asked an outside observer to look at photos taken of the class during the observation period and score the level of class engagement, without knowing whether the photos were taken after an indoor or outdoor lesson. The teachers also scored class engagement.

The team’s results show that children were more engaged after the outdoor lessons in nature. Far from being overexcited and inattentive immediately after an outdoor lesson, students were significantly more attentive and engaged with their schoolwork. The number of times the teacher had to redirect a student’s attention to their work was roughly halved immediately after an outdoor lesson.

“Our teachers were able to teach uninterrupted for almost twice as long at a time after the outdoor lesson,” says Kuo, “and we saw the nature effect with our skeptical teacher as well.”

The researchers plan to do further work to see if the technique can work in other schools and for less experienced teachers. If so, regular outdoor lessons could be an inexpensive and convenient way for schools to enhance student engagement and performance. “We’re excited to discover a way to teach students and refresh their minds for the next lesson at the same time,” says Kuo. “Teachers can have their cake and eat it too.”

Children more engaged and attentive following outdoor lesson in nature

On one side of the stage at a maximum-security prison here sat three men incarcerated for violent crimes.

On the other were three undergraduates from Harvard College.

After an hour of fast-moving debate Friday, the judges rendered their verdict.

The inmates won.

The audience burst into applause. That included about 75 of the prisoners’ fellow students at the Bard Prison Initiative, which offers a rigorous college experience to men at Eastern New York Correctional Facility, in the Catskills.

The debaters on both sides aimed to highlight the academic power of a program, part of Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y., that seeks to give a second chance to inmates hoping to build a better life.

Ironically, the inmates had to promote an argument with which they fiercely disagreed. Resolved: “Public schools in the United States should have the ability to deny enrollment to undocumented students.”

Carlos Polanco, a 31-year-old from Queens in prison for manslaughter, said after the debate that he would never want to bar a child from school and he felt forever grateful he could pursue a Bard diploma. “We have been graced with opportunity,” he said. “They make us believe in ourselves.”

Judge Mary Nugent, leading a veteran panel, said the Bard team made a strong case that the schools attended by many undocumented children were failing so badly that students were simply being warehoused. The team proposed that if “dropout factories” with overcrowded classrooms and insufficient funding could deny these children admission, then nonprofits and wealthier schools would step in and teach them better.

Ms. Nugent said the Harvard College Debating Union didn’t respond to parts of that argument, though both sides did an excellent job.

The Harvard team members said they were impressed by the prisoners’ preparation and unexpected line of argument. “They caught us off guard,” said Anais Carell, a 20-year-old junior from Chicago.

The prison team had its first debate in spring 2014, beating the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. Then, it won against a nationally ranked team from the University of Vermont and in April lost a rematch against West Point.

Preparing has its challenges. Inmates can’t use the Internet for research. The prison administration must approve requests for books and articles, which can take weeks.

In the morning before the debate, team members talked of nerves and their hope that competing against Harvard—even if they lost—would inspire other inmates to pursue educations.

“If we win, it’s going to make a lot of people question what goes on in here,” said Alex Hall, a 31-year-old from Manhattan convicted of manslaughter. “We might not be as naturally rhetorically gifted, but we work really hard.”

Ms. Nugent said it might seem tempting to favor the prisoners’ team, but the three judges have to justify their votes to each other based on specific rules and standards.

“We’re all human,” she said. “I don’t think we can ever judge devoid of context or where we are, but the idea they would win out of sympathy is playing into pretty misguided ideas about inmates. Their academic ability is impressive.”

The Bard Prison Initiative, begun in 2001, aims to give liberal-arts educations to talented, motivated inmates. Program officials say about 10 inmates apply for every spot, through written essays and interviews.

There is no tuition. The initiative’s roughly $2.5 million annual budget comes from private donors and includes money it spends helping other programs follow its model in nine other states.

Last year Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, proposed state grants for college classes for inmates, saying that helping them become productive taxpayers would save money long-term. He dropped the plan after attacks from Republican politicians who argued that many law-abiding families struggled to afford college and shouldn’t have to pay for convicted criminals to get degrees.

The Bard program’s leaders say that of more than 300 alumni who earned degrees while in custody, less than 2% returned to prison within three years, the standard time frame for measuring recidivism.

In New York state as a whole, by contrast, about 40% of ex-offenders end up back in prison, mostly because of parole violations, according to the New York Department of Corrections and Community Supervision.

http://www.wsj.com/articles/an-unlikely-debate-prison-vs-harvard-1442616928

Carnegie Mellon University mistakenly informed about 800 applicants that they had won a place in one of the school’s prestigious computer science programs before retracting the acceptance letters, the school said.

The acceptance letters were sent by email on Monday, according to the Pittsburgh-based school.

Many hours later – enough time for applicants to share what they thought was happy news with family and friends – the school sent out another round of emails telling the applicants they did not get in after all.

“We understand the disappointment created by this mistake,” university spokesman Byron Spice said in a statement on Tuesday.

Carnegie Mellon joins a growing list of American schools that have broken hearts with similar email glitches in the past decade or so, including Cornell University, several branches of the University of California and Johns Hopkins University.

Asked whether the school’s prestigious computer science department had been involved in the design of its email system for notifying applicants, a school spokesman declined to comment.

The blog Gawker, which first reported the error, published a copy of the mistaken acceptance email, which notes that the master of science program in computer science has been ranked the best in the country.

“You are one of the select few,” the congratulatory email said.

Gawker also published the subsequent correction email. “While we certainly appreciate your interest in our program, we regret that we are unable to offer you admission this year,” the email said in part, apologizing for the “miscommunication.”

“PS: Please acknowledge receipt of this retraction,” the email said.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/02/18/us-usa-pennsylvania-carnegie-idUSKBN0LM1OG20150218?feedType=RSS&feedName=oddlyEnoughNews&rpc=69