Monday, November 22, 2010

Cognitive Skills’ Outcome-Based Intervention Revealed the Latency Effect for Struggling Learners

Published October 22, 2010 by
The Special Education Advisor

What are the learning pathways? Research tells us that learners absorb new information through the primary sensory visual, auditory, kinesthetic-tactile pathways, (VAKT: Visual-Auditory-Kinesthetic-Tactile teaching method, and these entrances must be in working order. They also should optimally function together, or integrate.

One or two pathways may be stronger than the others, and can compete with the weaker ones, creating an out-of-sync learning input structure. Visual processing speed may be faster than a lagging auditory (listening) processing speed, creating a conflict between the two. (Rumelhart & McClelland, 1986). Without auditory-visual integration, (Hessler, 1982) the result is a “slow, inattentive learner” although the student is highly intelligent (Erland, July 1983).

Parents, unaware of the foundational cause of their child’s learning problems, flounder with eliciting expensive tutors, which do some good. Practice “Drill and Skill” software training also helps to some degree, although it is like handing an energizing coke to a runner with a broken leg. Like information processing, the race can not be won until the leg is repaired and mended.

The Role of Cognitive Skills Measurement and Training. Cognitive skills’ retraining of Guilford’s select mental abilities (Guilford, 1984, 1967) can be elected so the student can absorb, learn, understand, and apply new information. Many cognitive skills training programs have been developed by private companies and textbook companies have not absorbed such programs into their product lines. Unfortunately, this sensory integration, or “opening up the learning pathways” should be trained before the child learns basic skills.

Not only does the average parent or young adult learner not understand the relevance of cognitive skills training programs, but locating an efficient one is difficult. Many programs exist, and vary in their testing-measurement, evaluations, and applied methodologies. Those in populated areas may drive miles to obtain training, pay large, ongoing fees for a program that takes years of application to see results. The solution lies in remediating cognitive skills in the classroom, like a teaspoon of sugar to raise student ability levels.

The Latency Effect Revealed. Learning improvement results may not be evident because there is a “Latency Effect” for problem learners to show academic achievement results on national standardized achievement scores. This latency effect was discovered with a two school, eleven classroom experimental, longitudinal study. (Erland, Fall 2000).

Intervention Training Results of Two Fourth Grade Classrooms. I implemented a cognitive skills intervention and measurement study of two classrooms of low-achieving fourth grade parochial school students, (n=44) tracking their test results for the subsequent two years, with minor attrition. (Erland, Fall 2000). The gains can not be attributed to the subsequent teachers’ instruction, because the students were dispersed between three different classes each following year, and their subsequent test scores were reconfigured as the original experimental group. Longitudinal studies are difficult to implement because of transient students. If the students are not present, they can not be subsequently tested.

Most of the students had auditory (listening) weaknesses, and a few had severe visual processing deficits. In other words, they had learning, information processing issues, and their previous the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills (ITBS, Riverside, 2000) low scores reflected this, falling below the norms as individual classrooms (Erland, Fall 2000, table 1, p. 16). If would be a case where the teacher(s) could have been fired. But, they were, in fact, excellent teachers, and willing to apply a promising methodology that would possibly correct these student processing deficiencies.

The results showed a scaled variation of when, and at what point, the student began to “learn new information.” The fourth grade students in two classes in the ITBS subtests of Reading Comprehension, Math Total, Math Problems, Spelling, language, and Science (Erland, Fall 2000, pp. 32-34) revealed not only some immediate results, but also indicated a range of marked learning growth over a two-years of post-testing standardized measurements.

There was strong change for many at the one-year longitudinal point, and another group showed gains the second year following the intervention. This indicates that once the information sensory pathways are opened, the student can then begin understanding and applying classroom instruction. (Erland, Fall 2000)

Academic Achievement Results Now Expected. School administrators and districts are now increasingly demanding outcome-based academic achievement results. Unfortunately, the pressure is applied to the teacher, who may not have the necessary intervention tools at her fingertips. It is difficult to teach an entire classroom, where many of the students have info processing blockages, and can not, and subsequently do not, attend to instruction.

Administrators and school districts, eager to show academic achievement improvement, should recognize the problematical slow learner-latency effect even having strong classroom instructional input by the teacher. They also might consider accepting and adopting effective cognitive skill programs as a helpful classroom tool to raise the proficiency learning levels of the students. This would systematically raise achievement test scores without resorting to “teaching how to take the test,” which replaces hours of valuable classroom instructional-skills-learning time.

Classroom Partnered Learning. Consequently, with a room with many learning problems, teachers often resort to small group “partnering teams” in a differentiated classroom, where the slow learner copies the information from the more adept processing student leader. Unfortunately, the struggling student is not “learning”, but merely completing an assignment, to receive a grade, which will be an A or B to appease the parent. This student is subsequently, “passed through the system” with perhaps a limited career future.

Response To Intervention. Once students understand the teacher’s classroom instruction, it can be then applied; although this changing-evolutional process may be immediate or take one-two years. But, even with this latency effect, it is important that gains can be made by even the most problematical learner, rather than minimally or not at all, and then firing the teacher.

Erland, J. K. (Fall, 2000). Brain-Based accelerated learning longitudinal study revealed subsequent high academic achievement gain for low-achieving, low-cognitive skill fourth grade students. The Journal of Accelerated Learning and Teaching, 25, (3&4).

Erland, J. K. (July 1983). Methods and techniques of Cognitive Behavior Modification for accelerating both visual and auditory memory in learning disabled adolescents and young adult through inter-hemispheric specialization strategies. An instructional workshop session and manuscript.

Guilford, J. P. (1984). An odyssey of the SOI model: An autobiography of Dr. J. P. Guilford. Tokyo: Japan Head Office International Society For Intelligence Education.

Guilford, J. P. (1967). The nature of human intelligence. New York: McGraw Hill.

Hessler, G. (1982). Use and interpretation of the Woodcock-Johnson psycho-educational battery. Hingham, MA: Teaching Resources.

Riverside 2000. (1994). Iowa Tests of Basic Skills Integrated Assessment Program, Technical Summary I. Chicago, IL: The Riverside Publishing Co.(a subsidiary of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt).

Rumelhart, D. E., McClelland, J. and the PDP Research Group. (1986). Parallel distributed processing: Explorations in the micro structure of cognition. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press

VAKT: Visual-Auditory-Kinesthetic-Tactile teaching method,

Thursday, October 21, 2010


Pub. Special Education Advisor 10-17-10

A recent Wall Street Journal article, “How Handwriting Trains the Brain” (Bounds, G.) could conversely be stated that “Brain Training Changes Handwriting.” Technically speaking, increased and retrained brain activity can transform handwriting following twenty hours of intensive multi-sensory integration instruction (Erland, 2000).

What is Multi-Sensory Integration? Sensory integration can be defined as a successful combination of the visual, auditory, and tactile input processes to the brain. Early pioneer researcher and occupational therapist, Anna Jean Ayres, (1920–1989) wrote several books on the topic describing how deficits in sensory perception blocked informational input to the brain inhibiting motor output (Ayres, 1972, and Wikipedia, Ayres, J.).

Her forward-thinking work stirred controversy for a number of years. She wrote, quoted in the 1980s, Wikipedia, “It has not been easy for the helping professions to conceive of human behavior as an express of the brain, and they are still struggling to do so.” Unfortunately, these brain-learning, theory-practice amalgams remain today.

Which Cognitive Abilities are Required for Handwriting and Written Communication? Handwriting requires right-brain visual closure and spatial perceptual ability, with left-brain sequencing of letters combined with fine motor coordination.(Reid & Hresko, 1981) The connection of visual (seeing) and auditory (listening) learning are required for understanding, or the “integration of information (Hessler, 1982).”

Was Penmanship Taught? It is important to note that penmanship was not trained in my classes; per se. Students were instructed to “Think, Say, Do,” following the renowned Bandura’s 1971, Social Learning Theory, and the Gillingham & Stillman early reading-phonics multi-sensory model, 1970, which later became the recognized Orton-Gillingham Dyslexia training program.

Can Visual and Auditory Abilities Be Reliably Measured through Formal and Informal Assessments? Recognized norm-referenced, valid and reliable cognitive skills test batteries readily measure these sensory processing areas, The Detroit Tests of Learning Aptitude (DTLA) v. 1, 2 Visual Closure, Letters Sequences,, Auditory Memory for Words, and Oral Directions subtests; v. 3, & 4 subtests came later (Hammill, 1985; Baker and Leland, 1967, 1935, Pro-Ed). Additionally, Visual and auditory memory subtests from the Woodcock-Johnson Psycho-Educational Battery (1978) were also applied to obtain student baselines.

When I first began testing and retraining cognitive abilities in 1980,(Erland, 1980) it became an ongoing incubation project covering many years of test-teach-test-publish iterations applying my puppetry and choral speech methodology to these recognized research and practice models. The sensory integration interventions revealed pre-posttest training change on the visual closure and letter sequencing DTLA subtests, beginning in 1981 following my program instructional interventions.

Can Handwriting Change Reliably Indicate Changes in Learning Capability? Notable handwriting changes were consistently and immediately evident with a perceptual “turning point” after twenty hours of daily, intensive, multi-sensory training. Fourth and fifth grade students with additional adult pre-to-posttest handwriting and testing cumulative compilations exist, documenting perceptual and fine motor change. With school classroom 48-Day, 24-hours of prescribed sensory integration implementation, following the same twenty hours of media-based instruction, revealed improved perception, thought, handwriting, and test-taking (Special Education Advisor, 2010).

One experimental study evidenced posttest change with one-two-year marked longitudinal student improvement with two classrooms of low-achieving/low auditory processing fourth graders on the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills CogAT Quantitative (pretest 58%-posttest 71%; 2-yr. 70%) and Nonverbal (pretest 59%-posttest 72%; 2-yr. Long 76%) areas. (Iowa Tests of Basic Skills, CogAT and Erland, J. K. 2000, p.20). The CogAT test was externally administered by the school and scored by the Princeton Educational Testing Service (ETS). These results have a high correlation with reading comprehension and mathematical learning. Individual student three-year CogAT trending is on pp. 22-23 of this published report (Erland, 2000).

A sampling from the handwriting perceptual and sequencing change exhibits is available on:

Early on, it was determined through continuous, in-depth assessment and monitoring of all levels of learners and ages; children, business adults, and college students, that most individuals have information processing weaknesses or cognitive gaps ranging from mild- to- moderate- to- severe. And, unidentified, they are forced to cope with them.

Seeing continuous formal assessment outcome success, the ongoing research was continuously documented (1989-2000) in a scientific publication, The Journal of Accelerated Learning and Teaching. Needing a nominal reference for this research intervention, the edutainment methodology of using puppetry and choral speech was given the name: The Bridge to Achievement® (The BTA). The accompanying continuous formal assessment regulated that trained students were not merely “motivated’, or thus transformed through positive thinking, but had outcomes of improved reading and math scores (Erland, 1994). Yet, this overt handwriting transformation also operated as positive personal feedback and as an incentive for learners to “keep trying.”

To eliminate the possible motivational contamination of using puppets as “novel stimuli,” an eleven classroom experimental study was conducted using an “alternate media activity” for the control groups (Erland, 1999).

Discovering Learning Issues: Problems in these cognitive and fine motor areas show up in the early grades when basic skills are initially taught, indicating visual perceptual difficulties or directed as ADHD. While many children are formally referred and tested for Special Education from classroom observations, many are not, and subsequently fall through the cracks, missing important inter-sensory training during the critical early years.

Parents should show advocacy and watch for faulty handwriting symptoms and seek professional guidance and direction. Ignoring these critical perceptual symptoms, leads to a life-time of potential auxiliary written communication set-backs and other social-educational learning issues.

Another recent Special Education Advisor article by Claire Nissenbaum, M.A. (2010), “Messy Handwriting is a Predictor of ADHD in Girls," also indicates perceptual-penmanship red flags, because boys have spatial and coordination advantage over girls, Durden-Smith and DeSimone, 1984. Yet, boys outnumber girls in Special Education referrals and many parents do not want labeling stigma, “Once In, Never Out.” p. 115 Turnbull, Stowe, Huerta, 2007.

The bottom line is that perceptual and fine motor skill problems, as evidenced in handwriting samples, can be retrained through cognitive skill sensory integration instruction. Many well-known programs have existed for some time that offers this type of training in varying methodology formats and time requirements, obtaining a range of outcome results.

Ayres, J. A. (1972). Sensory integration and learning disorders. Los Angeles: Western Psychological Corporation. Wikipedia: Anna Jean Ayres biography.

Baker, H. & Leland, B. (1967). Detroit Tests of Learning Aptitude - 1. Indianapolis, IN: Bobbs-Merrill.

Bandura, A. K. (1971). Social learning theory. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press

Bounds, G. (October 5, 2010). How handwriting trains the brain. The Wall Street Journal. Health and Wellness.

Durden-Smith and DeSimone, D. (1984) Sex and the Brain. New York: Warner Books.

Erland, J. K. (Fall, 2000). Brain-Based accelerated learning longitudinal study revealed subsequent high academic achievement gain for low-achieving, low-cognitive skill fourth grade students. 25, (3&4).

Erland, J. K. (Fall, 1999). Brain-Based accelerated learning and cognitive skills training using interactive media expedites high academic achievement. Journal of Accelerative Learning and Teaching, 24, (3&4).

Erland, J. K. (1994). Video-taped instruction creates listening and visual memory integration for higher reading and math scores. Journal of the Society for Accelerative Learning and Teaching, 19, (2), 155-227.

Erland, J. K. (1980). Vicarious modeling using peers and puppets with learning disabled adolescents in following oral directions. Unpublished master's thesis. University of Kansas, Lawrence.

Gillingham, A., & Stillman, B. W. (1970). Remedial training for children with specific disability in reading, spelling, and penmanship. Cambridge, MA: Educators Publishing Service, Inc.

Hammill, D. D. (1985). Detroit Tests of Learning Aptitude-2. Austin, TX: Pro-Ed.

Hessler, G. (1982). Use and interpretation of the Woodcock-Johnson psycho-educational battery. Hingham, MA: Teaching Resources.

Nissenbaum, C. (September 30, 2010). “Messy Handwriting is a Predictor of ADHD in Girls,” Special Education Advisor; The IEP and Special Education Social Network.

Reid, D. K., & Hresko, W. P. (1981). A cognitive approach to learning disabilities. New York: McGraw Hill.pp.16-17.

Riverside 2000. (1994). Iowa Tests of Basic Skills Integrated Assessment Program, Technical Summary I. Chicago, IL: The Riverside Publishing Co.(a subsidiary of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Turnbull, H.R., Stowe, M.J., and Huerta, N.E. (2007). Free Appropriate Public Education. Denver: Love Publishing.

Woodcock, R. W. (1978). Development and standardization of the Woodcock-Johnson psycho-educational battery. Higham, MA: Teaching Resources Corp.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Don't Fire the Teachers - Retrain the Kids' Learning Abilities

Teachers are in a hotbed now. Not only are salaries and teaching positions frozen, but many are being fired due to budget constraints. School Districts and Schools, not knowing how to get a handle on whom to show the door, have tied standardized testing classroom scores to teacher worthiness and instructional excellence.

Teachers are being asked to “re-teach” what children have not learned: like basic math facts, generally taught in the third grade. With specific curriculum requirements for each grade level, it is difficult to go back and continually review, and then have enough time to teach the necessary basic skills for that particular grade level.

To top it all off, teachers, grades four and up, are forced to spend several hours daily, four days a week, to teach the standardized test mechanisms. This is not subject matter-content instruction; it is merely test-taking mechanics on how to choose a multiple choice answer and move through the exam in a certain amount of time. Struggling students often sit with a higher-ability level peer and mimic test-taking actions, not understanding the concept.

What is not taken into consideration is that classroom student ability level composition varies from room to room. One class may have more “struggling” students than another, placing that teacher at a disadvantage compared to another class of higher ability students.

What is missing here is that each student’s ability level should be pre-tested in the early elementary grades, and carefully followed by the parents and teachers. That way, learning progress can be tracked.

Private assessment consultants can be identified for parents’ engagement, and brief group cognitive skills standardized test batteries can be administered by the school in early elementary years. Listening and visual deficiencies can be pinpointed as to severity. Classrooms can then have a fair distribution of ability levels dispersed between classes.

Any teacher should not be unlucky enough to inherit a classroom full of low performers, and then be fired because they were tough to teach and failed to obtain immediate test results.

My own research demonstrated that a classroom of low performing fourth graders did not obtain a change in standardized test scores immediately following a strong intervention. The results appeared a year later, when the students’ scores were reconfigured, and it was discovered there was sometimes a latency effect with slow learners. Two years’ later these two low-achieving classes passed up a group of gifted students, achievement score-wise because of my intervention.

Moreover, should we fire the unlucky teacher who had to wait a full year to see results from her own excellent teaching? And, ironically, the subsequent teacher receives applause and a bonus for the work the former teacher conducted?

Concurrently, students’ learning abilities are not predetermined, and the myriad of drill and practice subject matter computerized programs while they do some good, do not remedy the information processing shortcomings. That is why we are caught up in this academic achievement dilemma.

We spend time practicing the mechanics for standardized tests, do not learn the subject matter, nor are we retraining cognitive abilities so every child can be an efficient learner. With systematic early student ability retraining, teachers would be able to teach, students would learn what they are taught, achievement test scores would systematically raise, and teachers will not have to be fired.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

“Rushed and Connected: Why Do We Crave Social Networking?”

Do you get an adrenalin rush viewing a snippet of unimportant information on your social networking page? Perhaps an incredibly accessible internet with our sense of personal isolation promotes our craving for social networking. Why do we exist in a state of continual “hurry and worry” with a need to be connected remotely rather than personally face to face? Do we live sheltered within our pressing moments, a click away from our next connection?

Have you ever wondered, while out in traffic, why cars are racing, darting in and out of traffic lanes, their drivers hurriedly talking on their cell phones? When we reach our intended destination, have we completed a purposeful objective? Or, do we rush on to another scheduled commitment?

Why do we stay in constant communication with a distant voice and texting, adding simple remarks on social networks, remain available to chat with online strangers or people you knew years ago, yet not know the name of your next-door neighbor?

Nevertheless, the list is almost endless with positive online social networking opportunities: gaming, dating, learning, business, health, social, shopping, blogging, job searching, and health; they still remain as abstract social connectedness.

Online networking can be meaningless, even inane; compared to time spent reading good literature, sitting down visiting with a friend, or writing expressive discourse. Some captured remarks off my page: “We need rain.” “I will enjoy buying school crayons.” “My dog misses me.” “I hear thunder.”

This is first-rate conversation?

Yet, virtual social urgency somehow feels safe, a consoling part of us, less judgmental, and we don’t have to find ourselves feeling self-conscious in front of others. There is no body language to read.

Happily, social net pages lack traditional societal income level pecking orders, and rely more on meritorious achievement connecting “like minds.”

Subsequently, we are all in there together, and can easily remove ourselves by touching the off button. Or “X’ them off our list. Done. Chats can be unanswered. Nothing is justifiable, or has to be explained, no commitments.

Today’s Gen Y generation is “I want it now – and I will get it now.” That means, they have to hurry to get it, or at least they think they do. And, they remain connected online. Is the internet the perpetrator, or is it merely a fast-tract social avenue?

Those that seem to be in the biggest hurry are Gen Y, people ages 18-32 and are 30% of the internet population. Those younger, ages 12-17, are online 92% of the time, whether it is communicating through texting, locked in entertainment, or researching on netbooks or smart phones. (Pew Internet Research, January 2009. “Generations Online, 2009.”)

This younger group, our teens rush also, especially when going out for fun or shopping, expecting the next moment to change their reality. Staying in a constant state of “trivial busyness,” they receive instant gratification from the internet’s beckoning social opening, their virtual world. Do social pages satisfy their inner insecurities and nervous anxieties?

Maybe it is time to step back and spend less time with the addictive social connectedness rush. Quietly consider future objectives and how we might reach them. There is a saying, that all comes to fruition in the “fullness of time.” Unfortunately, creating a sense of purpose takes patience, with directed focus. It is something to contemplate.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Fooled by False Indicators?

We are bombarded daily from a myriad of distorted signals, including unreliable financial, market and real estate reports, and blatant advertising. It pops up everywhere. We become wary.  Thousands of tweets beckon our way; most are promotional in nature.

Software has been designed for social media marketing, in addition to existing sales sites, to make purchasing decisions based upon your clicks, and the type of merchandise you buy. Soon this 3.0 technology will be on hand-held device apps.

Does your intellect challenge the validity of the onslaught of these intertwined signals? Or, do we become thick-skinned; ignore what we can, as we grapple with it? It becomes a sorting process.

Now, there is an additional, insidious layer that many of us do not take into account or even recognize; False Indicators. According to Kelley Services (May 5, 2010, New Wave of Independent Contractors Emerging Around the World), more than one quarter, 26%, of the work force is self-employed as consultants or professionals, including legal, medical, technical, software developers, automotive, and website developers. Not easily obtaining your attention, they can also obtain your business through sales pressure, or even unethically, insidiously, through slow, deliberate measures. And, to top it all off, in many cases, you will overtly request and welcome them.

Independent professionals need to earn a living and obtain strong cash flow. Here is where false indicators come into play.

Every day we encounter a myriad of small-to- large problems. The biggest mistake we can make is not trusting our own problem-solving capabilities.  You can find yourself distorting your own insightful signals. It is time to believe in your own intuition and what makes sense.

Something goes wrong. Frustrated, we seek help, those who seemingly will have an immediate answer and can resolve the problem.

Assistors will have one thing in mind; capitalizing on your problem, whatever it may be. Can we trust them? They will offer cordial assistance so articulately; you will not suspect their motives. The problem seemingly resolved, you will smile, and thank them gratefully, and make payment.

I will list some situations, that could have been most unfortunate, to say the least. The examples will be followed by some insightful, problem-solving suggestions.

1)      Block Banking Theft.  Having a check payment to use as a model, an interloper prints and forges a counterfeit check to your account, cashing it at an out-of-town bank. This type of occurrence is typical, according to the bank.

Counterfeiters focus on numerical figures between 2- and 7K, a typical down-payment amount. Some large banks have fraud departments that scan checks for irregularities. A suspicious check is red flagged, and bank check inspectors then study close signature replicas. If not caught, the counterfeit check will clear by 11 AM in most banks. In most cases, you will be held accountable, and will have to notify the police, and fill out a report, before the bank can proceed with an investigation. The problem will take your time, energy, and money.

Advice: Have on-line banking accounts and check your accounts daily at 7-8 AM. Print them out and make sure they are copacetic. If there is an unusual large, unidentified check in the “pending” column, notify the bank immediately, and go there if possible, to have it blocked. In the case where checks have been printed, that infers that additional false checks may be pending.

Subsequently, when this scenario happens, banks recommend that you immediately close your account and open a new one to block any continuing fraud. It is also a good idea to have an additional, auxiliary (decoy) banking account open, and ready to go; not only to monitor unfamiliar vendors for your own personal safety, but so you do not have the sudden work of opening a new bank account, and then wait several days to install special features, such as covering bounced check charges. Better still, pay cash for any risky expenditure, like yard maintenance by a new vendor. Then, additionally, set up” Theft Block” for your credit cards and banking accounts.

2)     Printer Jam. Printing jams are common occurrences, and we are used to removing stuck paper feeds. But, this time, it seems different. Impatient, we rush to conclusions, and consider calling the printing tech. Yet, if we do this, we know he will say “it is the fuser roller” and we need a new one. Be sure to consider the age and condition of your printer, and whether it worth the repair investment. If the tech has come out to your office, there is an on site charge, plus time and equipment. We gratefully thank him for promptly coming and his time.

Advice:  Take your time, checking all of the feeding avenues for jammed paper. Check for paper over-fill beyond the guidelines. Make sure it is inserted squarely, and does not have crimped edges that will buckle during the feed. Turn the printer off and reset. Be patient, and carefully reprint. Only then, decide whether you need the tech person @ $75 an hour.

3)      Malfunctioning Car Ignition: Nothing is worse than your car not starting during the summertime. You are stuck, a couple of miles from home. Fortunately, you have a back-up car key, and try that. It works. Is it an electrical shortage with the ignition?

You take your car to a reputable, popular mechanic to have it checked, as you do not want it to happen again. You trust him, are reassured that he can problem-solve the issue, so you stay on the wait list. Overloaded with work, he keeps your car three weeks, even checking in with him daily. Undoubtedly, the cost will be more reasonable than the auto’s recognized dealer.

Final verdict: bad electrical system. For 1K he can repair it. And, soon.

Advice: Ask yourself, is this believable? I did not want to be fooled into spending 1K. Yet, you need your car, right?  It has been a three weeks’ wait.

Stop and think: The second key started the car intermittently – sometimes it worked, and sometimes it did not. Unbeknownst to us, there was a small burr on the new key. Yet, could it be the car key that was causing the ignition problem? We took our auto to the dealer. He tried both keys, and the one made by the locksmith was faulty. Three weeks without a car, but we saved 1K. Consider having a second mechanic’s diagnosis, always double check locksmith’s back-up keys – don’t switch it around with the original key, or go to the car maker’s dealer, where the company offers support to problems. Or, best yet, use your own intuition in combination with others’ help.

4)      Jammed cell phone settings:  I fiddled with the cell phone call settings, and suddenly could not make calls or hear ones entering. Read and reread the manual, until it was memorized. Found no appropriate info. Went to the dealer.
Verdict: speakers have gone out. Of course, need a new cell phone, coming complete with a 2-year contract. I insisted that it was not the speakers, and I wasn’t going to “fall for the sales pitch.” The agent, admitting that every cell phone model has different settings and sequences, finally said, “You may be on to something – the problem is not listed in the manual. It is part of the cell phone architecture.”

He unlocks the setting.

Advice:  Don’t jump to false conclusions regarding your cell phone. The best thing you can do is “dink with it” or find a tech savvy young person to problem-solve the settings. Bottom line: do not fall for new cell phone 2-year contracts. If forced to replace your cell phone, take time to consider the amount of phone time, convenience needs, and the cost benefits before jumping into a new purchase. In the meantime, consider buying an inexpensive “paid minutes by card” cell phone at a discount store.

5)      Extensive Dental work:  Dentists dream of big repair jobs, especially those requiring root canals and crowns. That will offer income to cover overhead costs, for a European summer vacation, or a down-payment on a condo. If you have bridges or partials, any additional missing tooth will require new appliances with extensive work. To keep a loose tooth, a post may be inserted. Without a root canal, it will abscess. That will require more work, and a new design for your mouth. Complex work architectures trying to maintain teeth are rewarding for dentists, but time-consuming, exhaustive, painful, and expensive for you.

Advice: Dentists, even prominent specialists, will never reveal missteps and issues of their fellow colleagues. If you are having potentially expensive, large project, dental questions or issues, do one- or-both of two options: 1) Get advice and a thorough evaluation from a prominent dental school instructor-specialist. 2) Go to another state for a complete evaluation by one or two dentists. They will give you an honest opinion, because it is a different state, and they have no obligatory ties to the lack of ethics, or poor dental treatment quality of those practicing in another jurisdiction.

These are examples of false indicators that can encapsulate you. Try to resolve your problems through careful, insightful problem-solving, and by considering the following steps:

-          Deal with only reputable people. Ask around.
-          Do not jump to false conclusions.
-          Give your decisions careful consideration and thought.
-          Do not be easily duped; stick to your rationale.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Reducing Our Problems through Insightful Decision-Making

We’ve all wondered why we make certain decisions that lead to dreadful mistakes, although some are unforeseen. We may even ponder the rationale that went into it, and think, “How could I have done that?” Even the most intelligent people become victims of often hasty, poorly thought-out decisions affecting our families and careers.

Each of us sees a situation differently with a unique slant, and we respond according to our learned experiences and what we have learned to believe as true.

To further complicate the rational process, our temperaments, feelings, and cultural backgrounds come into play. Emotional reactions, false hopes, and aspirations become blinders. We do not think clearly as to what the possible outcomes might be.

Although we all make mistakes, some of us will make continual blunders that are hard to rationalize. Somehow some of the working elements become eschew with sudden break-downs in our logic system.

This article is not intended to solve your problems, but to give you insight into your thought processes, and help you cope.  It will encourage you to consider your decisions so you can avoid problems before they appear in the first place. Many psychologists and experts in the field have written about critical thinking, and this blog is simply to review my practical observations so you begin considering alternate possibilities and become more methodical, avoiding hasty, reactive impulses.

My expertise is with creative cognitive skills training applications that were found to work. There are clearly defined, textbook, mental building-blocks that form deductive/inductive reasoning. Right- and left-brain domains enter into the picture. We use our right-brain in detecting patterns like people faces and what they are wearing.  Our left-brain is the analytical, sequencing side.

It is important that we immediately spot patterns, and use intuition to interpret them correctly.  Then rapid sequencing must ensue. We tap into what we already know. Yet, the patterns and sequences rapidly evolve, and we must react instantly, as to avoid an impending auto accident.

Every move we make is reactive in some way to our experiences and how well we spot the patterns and turn them into sequences. The apparent sequences must be rapid, like words on a page link into meaning. If we miss the sequencing and pattern detection aspects, we become “clueless.”

Every twist and turn we make during the day requires a decision of some sort. Whether it is driving the car, performing a task at work, or simply preparing a meal, it is a myriad of sequences laced with potential decisions that could turn into minute problems or large issues. Or, evolve into nothing at all, and remain routine.

Key here is the concept of “situational awareness” like is taught in the military. Being overly aware of your environment with the people, moods, circumstances, timing factors, is a good beginning. Then add your ability to recognize intuitive patterns and sequence them into a logical answer. Think about how you sequence information; do you read rapidly and understand the material? Are you adept at organizing your daily work assignments?

Ask yourself: Is something amiss with a pattern? i.e. a person’s mood, body language, voice, or a situational event. Being able to spot “split patterns” is a good beginning in recognizing and avoiding problematical situations. A “split pattern” is something askew within any typical design, whether it be a facial expression, body language, a conversation, a story line, an art piece, traffic patterns, sports plays, attitudes, meetings, or a work assignment.

Stop and consider the level of your visual and listening (auditory) processing capabilities. My work combines how to interpret patterns and then sequence visual and listening information rapidly.

Much has been written on the topic of pattern-detection and intuition including my writings and insights. Encoding means “getting into information” for better understanding.  The first step is encoding or interpreting patterns for better reasoning capability.  For example, is poor visual pattern processing sabotaging your reading speed and written communication?

Six people can observe an object and see six different things. Do you focus on less important details? Are you missing the point?

Decoding is “pulling information out” of code format. Are poor listening skills interfering with your work performance and with your personal relationships? Do you tune out?

Some examples of poor critical thinking:

Drivers texting in traffic, when they know this causes accidents with sudden death or can leave you seriously injured, in rehab for months, and with expensive car repair or replacement.

Not following your children’s schooling. You will wind up supporting them and living with you at home.

Not taking care of your health, eating right, avoiding harmful habits, exercising, maintaining a spiritual balance.  You “age before your time,” deteriorate much faster, while having to endure serious health problems.

Not considering the corporate culture with a new job position.  You will work with a group of people on a different wave length, work style, and objectives.

Being involved with dangerous, manipulative personal relationships. The tabloids are full of examples showing this type of poor irrational thinking.

Poor real estate purchasing decisions. Not taking into consideration your health, financial, age, and current national economic circumstances. Living beyond your means.

Consider implications and consequences of any action you are taking, whether large or small. Adding insight to your problem-solving will smooth out bothersome rough edges in your life.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

"Understanding Cognitive Skills Testing: What Is It? Why Have It Admin? & Where To Find It?"

We can now all move forward to new learning and achievement heights, providing we understand how our own information processing works. Our reluctance to be the very best we can be, can now be left behind us. My work is based upon the premise that “intelligence” is trainable, and that skills, like reading, writing, mathematics and problem solving are dependent on cognitive information processing basic blocks called “primitives.”

Why understand what these blocks are? Because all work proficiency, including academic achievement, depends upon how our “mind works” operate. The renowned psychologist, J. P. Guilford, identified 150 cognitive skills cubes, called the Structure of Intellect theory (SOI), which has been used as a foundation and measurement of general intelligence for decades. See footnote.

Why should we care? Because our future endeavors, how we cope with everyday life and our achievements/life styles will depend upon our information processing capabilities. It will become our lifetime path we lead, and how contented we will be with what we end up doing as a livelihood.

How do we find out what capabilities we have? It is through standardized cognitive skills testing and evaluations can show information processing strengths and weaknesses of the individual.

Why is testing and evaluation not routinely prescribed? Why do we not know about it? It is because testing can only be administered by highly trained, state certified, professionals at the masters/doctoral degreed levels. These people include psychologists, school psychologists, and learning disability specialists. Testing companies will not sell testing materials to anyone other than these highly qualified and trained professionals, who are trained to do measurement and evaluations.

Subsequently, the testing requires trained expertise, money, and takes time. One set of cognitive skills tests usually runs from $2,500. - $3,000. Therefore, parents often go to physicians or psychiatrists who can prescribe medication to calm the learner, which may appear to be a quick, inexpensive solution. Yet, this intervention is not low-cost, and can run $100. a month or more depending upon insurance coverage. And, prescribed medication can become habit-forming.

There is little, if any, scientific knowledge, summarizing the life-long effects of any kind of stimulant medication on the brain and body that is used to increase focus and concentration needed for learning new material.

Cognitive skills training and cognitive skills assessment has been available for some time. In 1975, Guilford's student, Dr. Mary Meeker, formed the "Structure of Intellect" (SOI) Institute and trained educators how to measure cognitive skills according to task. She and her husband, Robert, designed tests and materials. The SOI Institute exists today with clinicians in every state that have been trained at their "Advanced Level" out of four levels of experienced practice and training. The program has focused on reading, math, and learning problems, early childhood weaknesses, Gifted instruction with remediating missing blocks, and career counseling.

Yet, cognitive skills measurement and standardized testing has not been mainstreamed for the average, yet ambitious person, due to training, time, and cost constraints. Generally speaking, individuals needing remediation were tested either privately, in schools, clinics, or within learning institutions.

Subsequently, many who who were fortunate enough to obtain low-cost assessments and training, or at no cost through their school, later felt embarrassed that they might be considered as "inadequate or a slow learner." Yet, they could subsequently experience giant steps forward in perceiving and learning new information faster and reaching greater career heights. Now, this sense of "being singled out as imperfect or having a problem " is no longer the case, as we move forward with a new dimension of identifying learning strengths and weaknesses to create the high performing, confident individual. We must all excel. Tomorrow's world is demanding it of us.

How can I get started with solid, eye-opening measurement of my own or my children’s cognitive skills if it is expensive and time consuming? Is this beneficial, and worth the time and trouble?

Soon there will be available online options that will offer access to finding the right professional in your area, who will now charge less for solid evaluations. And, the online options will give you the information you need and want, and point you in the right direction for not only testing, measurement and evaluations, but for instructional, learning solutions.

My dream is that most of us will want optimum mental fitness in the future for our children and ourselves the same way we want physical fitness and personal well-being. It will be our choice to move forward to higher levels. We can be competitive in the new, global world.

Footnote: Guilford, J.P. (1967). The Nature of Human Intelligence. New York: McGraw-Hill. In Guilford's Structure of Intellect (SOI) theory, intelligence is viewed as comprising operations, contents, and products. There are 5 kinds of operations (cognition, memory, divergent production, convergent production, evaluation), 6 kinds of products (units, classes, relations, systems, transformations, and implications), and 5 kinds of contents (visual, auditory, symbolic, semantic, behavioral). Since each of these dimensions is independent, there are theoretically 150 different components of intelligence.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Improving Learning Acquisition in the Classroom

Classrooms today are challenging for even the most experienced teacher, let alone new ones who are entering the field. Today’s classrooms are known for their diversification of students’ ability and knowledge base levels, which leads to a broad range of learning pace. This is on top of gender, economic, parental support, disabilities, advanced learners, and motivational differences.

To cope with this dilemma, the Response to Intervention (RTI) Model set three-tier assessment guidelines, including early individual and classroom-group screenings to detect behavioral and learning problems. These assessments are directed to helping each child learn and become a success in school. Many children fear failure in front of others. The slow or disabled learner then loses confidence and motivation to learn, and can become a behavior problem.

The differentiated classroom is a curriculum infrastructure model to add fluidity to instructing multiple ability ranges. Imagine what the teacher has to contend with trying to teach diverse student learners, many of them behavior problems.

Would’t be wonderful if most students learned and worked as one unit at similar paces, and broad cognitive ability ranges remained few to each classroom? There is a solution: this philosophy requires accelerating information processing with accentuated visual and listening memories for each and every child.

To begin, there must be group screenings tests to determine the pre-classroom student memory levels. Although this requires additional teacher involvement, it is worth the effort by knowing your student profiles. Then you can move forward to improve learning capacities and speed or pace of learning. Every student moves forward so they can then understand typical group instruction.

Step 1: Parents request a referral for school testing for their child. Schools are typically backed-up with multiple requests, but there are also private resources through psychologists and private practitioners qualified to assess. According to the IDEA (2004) mandate, if schools to not assess your child, they must pay for private testing. There are many cognitive skills tests that measure visual and auditory processing speed. Professionally trained diagnosticians must administer them. In schools, it is the certified, assessment team. Classroom screening procedures with simple checklists also are available for teachers to determine these ranges.

Step 2: Find a solution. There are many RTI products on the market. Find one with scientific, longitudinal findings. Although my product, The Bridge to Achievement, (BTA), is still in the BETA stage, it is a student-adult ability-charger. The 5-generational, scientifically documented e-Learning program includes five 1-3 year longitudinal studies with individuals, school students, and adults in business and college settings.

The program automates student pacing levels in the classroom or at home. It is taught by puppets as models, which increase student motivation, and removes the fear of making mistakes while learning. Students improve their information processing levels in a short period of time.

When students have improved their learning and pacing levels, instruction in the classroom becomes easier for the teacher. Teachers are relieved, as their teaching day becomes easier with an integrated classroom. Children and their parents become satisfied as they see their child transformed into active, happy learners.

I have a new research report, now in publication review process, showing the multi-tiered effects of my 29-years of Accelerated Learning research with various populations, ages 9 to adult. All but one experiment had one-to-three years post longitudinal tracking showing that my choral speaking with puppetry methods maintained. It is unique research that you will want to follow.

My dream is that most of us will want mental fitness in the future the same way we want physical fitness. It will be that easy to move forward to higher levels. We won't have to be left behind.