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.

Monday, December 14, 2009

From Stress To Financial Mess: Acute Stress Affects Financial Decision Making

From Stress To Financial Mess: Acute Stress Affects Financial Decision Making

ScienceDaily (Apr. 2, 2009) — It is not surprising that as our economy continues its freefall, we are feeling increasingly more stressed and worried. Many of us are feeling extreme unease about the security of our jobs and being able to make our next mortgage payment. However, according to new a report in Psychological Science, stress could make our financial troubles even worse.

The results were consistent with a phenomenon known as the reflection effect - we tend to show increased conservatism when choosing between two potentially positive outcomes, but increase our risky behavior when choosing between two gambles that result in a loss. However, this study suggests that stress exaggerates this effect; while exposed to stress volunteers were more conservative when choosing between potentially positive outcomes and were riskier when choosing between gambles that could result in a loss.

The researchers propose that under stressful conditions, we fall back on automatic, lower-level thought processes and we "are less able to utilize more rational and deliberative thinking to assist in making decisions." They also note that these findings have implications for understanding how our environment might influence decision making. In financial decision making, where rational and deliberative thinking is essential, a stressful environment might hamper our ability to make decisions.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

"How Can Parents Identify ADD or ADHD?"

The question to be answered is; "Who can identify and remediate ADD - ADHD to help parents"? Is it a physician, a school psychologist, a brain scientist, universities’ special education or psychology departments, the school, the teacher, the parent, or a special education specialist?

Unfortunately, each has a small piece of the puzzle, and often, many of the pieces do not interface.

The author's qualifications: I am the parent of three children of whom I conducted auxiliary home schooling as I developed The Bridge To Achievement cognitive skills brain building program. They were: an ADD - ADHD student, an average grade school student, and a gifted student (all who later excelled remarkably and who are now VPs of major national companies (two of them), the third, a finance Director of an Irvine, CA company. They, and 2500 others seeking information processing acceleration, propelled to upper limits through cognitive skills retraining, which is applicable for all of us.

I have been a special education specialist/clinician heavily trained in measurement, assessment, and evaluation; a teacher with years of experience in 7 school districts, including a special education classroom, an Itinerant Learning Disability teacher, a researcher and private program administrator who set up 14 national testing sites observing that most people have deficient cognitive areas of their brain, and who conducted small group and school investigations for many years without funding support. I also set up a nonprofit parent-teacher literacy organization in 1980 to help all individuals learn more efficiently and be more productive.

According to J. R. Ramsay, "ADHD management usually involves some combination of medications, behavior modifications, lifestyle changes, and counseling. Its symptoms can be difficult to differentiate from other psychiatric or other disorders, increasing the likelihood that the diagnosis of ADHD will be missed. Additionally, most clinicians have not received formal training in the assessment and treatment of ADHD, particularly in adult patients." (Ramsay, J. Russell. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Adult ADHD. Routledge, 2007).

Brain scientists can verify that there is a physical problem with a lack of dopamine, and that with ADHD, the receptors and transporters are significantly less abundant in mid-brain "reward" structures. (Arias-Carrión O, Pöppel E (2007). "Dopamine, learning and reward-seeking behavior". Act Neurobiol Exp 67 (4): 481–488. A recent (October 2009) Dana Foundation's Brain in the News p. 6 article, "Brain Scans Link ADHD to Biological Flaw Tied to Motivation" offers some contemplative thought. The article reveals 4.5 million U.S. Children have received diagnosis for the disorder, and more than half of these children take prescription drugs. There is much controversy on medication (the long-range effects on the brain and behavior) and remediation, and "how to remediate" approaches. (National Institutes of Health (NIH) "Diagnosis and Treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)". NIH Consensus Statement 1998 Nov 16(2): Reason R (1999). "ADHD: a psychological response to an evolving concept. Report of a Working Party of the British Psychological Society". Journal of learning disabilities 32 (1): 85–91.

The Dana Foundation continues (October 2009, p.6) that these scientists are "years away" from a biological test for the disorder, but their studies are a step in the right direction. In the frontal lobes, dopamine controls the flow of information from other areas of the brain. "Dopamine disorders in this region of the brain can cause a decline in neurocognitive functions, especially memory, attention, and problem-solving. Reduced dopamine concentrations in the prefrontal cortex are thought to contribute to attention deficit disorder and ADHD" (Biederman J (1998). "Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: a life-span perspective." Journal of clinical psychiatry 59, (Suppl. 7): 4–16.)

Waiting for a biological measurement is not necessary, as there are many high ranking psychological batteries, which will determine cognitive weaknesses. These include: The Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children - Revised (WISC-R) and the Woodcock-Johnson Psycho Educational Battery (WJ); Test 1 Cognitive Skills Test Battery and Test 2 measures Academic Achievement among others. In the 1970s- to 1980s, these tests were widely used by schools to identify learning disabled students in accordance to Public Law 94-142 in 1975. (the first predecessor was PL 89-750, 1966). Gradually, these tests gave way to simpler measurements, if any. Students were placed in remedial classrooms to receive tutoring. Abilities were not changed. The the learning deficient status quo was maintained, and often test scores stagnated. Lives became limited.

Who can administer these tests and how is it diagnosed? Tests can be given by any professional trained and certified at the master's or doctoral level having educational and psychological testing and measurement proficiency. This includes physicians, psychologists, special education clinicians, and university experts. Evaluators look for high and deficient or low cognitive areas, which can be improved through a specific therapy regimen.

What do they charge for a full battery? The fees usually run $2,500-$4,000 depending on how many subtests are given, and how many hours it takes to administer them. Since many object to these measurement fees, they prefer amphetamine medication.

However, you can request some of these tests from your school at no cost. Unfortunately, they are backed up with measurement requests, and are reluctant to do the WISC-R and in depth Woodcock Johnson Psycho Educational Batteries as they are labor intensive and time consuming, let alone the time it takes to score, evaluate, and report the complete results in special meetings.

Yet, according to the 2004 Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement (PL 108-446) schools are required to furnish independent evaluations and evidenced-based management techniques (Turnbull, H. R., Stowe, M.J., and Huerta, N.E. 2007, Free Appropriate Public Education 7th edition, Denver, Co: Love Publishing Co. p. 362).

It was most unusual that I was conducting scientific inquiry testing since 1980, for overly nominal fees or for pro bono, in order to gather important data for thousands of individuals. For twenty years, a series of publications documented the progress. With the fortitude to continue the investigations, additional scientific reports are in publication process. Testing and reporting a specific protocol with various ages, abilities, and demographic groups for nearly three decades was deemed landmark in 2001 (International Alliance for Learning publication, June 2001). How can you find a program that will "actually work?" That will take research.

Examine the program’s research, and how long they have been practicing and collecting results that show academic achievement gains longitudinally. Longitudinal results are difficult to come by, as it takes roughly 7-8 years for any experiment to be administered, evaluated, concluded, and published. The good news is that everyone can step forward whether there are minimal or more serious cognitive skill deficits. Plus the consideration that behavioral remediation is possible as an alternative to medication!

Monday, September 21, 2009

"Cognitive Skills Training or Brain-Based Learning; Which Is It?"

Cognitive Skills training has a long history from the 1960s into the 1970s. Since it is a scientific, technical term, the average lay person is not sure as to what it really means. It can convey a detrimental underlying meaning that something mentally is wrong with the person.

This is not the case. Unless you understand the psychometric testing that measures the information processing and cognitive skill components, the subject becomes complicated. Unless one has advanced course work in this area, it is difficult to explain memory and cognitive processes in simple terms. Yet, we all have a particular cognitive profile, and most of us do not realize or know what it is.

For years, cognitive psychologists tested for problems, and gave medication or remediation. Little assistance was available for the average person. Teachers knew they had learning and behavioral difficulties in the classroom. Yet, it became too tedious and time consuming to complete full psychological batteries on the many children requiring identification. And, only the certified School Psychologist could administer the complex testing batteries. Yet, something had to be done.

In jumped "Brain-Based Learning" into the typical classroom. Many teachers and lay people came up with an irrational exuberance of solutions. The problem was that these techniques or methodologies were randomly implemented and not scientifically tested. It became a "hit and miss" proposition.

Interestingly, it requires minimally 12 hours of pre- and post-testing and a few more hours of evaluation to arrive at solid conclusions. This level of work becomes mind-boggling, and psychologists and specialists deservedly charge solid professional fees.

Since people are not willing to make large investments unless there is a real nagging necessity for it, subsequently the average person is not often, or ever, tested for cognitive skills weaknesses.

Yet, I conducted these exhaustive, comprehensive, standardized measurements and evaluations on thousands of high average, average, low average, and gifted individuals as part of the course pro bono because of my scientific curiosity. Each had a unique profile, which could be improved.

Importantly, I could see dramatic change with my intervention, although experienced at different time intervals by each individual. I knew how important it would be to document it completely.

Living in a university town, full professors and statisticians volunteered their services for this important analyses work, that entailed twenty years of publications and almost thirty of applied research practice. I had many scholarly advisors. As the work progressed through publications and peer review, additional psychology and education professors from different universities analyzed and followed the unique data compilations.

Scientific discovery was in process.

Today, there are programs that have statistical results, but few that have longitudinal findings. In other words, does the training intervention "last"? It takes years to collect this type of data, especially among various demographic groups. It is also difficult to locate the same individual years down the road for subsequent testing. Additionally, even if they are located, are clients willing to be retested years later?

Of my seven experiments, six studies, with a variety of ages and demographic groups, had 1-3 years longitudinal tracking with complete positive findings.

For further information, see the link "scholarly publications" on the nav bar. For comment, click on:" Respond Further on Jan's Blog."