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The SAIS Research Corner: Articles We've Been Reading

Monday, March 2, 2015  
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Staying informed of the latest research in education is critical for today’s leader. Innovations in science constantly change what researchers can measure and study. Here are some articles chosen or reviewed by SAIS. We’d love your submissions as well!

April 2015

Classroom Behavior and Dyslexia Research

For children and adults with dyslexia, copying off of whiteboards can be very challenging at times.The results of this study show that adults typically encode and transcribe words as a whole word, but researchers found that even children without reading difficulties used only partial-word representations and separated the to-be-copied words into several sublexical units. "Classroom learning is the bedrock of school education, which relies heavily on copying and note-taking. Copying from a board presents serious difficulties to learners with dyslexia," said the study's main author (Julie A. Kirby).

Abby E. Laishley, Simon P. Liversedge, Julie A. Kirkby. Lexical Processing in Children and Adults During Word Copying. Journal of Cognitive Psychology, 2014; 1 DOI: 10.1080/20445911.2014.991396

Bournemouth University. "Classroom Behavior and Dyslexia Research." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 March 2015. <>.

The Impact of Classroom Design on Pupils’ Learning

Clear evidence has now been gathered that well-designed primary school classrooms boost children's learning progress in reading, writing, and math. Natural light, temperature, air quality, color, and individualized classroom design were noted as amongst the biggest physical factors impacting on pupils' learning progress. 

Peter Barrett, Fay Davies, Yufan Zhang, Lucinda Barret. The Impact of Classroom Design on Pupils' Learning: Final results of a holistic, multi-level analysis. Building and Environment, March 2015.

Available from SAIS here.  

The Brain Game: How Decreased Neural Activity May Help You Learn Faster

Why are some people able to master a new skill quickly while others require extra time or practice? Counterintuitive as it may seem, study participants who showed decreased neural activity learned the fastest. The critical distinction was in areas not directly related to seeing the cues or playing the notes that participants were trying to learn: the frontal cortex and the anterior cingulate cortex. These cognitive control centers are thought to be most responsible for what is known as executive function. The frontal cortex and the anterior cingulate cortex are among the last brain regions to fully develop in humans, which may help explain why children are able to acquire new skills quickly as compared to adults.

Julie Cohen. University of California - Santa Barbara. "The Brain Game: How Decreased Neural Activity May Help You Learn Faster." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, April 2015. <>.

March 2015 

Do Learners Really Know Best? Urban Legends in Education

Reviewed by Damian Kavanagh, SAIS Vice President of Accreditation and Membership: This article refutes some of the “common wisdom" in popular media sources. The central theme of the article is that learners are the best judge of their own learning and “should be the controlling force in her or his learning” (pg. 169). The authors investigate three specific legends: that learners are digital natives who already know how to work with new forms of media; that learners have specific and discrete learning styles and teaching should be individualized and matched to the specific style; and that learners ought to be self-educators given maximum control over their own “learning trajectory.” I read this article with great skepticism and it was as if the author knew I was doing so – he ends with a great quote, “’When skeptics try to stop a rumor from spreading further, the nature of the dynamics changes from epidemic cycles to endemic transmission; skeptics actions are at cross-purposes to their intentions.’ In other words, the beliefs a person holds persist in the face of data that disproves or even contradicts those beliefs . . . with this in mind, this article may achieve the opposite of its intention” (pg. 179).

Paul Kirschner, & Jeroen Merriënboer. Do learners really know best? Urban legends in education. Educational Psychologist, 48(3), 169-183, 2013.

Available from SAIS here. 

Effects of School Composition and School Climate on Teacher Expectations of Students: A Multilevel Analysis

Reviewed by Damian Kavanagh, SAIS Vice President of Accreditation and Membership: This article is a tough but important read that traces the history of teacher effect and specifically examines the relationship between the culture of a school and its climate (as independent variables) on teacher expectations (the dependent variable). Of special note is a finding that school environment accounts for 21% of the variance in teacher expectations among the sample group studied, 71 public schools in Canada, contrasted with an earlier study that showed school environment accounted for 46% of the variance among Belgian schools. This difference, according to the authors, is attributable to the Belgian system, which is “highly segregated on the basis of students’ socioeconomic and ethnic characteristic ... reinforced in high schools by rigid tracking that takes place between schools” (pg. 156). Makes me want to investigate school systems in Belgium – field trip anyone?  

Marie-Christine Brault, Michel Janosz, & Isabelle Archambault. Effects of school composition and school climate on teacher expectations of students: A multilevel analysis. Teaching and Teacher Education, 44, 148-159, 2014.

Available from SAIS here.

Are you reading a scholarly article?  I’d love to know and feature it here; send a note to


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