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Student Achievement Gap, Stress, and Self-Regulation

Jon­ah Lehrer dis­sects and builds on a New York Times arti­cle on the edu­ca­tion Achieve­ment gap. Quotes from Jon­ah’s post:

  • most of the research sug­gests that the “achieve­ment gap” has real neu­ro­log­i­cal roots, which are caused by dis­tinct home envi­ron­ments: Hart and Ris­ley showed that lan­guage expo­sure in ear­ly child­hood cor­re­lat­ed strong­ly with I.Q. and aca­d­e­m­ic suc­cess lat­er on in a child’s life.”
  • This is real­ly impor­tant research, but I can’t help but think that part of the equa­tion is miss­ing. While Paul Tough, author of the Times arti­cle, focus­es on gaps in envi­ron­men­tal enrich­ment — poor kids are exposed to few­er words, have less stim­u­lat­ing con­ver­sa­tions, etc. — he ignores what might be an even more potent vari­able: stress.”
  • Gould’s work implies that the symp­toms of pover­ty are not sim­ply states of mind; they actu­al­ly warp the mind. Because neu­rons are designed to reflect their cir­cum­stances, not to rise above them, the monot­o­nous stress of liv­ing in a slum lit­er­al­ly lim­its the brain.”

Dave writes How to edu­cate those who seem une­d­u­ca­ble, build­ing on Jon­ah’s post and link­ing to “research by Angela Duck­worth and Mar­tin Selig­man show­ing that self-dis­ci­pline is more impor­tant than high IQ in stu­dent achieve­ment.”

I agree that the impor­tance of stress man­age­ment and self-dis­ci­pline (or emo­tion­al self-reg­u­la­tion) are often over­looked, which is pre­cise­ly why we are focus­ing there. You can read a Tech­nol­o­gy & Learn­ing mag­a­zine arti­cle on Biofeed­back for Emo­tion­al Man­age­ment and Peak Per­for­mance, and a post on Cog­ni­tive Neu­ro­science and Edu­ca­tion Today, where we men­tioned:

(new pro­grams help address) Anx­i­ety and stress: not only test anx­i­ety, but over­all high-lev­els of anx­i­ety that inhib­it learn­ing and high­er-order think­ing: a pro­gram already used in many schools, and with promis­ing research results, is the Insti­tute of HeartMath’s Freeze-Framer. Read How stress and anx­i­ety may affect Learn­ing Readi­ness, and Why chron­ic stress is some­thing to avoid.

Good night,


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  1. Ben Richards says:

    The achieve­ment gap is linked to the IQ gap. See the Drea­ry study dis­cussed on Gene Expres­sion:

    Deary took the analy­sis a step fur­ther how­ev­er and did a lit­tle latent vari­able mod­el­ing. As the IQ test had three components/subtests (ver­bal, non­ver­bal, quan­ti­ta­tive), he cor­re­lat­ed a latent g fac­tor with a latent aca­d­e­m­ic fac­tor using the fol­low­ing sub­tests: Eng­lish, Eng­lish Lit­er­a­ture, Math, Sci­ence, Geog­ra­phy, French (n=12519). The cor­re­la­tion between the latent fac­tors was .81. That is: 66% of the vari­ance in latent (gen­er­al) aca­d­e­m­ic achieve­ment can be explained by latent cog­ni­tive ability—measured 5 years pre­vi­ous­ly. While he hypoth­e­sizes that such things as “school ethos” and “parental sup­port” are good areas to search for the oth­er 34%, based on Rohode’s work, it is like­ly going to be found in resid­ual, first order fac­tors (see Car­roll or McGrew).

    Take home mes­sage: While gen­er­al cog­ni­tive abil­i­ty and aca­d­e­m­ic achieve­ment are not iso­mor­phic, the for­mer is nec­es­sary for the lat­ter, while the con­verse is not nec­es­sar­i­ly true. Spear­man sug­gest­ed this more than a cen­tu­ry ago, and, to quote the last sen­tence in Deary’s work — These data estab­lish the valid­i­ty of g for this impor­tant life out­come.”

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