15 Research Studies From The Last Year Every Student Should Know
One of the great gifts that grows from higher education is the ability to do meaningful, world-changing research. It is not unrealistic to think that what is being done across college and university campuses today will resonate for decades — and perhaps even centuries — to come.
We are on the verge of being able to cure Alzheimer’s, greatly enhance the longevity of HIV and cancer patients, and even make space travel more and more like Star Trek, and most of it is due to the seeds planted at educational institutions across the U.S.
To give you some examples of the remarkable things that are being done now — and perhaps to shed some light on future possibilities — we give you the 15 research studies from the last year that every student should know. Let’s get started!
1. Iron, Fitness and Grades
Last week UPI reported on a new study that examined the links between fitness routines, iron intake and student grades, and the findings were interesting to say the least.
The study was conducted by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Pennsylvania State University, and it followed 105 female college students enrolled at Penn State with average GPAs of 3.68.
The report notes that women with the highest levels of stored iron did better academically, and that women with the best physical fitness with sufficient iron stores had higher grades than those with lower.
“GPA is a very easy measure of success and something everyone can relate to,” said Karsten Koehler, assistant professor of nutrition and health sciences at the University of Nebraska, in a press release. “That’s something that resonates pretty well. It’s always nice to show an association that has a meaningful effect that translates into something everybody can apply.”
In other words, working out and eating right isn’t just for the supermodel types. It has a benefit to everyone. Remember that as you gear up for the rest of this semester!
2. Teacher Professional Development Has Impact On Student Writing Skills
Okay, so this one should be a bit of a no-brainer, but it is worth noting for any teachers disheartened by the amount of ongoing professional development they have to endure in a year.
Science Daily reports that “students of teachers who participated in the Pathway Project — 46 hours of training in the ‘cognitive strategies’ instructional approach — scored higher on an academic writing assessment and had higher pass rates on the California High School Exit Exam than students whose teachers did not receive the training.”
Carol Booth Olson, professor of education as well as the Pathway Project’s creator and director of the UCI Writing Project, was lead author on the two-year study.
“On average, students of the Pathway teacher group showed moderate improvement from pre-test to post-test the first year, and students in the second-year Pathway group showed high improvement,” Olson said. “These robust findings demonstrate the impact of teacher training on student outcomes. There is stronger growth in student achievement after two years of teacher participation, highlighting the importance of sustained professional development.”
In other words, education majors, the amount of training that you do does have an ongoing impact. Don’t lose heart.
3. Jerk Or Jovial? It May Not Be Your Fault
The pleasantness of an individual and how they treat others may have more to do with biological makeup than experience. That’s not to rule out the effects of either, but it is an interesting reveal of this recent study reported by Yahoo.
The gist of the study is that the positive and negative characteristics like moodiness or open-mindedness can be linked to brain shape of the individual. The findings were present across the five main personality types.
“The shape of our brain can itself provide surprising clues about how we behave — and our risk of developing mental health disorders,” said participant University of Cambridge in a statement.
“We found that neuroticism … was linked to a thicker cortex and a smaller area and folding in some brain regions,” the study read, adding that on the other hand, openness “was associated with a thinner cortex and greater area and folding.”
As to the age-old nature versus nurture argument, “We cannot answer the question: ‘What came first, the chicken or the egg?’ Hence we can’t say if we have a specific personality type because our brain has a specific shape.”
Still, it is a fascinating reveal that can improve understanding of mental disorders, and that can only help society — and your ability to get on with others — in the long run.
4. LED Screens … Pretty To Look At, But Deadly For Vision
Those of us just coming into our own with the 21st Century boom in technology can understand the fears that some of the older generations had about tech and health, even if we do not fully accept it.
The unknown is scary business, but technology is ultimately better than no technology. Still, are fears like, “If I carry my phone on me, will I get cancer?” persist, and truth-be-told, we don’t have all the answers for every situation.
One recent study reported by THV11 out of Arkansas indicates that at least some of the paranoia about technology is well-founded when it comes to LED screens and eyesight. While “light-emitting diode” technology makes for one heck of a TV, it can cause permanent damage to vision.
The University Complutense of Madrid are the people behind the study, which finds that lab rats “exposed to LED screens for 16 hours a day experienced a 23% higher rate of permanent retina cell death after only three months,” the news site notes.
Researchers, the site continues, “suggest the 20-20-20 rule: for every 20 minutes you stare at a digital screen, turn your gaze 20 feet away for 20 seconds or more to protect your eyes.”
5. Even Scholars Can Be Sexist
As open-minded as the scholarly world and higher ed has a reputation for being, it appears that it can also still be somewhat of a “good ol’ boys club” when it comes to the all-important career-building activity of peer review.
As a study reported by phys.org pointed out, “Scientific journals rely on reviews of manuscripts by experts to ensure the standards, quality and significance of the papers published in their journals. Reviewing manuscripts helps scientists develop their own writing and expertise and foster relationships with others in the field.”
However, it is largely an activity that men control. The study found that between 2012 to 2015 “there were fewer female reviewers for papers published in American Geophysical Union journals than expected for most age groups.”
“With this study, we are really trying to show the data and let people start having a conversation that something as little as requesting reviewers can add up to a large impact on people’s careers,” said former AGU data analyst and lead study author Jory Lerback. “Previously, we never even knew this was a problem. Some people may have suspected it and asked about it, but to be able to show this is a real problem is a big moment.”
6. Women Continue Rising In Business
Challenger, Gray, and Christmas is a Chicago-based consultancy firm that has started to track the gender makeup of the nation’s Chief Executive Officers, and the numbers for 2016 show a marked improvement compared to the ones for 2015.
According to the findings — hat tip to BizJournals for the link — out of 1,043 CEO replacements at U.S. companies in 2016, 193 (18.5 percent) were women, which is up from 157 (15 percent) the year before.
“Women are definitely making gains in the management and professional occupations. As they do, more and more move up into the executive suite and are increasingly exposed to opportunities for the top spot,” Challenger, Gray & Christmas CEO John A. Challenger said in the news release.
So while you women might be discouraged by the peer review thing, ladies, take heart in knowing that at this pace, you will run all the businesses of the U.S. in another 25 years. (Sorry, guys. It’s true. Be nice to them.)
7. Women Are Also Better At Multitasking
Not to rip too much on the guys, but it appears that another study has demonstrated the superiority of the female gender when it comes to multitasking, though, admittedly, not too many people are as good at it as they think they are.
But with the study in question — reported here by Medical Express — subjects from the two genders were given a challenging brain-teaser while walking on a treadmill, and the research found women over 60 “started swinging their right arm less while grappling with a complicated language test” than did men.
The report continued, noting that language function and right arm swing are both thought to be controlled mainly by the brain’s left hemisphere.
“Women under 60 seemed to be resistant to this effect, as they were able to perform the verbal task with no change in arm swing,” said study co-author Tim Killeen, a neuroscientist from the University Hospital Balgrist in Switzerland. “In men and older women, the verbal task appears to overwhelm the left brain to the extent that the movement of the arm on the right is reduced.”
Something you have to look forward to, guys.
8. Your Professors Have A Pivotal Role In Your Success
If you think that you can just sail right through college without paying mind to class time or your professors’ instructional techniques and environment building, then you have another thing coming.
This was the core finding of a report from a favorite site of ours — Inside Higher Ed — which itself was reporting on a new paper entitled, “Unpacking Relationships: Instruction and Student Outcomes.”
The paper makes the argument that subject matter and learning environment — both of which are set by faculty — are important components of student success.
“Instruction matters,” the author, Natasha A. Jankowski, wrote in the white paper. “And higher education needs to provide support for faculty to help students attain outcomes.”
Here are the five faculty practices that can benefit you as summarized by IHE.
- Transparency: students need to know what to expect from their courses, what their professors expect of them and how they will be assessed.
- Pedagogical approaches: personalized instruction and active learning are just two pedagogical approaches that have been linked to better student understanding and overall experience.
- Assessment: students can build upon their knowledge base and check their progress through regular assessments, as opposed to testing their new knowledge and skills once or twice throughout the term.
- Self-regulation: colleges that require active participation and reflection from their students tend to be more successful and have higher graduation rates.
- Alignment: it’s important for students to see how separate assignments, courses and experiences can complement each other and contribute to their overall success.
9. Major League Baseball, Jet Lag, And Today’s Well-Traveled Student
The study we’re about to delve into now — reported here by FanGraphs — has a central focus on Major League Baseball, but make no mistake: it also applies to students, who often place themselves in situations where symptoms of jet lag are apparent.
According to one of the doctors behind the study, performance can be noticeably and significantly impaired due to the rigorous MLB in-season travel schedule.
Dr. Ravi Allada, a circadian-rhythms expert and leader of the study, writes the negative effects of jet lag “are subtle, but they are detectable and significant. And they happen on both offense and defense and for both home and away teams, often in surprising ways … For Game 6 (of the 2016 World Series), the teams had returned to Chicago from LA, and this time the Cubs scored five runs off of Kershaw, including two home runs. While it’s speculation, our research would suggest that jet lag was a contributing factor in Kershaw’s performance.”
The study team had advice for MLB teams hoping to avoid the negative effects from their pitching talent — “If I were a baseball manager and my team was traveling across time zones — either to home or away — I would send my first starting pitcher a day or two ahead, so he could adjust his clock to the local environment,” Allada said.
As a student, you won’t be pitching a best-of-7 series, but you will be pushing your body to the max with all-nighters, screwed-up sleep schedules, and hard partying. If you are not going to avoid such behaviors, or if you can’t avoid such behaviors, then you need to start becoming a master of scheduling to allow the requisite time for recovery so that academic performance is not affected negatively in certain high-focus situations (i.e. testing, presentations, etc.).
10. It’s Not Your Family’s Money That Matters, It’s Finishing
As someone who grew up in a relatively poor household, I know how frustrating it can be for those of you from similar backgrounds to look at some of the dumbbells getting into Harvard because of their family’s money and think, “Why not me?”
But a new study from Equality of Opportunity Project has some good news. It does not really matter how much money or prestige your family has as long as you are committed to finishing what you start. Let’s allow Inside Higher Ed to explain the rest as it originates with their report.
“The study identified colleges with high economic mobility rates — in other words, colleges that lift the most students out of the bottom 20 percent of income and into the top 20 percent by the time they reach their early 30s. … Ivy League colleges have the highest mobility rates (almost 60 percent of students from the bottom 20 percent will end up in the top 20 percent), but other, less selective schools are not far behind.”
In comments to IHE, John Friedman, an associate professor of economics at Brown University and a co-author on the study, had this to say. “What we found really surprising is other schools have outcomes nearly as good as Ivy League schools, but [they] admit many, many more poor students.”
In other words, getting in and finishing will put you on a more equal footing with the privileged elite.
11. Job Discrimination Isn’t Just A U.S. Thing: Beloved Canada Is Pretty Guilty As Well
You know you have the friends on social media — always touting how much more civilized and advance the Maple Leaf country is than ol’ Stars & Stripes. While advancements may be true in some regards — and vice versa — it looks like both countries are pretty awful about job discrimination.
According to a study reported here by the CBC, people with Asian sounding names are much less likely to get a callback for a job than those with Anglo (read: white) sounding names.
The study, which comes from the University of Toronto and Ryerson University, divided the groups into threes — Anglo-sounding names with Canadian qualifications (i.e. Greg Johnson, Emily Brown); Asian-sounding names with Canadian qualifications (i.e. Lei Li, Xuiying Zhang, Samir Sharma, Tara Singh, Ali Saeed, Hina Chaudhry); and Asian-sounding names with foreign qualifications.
With all three groups having identical education and experience, the middle group received “20 to 40 percent less callbacks” for interviews.
Study author Rupa Banerjee calls it “implicit bias,” explaining that “They have seven seconds or less to look at that resume and make a decision if it should be in the look over again pile, or don’t look over again pile.” Based on the snap decisions, the hiring manager will tend to go with the familiar.
12. Increased Productivity Our Only Hope?
The current economic conditions are not so great and the outlook is even bleaker if things stay on the current trajectory. That is because there are fewer young people entering the workforce than older people leaving it, and the old are living longer in spite of the fact there isn’t a robust enough workforce coming up to support them.
The problem was revealed in some detail through a recent analysis conducted by the Harvard Business Review. Point of full disclosure — the people behind it are way smarter than yours truly so it would behoove you to read it. It makes sense to me, but only because they are the ones explaining it.
Bottom line: of the research studies presented in this article, it is perhaps one of the most relevant to your future. Quick overly simple summary: we need to continually innovate and amp up productivity so we’re not falling behind on GDP in light of the thinner workforce.
13. Your Foul-Mouthed Friends…
Everyone has “that friend” they worry about bringing around Mom and Dad. You never know what they’re going to say. They are blunt. Obscene perhaps? Yet you continue to hang out with them because you love and respect them for their reliable integrity and honesty.
They’re not simply going to tell you what they think you want to hear. They’re going to give it to you straight and make you a better person. Well, it turns out that there is science connecting the potty mouth and the honesty that you so respect.
According to this piece from Science Daily, the University of Cambridge found that people who frequently use profanity “are less likely to be associated with lying and deception.”
More from the report:
“Dr David Stillwell, a lecturer in Big Data Analytics at the University of Cambridge, and a co-author on the paper, says: ‘The relationship between profanity and dishonesty is a tricky one. Swearing is often inappropriate but it can also be evidence that someone is telling you their honest opinion. Just as they aren’t filtering their language to be more palatable, they’re also not filtering their views.’ … The international team of researchers set out to gauge people’s views about this sort of language in a series of questionnaires which included interactions with social media users. … In the first questionnaire 276 participants were asked to list their most commonly used and favorite swear words. They were also asked to rate their reasons for using these words and then took part in a lie test to determine whether they were being truthful or simply responding in the way they thought was socially acceptable. Those who wrote down a higher number of curse words were less likely to be lying.”
14. MOOCs Are Still In Development: What They Teach About Engagement, Behavior
Massive open online courses (MOOCs) are considered in some part the future of education, but there is still much to learn about the most effective operation of such. MIT and Harvard University created the edX platform to take MOOCs to the next level. After four years of data buildup, here is what they found.
- Cumulative MOOC participation has grown steadily over four years of HarvardX and MITx course production. During these four years, 2.4 million unique users participated in one or more MITx or HarvardX open online courses, and 245,000 learner certificates were issued upon successfully completing a course. On average, 1,554 new, unique participants enrolled per day over four years. A typical MOOC certificate earner spends 29 hours interacting with online courseware.
- Participants in a MOOC “classroom” are heterogeneous in background and intention. A typical course certifies 500 learners — with 7,900 learners accessing some course content after registering, and around 1,500 choosing to explore half or more of a course’s content. Demographic statistics of note include a median learner age of 29 years old, a two-to-one male-to-female ratio (67 percent male, 33 percent female), and significant participation from learners in other countries (71 percent international, 29 percent from the U.S.).
- Computer science courses are the “hubs” of the MOOC curricular network. Tracking participants who enroll in multiple courses over time can reveal networks among courses and curricular areas. The new report found HarvardX and MITx computer science courses are the are the largest — compared to science, history, health, and other subjects — and route more participants to other disciplinary areas than they receive.
- Educators are active MOOC participants. Surveys of learners in HarvardX or MITx courses also helped capture the broadest sense of teacher and instructor identity among MOOC participants. The new study found strong levels of participation from this cohort, with 32 percent of respondents self-identifying as “being” or “having been” a teacher. Of this group, 19 percent said they instructed on the same topic as the online course in which they participated, and 16 percent achieved course certification.
15. There Is A Fountain Of Youth, And You Need To Be Taking Advantage Of It Now
For hundreds of years, mankind has struggled to find the “key” to eternal life. Over time, we have rightly downgraded that impossible endeavor to reversing the effects of aging as much as possible.
It’s a fight we will never win, but we can always improve at; and as things turn out, there is no great technological discovery needed to make the biggest difference. All you have to do is get your butt out of the chair and move around more.
Medical News Today reports that an overly sedentary lifestyle speeds up the biological aging process. Similarly an active lifestyle slows it down and can actually turn back the clock a bit.
You are going to find as you delve further into college that your metabolism is no longer what it once was. That large pizza you used to be able to put away in 15 minutes and burn off in 30 will hang around for a much longer period of time.
Fortunately, the simple act of standing and walking more — not even that briskly — can have a tremendous effect if you do enough of it. You just can’t afford to sit all day.
Which of these research studies did you find the most interesting? Do you see potential to build on these findings the further you move into your college and higher education career? Sound off in the comments section below.
[Featured Image by Pixabay]