Early Intervention Can Improve Low-Income Children’s Cognitive Skills and Academic Achievement

National Head Start program conceptualized while psychologists were beginning to study preventive intervention for young children living in poverty.
As a group, children who live in poverty tend to perform worse in school than do children from more privileged backgrounds. For the first half of the 20th century, researchers attributed this difference to inherent cognitive deficits. At the time, the prevailing belief was that the course of child development was dictated by biology and maturation. By the early 1960s, this position gave way to the notion popularized by psychologists such as J. McVicker Hunt and Benjamin Bloom that intelligence could rather easily be shaped by the environment. There was very little research at the time to support these speculations but a few psychologists had begun to study whether environmental manipulation could prevent poor cognitive outcomes. Results of studies by psychologists Susan Gray and Rupert Klaus (1965), Martin Deutsch (1965) and Bettye Caldwell and former U.S. Surgeon General Julius Richmond (1968) supported the notion that early attention to physical and psychological development could improve cognitive ability.

These preliminary results caught the attention of Sargent Shriver, President Lyndon Johnson’s chief strategist in implementing an arsenal of antipoverty programs as part of the War on Poverty. His idea for a school readiness program for children of the poor focused on breaking the cycle of poverty. Shriver reasoned that if poor children could begin school on an equal footing with wealthier classmates, they would have a better of chance of succeeding in school and avoiding poverty in adulthood. He appointed a planning committee of 13 professionals in physical and mental health, early education, social work, and developmental psychology. Their work helped shape what is now known as the federal Head Start program.

The three developmental psychologists in the group were Urie Bronfenbrenner, Mamie Clark, and Edward Zigler. Bronfenbrenner convinced the other members that intervention would be most effective if it involved not just the child but the family and community that comprise the child-rearing environment. Parent involvement in school operations and administration were unheard of at the time, but it became a cornerstone of Head Start and proved to be a major contributor to its success. Zigler had been trained as a scientist and was distressed that the new program was not going to be field-tested before its nationwide launch. Arguing that it was not wise to base such a massive, innovative program on good ideas and concepts but little empirical evidence, he insisted that research and evaluation be part of Head Start. When he later became the federal official responsible for administering the program, Zigler (often referred to as the “father of Head Start”) worked to cast Head Start as a national laboratory for the design of effective early childhood services.

Although it is difficult to summarize the hundreds of empirical studies of Head Start outcomes, Head Start does seem to produce a variety of benefits for most children who participate. Although some studies have suggested that the intellectual advantages gained from participation in Head Start gradually disappear as children progress through elementary school, some of these same studies have shown more lasting benefits in the areas of school achievement and adjustment.
Practical Application

Head Start began as a great experiment that over the years has yielded prolific results. Some 20 million children and families have participated in Head Start since the summer of 1965; current enrollment approaches one million annually, including those in the new Early Head Start that serves families with children from birth to age 3. Psychological research on early intervention has proliferated, creating an expansive literature and sound knowledge base. Many research ideas designed and tested in the Head Start laboratory have been adapted in a variety of service delivery programs. These include family support services, home visiting, a credentialing process for early childhood workers, and education for parenthood. Head Start’s efforts in preschool education spotlighted the value of school readiness and helped spur today’s movement toward universal preschool.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Comments Off

Family-Like Environment Better for Troubled Children and Teens

The Teaching-Family Model changes bad behavior through straight talk and loving relationships.

In the late 1960′s, psychologists Elaine Phillips, Elery Phillips, Dean Fixsen, and Montrose Wolf developed an empirically tested treatment program to help troubled children and juvenile offenders who had been assigned to residential group homes. These researchers combined the successful components of their studies into the Teaching-Family Model, which offers a structured treatment regimen in a family-like environment. The model is built around a married couple (teaching-parents) that lives with children in a group home and teaches them essential interpersonal and living skills. Not only have teaching parents’ behaviors and techniques been assessed for their effectiveness, but they have also been empirically tested for whether children like them. Teaching-parents also work with the children’s parents, teachers, employers, and peers to ensure support for the children’s positive changes. Although more research is needed, preliminary results suggest that, compared to children in other residential treatment programs, children in Teaching-Family Model centers have fewer contacts with police and courts, lower dropout rates, and improved school grades and attendance.

Couples are selected to be teaching-parents based on their ability to provide individualized and affirming care. Teaching-parents then undergo an intensive year-long training process. In order to maintain their certification, teaching-parents and Teaching-Family Model organizations are evaluated every year, and must meet the rigorous standards set by the Teaching-Family Association.
The Teaching-Family Model is one of the few evidence-based residential treatment programs for troubled children. In the past, many treatment programs viewed delinquency as an illness, and therefore placed children in institutions for medical treatment. The Teaching-Family Model, in contrast, views children’s behavior problems as stemming from their lack of essential interpersonal relationships and skills. Accordingly, the Teaching-Family Model provides children with these relationships and teaches them these skills, using empirically validated methods. With its novel view of problem behavior and its carefully tested and disseminated treatment program, the Teaching-Family Model has helped to transform the treatment of behavioral problems from impersonal interventions at large institutions to caring relationships in home and community settings. The Teaching-Family Model has also demonstrated how well-researched treatment programs can be implemented on a large scale. Most importantly, the Teaching-Family Model has given hope that young people with even the most difficult problems or behaviors can improve the quality of their lives and make contributions to society.
Practical Application
In recent years, the Teaching-Family Model has been expanded to include foster care facilities, home treatment settings, and even schools. The Teaching-Family Model has also been adapted to accommodate the needs of physically, emotionally, and sexually abused children; emotionally disturbed and autistic children and adults; medically fragile children; and adults with disabilities. Successful centers that have been active for over 30 years include the Bringing it All Back Home Study Center in North Carolina, the Houston Achievement Place in Texas, and the Girls and Boys Town in Nebraska. Other Teaching-Family Model organizations are in Alberta (Canada), Arkansas, Hawaii, Kansas, Michigan, Mississippi, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Comments Off

Believing You Can Get Smarter Makes You Smarter

Thinking about intelligence as changeable and malleable, rather than stable and fixed, results in greater academic achievement, especially for people whose groups bear the burden of negative stereotypes about their intelligence.

Can people get smarter? Are some racial or social groups smarter than others? Despite a lot of evidence to the contrary, many people believe that intelligence is fixed, and, moreover, that some racial and social groups are inherently smarter than others. Merely evoking these stereotypes about the intellectual inferiority of these groups (such as women and Blacks) is enough to harm the academic perfomance of members of these groups. Social psychologist Claude Steele and his collaborators (2002) have called this phenomenon “stereotype threat.”

Yet social psychologists Aronson, Fried, and Good (2001) have developed a possible antidote to stereotype threat. They taught African American and European American college students to think of intelligence as changeable, rather than fixed – a lesson that many psychological studies suggests is true. Students in a control group did not receive this message. Those students who learned about IQ’s malleability improved their grades more than did students who did not receive this message, and also saw academics as more important than did students in the control group. Even more exciting was the finding that Black students benefited more from learning about the malleable nature of intelligence than did White students, showing that this intervention may successfully counteract stereotype threat.

This research showed a relatively easy way to narrow the Black-White academic achievement gap. Realizing that one’s intelligence may be improved may actually improve one’s intelligence, especially for those whose groups are targets of stereotypes alleging limited intelligence (e.g., Blacks, Latinos, and women in math domains.)
Practical Application

Blackwell, Dweck, and Trzesniewski (2002) recently replicated and applied this research with seventh-grade students in New York City. During the first eight weeks of the spring term, these students learned about the malleability of intelligence by reading and discussing a science-based article that described how intelligence develops. A control group of seventh-grade students did not learn about intelligence’s changeability, and instead learned about memory and mnemonic strategies. As compared to the control group, students who learned about intelligence’s malleability had higher academic motivation, better academic behavior, and better grades in mathematics. Indeed, students who were members of vulnerable groups (e.g., those who previously thought that intelligence cannot change, those who had low prior mathematics achievement, and female students) had higher mathematics grades following the intelligence-is-malleable intervention, while the grades of similar students in the control group declined. In fact, girls who received the intervention matched and even slightly exceeded the boys in math grades, whereas girls in the control group performed well below the boys.

These findings are especially important because the actual instruction time for the intervention totaled just three hours. Therefore, this is a very cost-effective method for improving students’ academic motivation and achievement.
Cited Research

Aronson, J., Fried, C. B., & Good, C. (2001). Reducing the effects of stereotype threat on African American college students by shaping theories of intelligence. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 1-13.

Steele, C. M., Spencer, S. J., & Aronson, J. (2002), Contending with group image: The psychology of stereotype and social identity threat. In Mark P. Zanna (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology, Vol. 34, pp. 379-440. San Diego, CA: Academic Press, Inc.
Additional Sources

Blackwell, L., Dweck, C., & Trzesniewski, K. (2002). Achievement across the adolescent transition: A longitudinal study and an intervention. Manuscript in preparation.

Dweck, C., & Leggett, E. (1988). A social-cognitive approach to motivation and personality. Psychological Review, 95, 256-273.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Comments Off

Why Buy Digital Stamps When There’s Free Clip Art?

Many crafters assume that digital stamps are not worth the price, because there’s a multitude of clip art and imagery available on the Internet. A quick search will bring up a lot of images for you to use at home…so why would you buy a professional digital stamp image? Let’s find out why!There is a huge difference in the quality of a professionally designed digital stamp image versus clip art graphics. First of all, designers create digital imagery for the crafter in mind, so images are black and white allowing you to color it in and finish as you please. Part of the fun in the art of stamping is coloring and embellishing your images to create unique versions. Clip art is usually a low quality colored graphic meant for use on the Internet only.On your computer screen you might not always see the difference, but images designed to be printed are high resolution at 300 dpi. Basically, it means that the image is very large in size, so you can print it out with the crispest lines and curves, no jagged edges even if you print at full-size for a big handmade card or papercraft project. Since clip art is designed for the web, it is usually only 72 dpi and very small in size. Printing often results in a jagged or rough image outline.Since crafters love to color and decorate their images, digital stamp images are also designed with that aspect in mind. We want you to express your artistic talents and taste with the base image to work with. Again, it’s part of the fun in this craft. With the crafter in mind, designs are created for ease of color, cutting and assembling…not just any random design.In addition, many digital stamps also come as PNGs, meaning the background is transparent. This allows you to easily combine images together to create a unique scene for your project. With transparent backgrounds you can also print on colored and patterned paper without problems, especially for those who like to paper piece.Although there are some types of clip art or graphics that will do – such as large printable coloring pages for kids – you will never find the variety and detail of imagery in free graphics. Digital designers work very hard to create their stamps and are crafters themselves! For the best quality images to create a polished project, definitely look to professional digital stamp images.

Posted in Digital Arts | Tagged | Comments Off

How to Make Big Career Decisions a Little Easier

How do you feel about the work you’re doing? Are you enlivened? Is your career headed down the path you had in mind? Or do you find yourself wondering whether it’s time to make a career change that will help you meet your goals? If you’re considering such a change, the enormity of this decision may be weighing on you, as you evaluate a choice that will impact more than your work life.When making career decisions, you’ll benefit by breaking the decision down into smaller parts, to help you identify the criteria most important for you. Once you identify your needs, interests, values, and ideals for your work, you will have what you need to evaluate the suitability of your current and potential future jobs.Getting Started What are the Core Needs you have in order to become fulfilled at work?Theorists have found that we are born with our Core Needs, and they stay with us throughout our lives. Individuals, either consciously or unconsciously, tend to look for ways to have these needs met. When met, people feel energized and enlivened. When missing, people tend to feel more drained of energy and dissatisfied. Therefore, the extent you can align your Core Needs to your work will enable you to realize greater joy and satisfaction.Questions you may ask to clarify your own Core Needs include:1. What do you consider essential in order to be fulfilled at work?2. What are your most cherished values?3. In what ways do you prefer to interact with others?4. How do you like to get your work done?The outcomes of such questions result in your ability to identify your core needs, values, and preferred approach to your work. Take your responses, and start a list of each need you have, and how important each need is. An example is offered below.Career Decision Criteria CORE NEEDS ~ RELATIVE IMPORTANCE *Make a significant impact ~ Must Have *Skillful performance ~ Must Have *Variety ~ Must Have *Contextual Thinking ~ Must Have *Ability to take the time necessary to get the best result ~ Must HaveWhat are your Compelling Interests and Motivations? The second set of questions to ask yourself will help you identify your Compelling Interests and Motivations. Researchers suggest that our interests and motivations tend to stabilize by our mid-twenties, meaning you may experience a bit more change in this area than in your Core Needs. As your career progresses, you’re likely to find this area stabilize.Identify your Compelling Interests and Motivations by exploring these questions:
1. What kinds of occupations have you always found most interesting?
2. What subjects are most interesting to you?
3. What work activities have you enjoyed the most, and why?
4. What do you find particularly motivating?
5. What do you never grow tired of talking about?Once you uncover your Compelling Interests and Motivations, you will be able to identify your most compelling occupational themes, interests, and motivating factors that will provide another set of inputs towards your decision.Career Decision Criteria COMPELLING INTERESTS/MOTIVATIONS ~ RELATIVE IMPORTANCE *Helping others in original, imaginative ways ~ Must Have *Independence ~ Must Have *Writing ~ Must HaveWhen you’re aware of your Core Needs, Compelling Interests, and Motivations, you’ll have a much greater ability to weigh various career decisions against this set of criteria that is true to your ideal career qualities.Of course, the complexity of a career decision doesn’t stop there. There are at least three, and possibly numerous additional criteria categories you have for your career. The three aspects we’ll cover next are the places where you may find the most change throughout your work life.What is your preferred work Context? Context has to do with who you serve in your work, who you work with, where you work, and how you work.To clarify your preferred work place, customers, and coworkers, ask yourself questions such as:1. Who do you want to serve in your work?2. What qualities do you value in your coworkers, managers, and workplace?3. Where do you want to work?4. When do you want to do your work?5. How do you define your ideal work day?Career Decision Criteria PREFERRED CONTEXT ~ RELATIVE IMPORTANCE *Working from a Home Office ~ Like to Have *Having a regular and stable schedule ~ Like to Have *Having a combination of work as part of a team, and independent work ~ Like to Have *Working with people who value quality and relationships ~ Must HaveWhat Competencies do you want to be able to use at work? This next area, Competencies, also contains elements that will serve you and remain constant throughout your work life, while others will come and go as your work environments change. This is where you want to do some work describing the knowledge, skills, and abilities you’ve developed that you want to keep, and what new competencies you want to add.These types of questions will help you identify your preferred competencies: 1. What knowledge, skills, and abilities have you developed that you enjoy using? 2. What projects or work experiences do you think of as your career highlights? 3. What new competencies interest you?Career Decision Criteria COMPETENCIES ~ RELATIVE IMPORTANCE *Listening and identifying unmet needs of others ~ Like to Have *Communicating effectively through writing ~ Must Have *Designing customized programs for customers ~ Like to HaveWhat Connections are most important to you? The Connections you have throughout your Career will be diverse. Some of your connections will stay with you over many years, and others will come and go as your circumstances change.When considering your potential change, ask yourself these questions:1. Who do you love to be around, and why?2. How does your spending time with these kinds of people enrich your life?3. Who do you support, and who supports you, in your career?Career Decision Criteria CONNECTIONS ~ RELATIVE IMPORTANCE *Opportunities to stay current and connected with others in my field ~ Must Have *Finding a mentor in my workplace ~ Like to Have *Working with peers who have similar skills ~ Like to HavePutting it all together: After you’ve found clarity regarding your most important career decision criteria in the above five categories (Core Needs, Compelling Interests and Motivations, Context, Competencies, and Connections), you can build a decision table to reference as you evaluate your current job and research new jobs. To create your table, you may want to use MS Excel, or simply write all your criteria down on one sheet of paper. Your criteria will be listed along the left hand column, with the Relative Importance directly beside your criteria. Then, create a column for every job you want to evaluate against these criteria. Start with your current job. If you find that your current job truly does meet all of your needs, yet only one or two desired qualities are missing, you may want to start by exploring what possibilities there are for bringing what’s missing to your workplace.If you find yourself struggling to generate meaningful answers to the kinds of questions asked throughout this article on your own, you may want to consider working with a professional career services provider, so they can help you gain the level of clarity you need to make a sound career decision. Good career service providers offer a full range of career assessments, tools, and resources to help you make decisions and navigate through the career transition process.The career landscape presents thousands of job choices that can be overwhelming in their diversity. This approach of breaking a big career change decision into smaller parts helps you quickly identify your values, interests, natural talents, and working style preferences, all of which will help you narrow the vast array of choices you’re faced with when selecting or changing your career. Once you find clarity regarding your core needs and interests for a career, then the work of active experimentation, networking, informational interviews, and job shadowing can take place within a few targeted areas. As you align your work and workplace to your personal preferences, natural talents, and interests, you’ll find that you experience much less strain and greater satisfaction in your work.

Posted in Careers | Tagged | Comments Off