Melbourne Graduate School of Education - Research Publications
Now showing items 1-12 of 1597
Numerical cognition in bees and other insects
(FRONTIERS MEDIA SA, 2013-04-18)
The ability to perceive the number of objects has been known to exist in vertebrates for a few decades, but recent behavioral investigations have demonstrated that several invertebrate species can also be placed on the continuum of numerical abilities shared with birds, mammals, and reptiles. In this review article, we present the main experimental studies that have examined the ability of insects to use numerical information. These studies have made use of a wide range of methodologies, and for this reason it is striking that a common finding is the inability of the tested animals to discriminate numerical quantities greater than four. Furthermore, the finding that bees can not only transfer learnt numerical discrimination to novel objects, but also to novel numerosities, is strongly suggestive of a true, albeit limited, ability to count. Later in the review, we evaluate the available evidence to narrow down the possible mechanisms that the animals might be using to solve the number-based experimental tasks presented to them. We conclude by suggesting avenues of further research that take into account variables such as the animals' age and experience, as well as complementary cognitive systems such as attention and the time sense.
Effects of a free school breakfast programme on children's attendance, academic achievement and short-term hunger: results from a stepped-wedge, cluster randomised controlled trial
(BMJ PUBLISHING GROUP, 2013-03-01)
BACKGROUND: Free school breakfast programmes (SBPs) exist in a number of high-income countries, but their effects on educational outcomes have rarely been evaluated in randomised controlled trials. METHODS: A 1-year stepped-wedge, cluster randomised controlled trial was undertaken in 14 New Zealand schools in low socioeconomic resource areas. Participants were 424 children, mean age 9±2 years, 53% female. The intervention was a free daily SBP. The primary outcome was children's school attendance. Secondary outcomes were academic achievement, self-reported grades, sense of belonging at school, behaviour, short-term hunger, breakfast habits and food security. RESULTS: There was no statistically significant effect of the breakfast programme on children's school attendance. The odds of children achieving an attendance rate <95% was 0.76 (95% CI 0.56 to 1.02) during the intervention phase and 0.93 (95% CI 0.67 to 1.31) during the control phase, giving an OR of 0.81 (95% CI 0.59 to 1.11), p=0.19. There was a significant decrease in children's self-reported short-term hunger during the intervention phase compared with the control phase, demonstrated by an increase of 8.6 units on the Freddy satiety scale (95% CI 3.4 to 13.7, p=0.001). There were no effects of the intervention on any other outcome. CONCLUSIONS: A free SBP did not have a significant effect on children's school attendance or academic achievement but had significant positive effects on children's short-term satiety ratings. More frequent programme attendance may be required to influence school attendance and academic achievement. TRIAL REGISTRATION: Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry (ANZCTR)-ACTRN12609000854235.
Movie making as a cognitive distraction for paediatric patients receiving radiotherapy treatment: qualitative interview study.
OBJECTIVES: To establish the outcomes achieved by using an innovative movie-making programme designed to reduce fear of radiotherapy among paediatric patients. DESIGN: Qualitative descriptive evaluation based on semistructured, qualitative interviews with purposeful sampling and thematic analysis. SETTING: Tertiary Cancer Centre. PARTICIPANTS: 20 parents of paediatric patients who had produced a movie of their radiation therapy experience and were in a follow-up phase of cancer management. RESULTS: Participants attributed a broad range of outcomes to the movie-making program. These included that the programme had helped reduce anxiety and distress exhibited by paediatric patients and contributed to a willingness to receive treatment. Other outcomes were that the completed movies had been used in school reintegration and for maintaining social connections. CONCLUSIONS: Allowing children to create a video of their experience of radiotherapy provided a range of benefits to paediatric patients that varied according to their needs. For some patients, movie-making offered a valuable medium for overcoming fear of the unknown as well as increasing understanding of treatment processes. For others, the development of a personalised video offered an important cognitive/attentional distraction through engaging with an age-appropriate activity. Together these outcomes helped children maintain self-control and a positive outlook.
Number-Based Visual Generalisation in the Honeybee
(PUBLIC LIBRARY SCIENCE, 2009-01-28)
Although the numerical abilities of many vertebrate species have been investigated in the scientific literature, there are few convincing accounts of invertebrate numerical competence. Honeybees, Apis mellifera, by virtue of their other impressive cognitive feats, are a prime candidate for investigations of this nature. We therefore used the well-established delayed match-to-sample paradigm, to test the limits of honeybees' ability to match two visual patterns solely on the basis of the shared number of elements in the two patterns. Using a y-maze, we found that bees can not only differentiate between patterns containing two and three elements, but can also use this prior knowledge to differentiate three from four, without any additional training. However, bees trained on the two versus three task could not distinguish between higher numbers, such as four versus five, four versus six, or five versus six. Control experiments confirmed that the bees were not using cues such as the colour of the exact configuration of the visual elements, the combined area or edge length of the elements, or illusory contours formed by the elements. To our knowledge, this is the first report of number-based visual generalisation by an invertebrate.
East Learns from West: Asiatic Honeybees Can Understand Dance Language of European Honeybees
(PUBLIC LIBRARY SCIENCE, 2008-06-04)
The honeybee waggle dance, through which foragers advertise the existence and location of a food source to their hive mates, is acknowledged as the only known form of symbolic communication in an invertebrate. However, the suggestion, that different species of honeybee might possess distinct 'dialects' of the waggle dance, remains controversial. Furthermore, it remains unclear whether different species of honeybee can learn from and communicate with each other. This study reports experiments using a mixed-species colony that is composed of the Asiatic bee Apis cerana cerana (Acc), and the European bee Apis mellifera ligustica (Aml). Using video recordings made at an observation hive, we first confirm that Acc and Aml have significantly different dance dialects, even when made to forage in identical environments. When reared in the same colony, these two species are able to communicate with each other: Acc foragers could decode the dances of Aml to successfully locate an indicated food source. We believe that this is the first report of successful symbolic communication between two honeybee species; our study hints at the possibility of social learning between the two honeybee species, and at the existence of a learning component in the honeybee dance language.
Visually guided decision making in foraging honeybees
(FRONTIERS MEDIA SA, 2012-01-01)
Honeybees can easily be trained to perform different types of discrimination tasks under controlled laboratory conditions. This review describes a range of experiments carried out with free-flying forager honeybees under such conditions. The research done over the past 30 or so years suggests that cognitive abilities (learning and perception) in insects are more intricate and flexible than was originally imagined. It has become apparent that honeybees are capable of a variety of visually guided tasks, involving decision making under challenging situations: this includes simultaneously making use of different sensory modalities, such as vision and olfaction, and learning to use abstract concepts such as "sameness" and "difference." Many studies have shown that decision making in foraging honeybees is highly flexible. The trained animals learn how to solve a task, and do so with a high accuracy, but when they are presented with a new variation of the task, they apply the learnt rules from the earlier setup to the new situation, and solve the new task as well. Honeybees therefore not only feature a rich behavioral repertoire to choose from, but also make decisions most apt to the current situation. The experiments in this review give an insight into the environmental cues and cognitive resources that are probably highly significant for a forager bee that must continually make decisions regarding patches of resources to be exploited.
Fixed or mixed: a comparison of three, four and mixed-option multiple-choice tests in a Fetal Surveillance Education Program
BACKGROUND: Despite the widespread use of multiple-choice assessments in medical education assessment, current practice and published advice concerning the number of response options remains equivocal. This article describes an empirical study contrasting the quality of three 60 item multiple-choice test forms within the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RANZCOG) Fetal Surveillance Education Program (FSEP). The three forms are described below. METHODS: The first form featured four response options per item. The second form featured three response options, having removed the least functioning option from each item in the four-option counterpart. The third test form was constructed by retaining the best performing version of each item from the first two test forms. It contained both three and four option items. RESULTS: Psychometric and educational factors were taken into account in formulating an approach to test construction for the FSEP. The four-option test performed better than the three-option test overall, but some items were improved by the removal of options. The mixed-option test demonstrated better measurement properties than the fixed-option tests, and has become the preferred test format in the FSEP program. The criteria used were reliability, errors of measurement and fit to the item response model. CONCLUSIONS: The position taken is that decisions about the number of response options be made at the item level, with plausible options being added to complete each item on both psychometric and educational grounds rather than complying with a uniform policy. The point is to construct the better performing item in providing the best psychometric and educational information.
An innovative OSCE clinical log station: a quantitative study of its influence on Log use by medical students
(BIOMED CENTRAL LTD, 2012-11-12)
BACKGROUND: A Clinical Log was introduced as part of a medical student learning portfolio, aiming to develop a habit of critical reflection while learning was taking place, and provide feedback to students and the institution on learning progress. It was designed as a longitudinal self-directed structured record of student learning events, with reflection on these for personal and professional development, and actions planned or taken for learning.As incentive was needed to encourage student engagement, an innovative Clinical Log station was introduced in the OSCE, an assessment format with established acceptance at the School. This study questions: How does an OSCE Clinical Log station influence Log use by students? METHODS: The Log station was introduced into the formative, and subsequent summative, OSCEs with careful attention to student and assessor training, marking rubrics and the standard setting procedure. The scoring process sought evidence of educational use of the log, and an ability to present and reflect on key learning issues in a concise and coherent manner. RESULTS: Analysis of the first cohort's Log use over the four-year course (quantified as number of patient visits entered by all students) revealed limited initial use. Usage was stimulated after introduction of the Log station early in third year, with some improvement during the subsequent year-long integrated community-based clerkship. Student reflection, quantified by the mean number of characters in the 'reflection' fields per entry, peaked just prior to the final OSCE (mid-Year 4). Following this, very few students continued to enter and reflect on clinical experience using the Log. CONCLUSION: While the current study suggested that we can't assume students will self-reflect unless such an activity is included in an assessment, ongoing work has focused on building learner and faculty confidence in the value of self-reflection as part of being a competent physician.
Effects of a free school breakfast programme on school attendance, achievement, psychosocial function, and nutrition: a stepped wedge cluster randomised trial
BACKGROUND: Approximately 55,000 children in New Zealand do not eat breakfast on any given day. Regular breakfast skipping has been associated with poor diets, higher body mass index, and adverse effects on children's behaviour and academic performance. Research suggests that regular breakfast consumption can improve academic performance, nutrition and behaviour. This paper describes the protocol for a stepped wedge cluster randomised trial of a free school breakfast programme. The aim of the trial is to determine the effects of the breakfast intervention on school attendance, achievement, psychosocial function, dietary habits and food security. METHODS/DESIGN: Sixteen primary schools in the North Island of New Zealand will be randomised in a sequential stepped wedge design to a free before-school breakfast programme consisting of non-sugar coated breakfast cereal, milk products, and/or toast and spreads. Four hundred children aged 5-13 years (approximately 25 per school) will be recruited. Data collection will be undertaken once each school term over the 2010 school year (February to December). The primary trial outcome is school attendance, defined as the proportion of students achieving an attendance rate of 95% or higher. Secondary outcomes are academic achievement (literacy, numeracy, self-reported grades), sense of belonging at school, psychosocial function, dietary habits, and food security. A concurrent process evaluation seeks information on parents', schools' and providers' perspectives of the breakfast programme. DISCUSSION: This randomised controlled trial will provide robust evidence of the effects of a school breakfast programme on students' attendance, achievement and nutrition. Furthermore the study provides an excellent example of the feasibility and value of the stepped wedge trial design in evaluating pragmatic public health intervention programmes. TRIAL REGISTRATION NUMBER: Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry (ANZCTR) - ACTRN12609000854235.
Can improving working memory prevent academic difficulties? a school based randomised controlled trial
(BIOMED CENTRAL LTD, 2011-06-20)
BACKGROUND: Low academic achievement is common and is associated with adverse outcomes such as grade repetition, behavioural disorders and unemployment. The ability to accurately identify these children and intervene before they experience academic failure would be a major advance over the current 'wait to fail' model. Recent research suggests that a possible modifiable factor for low academic achievement is working memory, the ability to temporarily store and manipulate information in a 'mental workspace'. Children with working memory difficulties are at high risk of academic failure. It has recently been demonstrated that working memory can be improved with adaptive training tasks that encourage improvements in working memory capacity. Our trial will determine whether the intervention is efficacious as a selective prevention strategy for young children at risk of academic difficulties and is cost-effective. METHODS/DESIGN: This randomised controlled trial aims to recruit 440 children with low working memory after a school-based screening of 2880 children in Grade one. We will approach caregivers of all children from 48 participating primary schools in metropolitan Melbourne for consent. Children with low working memory will be randomised to usual care or the intervention. The intervention will consist of 25 computerised working memory training sessions, which take approximately 35 minutes each to complete. Follow-up of children will be conducted at 6, 12 and 24 months post-randomisation through child face-to-face assessment, parent and teacher surveys and data from government authorities. The primary outcome is academic achievement at 12 and 24 months, and other outcomes include child behaviour, attention, health-related quality of life, working memory, and health and educational service utilisation. DISCUSSION: A successful start to formal learning in school sets the stage for future academic, psychological and economic well-being. If this preventive intervention can be shown to be efficacious, then we will have the potential to prevent academic underachievement in large numbers of at-risk children, to offer a ready-to-use intervention to the Australian school system and to build international research partnerships along the health-education interface, in order to carry our further studies of effectiveness and generalisability.
Construction of the descriptive system for the assessment of quality of life AQoL-6D utility instrument
(BIOMED CENTRAL LTD, 2012-04-17)
BACKGROUND: Multi attribute utility (MAU) instruments are used to include the health related quality of life (HRQoL) in economic evaluations of health programs. Comparative studies suggest different MAU instruments measure related but different constructs. The objective of this paper is to describe the methods employed to achieve content validity in the descriptive system of the Assessment of Quality of Life (AQoL)-6D, MAU instrument. METHODS: The AQoL program introduced the use of psychometric methods in the construction of health related MAU instruments. To develop the AQoL-6D we selected 112 items from previous research, focus groups and expert judgment and administered them to 316 members of the public and 302 hospital patients. The search for content validity across a broad spectrum of health states required both formative and reflective modelling. We employed Exploratory Factor Analysis and Structural Equation Modelling (SEM) to meet these dual requirements. RESULTS AND DISCUSSION: The resulting instrument employs 20 items in a multi-tier descriptive system. Latent dimension variables achieve sensitive descriptions of 6 dimensions which, in turn, combine to form a single latent QoL variable. Diagnostic statistics from the SEM analysis are exceptionally good and confirm the hypothesised structure of the model. CONCLUSIONS: The AQoL-6D descriptive system has good psychometric properties. They imply that the instrument has achieved construct validity and provides a sensitive description of HRQoL. This means that it may be used with confidence for measuring health related quality of life and that it is a suitable basis for modelling utilities for inclusion in the economic evaluation of health programs.
Improving the outcome of infants born at < 30 weeks' gestation - a randomized controlled trial of preventative care at home
BACKGROUND: Early developmental interventions to prevent the high rate of neurodevelopmental problems in very preterm children, including cognitive, motor and behavioral impairments, are urgently needed. These interventions should be multi-faceted and include modules for caregivers given their high rates of mental health problems. METHODS/DESIGN: We have designed a randomized controlled trial to assess the effectiveness of a preventative care program delivered at home over the first 12 months of life for infants born very preterm (<30 weeks of gestational age) and their families, compared with standard medical follow-up. The aim of the program, delivered over nine sessions by a team comprising a physiotherapist and psychologist, is to improve infant development (cognitive, motor and language), behavioral regulation, caregiver-child interactions and caregiver mental health at 24 months' corrected age. The infants will be stratified by severity of brain white matter injury (assessed by magnetic resonance imaging) at term equivalent age, and then randomized. At 12 months' corrected age interim outcome measures will include motor development assessed using the Alberta Infant Motor Scale and the Neurological Sensory Motor Developmental Assessment. Caregivers will also complete a questionnaire at this time to obtain information on behavior, parenting, caregiver mental health, and social support. The primary outcomes are at 24 months' corrected age and include cognitive, motor and language development assessed with the Bayley Scales of Infant and Toddler Development (Bayley-III). Secondary outcomes at 24 months include caregiver-child interaction measured using an observational task, and infant behavior, parenting, caregiver mental health and social support measured via standardized parental questionnaires. DISCUSSION: This paper presents the background, study design and protocol for a randomized controlled trial in very preterm infants utilizing a preventative care program in the first year after discharge home designed to improve cognitive, motor and behavioral outcomes of very preterm children and caregiver mental health at two-years' corrected age. CLINICAL TRIAL REGISTRATION NUMBER: ACTRN12605000492651.