My Take on some of the 30 surprising and controversial research findings about how students learn.

After reading Julie DeNeens’ blog on ‘The virtues of Daydreaming And 30 Other Surprising (And Controversial) Research Findings About How Students Learn’, as the title suggests, I was surprised by some of the findings that have been found into how students learn, and the improvements that could be made to make learning more valuable and more rewarding. This blog is going to focus on two of the findings that I found myself eager to research into more.

Playing scary and violent video games help children master their fears in real life: I’ve been brought up around an older sibling and friends playing video games constantly, focusing their interests on violent games involving guns, murder and prostitution, games that my mum frequently tried to ban from the house. Having said this, my brother grew up to be a respectable and intelligent individual, earning a first class honours degree in mechanical engineering. Would I say that video games helped him become this individual? Not at all. However, neither do I think they hindered him. Cheryl K. Olson conducted a study into the psychological benefits to video games, and her paper appeared in the ‘Review of General Psychology’, I support her view-point that video games do increase the desire to socialise within peer groups, and share a common interest however, I don’t think that the games need to be violent. There are many psychologists and theories that dispute Olson’s claims, theories that I lean more towards. Studies into people who play violent video games frequently showed that they became desensitised to real life violence (Phillips, 2005 Can video games help students within the educational system? I think almost certainly, based on whether they have educational benefits. Do I think violent video games hold an importance in education and they way children learn? Absolutely not.

Economically disadvantaged children reap long-term benefits from pre-school: I’ve been in the state school system from the first day I stepped into a reception classroom, many a times I was offered to go into private education and for some reason, solidly refused. Looking back at my friends, who ended up in both private and public schooling, and the results they achieved at GCSE and A levels, always makes me wonder if I made the wrong decision. However, I am at university studying something I enjoy, and am happy, so shouldn’t complain too much. My cousins have been in private education since pre-school, and after doing my work experience with them, I was amazed at how much they knew at such an early age, a bit like Jesse’s video of his grandchild playing a game on an iPad, all of these children had the ability to use technology to their advantage and several of them owned their own which they played on at home. Which got me thinking, these children are lucky enough to have parents that can afford to send them to such institutes and have access to the best learning, what about the children who cant? Why should these children miss out just because their parents don’t have the funds to send them? There are however, solutions and studies to back up different ways that children can benefit WITHOUT Ipads (shocking I know).  Randerson (2008) ( wrote that children who receive a variety of learning at home before they even start school could achieve better results, especially in maths. Activities such as reading to them, number and shape games and singing nursery rhymes also improve children’s abilities vastly. The activities mentioned above can be carried out by all adults, economic status does not stop the ability to spend quality time with children partaking in simple activities that in the long run, will benefit the child.

Julie DeNeen’s blog contains 28 more research findings into children and the way they can benefit in education, as well as 1 more of her own based on daydreaming. As I stated before I found it a really interesting read and suggest reading it yourself if you are intrigued to find out about the other 29. I’ve focused on the two that I found myself debating with the most.

Julie’s blog can be found here:


13 thoughts on “My Take on some of the 30 surprising and controversial research findings about how students learn.

  1. You speak about the division of socio-economic classes between different types of educational institutions, but this issue is prevalent within individual classrooms. I did some wider reading around your point that home-based teaching can enhance learning in the school environment and how this relates to the economically disadvantaged. While it is true that children from lower socio-economic households tend to achieve less in school than their more advantaged peers (Considine & Zappala, 2002), a study conducted by Bakker (2007) found that the extent to which parents engage in home-based learning with their children did not tend to vary amongst socio-economic groups. However, they did find that teachers perceived such parents to offer far less intervention than those from more advantaged backgrounds. In other words, it is possible that the preconceived prejudices of teachers towards students from different backgrounds affects the expectations placed upon them (lower for lower economic groups etc), thus resulting in a kind of “self-fulfilling prophecy”. The home-based interventions that you suggest for economically disadvantaged children may be of very little merit unless societal attitudes (and thus those of teachers) change to allow children to achieve a personal potential, and not one hindered by false judgement.

  2. Sorry to digress from the previous comment, but I found what you mentioned about video games really interesting. I know apple have ‘jumped’ on board with idea, if you take a look in the app store there are all sorts of educational games available (e.g I we think about games consoles such as the nintendo ds we don’t typically think of violent games but instead games such as “brain trainer”, perhaps such consoles could be effectively integrated in to a school environment. Rosas et al (1994) tested the effect of educational nintendo games on maths, reading and comprehension. The research found an increase in students motivation to learn but not a significant increase in school performance. Some suggestions have been made that students don’t perform better with videogames purely because they are reluctant to it as a learning tool (Squire, 2005). A literature review by Mitchell and Savill-Smith has suggested that video games may be more appropriately used as extra curricular learning or as part of a tutor programme, perhaps this would overcome students reluctance to video gaming as a learning method.

    Ive left some references the Mitchell and Savill-Smith review is great if you intend to do more on video gaming, appreciated your insight. 🙂

    Rosas et al:
    Mitchell and Savill-Smith:

  3. I find your take on a private education interesting. However, as a pupil who attended private school from the age of seven right through to finishing my A-levels, I have to disagree with your argument that private school students are handed a better education because they are able to afford the more advanced technology. Whilst I am sure that this is certainly not a disadvantage, I think one of the most important distinctions between private and public schooling is class size. There is a considerable amount of research to support the idea of reducing class sizes to improve achievement in school (for example, Angrist, 1999, Mosteller,1995). Karakaya (2001) recognised that students in large classes did not always perform as well as students in smaller class sizes and attributes this discrepancy to the hypothesis that students who utilise different learning styles will perform differently in the same classroom. This can be problematic when the the student:teacher ratio is larger. Interestingly, this researcher found that this problem in larger class sizes can be overcome with the extensive use of technology in the classroom; something which you have pointed out already. Having said that, I attended a private Catholic school, which focused very little on using the latest technology in the classroom, but rather prided itself in the amount of time, effort and one-to-one assistance the teacher could give each student, made possible by class sizes which were rarely larger than 20.

  4. Hi Becky,

    I was reading through your blog and within the video games section, I noticed a discrepancy. You have used the header: Playing scary and violent video games help children master their fears in real life, yet you conclude that violent video games do not hold an importance in education or how the children learn, with as far as i can see no evidnece. This then spurred me on to do research into violent video games and education and I have actually found evidence that states that they do enhance learning. Daphne Bavelier, an assistant professor in the department of brain and cognitive science at the University of Rochester conducted research into this area, and presented her findings at a conference in New York. She concluded that playing games such as ‘medal of honour’ enhanced an individuals vision, attention and cognition and in relation to education these benefits will apply to that of mathematics and other brain tasks. This is further supported by the Israeli air force who found that when their students played the game ‘space fortress’ which is a shooting game, that their pilot training scores were higher than that of those who did not play the game. Although it is only a few examples, there is research out there to support the notion that violent video games enhance learning.,2933,593673,00.html

  5. I very much enjoyed reading your blog Becky, and I am going to focus my comment on the first point you addressed using video games. Research for decades has shown that on-screen violence can be linked to violent play within children, for example take Bandura’s bobo doll experiment, where children shown a video of a man acting aggressively towards a bobo doll in a video, were much more likely to act aggressively in practise (Bandura, Ross, & Ross, 1961), so I completely agree with you on that point.

    In response to the opening point about violence games helping children master their fears in real life, it has been shown that these games can bring violence desensitiation, so in practise reducing reactions to violence. But the research in support of this has also shown this increases levels of violence in children, and there is no sign of evidence reducing it. A lot of these studies were done with control groups playing non-violent games, and no difference was found, so it is true video games if used properly can have no negative effects, and if used properly can be included in an educational curriculum.

    Anderson, C. A., & Bushman, B. J. (2001). Effects of violent video games on aggressive behaviour, aggressive cognition, aggressive affect, physiological arousal, and prosocial behaviour: a meta-analytic review of the scientific literature. Psychological Science , 12 (5), 353-359.
    Bandura, A., Ross, D., & Ross, S. A. (1961). Transmission of aggression through the imitation of aggressive models. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology , 63, 575-582.

  6. One of your points about video games making individuals more sociable was an interesting one. I both agree and disagree! I have friends who spend hours playing Call of Duty, socialising only with those who enter the Xbox room! So in this respect I do not think that video games increase sociability.

    There is also an addictive aspect of these games where players feel they must play more and more to increase their score and master the game. On the other hand, the want or ‘need’ to play the game increases their desire to see other people – who also share the same love of the game.

    Hussain and Griffiths (2008) found that one in five gamers preferred socialising online to offline. The researchers also found that more male than female gamers preferred socialising online to offline. There is also an aspect of deception involved in online gaming, where gamers swap genders, as it’s suggested that in a male-oriented environment, the female persona has positive attributes.

    Problem gaming occurs when individuals play longer than planned and with greater frequency. Porter, Starcevic, Berle and Fenech (2009) found that problem gamers played the games even if they did not actually want to. It would be great if there were a way to utilise aspects of gaming to integrate it into the educational system in a manner that teaches students knowledge while they can simultaneously enjoy it. Students would actively engage in playing such games, while the teachers and lecturers could relax knowing that they were also learning while playing such games.

    Hussain, Z. & Griffiths, M.D. (2008). Gender swapping and socialising in cyberspace: an exploratory study. Cyberpsychology & Behaviour, 11(1) 47-53.

    Porter, G., Starcevic, V., Berle, D. & Fenech, P. (2009). Recognising problem video game use. Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 44 (2) 120-128.

  7. It was interesting reading your blog about state vs private schools, I personally do not like the idea of private schools., though I understand they do have some benefits over state schools such as smaller class sizes which can help children learn more effectively. The main reason why I do not agree with private schools is that you can achieve the same grades at a state school. 92% of children in the UK go to state schools up and down the country leaving only 8% of children attending private schools with average tuition fees of £18828 a year! Which results in more students studying at univeristy that come from state schools. It just seems ridiculous to spend that amount of money each year when it could contribute towards university tuition fees later on or could be used on a house etc especially when the cost of living is increasing each year. I was fortunate enough to go to a state school which had some excellent facilities such as; sports halls and gyms, swimming pools and excellent performaing arts facilities such as theatres and dance studios etc. Computers and new technologies where introduced more and more throughout my time at school and each child gained more skills that at are important in todays lifestyle such as the knbowledge and understanding of computer softwares as well as the skills for using the software etc.
    However, I agree with the idea that schools in general do need to adjust the way they teach students as copying out a textbook without additional experience or practical skills is very outdated. Some state schools do need better facilities and introducing new technology into the classroom I think could change the way we learn for the better.

  8. Really enjoyed your blog! I don’t believe playing violent games affect how you act as a person. If someone already has problems (may not be the right way to word it, sorry) then violent games may not be the best choice but I do not think violent games are the cause. I must say I do like playing call of duty and I wouldnt say it has changed my attitude and made me more violent. I would say, however, I dont think young children should be playing these kind of games, I think age restrictions that are put on the games should be listened to.
    For your second point about the use of technology in education. I don’t believe it is needed but can be beneficial. Saying that I dont think we should rely on computers and ipads etc to education children in the country because then they will lose skills such as hand writing and verbal communication if we use technology as the sole basis of education. There is becoming more and more research into this issue of whether technology actually improves education and achievements in schools. Kulik (1994) conducted a meta analysis study and found that children that received computer based instruction scored higher on the percentile than those who were in the control groups, without computer based instruction. Sivin-Kachala (1998) found similar results. Also that students who received computer based instruction had improved attitudes towards learning, this may have been due to enjoyment in class. Baker, Gearhart and Herman (1994) used Apple technology in their experiment. They found that students reached higher level reasoning and that it had a positive impact on student attitudes, However the use of this technology did not actually improve performance. I don’t think the use of technology is as important as some people are suggesting. We learn an incredible amount before we even reach school level with the help of parents who reliably reinforce our behaviours which encourage these behaviours in the future (Moerk, 1990).

  9. I believe the topic you have decided to discuss is an extremely good one as it focuses on current issues in our culture and sufficient research to back up your claim. To your first point about violent video games, the statement made by Julie DeNeens, I agree with you, violent video games do not improve fear. Although you do state Phillips’ (2005) findings, research from Ferguson (2007) into Meta analysing previous gaming studies, the findings were that there is no support for the hypothesis of violence being more prominent in video gaming individuals, however violent video games relate to higher visual spatial cognition to the gamers which suggests there are only positives to playing these games, which must be the same for your brother. Another research study by Griffiths (2004) studied the differences between teenagers and adult gamers on a game, the results showed that mostly males played the game, the younger generation preferred feature would be violence, showing that competition and beating the opposition (like sports) is a contributing factor into playing games, but the worrying thing was the amount of time the gamers played the game. Will this affect their academic skills, I know your brother did’nt suffer but do other individuals sacrifice too much in order to play these games?
    Very good blog, which I can associate to!

    Ferguson, C.J (2007b). The good, the bad and the ugly: A meta-analytic review of positive and negative effects of violent videogames. Psychiatric Quarterly, 78, 309-316

    Griffiths, M.D., & Davies M.N.O. (2005).

  10. Personally I believe that violience in video games can have both positive and negative effects on an individual. However I will only focus on the fact that violence in video games is positive in in relation to educating. Yes, as you mentioned, fear can be tackled or more likely early childhood exposure to such things could help complete avoidance of certain types of fear.

    However, I believe more importantly that in certain situations, problem solving situations for example are often accompanied with stress related issues, being able to problem solve in the real world when faced with violence or extreme stressors is something that would be very difficult to teach in a class room situation.

    Yes there are negative sides, teaching a child that solving problems WITH violence is awful and should not be taught, but high pressure situations are hard to simulate. Video games in general can provide an extra dimension to experiences and situations. They are also extremely interactive and engaging for the individual, making use of audio – visual processes.

    I agree with your post that video games to have a place in education but I disagree that violent games should not be used. I would like the next generation to be hardy and understanding of these issues rather than wrapped in a fake protective blanket until they are old enough to make choices for themselves. My point should be taken with moderation of course.

  11. Very interesting blog Becky. I actually wanted to talk about your second point regarding private and public schools.
    While you said that Private school children have access to better technology, I wanted to look into whether this did actually give them an advantage, or whether public school children can perform just as well academically without as much technology.

    I firstly wanted to share a quote from Jack Jennings (the president of the Centre on eduction policy): ‘”Contrary to popular belief, we can find no evidence that private schools actually increase student performance. Instead, it appears that private schools simply have higher percentages of students who would perform well in any environment based on their previous performance and background.” (,8599,1670063,00.html)

    What this is saying is that it seems that the average performance of private schools is higher due to the individuals who attend it. It is suggested that these individuals would have strived and achieved in any environment. It’s not that individuals increase their performance during their private education, but rather that their performance would have increased in whatever environment they were put into.

    So, perhaps these are the students that are a higher class and whose parents earn more and can therefore give them more help (be that through resources or private tutoring), and these happen to be the parents who can also afford to send their children to a private school.
    A study that seems to support this idea comes from an OECD report, which showed that while privately educated students in Britain did better in exams, those with the same backgrounds at public schools did better than them ( This suggests that public schools are actually better when students from the same socio-economic backgrounds are assessed in each.

    Finally, a five year study of 8000 A-level students found that students from public schools are more likely gain a higher degree classification in university, when compared to those from a private school with similar A-level results (
    This, again, suggests that public schools produce more academically capable students.

    My point being, that perhaps even without all the technological equipment that private schools have, students in public schools still seem to do better.

    And as you said, I also went to a public school and am happily studying in university.

    I think this raises the question of whether parents need to be spending all this money on a private education. And I, personally, wonder whether it’s more because some middle class parents may find it embarrassing to have a child who is not privately educated or simply for the bragging rights. Of course, I’m not saying all parents are this way…or even any for that matter. I just think it’d be something interesting to explore.

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