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Research News

by Jan. 6, 2016, 10:32 PM

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A new Peabody study shows that interventions for teens with depression are effective and long-lasting. (iStock)

Early intervention key to stopping family depression cycle

Early intervention may be key to curbing depression in families An estimated 16 percent of people in the U.S. will experience depression at some point in their lives. For children of depressed parents, that statistic more than doubles. The depression cycle may be preventable, according to a study that shows early intervention may be the key. Co-lead investigators are Bruce Compas, Patricia and Rodes Hart Professor of Psychology and Human Development; and Judy Garber, professor of psychology and human development and professor of pediatrics. In a related five-year study of teens, Garber found that a cognitive-behavioral prevention program for depression among at-risk youth proved beneficial within nine months and positive effects remained evident more than six years later. Learn more at vu.edu/depression-study or vu.edu/depression-teens

Giving feedback can hinder kids’ math outcomes
A child solves a math problem and gets the wrong answer. A teacher or a parent tells her, “Good try, but your answer is incorrect.” This kind of instructional input is helpful to the child’s learning, right? Not necessarily. A Peabody study finds that sometimes providing verbal feedback (positive or negative) can cause more harm than saying nothing at all. Emily Fyfe, MS’12, PhD’15, published her results in the Journal of Educational Psychology. Her collaborator was Bethany Rittle-Johnson, associate professor of psychology and human development. Learn more at vu.edu/feedback

Study to examine how working memory affects math competency
Children who struggle with math will benefit from an innovative new research project launching in Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools. The National Center for Education Research has awarded $3.5 million to study working-memory training—the ability to hold information in short-term memory while performing other tasks—for students at risk for math difficulties. Lead investigators are Lynn Fuchs and Doug Fuchs, Nicholas Hobbs Professors of Special Education and Human Development; and Sonya Sterba, assistant professor of psychology. Over four years, the study will provide 360 MNPS second-graders with 45 sessions of one-to-one math tutoring delivered across 15 weeks. Learn more at vu.edu/working-memory

Vouchers are most effective housing solution for homeless
Housing vouchers may be the most effective housing program for keeping families out of the homelessness cycle, according to a landmark research study led by Marybeth Shinn, professor and chair of the Department of Human and Organizational Development. The Family Options Study—the first large-scale analysis of its kind—was commissioned by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Shinn presented her findings in Nashville and at the National HUD headquarters in Washington, D.C. Learn more at vu.edu/homeless-study

Money isn’t the best motivator for middle-schoolers
In a study that looked at monetary and nonmonetary rewards as a means to improve participation in after-school tutoring programs, researchers found that certificates of recognition mailed to middle-schoolers’ homes were a better motivator to participate in after-school tutoring programs—even more than the promise of money. Girls were even more likely to be incentivized by the certificates than boys. The lead investigator was Matthew Springer, director of the National Center for Performance Incentives and assistant professor of public policy and education. earn more at vu.edu/motivate-study

‘SAM’ helps principals spend less time putting out fires
The solution to overscheduled principals may be a designated school staff member who meets daily with the principal and assists with time management and goal setting. This is the conclusion detailed in a new report by Ellen Goldring, Patricia and Rodes Hart Professor of Education Policy and Leadership. In a study commissioned by the Wallace Foundation, she evaluated the National SAM Innovation Project in 700 schools. Peabody collaborators include Jason A. Grissom, Christine M. Neumerski, Joseph Murphy and Richard Blissett. Learn more at vu.edu/sam

Black academics expected to ‘entertain’ when presenting
Interviews with 33 prominent African American professors revealed that an overwhelming majority were advised by white peers to be “more entertaining” when making research presentations, as well as to “lighten up” and “tell more jokes.” Black females additionally noted being subject to their colleagues’ preoccupation with their clothing choices and hairstyle, and reported being admonished to play down their “passion” and “smile more.” In addition, nearly all reported overt racist remarks in regard to their academic presentations. Ebony McGee, assistant professor of education, diversity and urban schooling, co-directed the study. Learn more at vu.edu/presenting-black

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