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Theme 1.2: Cognitive and Affective Processes in Learning

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Our research under this theme relates to both cognitive aspects of learning, on the one hand, and the affective and motivational aspects of learning, on the other hand.


Book, « Pluralisme Représentationnel » with Michel Bélanger

Dr. Potvin is also publishing a book with UQAR professor Dr. Michel Bélanger on representational pluralism, i.e. the consideration of various models to explain one same phenomenon. In line with conceptual change, Dr. Potvin's contribution to the project aims to develop ways to avoid supplanting students’ experience-based theories with established models or ignoring the latter models for lack of relatability, but instead mediating between the two and helping students discern which conceptions would be most useful to them depending on the context of their task.

ResearcherPatrice Potvin

Integrated teaching of grammar in French first-language teaching and English second-language teaching

This study, lead by Dr. Gauvin and funded by a SSHRC Insight Grant, examines the effects of integrated teaching of grammar in French as a language of instruction and English as a second language in Quebec on verb complements. In Quebec, all students learn French and English from Grade 1 onwards: early on in their education, they build a plural linguistic knowledge base. Since the languages spoken by a speaker are interrelated, the teaching of first and second languages must be decompartmentalized. However, this teaching often takes place in a vacuum, with language teachers rarely working together to help their students understand the similarities and differences between the languages they are learning. Thus, because all Quebec students develop knowledge of French and English from the beginning of their schooling and because language teaching, including grammar teaching, is done in isolation, it is relevant to describe the effects of integrated grammar teaching on the development of learners' metalinguistic thinking, their knowledge of the properties of verb complements, as well as its usefulness in writing tasks.

ResearcherIsabelle Gauvin

Interventions to counter gender stereotypes in pre-school and kindergarten students

Dr. Plante is leading a project wherein the research team develops activities that convey a message countering gender stereotypes and encouraging a plurality of gender performances (i.e. ways of “being” a boy or a girl) for pre-school and kindergarten students. These classroom interventions will be tested by and with domain specialists from teachers to academic advisers, to determine whether they have a greater effect than what is currently being done in classes. This project is of great social and educational pertinence, as it seeks to prevent gender differences in stereotyped fields, or influences on performance and interests.

ResearcherIsabelle Plante

Links between mental health, substance abuse, motivation, and academic success or perseverance for vocational training students

This project is a longitudinal study following both the academic and professional lives of a cohort of students who started their vocational training in 2019. With regularly completed questionnaires, students’ academic record, and interviews to collect data, Dr. Dubeau will use information on various factors in the students’ lives such as mental health issues (depression, anxiety), substance use, work/school balance, academic success, or academic perseverance to determine links between said factors. The deep, longitudinal aspect of the project allows for complex portraits of the students and the possibility for controlled variables. Thus, the goal is to draw a list of priorities regarding which factors affect academic success and how, as well as determine whether vocational training serves as a constructive way to help people with these problematic factors find a better life.

ResearcherAnnie Dubeau

Modeling of learning curves in relation to the spacing of study periods

This project uses computer applications developed by Dr. Riopel that touch on different scientific subjects such as identifying constellations, birds, or butterflies, as well as understanding marine ecosystem dynamics for the purpose of experimentation and data collection regarding the effects of spacing and repetition on learning and retention. For example, one app will require four 10-minute periods of work with relatively long pauses in between, whereas another will require three 15-minute periods with longer pauses in between.

ResearcherMartin Riopel

Mother-child discussions about peer conflict and responsibility

In the context of a larger-scale SSHRC funded study, Dr. Recchia investigated how mothers and their children construct meaning about responsibility for harm in conversations about children’s and adolescents’ past experiences in which they were hurt by the words or actions of a peer. Two types of peer conflict experiences were discussed: one when the child felt they had contributed to the conflict, and one when the child felt they had not. The results showed that mother-child conversations explored various aspects of both offenders’ and victims’ responsibility for harm, that discussions were sensitive to the children’s perspectives on events, and that mothers and children made distinct contributions to these conversations. In addition, the general shape of conversations shifted with children’s age: older children increasingly took the lead in constructing judgments about responsibility, and mothers’ role shifted from co-narrators with younger children to conversational consultants with older children. This study offers a unique contribution to the field of moral socialization, as it illumines the ways in which parents and children discuss issues of responsibility for harm in the context of peer conflict.

ResearcherHolly Recchia

Neurophysiological understanding of student performance in science

This project aims to test the often-stated idea that placing science problems in real-life contexts helps student performance and engagement in trying to resolve the problem, as opposed to posing it in an abstract way. With different neurophysiological captors to indicate cognitive and emotional engagement (such as eye-tracking and electroencephalography), Dr. Charland hopes to empirically determine how student performance is affected by added context and what this can say about student learning in general.

ResearcherPatrick Charland

Portrait of elementary first-graders’ abilities in reading comprehension

This project will follow a cohort of elementary first graders for the latter half of the school year and regularly execute various reading comprehension tests. This is to determine how this skill develops in this grade — what serves as particular challenges to students’ understanding, what comes easier, etc. — something about which there is currently little information and could prove extremely beneficial for teachers and resource room teachers. The tool to measure reading comprehension at the first-grade level was developed and validated by Drs Côté and Laplante, with plans to digitize it in the future. Dr. Côté also hopes to be able to have a subgroup of students with learning difficulties to follow in order to illuminate the particularities of their learning process as well.

ResearcherMarie-France Côté

Teacher Conceptualizations of Childhood

Dr. Chang-Kredl is working collaboratively on a SSHRC funded project entitled, A Multi-Site Study on Teacher Conceptualizations of Childhood: Memories, Artefacts, and Cultural Tropes to investigate how teachers understand childhood. In the first part, the study asked new and prospective elementary and early childhood education teachers about their own memories of childhood; childhood artifacts were explored in the second part. Chang-Kredl and her team are interested in teacher identity and learning what motivates teachers to work with children. Of the many outputs from this project, the article, Models of possible selves: teachers’ reflections on childhood memories of parents, explores the links between the teachers’ childhood memories of their parents and their teacher selves.

ResearcherSandra Chang-Kredl

The Effect of Bias and Attitudes on Second Language Speech Comprehensibility

Dr. Kennedy is collaborating on a project where her focus is on the link between attitudes towards second language (L2) French speech and attitudes towards different minority groups and the understanding of L2 French speech. The research explores what participants understand based on what they think they are seeing and hearing.

ResearcherSara Kennedy

The Role of Visual Cues for Successful Communication

Using data from a corpus of talk between 450 second language English speaking students at Concordia, Dr. McDonough investigates the role of verbal and visual (nonverbal) cues during communication breakdown. Whereas verbal cues are easier to identify, visual cues, such as “holds,” may elude participants in a conversation. McDonough has developed a Moodle course to teach holds and evaluate whether, in post, participants are able to self-correct before communication breaks down entirely. The SSHRC Insight Grant funds this research project.

For more on McDonough’s continuing research, see the Concordia Applied Linguistics Lab, which she co-directs with Pavel Trofimovich, a member of the CSLP and a research partner of McDonough’s on the two projects mentioned above.

ResearcherKim McDonough

Using interest and motivation to develop inhibition in student science learning

Dr. Masson's project on inhibition is based on the hypothesis that interest and knowledge about the potential of growth due to neuroplasticity will motivate students to reflect more on their persistent errors and work harder to bring about that growth. By showing an educational video discussing the mechanisms of the brain, its development, and its potential enhancement before 5th-6th grade students take on a task, and then by giving feedback on their methods (on the basis that students will be more likely to take this feedback into account for the sake of their growth) before trying another task, the research team hopes to find indication of reduced inhibition through increased prefrontal cortex activity, more accurate results, and longer response time.

ResearcherSteve Masson

Violent Radicalization

Dr. Rousseau is deeply involved in several research projects surrounding violent radicalization. The research project entitled Evaluation of an intervention model addressing violent radicalization analyzes the effectiveness of intervention programs. The 2021 article, Evaluation of a training program on the prevention of violent radicalization for health and education professionals, is one such output from the research with direct links to education. The study found that the training program helped participants feel empowered as they became more knowledgeable about violent radicalization. However, this study also indicates that participants were at times resistant to the training for various reasons such as internal biases or even the identity of the trainer. This ongoing research project is invaluable as it assesses the strengths and shortcomings of intervention programs and will aid in the designing of future programs.

ResearcherCécile Rousseau

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