The Weight of Student Loans; More Than Financial Debt.

The Weight of Student Loans; More Than Financial Debt.

Student debt. Something we can all relate to, and something we all hope to pay off. With the cost of post secondary education on a unfair, and exponential rise, the pressure for students to complete a degree and pay off the debt is greater than ever before. The obvious financial pressures aside, what are the other costs students in debt face? The purpose of this weeks blog is to discuss the effects of student debt on those seeking higher education.

I’d like to start this post off by stating how ridiculous education costs today. Over the course of three decades post secondary education has increased by 250% (Baum & Ma, 2012), with “student debt in the U.S.A. now exceeding $1 trillion” (Doran et al., 2016). A large majority of the student debt (40%) in the U.S. can be contributed to students who pursue graduate degrees. A 2016 analysis on graduate psychology students by Jennifer Doran and colleagues found that the average student incurred a total (undergraduate and graduate) debt of $141,078.07 (Doran et al., 2016). That’s pretty crazy. You could buy a 2008 Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder with that money (I googled it).Screen Shot 2017-10-19 at 5.16.39 PM

In a 2015 research article by Claire Callendar and Geoff Mason predicted that the incredible amount of debt creates a debt-averse attitude, which is defined as “an unwillingness to take a loan to pay for college, even when that loan would likely offer a positive long-term return” ( Callendar & Mason, 2015). This attitude discourages low income students from pursuing a university or collage degree. One of the measures used to predict how debt-adverse a student is the wording used to describe financial aid. Financially equivalent choices were proposed to students, in which a “human capital contract” was chosen more readily in comparison to “loans” (Callendar & Mason, 2015).

Doran and colleagues go on to further assess the impact of student debt by using a Likert scale from 0-4 (“none at all”, to “extreme” respectively). Students were asked to rate their financial stress. 48.9% of students gave a significant rating of 3 or higher (Doran et al., 2016). Furthermore, the students were asked if their debt delays other life plans. 65.7% of students reported that their retirement planning was delayed, 62.5% stated that their plans for buying a home were delayed, and 49.3% of students believe their plans for having children and/or getting married were delayed (Doran et al., 2016).

In addition to the debt crisis students are facing, there is a strong link between financial difficulty and mental health. Richardson and colleagues predicted that undergraduate students that had greater financial struggles also were more prone to depression and anxiety, and had higher indices of alcohol dependence (Richardson et al., 2017). The results concluded that “greater stress about debt predicted greater anxiety, depression, stress and poorer global mental health” (Richardson et al., 2017). Conversely, the results found that students that were more financially stable were more likely to develop an alcohol dependency. The study mentions a ‘vicious cycle’ in its discussion, in which low mental health encourages intensifies financial instability, which then feeds to low mental health again (Richardson et al., 2017).

In conclusion; the rise of debt on students has more consequences than just prolonged payment. Students devote their life plans past graduation, and their mental health at the expense of student loans.

Thanks for reading! 🙂

Baum S., Ma J. (2012). Trends in college pricing. Trends in Higher Education Series. The College Board.

Callender, C., & Mason, G. (2017). Does student loan debt deter higher education participation? New evidence from England. The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science671(1), 20-48.

Doran, J. M., Kraha, A., Marks, L. R., Ameen, E. J., & El-Ghoroury, N. H. (2016). Graduate debt in psychology: A quantitative analysis. Training and Education in Professional Psychology10(1), 3.

Richardson, T., Elliott, P., Roberts, R., & Jansen, M. (2017). A longitudinal study of financial difficulties and mental health in a national sample of British undergraduate students. Community mental health journal, 53(3), 344-352.


The Values of Tutoring; Comparing Tutoring Approaches.

The Values of Tutoring; Comparing Tutoring Approaches.

A few weeks ago I made a comment on Rachel’s blog and mentioned how hiring a tutor in high school became especially effective in helping me understand class material and encouraging me to -actually- complete my homework. This week I wanted to build on that and write about the different approaches to tutoring, and the respective values of each tutoring style as a supplement to education.

In 1984 Benjamin Bloom did a study in which it was discovered that on average, students that were tutored learned more than their in-class peers, and often had “great differences in cognitive achievement, attitudes, and academic self-concept” (Bloom, 1984). Since then there have been many different methods and approaches when it comes to tutoring; all of which have a significant increase in student performance when compared to just learning from class material.

A hypothesis formed on the significant success of students undergoing tutoring is known as the ‘Interaction Hypothesis’, in which the specific linguistic mechanics used by tutors are found to be especially effective (Albacete & Katz, 2013). The main drive behind tutoring and tutoring research is to discover what is the most effective and apply it to other areas of education so the vast majority can receive the same benefits that have been described by Bloom.

Today, there are several forms of tutoring. However, there are three approaches that are the most popular. The first is human tutoring, which is usually described as an adult professional working directly with a student. The second is peer tutoring, where a higher academically achieving student is paired with a lower achieving student, where they review topics and areas of struggle in attempt to improve grades and performance. The last being intelligent tutoring systems (ITS), where a computer system aims to provide a unique response tailored to the user/learner.

Of these three tutoring approaches, human tutors are believed to be the most effective in terms of aiding student learning, but advancements in computer technology and tutoring systems have placed these two methods as almost equals (VanLehn, 2011). One of the reasons why human tutoring is perceived to be more effective is due to the human ability to judge the students “competence and misunderstanding” of the material, and supply adequate and reasonable feedback almost immediately when said student incurs a problem. Another is the Scaffolding technique, in which the teacher/tutor builds directly and immediately on the students reasoning, creating constructive and understandable dialogue, which most ITS programs today lack. However, human tutoring lacks in its availability for every student, which is where ITS becomes a more convenient tutoring resource when compared to human tutoring (VanLehn, 2011).

Tutoring itself has become well established in educational settings, yet the ITS and peer tutoring approach still needs some much needed research and development to become more accessible and effective for all students.

Thanks for reading! 🙂


Bloom, B. S. (1984). The 2 sigma problem: The search for methods of group instruction as effective as one-to-one tutoring. Educational researcher, 13(6), 4-16.

Katz, S., & Albacete, P. L. (2013). A tutoring system that simulates the highly interactive nature of human tutoring. Journal of Educational Psychology, 105(4), 1126.

VanLehn, K. (2011). The relative effectiveness of human tutoring, intelligent tutoring systems, and other tutoring systems. Educational Psychologist, 46(4), 197-221.



Gratification and Studying; “Good Things Come to Those Who Wait”.

Gratification and Studying; “Good Things Come to Those Who Wait”.

Millennials have been branded as a thankless generation; with cheap news headlines such as ‘Today’s generation demands instant gratification’. Statements like this lead the public to have a very sad and dismal view of the future when we come to inherit it. The main point behind this week’s blog is to discuss the importance of gratification in the classroom with today’s youth as the focus.

Many people have heard of the ‘Delayed Gratification’ experiment, in which children were given a marshmallow, and faced with the decision to eat it now, or wait ten minutes while the tester leaves and then returns to the room, and receive a second marshmallow. Walter Mischel at Stanford University performed the original experiment in the 1960’s, and videos of the experiment are often replicated on YouTube (They’re always super cute, so here are some links 1 2). In Mischel’s original experiment, the children that were able to resist the urge to eat the marshmallow were interviewed in their adolescence, showing higher competency in academic performances, higher tolerances to stress, better planning and reasoning skills, and maintained that same self control demonstrated as kids.

If you scroll through the Internet you’ll occasionally come across some modern twists to Mischels experiment created to this to help students maintain motivation; such as placing gummy bears on your textbook at the start of each new paragraph, earning the right to eat them as you make progress through your readings.


Despite what is said about millennials in the news and by frustrated and tired parents, a meta-analysis by John Protzko says that children are capable of “more self-restraint than previous generations, with their ability to delay gratification having increased by about a minute per decade over the last 50 years” proving themselves to show more self control than prior participants in the ‘Marshmallow Test’ experiment (Protzko, 2017). These findings of increased self-regulation when it comes to gratification are congruent with Mischel’s adolescent follow-up in the original experiment, in which children today have an increase in average IQ, and cognitive abilities (Flynn, 1984).

Though Protzko is reluctant to make a suggestion in terms of correlation, I believe that one can be inferred from the obvious connection of more time studying leading to better grades. Children that can focus less on distractions (such as playing with friends) and more on doing homework usually incur better grades. In a 2004 study by Hefer Bembenutty and Stuart Karabenick, an Academic Delay of Gratification Scale (ADOGS) was created to determine how good a student was at postponing a “immediately available opportunity to satisfy impulses in favor of pursuing academic goals that are more valuable” (Bembenutty and Karabenick, 2004). Those who scored higher on ADOGs had better cognitive strategies such as: organization, rehearsal and elaboration. I think there can also be a connection drawn to the fact that kids now are receiving more homework than ever, sometimes up to three times as much homework than what is recommended (Pressman et al., 2015), thus resulting in longer study times which ultimately make the choice to indulge in gratifying and distracting activities less reasonable.

In conclusion, despite what the general populous thinks about millennials studies have shown that maybe we’re not so bad, and in fact, sometimes we’re better. 😉

Thanks for reading!


Flynn, J. R. (1984). The mean IQ of Americans: Massive gains 1932 to 1978. Psychological bulletin, 95(1), 29.

Bembenutty, H., & Karabenick, S. A. (2004). Inherent association between academic delay of gratification, future time perspective, and self-regulated learning. Educational psychology review, 16(1), 35-57.

Pressman, R. M., Sugarman, D. B., Nemon, M. L., Desjarlais, J., Owens, J. A., & Schettini-Evans, A. (2015). Homework and Family Stress: With Consideration of Parents’ Self Confidence, Educational Level, and Cultural Background. The American Journal of Family Therapy, 43(4), 297-313.

(John Protzko link; i was too lazy to put this into APA format)

Encouraging Critical Thinking in the Classroom.

Encouraging Critical Thinking in the Classroom.

Two weeks ago I did my first Psychology of Education blog post on Creativity in the Classroom. In that blog post I talked about how encouraging creativity at a young age increases the ability to think outside the box; a trait known as ‘divergent thinking’. Critical thinking on the other hand encourages reason, analyzing and evaluation when decision making. This week I’ll be discussing Critical Thinking in educational institutes.

While most people have an understanding of what critical thinking is, there are two different popular definitions from Robert Ennis and Richard Paul respectively. Ennis defined critical thinking as “reasonable and reflective thinking focused on deciding what to believe or do” (Ennis, 2011), while Paul has defined critical thinking as “the art of analyzing and evaluating thinking with a view to improving it… Critical thinking is, in short, self-directed, self-disciplined, self-monitored, and self-­corrective thinking” (Elder & Paul, 2006). Out of these two, the more widely used is the Paulian approach, in which will be used in this blog post, as it was deemed to be the best definition used by Forawi.

A 2016 study by Sufian A. Forawi states that “the teaching of critical thinking is important for all students in all subjects. Different disciplines are characterized by particular approaches to critical thinking, and a large part of studying those disciplines means learning to think like an expert of that discipline” (Forawi, 2016). In which, disciplines centered around evidence based science (like this class) are particularly prone to supporting and encouraging critical thinking skill development. Forawi goes on to further state that critical thinking is advantageous at all grades and all teaching, however its apparent that teachers simply “do not know how to teach critical thinking skills” and that the best way to teach these skills is to build on prior knowledge the students already have while tailoring the learning experience on an individual basis (Forawi, 2016).

Forawi’s study was based on understanding what the perceptions of critical thinking was to pre-service teachers, where two questions were answered:

  1. How do science teachers perceive the way science education standards are linked to critical thinking?
  2. What critical thinking attributes are associated with science education standards objectives and benchmarks?

The results concluded that objectives and benchmarks themselves as an educational framework do not work, and that new proven methods have to be implemented for the beneficial effects of critical thinking to work. It was also found that critical thinking skills are developed best in societal-oriented standards where learning is “open-ended and guided”. The open-endedness allows students to discuss and communicate their own critical thinking processes, where another study goes to support Forawi’s evidence by stating that “critical thinking enables students to become independent lifelong learners who most likely can develop and progress to become better citizens” (Abrami et al., 2008). The emphasis of the study is on the contribution peer interactions have on developing critical thinking skills, where traditional teaching methods of preserving an organized classroom and delivering a content based curriculum pales in comparison in promoting critical thinking skills and student individuality.

In conclusion; instating and encouraging critical thinking skills into students is best achieved through recognizing student individuality without a content based curriculum. Peer interactions are also well recognized as encouraging students to think critically as well.

Thanks for reading this (rushed) blog post! 🙂


Abrami, P. C., Bernard, R. M., Borokhovski, E., Wade, A., Surkes, M. A., Tamim, R., & Zhang, D. (2008). Instructional interventions affecting critical thinking skills and dispositions: A stage 1 meta-analysis. Review of Educational Research, 78(4), 1102-1134.

Ennis, R. H. (2011). The nature of critical thinking: An outline of critical thinking dispositions and abilities. Robert H. Ennis’ Academic Web Site. Recuperado el20.

Forawi, S. A. (2016). Standard-based science education and critical thinking. Thinking Skills and Creativity, 20, 52-62.

Paul, R., & Elder, L. (2006). The miniature guide to critical thinking: Concepts & tools. Foundation Critical Thinking.


How Effective is Harm Reduction; a Critical Look at Drug Prevention Programs Implemented in Schools.

How Effective is Harm Reduction; a Critical Look at Drug Prevention Programs Implemented in Schools.

Most middle/high schools have some sort of drug prevention program, where an assembly, field-trip, or day long event is put in place to encourage youth to make smart choices and prevent substance abuse. For me, this meant a field trip to the P.A.R.T.Y. (Prevent Alcohol and Risk-Related Trauma in Youth) Program in Calgary. The day itself was full of interesting information, talks from survivors and the chance to experience a simulated injury incurred from substance abuse during lunch break. I’m sure all of my grade ten classmates had a different ‘take home message’ from that experience, however as we all grew up and graduated together, I truly wonder how effective that program was (if you’re also from a small red-neck town, I’m sure you know exactly what I mean).

So what is harm reduction? “Harm Reduction refers to policies, programmes and practices that aim primarily to reduce the adverse health, social and economic consequences of the use of legal and illegal psychoactive drugs without necessarily reducing drug consumption. Harm reduction benefits people who use drugs, their families and the community”. There are multiple obvious reasons why these programs are tailored towards youth/students, and the P.A.R.T.Y. program’s stance is based “on the understanding that 90% of all injuries are both predictable and preventable” and “is about experiencing what happens when young people make a decision that changes their life forever”.

For these programs, there are a few different ways to get their point across to youth. In a 2016 article commentary by Theodore Caputi and Kevin Sabet, they mention Scare Tactics (a method sometimes including graphic images and videos, as well as ‘horror’ stories told by survivors or families), Mainstream Prevention Programs (such as ‘Keepin’ it REAL) and Harm Reduction Programs (such as D.A.R.E. and SHAHRP).

It’s mentioned by Caputi and Sabet that the most effective of these three options is Mainstream Prevention Programs, in which a 2008 systematic review by Faggiano and colleagues found that there was a “55% reduction of hard drug use” when the methods of prevention were “drug knowledge, decision making, self esteem and peer pressure resistance” (Faggiano et al., 2008). It is also worth mentioning the least effective of the three were Scare Tactics. This method was most popular in the 1990’s and are mistakenly still used today, but research proves that scare tactics are simply unsuccessful, and can actually have damaging effects (National Institute of Health Science panel, 2004).

The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources affirms why Scare Tactics don’t work in 5 very simple points;

  1. Often youth dismiss these messages, as a defense to the feeling of fear.
  2.  Youth have a different filter than adults.
  3. High risk groups can be MORE attracted to the behaviour
  4. Strong warnings can send unintended messages
  5. Trauma: Showing graphic images could bring up past traumas

In conclusion; prevention is complicated, and regardless of method used (although preferably not Scare Tactics), these programs should use tested methods to increase the overall effectiveness of “prevention science”, and educational institutes should be the ones making smart choices that have proven science and work best for encouraging the health of their students.

Thank you for reading! 🙂



Caputi, T. L., & Sabet, K. A. (2016). Commentary on “New Perspectives on Drug Education/Prevention”. Journal of psychoactive drugs48(3), 227-229.

Faggiano, F., Vigna-Taglianti, F. D., Versino, E., Zambon, A., Borraccino, A., & Lemma, P. (2008). School-based prevention for illicit drugs use: A systematic review. Preventive medicine46(5), 385-396.

McBride, N., Farringdon, F., Midford, R., Meuleners, L., & Phillips, M. (2004). Harm minimization in school drug education: final results of the School Health and Alcohol Harm Reduction Project (SHAHRP). Addiction99(3), 278-291.

Singh, R. D., Jimerson, S. R., Renshaw, T., Saeki, E., Hart, S. R., Earhart, J., & Stewart, K. (2011). A summary and synthesis of contemporary empirical evidence regarding the effects of the Drug Abuse Resistance Education Program (DARE). Contemporary School Psychology: Formerly” The California School Psychologist”15(1), 93-102.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, NIH Consensus Development Program, NIH News, October 15, 2004


Creativity in the Classroom: Fostering Innovation

Creativity in the Classroom: Fostering Innovation

Everyone would agree that children are more imaginative and outgoing than adults, however research suggests that this imaginative approach to problem solving can become a powerful asset further in life. Unfortunately, most children experience a significant decline in creative thinking between kindergarten and grade 3. The purpose of my first Psychology of Education blog post is to examine the importance of creativity in the classroom, and how to maintain/encourage creative thinking.

How you problem solve can determine how creative you are, and whether you’re a divergent, or a convergent thinker. Those with higher levels of creativity are classified as divergent thinkers and are able to propose more unique ideas from different thought categories. Creative thinking is further divided into two levels, those with “little-c” creativity are fast thinking and excel at cultivating novel ideas in their everyday lives. Those who are “big-C” creative display the highest form of creativity, and can be identified through their “breakthrough kind of thinking”. Some individuals that are “big-C” divergent thinkers include Darwin, Van Gogh and other revolutionaries in history.

Convergent thinking is encouraged in education as it’s thought to “foster conventional thinking skills that focus on one linear idea or correct solution”. While pushing this method of thinking is great in theory, squandering natural creativity greatly reduces the ability to problem solve, and explore new ideas comfortable and confidently. This can greatly hinder an individual as they grow into adults and are expected to become independent functioning members of society.

In a 2013 review by Dan Davies, it is stated that instructors do make an active effort to enhance creativity in the classroom by assigning a “critical event” or project to foster creative freedom. Through these events, it was found that there are several important factors in maintaining a creative environment. The first is the physical environment itself, in which the classroom should have an emphasis in the flexibility in space usage, where it’s not too crowded. It is also mentioned that the room should include “sensory qualities”, such as different usages of light, color and sound greatly impact the amount of creativity the students display. The second is the availability of classroom resources/materials. In children, this could mean “formless materials…such as clay, modelling foam, wire, cellophane, tissue paper, etc”, while in older students it’s recommended that there is an emphasis on the access to new media technology. The third most important factor that I’m going to mention in this post is the use of outside environment. In younger students, outdoor walks are suggested; while a review of several schools found that the schools with the highest scores of creativity included “a use of local woodland, regular contact with that setting, providing freedom to use multiple senses, time for individual learning styles to be recognises and nurtured and a low pupil to adult ratio”.

The review by Davies concludes that creativity was increased through the “presence of a professional learning culture… which provided opportunities to take risks in a supportive environment”, more positive student involvement, cultivating student individuality, and “allowing more room for individual pupil responses”.

In summary; the more emphasis on creativity placed in educational settings, the more the students were able to perform independently, and the better they were at problem solving.

Thats it! Thanks for reading! 🙂


Davies, D., Jindal-Snape, D., Collier, C., Digby, R., Hay, P., & Howe, A. (2013). Creative learning environments in education—A systematic literature review. Thinking Skills and Creativity, 8, 80-91.

Bergese, R. (2013). In the spaces between–sustaining creativity in child psychotherapy. Journal of Child Psychotherapy, 39(3), 319-333.

Psych 3330; Final Reflective Post.

Psych 3330; Final Reflective Post.

Psych 3330, Social Cognition was a very interesting experience, and one of my favorite classes I have taken so far in my academic career. This class allowed students to choose a social cognition related topic that was interesting to them, while also allowing flexibility for the students to write and comment before the deadline whenever their schedules allowed.

Students pursuing a post-secondary career will potentially be expected to have adequate literacy and people skills, while also being able to present themselves and their knowledge in a coherent and reasonable manner. This class required weekly blog posts and bi-weekly in class presentations, promoting students to choose a topic they’d want to present on, and encouraging this intellectual development these individuals need in their future.

Many students were put off by how often they had to present, and I was also concerned during the first class, however after my first presentation, I was relieved to know how casual it was. Many students presented in a lecture/speech style, where they had cue cards to read off, but I found that preparing an actual Powerpoint/Google-Slides was beneficial to the topics I chose, where I’d need pictures and diagrams to better describe the topic. From my experience, the effort I put into my blogs and presentations was reflected in the grade I received.

From this class I believe I’ve enhanced my planning ability, and my confidence in presenting, as well as I’ve learned to chose topics that are interesting to me, as I performed significantly better on  blogs and presentations I had a prior interest in, than ones I didn’t.

I sincerely recommend if anybody takes this class, they ensure they have the responsibility to write a short assignment every week, and the motivation to comment on their classmates blog. There have been nights where I was not able to get the required four comments done because I put it off until last minute, and was too tired to continue writing.

All in all, I had a great semester with Professor Martin, and I sincerely enjoyed his teaching methods. I will gladly take more classes with him in the future.

Thank you for the semester, I hope you have a great summer! 🙂