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Is lumosity.com based on science?

Is lumosity.com based on science?


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I always see these Lumosity ads on TV, and I personally feel they are just trying to "sell me something". I did some layman's research (wikipedia) and read that "Studies of Lumosity's effectiveness have shown mixed results".

Does anyone with knowledge on the topic of learning know if the "brain games" they post are simply games? I guess the proper question would be:

Can games like the ones Lumosity offers increase cognitive ability?


Zickefoose et al. did a study, and showed that while you might improve while playing the game, it called into question if you actually improved outside of just getting better at the game.

Redick et al. also reported that when they did a double blind study in brain games like Luminosity that you improved in the games, but they didn't see any transfer from game to every-day life.

Also see my previous answer on the topic: Cognitive Science Forum


Lumosity to Pay $2 Million to Settle FTC Deceptive Advertising Charges for Its “Brain Training” Program

The creators and marketers of the Lumosity “brain training” program have agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges alleging that they deceived consumers with unfounded claims that Lumosity games can help users perform better at work and in school, and reduce or delay cognitive impairment associated with age and other serious health conditions.

As part of the settlement, Lumos Labs, the company behind Lumosity, will pay $2 million in redress and will notify subscribers of the FTC action and provide them with an easy way to cancel their auto-renewal to avoid future billing.

“Lumosity preyed on consumers’ fears about age-related cognitive decline, suggesting their games could stave off memory loss, dementia, and even Alzheimer’s disease,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “But Lumosity simply did not have the science to back up its ads.”

According to the FTC’s complaint, the Lumosity program consists of 40 games purportedly designed to target and train specific areas of the brain. The company advertised that training on these games for 10 to 15 minutes three or four times a week could help users achieve their “full potential in every aspect of life.” The company sold both online and mobile app subscriptions, with options ranging from monthly ($14.95) to lifetime ($299.95) memberships.

Lumosity has been widely promoted though TV and radio advertisements on networks including CNN, Fox News, the History Channel, National Public Radio, Pandora, Sirius XM, and Spotify. The defendants also marketed through emails, blog posts, social media, and on their website, Lumosity.com, and used Google AdWords to drive traffic to their website, purchasing hundreds of keywords related to memory, cognition, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease, according to the complaint.

The FTC alleges that the defendants claimed training with Lumosity would 1) improve performance on everyday tasks, in school, at work, and in athletics 2) delay age-related cognitive decline and protect against mild cognitive impairment, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease and 3) reduce cognitive impairment associated with health conditions, including stroke, traumatic brain injury, PTSD, ADHD, the side effects of chemotherapy, and Turner syndrome, and that scientific studies proved these benefits.

The complaint also charges the defendants with failing to disclose that some consumer testimonials featured on the website had been solicited through contests that promised significant prizes, including a free iPad, a lifetime Lumosity subscription, and a round-trip to San Francisco.

The proposed stipulated federal court order requires the company and the individual defendants, co-founder and former CEO Kunal Sarkar and co-founder and former Chief Scientific Officer Michael Scanlon, to have competent and reliable scientific evidence before making future claims about any benefits for real-world performance, age-related decline, or other health conditions.

The order also imposes a $50 million judgment against Lumos Labs, which will be suspended due to its financial condition after the company pays $2 million to the Commission. The order requires the company to notify subscribers who signed up for an auto-renewal plan between January 1, 2009 and December 31, 2014 about the FTC action and to provide a means to cancel their subscription.

The Commission vote authorizing the filing of the complaint and proposed stipulated order was 4-0, with Commissioner Julie Brill issuing a separate concurring statement. The FTC filed the complaint and proposed order in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, San Francisco Division.

The FTC is a member of the National Prevention Council, which provides coordination and leadership at the federal level regarding prevention, wellness, and health promotion practices. This case advances the National Prevention Council’s goal of increasing the number of Americans who are healthy at every stage of life. This case is part of the FTC’s ongoing efforts to protect consumers from misleading health advertising.

NOTE: The Commission authorizes the filing of a complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the law has been or is being violated, and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. A stipulated order has the force of law when signed by the district court judge.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition, and protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about how competition benefits consumers or file an antitrust complaint. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, read our blogs and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.


Contents

Biological engineering is a science-based discipline founded upon the biological sciences in the same way that chemical engineering, electrical engineering, and mechanical engineering [7] can be based upon chemistry, electricity and magnetism, and classical mechanics, respectively. [8]

Before WWII, biological engineering had begun being recognized as a branch of engineering, and was a new concept to people. Post-WWII, it grew more rapidly, and the term "bioengineering" was coined by British scientist and broadcaster Heinz Wolff in 1954 at the National Institute for Medical Research. Wolff graduated that year and became the director of the Division of Biological Engineering at the university. This was the first time Bioengineering was recognized as its own branch at a university. Electrical engineering was the early focus of this discipline, due to work with medical devices and machinery during this time. [9]

When engineers and life scientists started working together, they recognized that the engineers didn't know enough about the actual biology behind their work. To resolve this problem, engineers who wanted to get into biological engineering devoted more time to studying the processes of biology, psychology, and medicine. [10]

More recently, the term biological engineering has been applied to environmental modifications such as surface soil protection, slope stabilization, watercourse and shoreline protection, windbreaks, vegetation barriers including noise barriers and visual screens, and the ecological enhancement of an area. Because other engineering disciplines also address living organisms, the term biological engineering can be applied more broadly to include agricultural engineering.

The first biological engineering program in the United States was started at University of California, San Diego in 1966. [11] More recent programs have been launched at MIT [12] and Utah State University. [13] Many old agricultural engineering departments in universities over the world have re-branded themselves as agricultural and biological engineering or agricultural and biosystems engineering. According to Professor Doug Lauffenburger of MIT, [12] [14] biological engineering has a broad base which applies engineering principles to an enormous range of size and complexities of systems, ranging from the molecular level (molecular biology, biochemistry, microbiology, pharmacology, protein chemistry, cytology, immunology, neurobiology and neuroscience) to cellular and tissue-based systems (including devices and sensors), to whole macroscopic organisms (plants, animals), and even to biomes and ecosystems.

The average length of study is three to five years, and the completed degree is signified as a bachelor of engineering (B.S. in engineering). Fundamental courses include thermodynamics, biomechanics, biology, genetic engineering, fluid and mechanical dynamics, kinetics, electronics, and materials properties. [15] [16]

Depending on the institution and particular definitional boundaries employed, some major branches of bioengineering may be categorized as (note these may overlap):


Shining the Light of Research on Lumosity

Lumosity is a subscription-based suite of online brain-training games, intended to improve cognitive skills. Due to an influx of products designed to train cognition through games such as Lumosity, it is important to determine their effectiveness for the sake of consumers and for the potential implications of any training effects for theories of transfer of cognitive skills. Two training experiments were conducted using the Lumosity platform. Participants were divided into three groups: those who trained with five attention games in Lumosity (attention group), those who trained with five flexibility games in Lumosity (flexibility group), and an inactive control group. Participants were assessed on accuracy and response time for two cognitive tests of attention (useful field of view and change detection) and two cognitive tests of flexibility (Wisconsin card sort and Stroop) both before and after a training period. In experiment 1, the training period was 3 h spread over four sessions. In experiment 2, the training period was 15 to 20 h spread over an average of 73 sessions. The trained groups did not show significantly greater pretest-to-posttest gains than the control group on any measures in either experiment, except in experiment 2 where the flexibility group significantly outperformed the other two groups on Stroop response time and UFOV reaction time. A practical implication concerns the lack of strong evidence for the effectiveness of brain-training games to improve cognitive skills. A theoretical implication concerns the domain specificity of cognitive skill learning from brain training games.


Comments

There are lots of ways to improve brain power line dancing and bridge are two that work.

and of course some Big Pharma Pills.

You obviously have functioned well in life. You're selfish in allowing others to improve themselves from something that does work. Go play your cards and line dancing, your real swift and clearly do not know what you are talking about, probably because you are close minded to possibilities and for solutions. If you are not going to be part of the solution that can help people improve themselves, I suggest you keep quiet. Because you do not how others are functioning on day to day basis. You obviously have not struggled yourself. Shame on you.

I find it sad that your writing coveys such judgement and "shame" for those holding alternate opinions. I can tell you from my own experience, that kind of stress in it self can cause memory/cognitive issues.

Line dancing, much like any other dancing, has been proven to utilize all parts of the brain, thus strengthening it. Same goes for playing an instrument.

Another scam -- at least of an intellectual nature

Thanks, that's help a lot in this world where everyone is behind us hunting our money

What about people who didn't re-up but still fell for the fraudulent claim and paid for a year? Is there any way to recoup any of the original membership fee?

The terms of the settlement apply to people who signed up for Lumosity before January 1, 2015, and are on an auto-renewal plan. If you are in that group, you should get a notice from Lumosity that gives you a one-click option to cancel your subscription.

So, my understanding is that neither Lumosity's 2 million dollars (a small sum, I might add) nor the 50 million dollars that is "suspended" is not going to those of us who were duped? Again, it goes to the lawyers, the FTC, but not to the little guy who got cheated? Why am I feeling. cheated?

Keep in mind that no one has found evidence that it Doesn't work, they are just saying that the company didn't have enough evidence that it Does work. They have been doing some research, and it may well be that the activities they have do have some impact on general cognitive function. Their claims are certainly a lot less predatory than a lot of things--say the average dietary supplement or homeopathic "medicine".

Honestly, it is hard for me to believe that anything that forces you to focus/think couldn't have a negative affect. Kind of like how lifting some weight gains you some strength at the gym. If anything, at least these are games that are intended to help you—not just entertain you. I think something that forces you to focus is a good thing in a less demanding regard. I don't think I'd pay for it, but I don't pay for a lot of things..

I am smart to read your website. Thank You

Job well done FTC. I knew they were just preying on good people who feared the aging process would be 'fixed or delayed' by playing for games we paid for. I didn't buy it one bit.

Don't feel so good. Lumocity changed my life for the much better. They never gave me anything to say something good. Too bad the government didn't interview people that actually pushed their brains, to see what happened to them. Why did my friends that also used it, get positive life results.

I wouldn't call it 'preying on people' if they provide a product that consumers find useful. And especially as it's less than $3 a month. Well worth it to me, so I will keep my membership.

As for people's fears about dementia, they're right to fear it. Doctors still don't know how to prevent it, and most of the drugs on the market have only modest effectiveness, yet they're approved and continue to be prescribed.

My only complaint with Luminosity is the lack of transparency and customer service - I am skeptical when there isn't an 800 number to call or a way to easily chat with a company. Sometimes I've gotten a nonsensical answer to a question that seemed like it came from a bot. Though my last inquiry was answered by a real person, and was helpful.

I have found Lumosity to be fun and I see improvements in remembering peoples names. Maybe it doesn't do all they say but I don't think it's a scam. I hope the settlement doesn't cause them to stop doing the research.

This action against Lumosity did not go far enough. All of your reports say only that FTC "alleged" that their was misleading advertising, when it should have been that Lumosity acknowledged such distortions. There is no explanation why the original fine that reflected the seriousness of their offenses, was reduced so dramatically. Unless this is fully explained including the financial status of the company, there will be a shadow over this entire investigation.

Follow the link in this blog post to the press release, which includes this sentence: "The order also imposes a $50 million judgment against Lumos Labs, which will be suspended due to its financial condition after the company pays $2 million to the Commission." Additional information is available in the Related Cases tab on the press release page.

SO let's get this straight. they pay the FTC a $2 million fine for doing the work you are supposed to do, then suspend the $50 million fine that would go to the people they scammed so that they won't go out of business. PERFECTLY logical. great job FTC! Keep patting yourself on the back.

Thank you, thank you, thank you for calling this snake oil what it is, and holding them accountable. Science for the win!

Let me get this right. for the suckers who signed up, they are left hanging. No recourse, no refunds. They can cancel, but they are out any $ they put into this. But that's OK, the government will collect their $2 million. So much for protecting the consumer.

You can read the related press release for more information about the matter.

Under the proposed settlement, people who signed up for Lumosity before January 1, 2015 and are on an auto-renewal plan will get a one-click option to cancel their subscription and avoid future billing.

The proposed order imposes a $50 million judgment against Lumos Labs, which will be suspended due to its financial condition after the company pays $2 million to the Commission. The proposed final judgment and order, available here, outlines how the $2 million may be used.

As usual very enlighting and benefitial information. Thanks!

I understand but do not agree with this! I don't see where they have done anything wrong. If you go running. it increases your heart rate promoting ones health. If you do sit ups. it works your abs reducing stomach fat. If you do puzzles and brain teasers. it exercises the brain promoting it's function. Kind of seems like common sense to me but I know many people lack this creating another useless action against a company. I would protest this cause I believe in luminosity and believe it does help. I had epilepsy and suffered many effects with memory and brain function. it has helped me cause anything that works my brain and makes me think increases it's overall function!

Jenny: I have a differing point of view. I also have epilepsy since I was born placenta previa. I get very few games that exercise my flexibility and memory. This is disconcerting because that is what I signed up for. In talking with someone at Lumosity, I got double talk. Bridge and exercise can really help. Exercise really, really helps.

I agree with Jenny here. I've used it for a couple of years and find my short-term memory far more effective than before. Phone numbers, names, addresses can all be retained better. That's real world. The games are challenging and fun. I exercise a lot and this is part of my effective wellness regimen.

I agree with Jenny on this matter. When we use our brains we are building connections. By challenging our minds those connections get stronger. If you are to meet someone new and learn their name, you have increased your brains capacity. This is one example of how Lumosity can help. Of course there are many other ways to improve brain function, that's fine too. I for one am more sceptical of the legal system that has prosicuted them. Using a fear tactic to say that what Lumosity claims does not work. I understand the checks and balances aspect. However I for one would rather see the money spent on researching the data that Lomosty has compiled. In the name of science let's step forward and come up with some peer reviewed articles that are sent to all involved in this study of brain activity.

Just to be clear, if I an understanding this correctly, the issue is that Lumosity made claims that they could not back up with solid science. This does not necessarily mean that the games and similar activities have no positive impact. It means that they overstated the case. Is this accurate?

You'll find more detail in this press release about the matter, which says that the creators and marketers of the Lumosity “brain training” program agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges. The FTC alleged that the creators and markters deceived consumers with unfounded claims that Lumosity games can help users perform better at work and in school, and reduce or delay cognitive impairment associated with age and other serious health conditions.

As part of the settlement, Lumos Labs, the company behind Lumosity, will pay $2 million in redress, notify subscribers of the FTC action and provide them with an easy way to cancel their auto-renewal to avoid future billing.

Yes you keep saying this, but the bottom line FTC is you screwed the company, screwed the little guy and robbed everyone involved. Lets run a lawsuit on the FTC for "unfounded claims" that your here to help. How's your track record on honesty and transparency? "2 million in redress" soooo to your account? is that what "redress" means in this? cause it sure doesnt mean "to those who were scammed, does it? Let me guess, theres a press release legaleasing why you get to keep the money right?

Please visit the FTC’s Lumosity Refunds page for more information. The deadline to file a claim is tomorrow, August 6, 2016.

Thanks so much for protecting us! It's good to know that sometimes the government is doing all they can to protect us from companies that just want our money. Sometimes I feel like the government isn't doing that.

Protecting us by the FTC collecting $2M because a company didn't have enough research to substantiate their claims? Quit being a sheep the government isn't protecting anyone but themselves.

When do they have to notify customers by?

The details and timing of the notice are included in the proposed stipulated order, available from this page about the proceedings.

How do I apply for my money I paid for a year of lumosity ,and it didn't help.

Under the proposed settlement with the FTC, the company will tell subscribers about the FTC action and give them an easy way to cancel their auto-renewal to avoid future billing. If you are a subscriber with an auto-renewal, you will get a notice.

If you want a refund for a product, you can use these tips about solving consumer problems. If a product or service doesn't live up to your expectations, you can file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at ftc.gov/complaint.

I find your comments irresponsible. I think that most people know that by exercising your brain through learning and challenging it through various games, etc, is good for the development of your brain and definitely leads to having higher brain capacity, etc. So sites like Luminosity are a service in that way. Stop the unnecessary bashing if Legitimate sites and potentially stopping a person from getting help in the further development of their brain. Thank you

Bridget Small must be a robot, as she only replies with the same paragraphs or very similiar over and over and doesn't answer specific questions.

Very good Lynn I agree with you about Smalls' continued repitition. I have used lumosity and it seems to assist me irregardless of proven scientific evidence. a few points: 1) Lumosity lacks scientific backing but is effective for wellness at a minimal cost - a good long-term return investment . 2) To use payed personnel in advertising is legitimate irregardless of said payment methods, so the goverment/FTC claim of "misleading comsumers" should not have held in court. 3) While there is a $50 million suspended fine, why does the FTC/government get "a bonus" of $2 million for doing its assigned duty to the consumer? I believe that money should be part of a government/FTC consumer redress reimbursement scheme for Lumosity customers who desire such redress.
Finally, the government/FTC in this instance has once again solidified a double standard under the guise of protecting the public/comsumers with aide of legislations/laws, and its legal tenacles in every available arena from predatory practioners . As a American consumer amongst the masses, I wonder about our the protection from pharmaceutical companies of these lecit drugs that continue to damage our mind and body? Just the one example, too many for this blog and ranting is insolvent. Consumers protect yourselves. Do not subcribe to anything, but continuosly be skeptical of everything. You are your brothers keeper. The government is not your friend, just an institution like any other institution consumed with self interest, except this one's legitimized by "the people". If only Lumosity was a "big lobby" the government/FTC would know its place in handling this situation, right Bridget?

I do not like Auto renewal however, send me the notice it is due and I will choose to renew or not. I see nothing wrong with paying for a service. I had a stroke and had trouble doing any kind of paperwork. Lumosity has helped me toward normal thinking and the challenges I face daily.

Perhaps they made unsubstantiated claims - but that doesn't mean the games have no value. I've used Lumosity for several years and HAVE seen a benefit. I'd always read that keeping busy mentally is good for older people. Articles on aging suggested activities like crossword puzzles and game shows. Has this thinking all been discarded recently?

I'd also heard that taking on new, challenging tasks - such as learning a new language or computer system, or running an intense work or volunteer program that required problem-solving skills - could stimulate the brain to develop new connections. Has that been disproved as well? I'm not defending these guys, I don't know them from Adam but it's common sense that using your mind and getting physical exercise (instead of sitting on your butt in front of the TV and eating) help most people stay alert longer.

I find it curious that the government goes after something like Luminosity, yet the FDA lets Premarin remain on the market. a hormone substitute that is KNOWN to cause uterine and ovarian cancer. Known. It killed my mother. It ought to be banned and the executives at Pfizer put in prison.

I'm with OldCodger-- perhaps Lumosity got greedy and overstated claims, but I have been following the science regarding brain plasticity and it all points to the positive effects of novelty, risk and challenge, continuous use of the brain in the "zone of proximity" of learning. I consider myself a savvy consumer and quite skeptical, so I did my own research before signing up for Lumosity. As I read the notice Lumosity was required to send, and then the FTC site's summary of the charges and settlement, I couldn't help wondering the same thing you did, OldCodger, about all the MANY HORRIBLE products and their claims put out by Big Pharma, not to mention cars, cosmetics, home products, toys, etc. that are actively toxic, maiming and killing people. And they, FTC, rake in the millions (who gets that money?) from a company that provides progressive brain stimulation that has, at the very least, positive benefits for the people who use it. I can only imagine the outrage you must feel having had your own mother die due to the use of one such product, OldCodger.

I never believed that Lumosity could help prevent age-related cognitive issues, except the way other things I do (play Sudoku, exercise, memorize songs) help. I do enjoy the games, though. What I like, though, is being able to compare how I am doing against other people my age. I do not know how the scoring is done, but I have to assume that it is internally accurate (that is, they set up a scoring system for all their games and for different ages, and apply them consistently).


Environmental Scientist

Environmental scientists identify, reduce, and eradicate pollutants and other hazards that threaten the environment or the population's health. You can get an entry-level job with a bachelor's degree in environmental science, biology, engineering, chemistry, or physics, but if you hope to advance, a master's degree is necessary.

Median Annual Salary (2018): $71,130

Number of People Employed (2016): 89,500

Projected Job Growth (2016-2026): 11% (faster than the average for all occupations)

Projected Jobs Added (2016-2026): 9,900


The Standards of Learning and Curriculum Framework comprise the science content that teachers in Virginia are expected to teach and students are expected to learn.

Implementation & Timeline

    &ndash Beginning in 2012-2013, the Standards of Learning (SOL) tests will assess full implementation of the 2010 Science SOL. In preparation for the implementation of the new assessments measuring the 2010 SOL, new science test blueprints have been developed. &ndash Implementation of the 2010 Science Standards of Learning Assessments &ndash New Science Tests Based on the 2010 Science Standards of Learning


Commercial "brain training" apps such as Lumosity have no influence on neural activity or choices during decision making

There is an important distinction here that must be made.

There are products on the market that are snake oil. The concept in general is still an area of focused study in the neuroscience world and can be debated either way. These products fraudulently claim that their tools were developed by neuroscientists.

Edit: Less sweeping generalization

I'm a firm believer that playing certain videogames over a long period of time does change the way you perceive the world/your decision making skills change. There was a study done on Korean Starcraft pros about it

So what does one have to do to improve a specific cognitive ability (lateral thinking, memory etc)?

Is there any validity to the folk notion that regularly playing Tetris improves cognitive function/efficiency in some areas?

I strongly disagree. As someone who worked alongside several of the people at BrainHQ, their approach is science based. Lumosity, not so much. And, the emerging evidence from the BrainHQ studies, based on initial science from Karlene Ball and her trainees, is pretty impressive.

Some of the products on the market have little to no published science behind them. Others have a lot of published science. This is like the early days of medicine, when some things (like snake oil) turned out to have no clinical benefit, and others (like antibiotics) turned out to have significant clinical benefit.

Drs. Ralph Martins and Tejal Shah published a nice review of commercial brain training programs - they found that of 18 programs identified, only 7 had any published evidence. Of those, BrainHQ (Posit Science) had the highest level of evidence: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28092015

Disclaimer: I work at Posit Science, which makes BrainHQ. I've been the principal investigator on a number of clinical trials of brain training programs.

So there was blatantly false advertising by Lumosity then right? Does this mean refunds, or class action lawsuits, or nothing?

Woah, you're a PhD in neuroscience. You have a certain duty as such to be careful with broadly stating stuff here. There ARE products on the market that are NOT snake oil. The majority ARE snake oil.

Neurofeedback training IS designed by neuroscientists and IS supported by peer review. It is also part of a number of new devices and applications being developed.

The research piece appears in the article to be about 1 specific game.

While I'm here I'll link the study:

I feel like it's easier to understand why this is by considering a piano player vs someone who has never touched a piano.

You could potentially train any person to play one song very well by teaching them one action at a time, i.e "press this key down, then that key". But learning to play that one song very well does not lend itself to actually learning to play the piano, it's merely teaching them a sequence of steps to complete a very specific goal. You couldn't even ask them to play the same song that they just learned by reading the sheet music of that song.

A piano player will learn a huge range of tasks that can potentially help other related skills in turn. They must first learn to read sheet music. This means that any sheet music they are given they can read it. Then theyɽ learn how the sheet music relates to musical notes, meaning as long as this remains the same for other instruments, they could play sheet music with that instrument. Then comes the piano specific parts like how to make certain sounds with a piano by pressing keys and pedals.

Brain Training games are the same. If you train with games that have such simple premises as "Click the bird as it appears on the screen, quicker is better!" You aren't training your reaction times in general, you are priming yourself to react to something that happens in that specific situation. If you're confronted with other situations that requires quick reactions, your brain probably won't connect clicking birds on a screen with something like dodging balls in the real wold.


Becoming a Marine Biologist

A marine biologist, or someone who studies marine biology, can learn about a variety of organisms during their education from tiny plankton only visible under a microscope to the largest whales that are over 100 feet long. Marine biology can also include the study of different aspects of these organisms, including the behavior of animals in the ocean environment, adaptations to living in salt water and interactions between organisms. As a marine biologist, one would also look at how marine life interacts with different ecosystems such as salt marshes, bays, reefs, estuaries, and sand bars.

Again, it's not just learning about things that inhabit the ocean it's also about conserving resources and protecting a valuable food supply. Plus, there are many research initiatives to discover how organisms can benefit human health. Marine biologists have to have a thorough understanding of chemical, physical, and geological oceanography. Other people who study marine biology do not go on to conduct research or work for activist organizations they can wind up teaching others about the vast scientific principles that make up the field. In other words, they can become teachers and professors at universities and colleges.


STEMvisions Blog

Dr. Robyn M. Gillies is a professor in the School of Education at The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia. For over 20 years, she has researched the effects of cooperative learning on students' learning in science, mathematics, and social science content areas at the elementary and secondary levels. She has researched inquiry-based science in the classroom and has published her findings in many international journals, including the International Journal of Educational Research, Pedagogies: An International Journal, and Teaching Education. The extent of Dr. Gillies work in education is far reaching she is the author of over 80 journal articles, two books, and nearly 20 book chapters. The SSEC recently contacted Dr. Gillies in hopes that she could provide valuable insight for our LASER i3 teachers. Dr. Gillies graciously agreed. Thank you, Dr. Gillies!

First, can you explain your interest in education and in inquiry-based science, specifically?

For about 20 years I have been researching the effects of cooperative learning on students' learning in science, mathematics, and social science content areas in elementary and secondary schools, and the majority of the findings have indicated that cooperative learning where students work together to investigate a problem or solve a dilemma can be used successfully to promote student engagement, socialization, and learning. Parallel to this research has been my interest in science and my concerns that teachers often seem reluctant to teach it in a way that is problem-based where student have opportunities to work together to investigate a topic. I have also been concerned for some time in the relatively mediocre performances of many students in Australia, the USA, and the UK on standardized international tests such as PISA and TIMMS, particularly when I see how consistently successful Finland, Singapore, the Republic of Korea, Chinese Taipei, and Japan have been on these same tests. In a sense, I've realized that cooperative learning with its emphasis on group cooperation and investigation can be used as a tool to help teachers teach science in a way that taps into students' natural curiosity to explore their world.

What is inquiry-based science?

Inquiry-based science adopts an investigative approach to teaching and learning where students are provided with opportunities to investigate a problem, search for possible solutions, make observations, ask questions, test out ideas, and think creatively and use their intuition. In this sense, inquiry-based science involves students doing science where they have opportunities to explore possible solutions, develop explanations for the phenomena under investigation, elaborate on concepts and processes, and evaluate or assess their understandings in the light of available evidence. This approach to teaching relies on teachers recognizing the importance of presenting problems to students that will challenge their current conceptual understandings so they are forced to reconcile anomalous thinking and construct new understandings.

How does inquiry-based science help students?

Inquiry-based science challenges students' thinking by engaging them in investigating scientifically orientated questions where they learn to give priority to evidence, evaluate explanations in the light of alternative explanations and learn to communicate and justify their decisions. These are dispositions needed to promote and justify their decisions. In short, "Scientific inquiry requires the use of evidence, logic, and imagination in developing explanations about the natural world" (Newman et al., 2004, p.258).

How does a teacher know if he/she is successfully teaching science using an inquiry-based approach?

Teachers can gauge the success of their teaching through students' level of engagement with the topic and each other, the scientific language they use to communicate their ideas, and the quality of the work they produce. Subtle comments such as "Are we doing science today? I really liked the way we did. " Are typical of the types of comments students will make when they have enjoyed participating in science investigations.

Does inquiry-based science look different in a lower-elementary classroom than in a middle-school classroom?

The principles are the same -- the need to excite and engage students' attention so they want to investigate the topic is critically important at any age. However, the way teachers actually teach it has to be more hands-on, directive or guided, and concrete for younger children.

What are some common misconceptions that teachers have regarding inquiry-based science?

. Teacher[s] often think they are 'doing inquiry' because they are out at the front of the classroom directing the inquiry or investigation or demonstrating how to do it. This is not inquiry science. Inquiry science requires teachers to be able to excite the students' interest in a topic and then provide them with opportunities to undertake the investigation either by themselves or preferably in collaboration with others. The teacher, though, needs to remain active in the lesson, guiding the students and asking questions to help them consolidate their understandings. Providing feedback is critically important to helping students understand how they are progressing.

You have observed many teachers over the years. Can you describe any teachers and/or students who exemplified inquiry-based science?

Good teachers engage students' interest through novelty, something unusual that spurs their curiosity and then they use language that is very dialogic or language that lets the student know that they are interested in what they think or want to say about the topic. Good teachers then carefully guide students as they begin to explore or investigate the topic, being careful not to dominate the conversation but allow student time to develop responses or think about the issue more carefully. In this sense they give students the time to reflect and think more carefully about the issue. However, good teachers are always careful to ensure that the inquiry-based science lesson moves forward and they do this be asking questions that probe and challenge students' thinking as well as giving them feedback that is meaningful and timely. Teachers who do inquiry well tend have a very good understanding of both the content they are teaching and the processes involved. They tend to use language that is very collaborative and friendly and take a genuine interest in what students are doing. They ask questions that challenge students' thinking and they acknowledge students' efforts.

What advice do you have for teachers who do not have a lot of time to teach science?

Recognize your limitations but try to optimize on what time you have. Be well prepared and try to ensure that science activities are interesting -- stimulate students' interest in science. If they are interested, they will continue to be interested even if they have not covered the full curriculum.

Can you provide an example of higher-level thinking and problem-solving questions that you may see with 7 and 8 year-old students?

Children will engage in higher-level thinking if teachers give them time to talk about a topic. Angela O'Donnell (Rutgers University) demonstrated how this can be achieved through her approach to Scripted Cooperation where two students work together on a topic. One then asks the other to recount as much as possible what they have learned while the listener asks the speaker questions. The students then switch roles and again they recount and ask each other questions. Over time, the questions become more complex so the respondent is compelled to provide more elaborate explanations.


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