Spotlight on Research & Practice
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Spotlight on Research & Practice


In this section, we provide suggested references and information on issues pertinent to a quarterly topic or recent research.  For this inaugural issue, we’re focusing on some current research references relevant to our work with children and adults.

Did you know?

  • Students who receive intervention that helps them use the mental number line demonstrate improvements in math calculation.

    According to a study completed by Kucian, et. al., (2011), students who were given technology-based training on representation and access to the mental number line, in addition to regular math instruction, demonstrated an increase in the number of math problems they were able to solve.  

    Kucian, K., Grond, U., Rotzer, S., Henzi, B., Schönmann, C., Plangger, F., & von Aster, M. (2011). Mental number line training in children with developmental dyscalculia. Neuroimage57(3), 782-795. doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2011.01.070

  • Listen up, caregivers! Preschoolers participate more in clean-up activities when they are called a “helper” vs. being asked to help.

    According to research conducted by Bryan, Master, & Walton (2014), preschool children participated more in tasks when they were described as a “helper” vs. being asked to help.  The authors attribute this subtle language difference (noun vs. verb condition) as evidence that children are motivated to pursue a positive personal identity.  You might want to think about this when with your own children or when consulting with teachers and parents!

    Bryan, C.J., Master, A., Walton, G.M. (2014). “Helping” versus “being a helper”: Invoking the self to increase helping in young children. Child Development, 85: 1836-1842. Doi: 10.1111/cdev.12244

  • What’s involved in developing a functional reading system?

    Efficient, effortless reading is the result of the integration of multiple cognitive processes. The results of this study suggest that there are different developmental trajectories for orthographic and semantic processes. The younger the child, the more likely that visually based cues will be relied on in word identification.      

    Polse, L.R. &  Reilly, J.S. (2015). Orthographic and semantic processing in young readers. Journal of Research in Reading, 38(1):  47–72 ISSN 0141-0423 DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9817.2012.01544.x

  • Compared with typical readers, as early as first grade, children with dyslexia demonstrate lower reading and verbal ability scores. Different growth trajectories in these areas for children with dyslexia suggest the need for even earlier intervention.

    Longitudinal research published in the Journal of Pediatrics (Ferrer, Shaywitz, Holahan, Marchione, Michaels, Shaywitz, 2015) suggests that the achievement gap in reading is present for individuals with dyslexia as early as first grade. The authors suggest that there are different growth trajectories in reading and verbal abilities for children with dyslexia. However, these differences are not a result of disparities that build over time. The signs are actually present as early as first grade. Given that the gap persists into adolescence, the authors suggest that effective interventions starting as early as preschool—targeting oral language skills—may be important. 

    Ferrer, E., Shaywitz, B., Holahan, J.M., Marchione, K.E., Michaels, R., Shaywitz, S., 2015. Achievement gap in reading is present as early as first grade and persists through adolescence. Journal of Pediatrics, 167:1121-5. doi:

  • Are cognitive processes relevant to teaching and learning?

    Cognitive psychologist, Dr. Stephen Chew, has completed a series of videos based on his work and that of other psychologists that describe “The Cognitive Principles of Effective Teaching.”  For students, he has a similar series titled, “How to get the most out of Studying.” In the teaching series, he discusses the constraints of selective attention, cognitive load, and working memory.

    Is it important to understand the limits of a student’s attention? Given that distraction requires a period of reorientation, perhaps it is important for a teacher to gain a better understanding of those students in the classroom who experience attention difficulties. Likewise, do some students require more mental effort to understand a concept than others? Does the preferred teaching method impact that load? Mental effort is a limited resource; therefore, if lower level skills are not automatized, there are fewer cognitive resources available to a learner. 


  • Have you ever felt that you do better when you write your notes vs. type them on the computer?

    You’re not alone!  According this study, published in Psychological Science,  those who physically wrote notes did better on tasks assessing the comprehension of concepts. While differences weren’t seen in the study for factual recall when taking notes on the laptop or the “old-fashioned” way, do we just want to memorize isolated facts, or create more connected networks of knowledge at a conceptual level?  Even more interesting, a week later, after being given a chance to review their notes, the “old-fashioned” notetakers still did better with the conceptual questions.

    Mueller, P., Oppenheimer, D.M. (2014). The pen is mightier than the keyboard: Advantages of longhand over laptop note taking. Psychological Science, 25(6): 1159-1168. doi:10.1177/0956797614524581

  • Medicine and psychology—perfect partners!

    We know that there is a relationship between mental and physical health. Study after study demonstrates the importance of diagnosing and treating mental health conditions to save resources and create better outcomes for patients. A recent study involving patients with COPD demonstrated that those who also have psychological conditions are more likely to be readmitted to the hospital than those of have no psychological conditions. 

    Singh G, Zhang W, Sharma G. (2016). Association of psychological disorders with 30-day readmission rates in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. CHEST, doi:10.1378/chest.15-0449

    It is well documented that the population of “seniors” is the fastest growing segment of our population. Conversely, according to the Center for Workforce Studies at APA, only a small number of clinicians specialize in treating this group. Combined with the finding that older adults are being prescribed antipsychotic medications without a mental health diagnosis (despite the documented risks of these medicines with older patients), this fact is alarming. 

    Olfson, M., King, M., Schoenbaum, M. (2015). Antipsychotic treatment of adults in the United States. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 76(10), 1346-1353 doi:10.4088/JCP.15m9863