Keynote Speakers at the 2016 Conference
Clancy Blair, New York University
The Development of Self-Regulation in Early Childhood
This talk will describe recent advances in the scientific study of self-regulation in early childhood, focusing on the development of executive functions, the complex thinking skills that are important for learning in school and for controlling behavior and emotions. Research in neuroscience indicates that stress and adversity early in life negatively impact executive functions and self-regulation in young children. A growing body of research in early intervention and early childhood education, however, indicates that self-regulation and executive functions can be fostered through supports for families and through innovative programs that enhance the quality of children’s early education experiences.
Tania Lombrozo, University of California, Berkeley
The Good, The Bad, and the Beautiful
Like scientists, children and adults are often motivated to explain the world around them, including why people behave in particular ways, why objects have some properties rather than others, and why events unfold as they do. Moreover, people have strong and systematic intuitions about what makes something a good (or beautiful) explanation. Why are we so driven to explain? And what accounts for our explanatory preferences? In this talk I’ll present evidence that both children and adults prefer explanations that are simple and have broad scope, consistent with many accounts of explanation from philosophy of science. The good news is that a preference for simple and broad explanations can sometimes improve learning and support effective inferences. The bad news is that under some conditions, these preferences can systematically lead children and adults astray.
Marla Sokolowski, University of Toronto
Gene-Environment Interplay in Individual Differences in Behaviour
We are interested in how DNA variation predisposes organisms to be more or less affected by their experiences (gene-environment interactions), how our experience gets embedded in our biology (epigenetics) and finally how DNA variation interacts with epigenetic processes to affect behaviour. Experiential affects, like developmental ones can occur on different time scales. For example nutritional or social adversity (or enrichment) can occur throughout an organisms life, in early life alone with enduring effects on later life stages, or acutely over a matter of minutes or hours. To address these issues we take a genetic perspective using mostly Drosophila melanogaster but also rats and humans and consider both candidate single genes and candidate pathways. This approach provides interesting opportunities and challenges because many genes and pathways that modulate behaviour have multiple functions (pleiotropy) and do themselves exhibit plastic responses to experience.
Janet Werker, University of British Columbia
Perceptual Foundations of Language Acquisition
We study the earliest foundations of language acquisition, in the perceptual biases young infants show for processing language from the first days of life. We then explore how these biases change as a function of growing up with one or more languages, and how growing perceptual knowledge of the native language intersects with higher levels of language acquisition. Our work shows that infants not only listen to the speech around them, and in this way learn about the properties of the native language, but that they also watch others speaking and that both heard and seen speech influence their development. Bilingual infants may be particularly adept at this. More recently we have begun to explore how infants’ own oral motor movement interact with heard and seen speech. Recent findings, and the implications of this work for ensuring optimal language acquisition for all children, will be presented.
Pasi Sahlberg, Harvard Graduate School of Education
About the Facts and the Myths about Education in Finland: Mind, brain and smart education policies
Finland is the poster child of education and the destination of tens of thousands of education tourists seeking inspiration to school improvement and education system change. Since the mid-2000s educators around the world have been asking what makes some education systems perform better than others, and why some countries seem to be stuck in mediocracy. There are numerous theories of change and programs to better education, some of them have proved to be successful and some of them have not. In this presentation I explore common myths, established facts and some lessons from Finnish schools and education system. I explain the key characteristics of Finland’s school system and how they resonate with and often oppose those in other countries. In the end I discuss briefly how evidence from mind, brain and education have influenced policy decisions and how we should forward for better future.