Science & Education News Digest: Jan 2017

Welcome to Learning Science’s inaugural News Digest!

Each month we’ll feature a selection of news pieces, articles and blogs from across the Internet. We’ll be focussing on three hot topics: News from the Education (particularly Higher Education) sphere, education and tech innovations or studies that caught our eye, and other aspects of student life today.

Our guest topic this month is New Year, New Education? What is predicted to change in 2017... and what should change (in the opinion of one academic)?

Finally each month we’ll wrap up with some amazing and/or amusing science news stories. This month – how do babies understand the world, and why would you name a little moth after the US president?

If you know of articles, case studies or events you found interesting – send us the link via Twitter or email.


Higher Ed Policy / News


HE staff already feeling the fallout from Brexit (Times Higher Education)
Many months may have passed since the Brexit vote, but the details and even the overall outcome are still far from certain. That doesn’t mean repercussions haven’t been felt though, and Higher Education staff are among the affected. 

Higher Education Bill battles through Lords (Varsity)
The Higher Education Bill is set to spell big changes for University teaching and HE-related governmental departments. It’s a controversial bill being contested strongly on both sides during its passage through the House of Lords, as this article details.

Education and Technology Innovations

Evaluation of student generated videos as instructional support in chemistry labs (J Chem Educ)
Videos are a widely used educational tool often made for students, but what about videos made by students? This study from North Carolina State University reported highly positive results when they introduced student-generated technique videos into their Chemistry programme. 

Blog construction as an effective tool in biochemistry active learning (Biochem Mol Biol Edu)
Keeping to the topic of student-made materials, this study from Universidade de Brasília looked at the effect of assigning blog writing as a component of the Clinical Biochemistry programme. They report an increase in average grades and positive responses in student feedback surveys.

Student life

Record one in four graduates in UK awarded top degrees (The Guardian)
According to the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA), the percentage of graduates coming away with a first has risen to a record one in four. With many employers no longer asking for specific degree grades or even degrees at all, has the rise in top level degrees reduced their value?

What determines university choice, and what is its monetary value? (Wonkhe)If we’re considering the changing value of degrees, how about their monetary value? With fees now at around £9000 a year, choosing a university is higher pressure than ever. This article attempts to put a monetary value on factors such as university ranking and graduate employment rate.

New year, new education?

What will happen to higher education in 2017? (The Guardian)
2017 is well and truly upon us, but what will the rest of the year have in store for Higher Education? Top predictions here include a “Brexit brain drain” due to decreased international undergraduate applications and heated discussion over “medals” and fee increases as a result of the new TEF system. 

Seven ways education needs to change in 2017 (The Conversation)
With a more aspirational mindset, Dennis Hayes, Professor of Education at Derby University considers what he believes should change about the way education is done. These include “Recognise that education is for all”, “Trust teachers to teach” and - perhaps surprising for a Professor of Education: “Get rid of the obsession with pedagogy!”

Cool new science!

Decoding the infant brain: Can babies understand the world from birth? (The Atlantic)
If you’ve spent any time with a baby, you may have wondered what’s going on in their sweet little head! What are they thinking? What do they understand about what’s going on around them? This article considers recent findings about brain organisation in babies, and how that might link to their inner concepts of their environment. It also describes some of the difficulties of obtaining good MRI scans of jiggle-prone babies.

Tiny moth with very recognisable “hairstyle” named after Donald Trump (BBC News)
If you find a new species of moth in the United States (and parts of Mexico), what could you call it? Introducing Neopalpa donaldtrumpi, a tiny moth named after the new US president.
Will Donald Trump beat the nine species Obama had named after him during his presidency, though? Time will tell.