Is the Arrowsmith Program grounded in research?
The work of the Arrowsmith Program is grounded in research – that of Alexander Luria who identified the function or job of different regions and networks of the brain and that of Mark Rosenzweig at University of California, Berkeley looking at ‘activity-dependent neuroplasticity’ in rats. Activity-dependent neuroplasticity means that external stimulation that places a demand on the brain over a sustained period results in change to the brain.
Based on Luria and Rosenzweig’s research, the following question was posed by Barbara Arrowsmith-Young in 1978 – “Can specific cognitive exercises stimulate and improve specific cognitive functions?”
The research conducted on Arrowsmith Program demonstrates that yes, specific cognitive exercises are leading to changes in the brain along with cognitive, academic, and social emotional well-being changes.
What is research?
Research is a form of systematic investigation with the intention of adding knowledge to a field. It takes a variety of forms, including studies using different research designs such as single subject designs, observational studies, longitudinal designs, surveys, randomized control designs.
Which research designs have been used?
The American Psychological Association Journal article, More than one way to measure, https://www.apa.org/monitor/2010/09/trials argues for multiple research approaches to evaluate outcomes of interventions and outlines the pitfalls of randomized clinical trials. Arrowsmith, in 2010, consulted Dr. Alan Kazdin, who is quoted in this article, on the appropriate research design to evaluate Arrowsmith Program outcomes and he advised that single-subject design or n-1 design would be the best approach. This research design uses a form of experimental reasoning called baseline logic to demonstrate the effects of the independent variable (in the case of Arrowsmith – the cognitive exercises) on the behavior of individual subjects. Given it is often difficult to match control groups in education research this is a frequently used research design. In this design, students’ progress over time is measured against their starting point and if progress exceeds what is expected, it is considered significant. Designs with control groups have also been used in which differences in outcome measures between the groups are analyzed for significance.
This design is discussed here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Single-subject_design. In this design, it is argued that if the research demonstrates common outcomes across multiple studies using different subjects and with a range of measures, then the intervention is the probable factor leading to the outcomes. All the independent research on Arrowsmith shows similar outcomes.
What are the statistics on research evaluating the Arrowsmith Program?
- 20 independent studies
- 700+ students
- 6 universities
- 19 different educational institutions
- 4 countries
- 11 of these studies have been peer reviewed
- 2 have been published
- 5 of these studies have had control groups
- These studies have been conducted by different researchers using a variety of research designs and measures.
Has brain imaging been used to evaluate the Arrowsmith Program?
5 studies at 2 universities have used various forms of brain imaging to investigate the impact of the Arrowsmith Program. The brain imaging results have shown:
- changes in brain activation and connectivity
- more efficient processing
- increased activation in the prefrontal cortex and executive control network
- strengthened network connectivity, both within and between networks
What are the academic outcomes?
Studies at three universities found significant changes on the following academic measures:
- Word Reading
- Reading Fluency
- Reading Comprehension
- Math Computation
- Quantitative Concepts
- Math Fluency
- Written Expression
- Writing Fluency
- Receptive Language
- Academic Fluency
Studies in several elementary schools found significant changes over an academic year on:
- rate of acquisition of the skills of reading, reading comprehension, spelling, arithmetic
- amount of academic growth over an academic year on reading comprehension and mathematics
- writing speed and accuracy
What are the cognitive outcomes?
Studies at four universities found significant changes on the following cognitive measures:
- Cognitive Efficiency
- Processing Speed
- Perceptual Speed
- Auditory Processing
- Fluid Reasoning
- Visual Auditory Learning
- Working Memory
- Verbal Fluency
- Short Term Memory
- Long Term Memory
- Phonemic Awareness
- Planning (Executive Functioning)
- Visual Spatial Reasoning
What are the social-emotional well-being outcomes?
- greater sense of happiness & well being
- increased sense of locus of control (view self as agent of change in one’s life)
- increase in incremental theory of mind (Carol Dweck)
- increase in social skills, adaptability, and leadership
- increase in attention, listening well, staying focused
- reduction in feelings of depression, anxiety, aggression
- reduction in hyperactivity
- reduction in cortisol (stress hormone)
Are there control groups?
Five studies have compared the results of students in the Arrowsmith Program with students not receiving the Arrowsmith Program (controls). What is important to note is that in the studies with control groups, the students receiving the Arrowsmith cognitive exercises all showed significant academic and/or cognitive gains over the control groups who did not receive Arrowsmith intervention.
Is the research independent?
The researchers from the various universities conducting research on the outcomes of the Arrowsmith Program do this work independently of Arrowsmith. As they require, from time to time, the researchers consult with Arrowsmith on various questions related to the Arrowsmith methodology and theory. All researchers that conduct research on the Arrowsmith Program have full access to the methodology from our written documentation to observations of the program in action and to training in the methodology.
Are there peer reviewed studies?
Eleven of the research studies have been peer reviewed and two have been published in peer reviewed journals. All the studies presented at conferences go through a peer review process before being accepted for presentation.