Maintaining an Academic Edge During an Extended School Break 

By Dr. Kenneth Waters


Editor’s Note: Dr. Kenneth Waters (@KDwaters) teaches English at St. Andrew’s and is part of the research team for the Center for Transformative Teaching and Learning. Dr. Waters produced this brief research White Paper in order to help St. Andrew’s students (and parents) think about this most wonderful time of the year to keep one’s brain from draining all of the learning since the start of school in September.


With the winter break session approaching, students are eagerly anticipating the extra time off from school for a myriad of reasons.  For SAES students, the idea of no early morning commutes to school, making or missing the 6 pm bus to get home for the day, papers to write, assessments to prepare for, or the accountability of attending 65-minute long classes throughout the day can produce a certain level of satisfaction, especially considering there will be almost three weeks away from campus where the aforementioned is put on halt.  Subsequently, with all of this time off, there are a few things to be mindful of, which we academics refer to as “brain drain”or “regression” and “recoupment”.

According to Wright (2017) from Rethink Education, regression is recognized as a decline in knowledge due to a pause in one’s education, whereas recoupment is the time a student needs to regain his prior knowledge.  An article published by EdSurge adds that brain drain negatively impacts a student’s learning curve, specifically their reading skills when there is a substantial break from school (McDonnell, 2015).

The reality is that for the next few weeks, classroom learning will not be a constant, but that does not mean being a student has to subside as well.  

In no shape or form are students expected to follow a normal school day over their break to prevent “brain drain” or “regression” because literature also posits that short pauses in learning can actually reduce a learner’s stress level, while concurrently improving his or her’s productivity (Terada, 2018).  Researchers from USC and MIT supports Terada’s (2018) assertion that rest is essential to one’s mental health and processing (Immordino-Yang, Christodoulou, & Singh, 2012). Moreover, Immordino-Yang et. al. (2012) investigation on neural processing revealed that when one’s mind is in default mode or focused on the outside world, reminiscing and reflecting on past experiences, envisioning the future, and finding self-worth in society is present.

Therefore, during this extended break, enjoy the moments of rest, but also consider engaging yourself into activities where your “recoupment” time from “brain drain” or “regression” is accomplished at a significantly higher rate.

Below is a list of activities students can employ to maintain their competitive academic edge while on their extended break.  

  • Download an educational app on your phone or tablet, such as:

    • Oxford Dictionary (have a word sent to you daily)

    • Math Dash or Operation Math

    • Zinio (digital newsstand, with access to millions of magazines and comics)

    • Duolingo: Learn a new language or refine your foreign language skills

  • Listen to or create a podcast

  • Visit a museum

  • Limit use of video game time

  • Use social media sparingly

  • Write a “thank you” letter to someone you appreciate

  • Write a  “poem” to someone you admire

  • Complete a coloring book

  • Volunteer at a senior citizens home or service oriented organization

  • Journal for 10-15 minutes a day

  • Alternate between reading a physical and online newspaper on daily basis

  • Create a vision board; and/or

  • Donate clothes, toys, gadgets, etc. that you do not use

Similar to anything that does not receive adequate usage or practice, atrophie occurs.  Therefore, as we all transition into the winter break, let’s be mindful about balancing our brain powers with relaxation, mindless activities, and purposefully recharging pursuits.      

Happy Holidays!!!

References:

Immordino-Yang, M. H., Christodoulou, J. A., & Singh, V. (2012). Rest Is not idleness: Implications of the brain’s default mode for human development and education. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 7(4), 352–364.

McDonnell, M. (2015). How can edtech close the book on summer brain drain? Retrieved from https://www.edsurge.com/news/2015-05-07-how-can-edtech-close-the-book-on-summer-brain-drain

Terada, Y. (2018). Research-tested benefits of breaks. Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/article/research-tested-benefits-breaks

Wright, P. (2017). Regression and recoupment data collection and analysis over winter holiday break. Retrieved from https://www.rethinked.com/blog/blog/2017/11/24/regression-recoupment-data-collection-analysis/