STEER tracks the impact of lockdown on 8,000 students' mental health
The COVID-19 pandemic led to a UK government policy decision to lockdown schools from March- September to reduce transmission of the virus. This unprecedented action raised many questions for educators:
- What impact was the virus going to have on the mental health of children and young people across the UK?
- How was young people's mental health affected locked in at home and deprived of the structure, support and relationships of school?
- With some schools providing more virtual student pastoral support than others during lockdown, were some groups more adversely disadvantaged by lockdown than others?
These questions have proved difficult for the UK government to answer because it lacked a consistent, historical benchmark of young people's social-emotional wellbeing prior to lockdown. In addition, few organisations had the ability to obtain any new, real-time data whilst lockdown was occuring.
STEER's historic data tracking since 2013 has provided a unique insight
STEER Education is one of the very few organisations in the UK which was in a position to both provide historical benchmark data, and to collect real-time data on student mental mental health, during lockdown.
STEER's historic 7-year AS Tracking database, gathered since 2013, has provided a high-quality benchmarking dataset for young people aged 8-18 on the impacts of lockdown.
STEER's technology enabled schools to continue to track during lockdown
In addition, STEER rapidly launched a modified version of AS Tracking in March which enabled schools to continue to track students during lockdown. Using the app, school tracked more than 8,000 students between March- July, providing a unique insight into the effects on different populations, demographics and ages of students across the country and indeed, internationally.
STEER will gain deeper, wider insight in the coming months as more schools join the AS Tracking programme
In addition, STEER is now gathering post-lockdown data from 70,000 students, an increase of 20,000 from our pre-pandemic dataset. This includes the 8,000 tracked over lockdown; the Autumn data will allow us to develop our understanding of lockdown's effect on our young people's mental health further, as well as the extent to which the return to school has restored student's mental health.
STEER is currently analysing its results, identifying patterns than relate specifically to boys vs girls, affluence, school virtual support and age.This data will be used to inform policy and decisions about the best strategies for national school recovery.
Our next steps
STEER aims to work with relevant stakeholders in national policy to support, inform and guide decision making as the 2020-21 school year progresses. STEER will continue to track it's growing cohort of students in the coming months, enriching and widening the insights it can offer on this unprecedented historic event.
Primary quantitative research into steering cognition
A detailed publication of empirical methods and findings from a wide 15 year research programme describing our central claims: the cognitive, social and mental health implications of the self-regulation of Steering Cognition.
Publication of our 2015 study involving nearly 4,000 pupils across 20 UK secondary schools which answered the question: Model. Do pupils at schools which show Motorway Model characteristics exhibit narrower cognitive abilities than pupils at schools which show less of those Motorway characteristics? If so, what might the consequences be for employability beyond school?
Publication of our 2015 study involving more than 6,000 pupils across 16 UK secondary schools which answered the question: Is there a link between schools exhibiting the characteristics of the Motorway Model and increased pupil mental health risks?
Publication of our 2015 study involving 4,000 pupils across 20 UK secondary schools which answered the question: Do pupils from private schools develop social, emotional or cognitive skills not currently measured by academic assessments which contribute to them securing more elite roles in industry and society?
Working paper reporting findings from a 6 month study seeking to improve academic outcomes amongst first year UK undergraduates by improving the self-regulation of their Steering Cognition
Early studies evidencing that the self-regulation of Steering Cognition was distinct from IQ-like algorithmic cognition and contributed to academic outcomes at secondary school.
Early studies evidencing that the self-regulation of Steering Cognition is ecologically influenced by secondary school environment and is teachable.
As tracking datamodel: theoretical papers and literature reviews underpinning the datamodel of as tracking
Theoretical paper describing the relationship between Walker and Walker's model of Steering Cognition and theories of self-regulation
Theoretical paper describing the relationship between Walker and Walker's model of Steering Cognition and developmental theories of self
Theoretical paper describing the relationship between Walker and Walker's model of Steering Cognition and developmental theories of risk-taking and self-expansion
Theoretical paper describing the relationship between Walker and Walker's model of Steering Cognition and developmental theories of self-presentation and disclosure
Theoretical paper describing the relationship between Walker and Walker's model of Steering Cognition and developmental theories of self-other individuation
Theoretical paper describing the relationship between Walker and Walker's model of Steering Cognition and theories of over self-regulation
Paper describing the theoretical, empirical and statistical evidence for AS Tracking as a measure of pupil Steering Cognition. Describes studies evidencing the validity, reliability and norms of AS Tracking as an instrument.
STEER uses its research into human biases to develop ground-breaking tools
STEER has successfully built a set of ground-breaking educational technologies from its pioneering research. These tools include AS Tracking, developed to detect students' social-emotional risks earlier by tracking their emerging steering biases; CAS Tracking, developed to improve teaching and learning, by identifying biases which are limiting learning in the classroom; and USTEER, developed to train students leaving school to steer their biases in a healthy, independent way, as they prepare for the challenges of the workplace or higher education.
TEACHER EXPERIENCES OF AS TRACKING
The most recent independent report into the efficacy of STEER's mental health programme AS Tracking has just been published. You can read Rosi Lewis' MSc dissertation undertaken at Oxford Brookes University here: ' What are some teachers’ experiences of using Affective Social Tracking data to support proactive, targeted pastoral care in schools? '
External evaluations of TRACKING
The impact of AS Tracking on schools' pastoral provision has been recently evaluated in a number of external reports. These include inspectorate bodies and charitable reports from 2019-20. They are summarised in the short report below.'
What literature underpins Steering Cognition?
Steering Cognition is a term coined by Simon P. Walker to describe a novel construct which is associated with the following major existing research literature fields in cognitive and social psychology:
- Executive function
- Mental simulation circuitry
- Conscious / non-conscious
- Dual process theory
- Cognitive biases
- Social priming
- Algorithmic - heuristic cognition
- Human ecology theory
Steering cognition is a model of social and cognitive executive function. It is explains a functional governor mechanism by which the mind coordinates attention and executes responsive action.
Steering cognition is a model of metacognition. It describes the capacity of the mind to exert conscious control over its reasoning and processing strategies in relation to external data and internal state
Steering cognition is an explanatory mechanism of some phenomena of affective, cognitive and social self-regulation. It describes effortful control processes which exhibit depletion after strain.
Steering cognition has been repeatedly shown to implicate the mind's mental simulation circuitry. As such, it is associated with functional neural circuits involved in projective and retrospective memory, self-representation, associative processing and imagination.
Steering cognition provides an account of the transitioning process from non-conscious, or automatic, to conscious processing that occurs in the mind (see dual process theory).
According to the steering cognition model, dual process system 1 functions as a serial cognitive steering processor for system 2, rather than the traditionally understood parallel system. In order to process epistemically varied environmental data, a steering cognition orientation system is required to align varied, incoming environmental data with existing neural algorithmic processes. The brain’s associative simulation capacity, centered around the imagination, plays an integrator role to perform this function (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/dual_process_theory#dual_process_and_steering_cognition).
In the cognitive steering model, a conscious state emerges from effortful associative simulation, required to align novel data accurately with remote memory, via later algorithmic processes. By contrast, fast unconscious automaticity is constituted by unregulated simulatory biases, which induce errors in subsequent algorithmic processes. The phrase ‘rubbish in, rubbish out’ is used to explain errorful steering cognition processing: errors will always occur if the accuracy of initial retrieval and location of data is poorly self-regulated.
Steering cognition provides an explanation of how the mind is nonconsciously influenced by the environmental cues, or primes, around it. Steering cognition studies have produced data of attentional bias best explained by environmental priming.
Steering cognition has been shown to rely upon associative rather than algorithmic cognitive processing and is best understood as heuristic in purpose- guiding the direction of our mind. Steering cognition conceptualises the relationship between these algorithmic and associative functions as serial rather than parallel pathways. Our steering cognition guides our attention prior to algorithmic data processing.
A specific data model, human ecology theory, underpins the steering cognition findings to date. Walker conducted variatiants of the same cognitive test with more than 11,000 candidates between the ages of 8 and 60 between 2002 and 2015. Using principle component analysis, walker was able to identify 7 latent largely independent ‘heuristic substitution’ factors which he labelled s, l, x, p, m, o, t . Subsequent exploratory factor analysis confirmed a largely orthogonal factor analysis structure. In 2014 walker referred to this 7 factor model as the human ecology model of cas state – cognitive affective social state . Also that year, walker j. Described four of the factors in greater detail (s, l, x and p) elucidating the relationships of the factors to affective-social self-regulation literature.