At the annual event, professors are given five minutes to share their research and perspectives on societal issues.
Twelve professors from the Texas A&M University College of Education and Human Development were recently given five minutes to share their research and perspectives on issues impacting society at this year’s “Voices of Impact,” an annual event where faculty members are encouraged to discuss their areas of expertise in ways everyone can understand.
The full speaker series is available for viewing on the VOI website.
Texas A&M Today visited with two of the professors to discuss their presentations.
Jenna Yentes, “Goldilocks of Walking”
Jenna Yentes, associate professor in the Department of Health and Kinesiology, said how we walk is related to our health, especially as we age.
“Every step you take is different, like a fingerprint,” she said. “Some are slightly wider, longer, faster or slower.”
This “movement variability” gives us the flexibility to make quick changes such as when we trip on a crack or someone jumps in front us.
“The ‘goldilocks’ is that flexibility,” Yentes said. “If your steps are too consistent, you’re walking like a robot, not able to make those changes because you’re so rigid. You need flexibility in your steps, but just right amount.”
In her research, Yentes examines and quantifies the variability of steps, which changes over time and can indicate the status of a person’s health.
“It’s not something you’ll notice because it’s a slow progression,” she said. “As we age or different diseases evolve, that variability may change.”
Yentes said she hopes one day it becomes standard practice for doctors to conduct simple walking tests just as they check patients’ weight, heart rate, temperature, etc.
“We walk more and more like a robot as we get older, so if we track our walking over time, we can work on how to get flexibility back to movement patterns,” she said, noting the goal of her research is to restore the “just right” variability.
View Yentes’ presentation here.
Daniel Hajovsky, “Sex Differences in Intelligence and Achievement”
The name of his presentation alone is bound to grab some attention, said Daniel Hajovsky, an associate professor in the Department of Educational Psychology, noting the obvious potential for controversy in connecting sex with intelligence and achievement.
“We’re talking about averages between large groups, this doesn’t mean it’s true for every individual you see in the population,” he said.
Hajovsky studies sex differences in intelligence and achievement test scores in children and adolescents. “Although there is no consistent sex difference in general intelligence (IQ scores), there are some consistent differences in more broad and narrow abilities,” he said.
Sex differences in broad cognitive abilities are mostly found with processing speed and visual processing, Hajovsky said, noting he’s found that females show an advantage, on average, in processing speed, so for example, they may be able to retrieve more vocabulary, produce more words and write faster. For males, their visual processing – the ability to use mental imagery to solve problems with visual information – is generally better, on average. For example, tests measuring the narrow ability that involve moving three-dimensional objects around in their minds (something called “mental rotation”) often shows the largest sex differences favoring males.
In terms of academics, Hajovsky said females tend to obtain better grades in all academic areas and males are much less likely to complete higher education.
“The area that’s probably the most controversial is math problem solving,” he said. “Males have an advantage at average to above average ability ranges in math problem solving.”
When it comes to reading skills, the findings are mixed with female advantages in reading fluency. But the area that likely receives the least amount of public attention is in the area of writing achievement, where female advantages begin early and persist across age.
View Hajovsky’s presentation here.
View the rest of 2022’s Voices of Impact:
Monica Neshyba, “Discovering the Wealth of Bilingualism”
Hope K. Gerde, “Writing Gives Young Children a Voice”
Vince Lechuga, “The Unintended Consequences of Policy”
Connie Barroso Garcia, “Believing in the Ability to Change”
Tyler Prochnow, “Why Social Connections Matter to Your Health”
Ben Herman, “Scientific by Affiliation”
Noemi Mendoza Diaz, “A Bias-Free Assessment of Teaching”
Andrew Kwok, “Recruiting the Next Wave of Teachers”
Heather McMahan, “Research That Saves Lost Researchers”
Brian McCullough “Leveraging the ‘Nature’ of Sport“