Dogs, working memory and educational achievement: Barking up the wrong tree or an effective mechanism for facilitating cognitive acuity?

Oostendorp Godfrey, Janet (2020) Dogs, working memory and educational achievement: Barking up the wrong tree or an effective mechanism for facilitating cognitive acuity? PhD thesis, University of Gloucestershire. doi:10.46289/JDIO5195

8621_Oostendorp_Godfrey_Janet (2020)_Dogs,_working_memory_and_educational_achievement_PhD_Thesis.pdf - Accepted Version

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A mixed methods convergent design was used to investigate the involvement and role of a school dog with 13, seven year olds and 24 university students over three phases: a desk based survey; the identification of children’s working memory skills used in the dog’s presence when reading; and comparing maths and vocabulary school based tasks in both ‘live’ and ‘Virtual Reality’ (VR) settings. The findings provided insights into how the dogs’ presence affected learning within the classroom. Cross-age correlations were found for specific working memory skills between the adults and children. The data from both age groups revealed a significant effect of a live (as opposed to VR) dog’s presence for the language-based activities and suggested that there is potential for dogs to increase resilience and confidence in mathematical tasks. Using ‘virtual reality dogs’, significant effects were found for language abilities, corroborating previous research. Results clearly indicated that it is primarily the individual learner’s initial response to the task itself which determines the personal achievement and attainment, with the presence of a dog having a secondary effect. Further research is required into establishing the greatest benefits from working with a dog with respect to the measurement of progress mediated by social, academic and learning needs. The finding in this research that the effect of animal assisted learning is somewhat equivocal and idiosyncratic has implications for the widely used ‘read to dogs’ schemes in schools, together with the hours, working conditions and the perceived necessity of having full time school dogs. Animal assisted learning, in this study, showed benefits for some participants, but the effect was not universal. Such a finding suggests that a specific, individual, specialist academic teaching approach may be required to gain the greatest benefit from animal assisted intervention and animal assisted education in the future.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Advisors:
Thesis AdvisorEmailURL
Uncontrolled Keywords: Animal assisted learning; School dogs; Virtual reality dogs; Working memory
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
L Education > LC Special aspects of education
Divisions: Schools and Research Institutes > School of Education and Science
Research Priority Areas: Health, Life Sciences, Sport and Wellbeing
Depositing User: Susan Turner
Date Deposited: 24 Sep 2020 11:58
Last Modified: 01 Sep 2023 16:04

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