Searching for What Works

A recent study by researchers from the U.S. and Iceland indicates that stimulants such as Adderall are unlikely to elevate the academic performance of non-ADHD college students, even though many such students take the drugs for this purpose (no joke). 

Now what?  Have researchers “hit a wall” with respect to identifying strategies that will enhance the achievement levels of students here and abroad?  As Texas A&M Psychology Professor Fritz Mandible observes, “we could ask students in our courses to complete the assigned reading, attend class, and study, but can we do that with a straight face?  We know they’re not going to do any of those things, so we’re pretty much screwed.  Drugs were our last hope.”

Maybe not.  A team of researchers at Georgetown University is investigating the potential of prayer for boosting performance.  In a randomized study of three sections of a Calculus I course at the Jesuit school, one section of students will pray to St. Ignatius of Loyola, Patron Saint of Higher Order Functions, for good grades.  Students in a second section will be prayed for by a group of retired Catholic nuns in Bowie, Maryland, with half of the nuns focusing on in-class exams, and the other half on term papers.  Finally, a third section of the course will serve as a control, with students participating in the course as they normally would — drunk and/or asleep, with no prayers.  According to the study’s principal investigator, Professor Ezeriah “Izzy” Claiborne, “we’re curious to see if God is willing to step up to the plate in the name of education.”

Amen to that.  Are you there, Big Guy?