A way to help preschoolers learn symbolic approximate arithmetic

Symbolic approximate arithmetic, crucial for children’s mathematical proficiency, involves providing an approximate answer instead of an exact one. For instance, a previous study found that preschoolers did not know the exact answer to “21+30” but did know that “21+30” is larger than “34”. Both number comparison training and number line estimation training have been found separately to enhance children’s symbolic approximate arithmetic. Wei and colleagues conducted an experiment to compare the effect of these two trainings on symbolic approximate arithmetic since they may rely on distinct cognitive processes.

A sample of 109 children, aged 5.11 to 6.27 years, were recruited from three middle-class preschools in Hangzhou, China. They were randomly assigned to one of three training groups: (1) number line estimation (n = 32), (2) number comparison (n = 34), and (3) control group (n = 30). In the number line estimation group, the game played by children aimed to help them understand of the distance between two numbers. In the number comparison group, participants were involved in comparing the magnitudes of two number cards. This training facilitates the development of children's understanding of the semantic magnitude of numbers.

Children in the two treatment groups engaged in training games three times in one week, while the control group received no training. All participants completed a pre-test and post-test, which included tasks on symbolic approximate arithmetic (e.g., comparing "13＋22" to "28" to determine which is greater), number comparison (determining the larger number between two), and number line estimation (marking an integer on a number line ranging from 0 to 100).

• The results revealed that preschoolers in the number comparison group outperformed the control group in all three tasks.
• Only number comparison training improved performance in symbolic approximate arithmetic.

This suggests that preschoolers rely more on comparison processing than on number line estimation for approximate arithmetic. The authors acknowledged that the brief training duration may have limited the effects, indicating a need for further investigation.

Source: Wei, W., Liao, H., Deng, W., & Ye, Q. (2023). Training on number comparison, but not number line estimation, improves preschoolers’ symbolic approximate arithmetic. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 65, 241–249. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecresq.2023.07.004Read the rest

Randomized evaluation of an experiential science program

A recent article published in AERJ by Schneider and Bradford reported the results of a cluster randomized control trial evaluating the effectiveness of the Multiple Literacies in Project-Based Learning (ML-PBL) science intervention for third graders. This study was undertaken to add to the developing evidence of the program, which had previously undergone teaching experiments, a pilot test, and a field test. ML-PBL consists of four units and uses a “driving question” for each lesson to spark students’ interest and engagement. It incorporates cooperative, experiential learning for the students, assessments to ensure students meet learning expectations, and teacher professional development.

The study included 2371 third graders (1165 in the experimental group, 1206 in the control group which received their business-as-usual science instruction) from 46 schools (23 E, 23 C) with 91 teachers (41 E, 50 C) from 111 classrooms (54 E, 57 C) during the 2018-19 school year. There were no differences between the two groups at baseline regarding ethnicity, socioeconomic status, third-grade enrollment, and math/reading scores on the prior year’s state standardized testing. The ML-PBL intervention included teacher training to support classroom discussions that encouraged students to connect the content to their own lives and fostered student participation.

Post-testing was done using a test based on the MDE state test, as well as a test of social-emotional factors related to science learning. Academic results showed statistically significant gains in science for the experimental students, with an effect size of +0.27. These gains were evident regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, SES, and geographic region within the state. In addition, experimental students reported greater self-reflection and collaborative behaviors than controls. The implications of these findings for classroom practice are discussed.

Source: Krajcik, J., Schneider, B., Miller, E. A., Chen, I.-C., Bradford, L., Baker, Q., Bartz, K., Miller, C., Li, T., Codere, S., & Peek-Brown, D. (2023). Assessing the Effect of Project-Based Learning on Science Learning in Elementary Schools. American Educational Research Journal, 60(1), 70–102. https://doi.org/10.3102/00028312221129247Read the rest

Considerations when building a school-based vision program

Pediatric vision care continues to be an unmet need in the United States, leading to disparities in access to these crucial services. Serving as an evidence-based intervention to advance health equity, school-based vision programs (SBVPs) aim to offer vision care services directly within the school setting. By forging partnerships between schools and eye care providers, SBVPs have demonstrated their ability to make a substantial impact on children’s lives, including improving academic performance and facilitating the use of eyeglasses, particularly among urban minority populations.

Despite the proven effectiveness of SBVPs, there is currently a lack of resources and comprehensive guides to assist school nurses, administrators, eye care providers, and other stakeholders in establishing and operating SBVPs. Collins and her team published an article in the Journal of School Nursing, which provided practical considerations relevant to the building or strengthening of existing SBVPs.

During the program planning phase, it is essential to prioritize needs analysis, strategic partnerships, and securing adequate funding. During program implementation, components such as personnel, consent for vision exams, vision screening, eye exams, dispensing, monitoring, and replacing eyeglasses, and how to charge for exams should be fully considered. For sustainability, stakeholders need to consider data management, tracking and quality assurance. In conclusion, this article points out that SBVPs require a strong partnership between school health staff, teachers, and vision care providers in each phase. Due to school nurses’ strong ties to school health care services and the school community, they are especially positioned to build SBVPs.

Source: Ambrosino, C. M., Callan, J., Wiggins, T. M. S., Repka, M. X., & Collins, M. E. (2023). Considerations in Building a School-Based Vision Program. The Journal of School Nursing, 10598405231163752. https://doi.org/10.1177/10598405231163753Read the rest

Does online computer-assisted learning enhance English learning in rural areas of China?

A clustered randomized controlled trial (RCT) by Bai and colleagues evaluated the impact of an online computer-assisted learning (OCAL) intervention on academic and non-academic outcomes of grade 5 rural and migrant students in China. A random sample of 44 schools in rural areas was randomly assigned to either in a treatment group (n= 22) or a control group (n=22). Students in the treatment group attended two 40 min English online computer-assisted learning tutorials per week during the 2016 spring semester (about 3 months), while students in the control group continued their usual classes. The OCAL tutorial sessions provided only remedial materials which matched the content of the standard English curriculum studied in the class without any new material. A total of 1,342 students completed the program.

After controlling baseline test scores, students’ and schools’ characteristics, results of regression analysis indicated that:

• Students in the treatment group outperformed those in the control group (ES = +0.48), which was a greater improvement than the impact of offline CAL studies (ES = +0.15) previously conducted in rural China.
• The intervention enhanced students’ interest in English class but it did not affect their attitude towards their English teacher.
• However, there was no significant effect on student math scores or self-efficacy in English.

Based on the findings, the researchers suggested that interest-oriented stimulation contributes to the success of the OCAL program by enhancing student learning through two features: (1) the online interactive function motivated peer engagement in competitive, gamified activities, and (2) OCAL provided tailor-made exercises based on each student’s mastery level which helped students feel less frustrated or bored. Additionally, there is a cost-benefit advantage of OCAL over offline CAL if the former is scaled up. Therefore, policymakers should consider the potential of OCAL program expansion.

Source (Open Access): Bai, Y., Tang, B., Wang, B., Mo, D., Zhang, L., Rozelle, S., Auden, E., & Mandell, B. (2023). Impact of online computer assisted learning on education: Experimental evidence from economically vulnerable areas of China. Economics of Education Review, 94, 102385. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.econedurev.2023.102385Read the rest

Effects of an online summer program for credit recovery in high school

A recent randomized study evaluated the effectiveness of a summer program to recover credits in high school, comparing two delivery modes: online vs. in-class directed by a teacher.

Students who failed the Algebra I or English 9 courses from schools in Los Angeles were randomly assigned to receive the credit recovery program online or in-class. For the Algebra course, 305 students were assigned to the online delivery and 308 to the in-class program. For the English course, 564 students were assigned to the online delivery and 560 to the in-class program.

The researchers used three measures of impact: credit recovery rates at the end of the program; district PSAT math and reading tests; and a researcher-made end-of-course test to evaluate student outcomes. The results of the latter may be overestimated due to the type of measure used and are not reported in this summary.

For the Algebra course, results showed a non-significant difference between the two groups in credit recovery rates, with the online class 6 percentage points lower than the in-class program. There was also no difference between the two groups on PSAT math (ES = -0.03). For the English course, results showed a significant difference between the two groups in credit recovery rates. The online class was 15 percentage points lower than the in-class program. There was no difference between the two groups on PSAT reading (ES = +0.04).

Source (Open Access): Rickles, J., Clements, M., Brodziak de los Reyes, I., Lachowicz, M., Lin, S., & Heppen, J. (2023). A multisite randomized study of an online learning approach to high school credit recovery: Effects on student experiences and proximal outcomes. Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness, 0(0), 1–24. https://doi.org/10.1080/19345747.2023.2198524Read the rest