卓越實證概述 Best Evidence in Brief
Better schools for all?

The Better Schools for All? report, published by the Nuffield Foundation, examines the role that schools play in students’ education and suggests that the school reforms in the UK in the past two decades have failed to bridge the gap in student achievement.

Researchers from University College London and the National Institute of Economic and Social Research looked at data from around 3,000 secondary schools in England between 2003 and 2016 and compared student outcomes and teachers’ experiences with those of employees elsewhere. They found that:

  • Attending a “good” secondary school adds only a small amount more value than attending a “bad” secondary Overall, schools were found to contribute around 10% of variance in student achievement.
  • State schools are better at managing staff than private schools. Using Workplace Employment Relations Survey data, the study shows that state schools were more likely to have rigorous hiring practices and employee participation programs than private schools, and the link between human resource management and effective and high-performing schools was only apparent in the state sector.
  • Performance-related pay and performance monitoring, which were found to improve workplace performance elsewhere, were ineffective for teachers.
  • Schools with more middle leaders tended to be rated more highly by Ofsted in terms of leadership and management. However, in schools which formed part of a multi-academy trust, no significant relationship was apparent.

The authors suggested that due to the availability of data which often covers the whole population of state-funded schools in the U.K., it became possible to understand further how schools function and to identify ways for improvement.

 

Source (Open Access): Bryson,A., Stokes, L., & Wilkinson, D. (2019). Better schools for all? Retrieved from https://www.nuffieldfoundation.org/sites/default/files/files/Better%20Schools%20for%20All%20-%20Final%20Report.pdfRead the rest

Small class size vs. evidence-based interventions

The Ministry of Education in France instituted a policy in 2002 that reduced class size to no more than 12 students in areas determined to have social difficulties and high proportions of at-risk students, called Zones d’Education Prioritaire (ZEP). In order to evaluate the effectiveness and usefulness of this policy, researcher Jean Ecalle and colleagues in France examined the results of the policy-mandated class size reduction on the reading achievement of first graders (Study 1), and compared them to the effects of an evidence-based literacy intervention on the reading achievement of at-risk children in regularly sized classes (20 students) (Study 2).

Study 1, reducing class size, involved assigning classrooms to either small (12 students/class n=100 classes) or large (20-25 students/class, n=100 classes) class sizes (with the support of the Ministry). At the start of the 2002-03 school year, 1,095 children were pretested on pre-reading skills and matched at pretest.

In Study 2, researchers separated 2,803 first graders in ZEP areas into an experimental group who received an evidence-based reading intervention, and a control group who did not. The intervention was a protocol developed by the Association Agir pour l’Ecole (Act for School), who developed a hierarchy of teaching reading based on evidence-based methods of learning to read, progressing from training phonological skills, to learning letter sounds, decoding, and fluency. Act for School monitored compliance with the protocol weekly. Class size for both groups was 20 students. Experimental teachers received a one-day training, and provided 30 minutes of instruction a day to average or high readers in groups of 10-12, and one hour a day for lower readers in groups of 4-6.

Students in the two studies were pre-tested on reading skills and matched between groups:

  • The post-test results of study 1 favored the small-class-size group on word reading (ES=+0.14) and word spelling (ES=+0.22).
  • The post-test results of study 2 favored the experimental group, with significant effects on word reading (ES=+0.13) and word spelling (ES=+0.12).

Researchers stated that based on the results of both studies, the optimal recommendation to improve literacy skills for at-risk students would be a double intervention, combining evidence-based practices within small classes.

 

Source: Ecalle, J., Gomes, C., Auphan, P., Cros, L., & Magnan, A. (2019). Effects of policy and educational interventions intended to reduce difficulties in literacy skills in grade 1. Studies in Educational Evaluation, 61, 12–20. Read the rest

Career education in secondary schools

Attending career talks with people in employment may change the attitudes of UK Key Stage 4 (ages 14–16) students regarding their education, according to new research published by the UK charity, Education and Employers.

Year 11 students in five schools took part in the trial and were randomly assigned at class level into an intervention group (n=307) and a control group (n=347). Students in the intervention group received three extra career talks by employee volunteers on top of usual career activities organized by their schools. These talks took place either in a homeroom-type setting or private study time rather than during class.

The results of the study indicated that:

  • Students who attended the career talks reported feeling more confident in their own abilities, feeling more positive about school, and having greater faith in their ability to fulfill their career aspirations.
  • It also seemed to provide the incentive for increased study time. Students in the intervention group reported, on average, a 9% higher increase in the amount of time spent each week on individual study for GCSE exams than those in the control group.
  • The intervention program also had a small positive effect on achievement, with students slightly more likely to exceed predicted GCSE grades relative to the control group. Lower achievers and less engaged learners responded best to the career talks, with 74% reporting that they felt more motivated as a result of the talks. These students also exceeded their predicted GCSE grades compared with the control group (+0.14 of a grade effect size for English, +0.05 for math, and +0.05 for science).

The authors suggested that a bigger impact could be achieved by adding more talks.

 

Source (Open Access): Kashefpakdel, E., Percy,C. & Rehill, J. (2019). Motivated to achieve: How encounters with the world of work can change attitudes and improve academic attainment. London, England: Education and Employers Research.… Read the rest

An evaluation of QuickSmart Numeracy

QuickSmart Numeracy is a 30-week math tutoring program from Australia that uses teaching assistants as tutors. Its goal is to increase basic math fact automaticity/fluency in students in Year 4 and Year 8 who perform in the bottom third of their national cohort as measured on standardized testing, the premise being that increased math fluency allows students to devote their concentration to math concepts instead of fact recall. Researchers from the Teachers and Teaching Research Centre in the School of Education at the University of Newcastle, Australia, recently examined the effects of the program on student achievement in a randomized controlled trial.

Subjects were 288 Year 4 and Year 8 students from 70 classrooms in 23 Sydney Catholic Schools in New South Wales who scored below the bottom 30th percentile on national standardized testing. Baseline testing was done in March 2017 using the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) Progressive Achievement Test – Mathematics (PAT-M), with post-testing in May 2018, six months after the intervention ended in December 2017. There were no significant differences between the experimental and control groups at pretest. Randomization among students who qualified for tutoring was done in each class, with all students attending regular math class and pairs of experimental students being pulled from other classes to also receive QuickSmart tutoring three times a week for a half hour for 30 weeks.

Results showed:

  • There was a non-significant difference (E.S. = +0.08) favoring the experimental group in Year 4.
  • The difference favoring Year 8 was also non-significant (E.S. = +0.01).
  • However, the program had significant positive effects on students’ math self-concepts (E.S. = +0.30) and interest in math (E.S. = +0.47).

Authors noted that not all of the students received the targeted hours of tutoring due to recruitment and testing processes.

 

Source (Open Access): Drew, A., Gore, J., Harris, J., Prieto-Rodriguez, E., Fray, L.,... & Taggart, W. (2019). QuickSmart Numeracy: Learning Impact Fund evaluation report. Retrieved from https://evidenceforlearning.org.au/assets/QuickSmart/QuickSmart-Numeracy-Evaluation-Report.pdfRead the rest

Executive functions training improves thinking and creative abilities

While executive functions have been found closely related to creativity and thinking, the neuroscientific training for such functions has been regarded as difficult in widespread applications. However, based on the results of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanning, research has indicated that reading aloud and simple arithmetic calculation activities could largely increase prefrontal activation. A recent study published in Thinking Skills and Creativity aimed to examine whether such training could improve students’ executive functioning, thinking and creative abilities.

Thirty-eight students from a junior high school in Taiwan participated in this study. Half of them were randomly assigned into a training group, the other half were assigned to a control group. Over four weeks on weekdays, the students received 20 fifteen-minute sessions. Students in the training group read aloud and performed arithmetic calculations in each session. There were three difficulty levels for the reading materials and the arithmetic calculations to provide an adaptive training procedure, in order to support activating their prefrontal cortex and increasing their motivation. By contrast, students in the control group played the game Tetris, which should have no effect on students’ executive performance. Activities for both groups were conducted through a computer application and the sessions were held in their school’s computer room.

Executive functioning assessments, thinking tasks and creativity tests were administered to students before and after the training. Students were also asked to describe their feelings toward the training on a 5-point scale. The results showed:

  • Students in the training group did not differ from students in the control group in the executive function test
  • However, students in the training group performed significantly better on the syllogism task (which measures thinking abilities) and the Chinese word remote associates test (which measures creative ability), compared to students in the control group.
  • Students in the control group regarded the activities as more interesting and fun.

The authors suggested that this exploratory study presented a practical and economical method to activate junior high students’ prefrontal cortex in the school educational environment.

 

Source: Lin, W.-L., Shih, Y.-L., Wang, S.-W., & Tang, Y.-W. (2018). Improving junior high students’ thinking and creative abilities with an executive function training program. Thinking Skills and Creativity, 29, 87–96.… Read the rest