卓越實證概述 Best Evidence in Brief
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

How do teacher-student interactions affect emotions and behaviors?

A recent study published in PLOS ONE examined how classroom environment shapes the emotions and behaviors of students. Using a sample of Chinese students, Wang and colleagues examined the association between classroom environment and emotional and behavioral problems across different school stages, while also considering the influences of students’ personality and family environment.

In two primary schools and four secondary schools in Liaoning Province, northeast China, the study collected valid responses from 5,433 students (2,039 from primary schools; 2,091 from junior high schools; 1,303 from senior high schools) and 244 classroom teachers (92 from primary schools; 96 from junior high schools; 56 from senior high schools). The students were asked about their emotional and behavioral problems, personality, family environment, perceptions of teacher-student interaction through a questionnaire; and the teachers reported their depressive symptoms. The authors found that:

  • The greatest influences on students’ emotions and behaviors were personality and family characteristics at the individual level, but the influence of classroom teachers on students gradually increased across different school stages.
  • In primary schools and among a high dissatisfaction group in junior high school, students’ positive perception of teachers’ understanding was negatively associated with their emotional and behavioral problems.
  • In senior high schools, students’ perception of teachers as “helpful / friendly” was negatively associated with their emotional and behavioral problems.

The authors suggested that the results highlighted the importance of teachers’ positive communication with students. The findings also highlighted the diverse classroom needs of younger and older adolescents in order to improve students’ mental health.

 

Source (Open Access): Wang, J., Hu, S., & Wang, L. (2018). Multilevel analysis of personality, family, and classroom influences on emotional and behavioral problems among Chinese adolescent students. PLOS ONE, 13(8), e0201442. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0201442. Read the rest

Improving times table fluency

The Institute for Effective Education (IEE) in the UK has published a new report from a project funded by their Innovation Evaluation Grants. The IEE Innovation evaluations are small-scale and test the kinds of innovations that schools are interested in.

Thirty-four Year 4 classes took part in the evaluation of Improving times table fluency, which was conducted by Underwood West Academy. A total of 876 children were included in the study.

Five groups of four or five classes were created by matching the pre-test scores on a 25-item tables test and the percentage of children in receipt of pupil premium (additional funding for schools in England, designed to help disadvantaged students). All groups had similar pre-test scores and similar percentages of children in receipt of pupil premium. Each class used a different balance of conceptual and procedural activities during times tables lessons. Conceptual activities were games that focused on the connections and patterns in tables facts, while procedural activities were games in which students practiced multiplication facts.

Students had four 15-minute times tables lessons each week, and the intervention lasted for 12 weeks. Before the intervention started, all participating students carried out a simple times tables test comprising of 25 spoken multiplication questions. The same test was repeated as a post-test.

The results of the trial showed that

  • No one balance of practice activities was more effective than another.
  • The increase in scores was small. The researchers suggested that might due to the long duration provided to students for answering questions in pre-test and post-test.

The report concludes that times tables may be best taught by using a balanced approach – teaching both the concepts behind them and practicing them in a range of ways with low-stakes testing.

 

Source (Open Access): Avis, M. (2019). Improving times table fluency. York, England: Institute for Effective Education. Read the rest