卓越實證概述 Best Evidence in Brief
Can schools help prevent childhood obesity?

A study published in The BMJ tests the effectiveness of a school and family based healthy lifestyle intervention (WAVES) in preventing childhood obesity in England.

Almost 1,500 pupils, aged five- and six-years-old, from 54 primary schools in the West Midlands took part in a randomised controlled trial of the WAVES programme. The twelve-month intervention encouraged healthy eating and physical activity, and included an additional 30 minutes of daily physical activity at school and a six-week programme with a local premiership football club.

Children’s measurements – including weight, height, percentage body fat, waist circumference, skinfold thickness and blood pressure – were taken when they started the trial. These measurements were taken again 15 months and 30 months later and were compared with children in a control group.

The results were:

  • At the first follow-up at 15 months, the mean body mass index (BMI) score was not significantly lower for the intervention group compared with the control group.
  • At 30 months, the mean difference was smaller and remained non-significant.

The results suggest that schools alone may not be effective in preventing childhood obesity.

 

Adab, P., Pallan, M. J., Lancashire, E. R., Hemming, K., Frew, E., Barrett, T., … Cheng, K. K. (2018). Effectiveness of a childhood obesity prevention programme delivered through schools, targeting 6 and 7 year olds: cluster randomised controlled trial (WAVES study). BMJ, 360, k211.… Read the rest

Preventing depression in secondary school pupils

In Australia, Helen Christensen and colleagues conducted a cluster randomised trial to investigate the effectiveness of an intervention for the prevention of depression in secondary school pupils.

The study, published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research reported on the results of a trial of the SPARX-R programme, a gamified online cognitive behaviour intervention that is delivered to pupils prior to facing a significant stressor – in this case final secondary school exams.

A total of 540 final-year pupils from 10 secondary schools in Sydney, Australia, took part and clusters at the school level were randomly allocated to SPARX-R or the control intervention (lifeSTYLE, an online interactive control programme). Interventions were delivered weekly in class under teacher supervision, in seven 20- to 30-minute modules. Symptoms of depression were measured by the Major Depression Inventory (MDI).

  • Pupils in the SPARX-R group showed a greater reduction in MDI scores than those in the control group, both post-intervention and at the 6-month follow-up.
  • Effect sizes were small post-intervention (+0.29) and at the 6-month (+0.21) and 18-month follow-ups (+0.33).

The study highlights the potentials of using an engaging interactive tool for developing cognitive behaviour therapy skills and depression prevention in advance of a key stressor.

 

Perry, Y., Werner-Seidler, A., Calear, A., Mackinnon, A., King, C., Scott, J., … Batterham, P. J. (2017). Preventing Depression in Final Year Secondary Students: School-Based Randomized Controlled Trial. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 19(11), e369.… Read the rest

Science achievement gaps start early and persist

A study published in Educational Researcher looks at the profile of science achievement gaps to the age of 14.

The researchers used data from the US Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 1998-1999 (ECLS-K), which followed 7,757 children from kindergarten (Year 1) to eighth grade (Year 9). In kindergarten, the children completed a general knowledge test covering the physical, biological, and social sciences. In the following years, there were further assessments of science, reading, and mathematics achievement, as well as approaches to learning and parenting quality.

The findings include:

  • Large gaps in science general knowledge were already evident when children entered kindergarten.
  • These gaps continued into first grade (Year 2), third grade (Year 4), and ultimately eighth grade.
  • Between third and eighth grade, lower reading and mathematics achievement was also predictive of the persistence of these science achievement gaps.

The authors argue that interventions may need to be implemented very early in children’s development to counteract these early general knowledge gaps. Improving reading and mathematics achievement and behavioural self-regulation, and decreasing school racial segregation may also contribute to reducing the science achievement gaps.

 

Morgan, P. L., Farkas, G., Hillemeier, M. M., & Maczuga, S. (2016). Science achievement gaps begin very early, persist, and are largely explained by modifiable factors. Educational Researcher, 45(1), 18–35.… Read the rest

Programme components and disadvantaged pupils

Research shows that pupils from low socioeconomic backgrounds are less likely to attend pre-school or to have a home environment incorporating literacy and language activities than their less disadvantaged peers. As a result, children from low socioeconomic backgrounds are less likely to enter school with the social and academic skills needed to set them up for success. Jans Deitrichson and colleagues at the Danish National Centre for Social Research recently performed a meta-analysis aimed at determining what components within academic interventions are the most effective at improving the achievement of primary school students from low-socioeconomic backgrounds.

A total of 101 studies performed between 2000–2014 were included in the meta-analysis. Seventy-six percent were randomised controlled trials and the rest were quasi-experimental studies. Studies had to target pupils from low socioeconomic backgrounds, utilise standardised test results in reading and maths as the outcome measures, and take place in OECD or EU countries, although most were in the US. They also had to contain information that allowed the researchers to calculate effect sizes.

The authors sorted each study’s academic intervention into “component categories” (the methods used). Examples include coaching/ mentoring of pupils, cooperative learning, incentives, small-group tutoring, or a combination of these or other methods.

Analysis demonstrated that:

  • Tutoring, feedback and progress monitoring, and cooperative learning were the components with the largest effect sizes.
  • The authors stated that although the average effect sizes for these components were not large enough to close the achievement gap between high- and low-socioeconomic pupils, they certainly reduced it.

They suggest that cost-effectiveness studies should be performed on these programmes to give policymakers and educators a fuller picture of programme benefits.

 

Dietrichson, J., Bøg, M., Filges, T., & Klint Jørgensen, A.-M. K. (2017). Academic interventions for elementary and middle school students with low socioeconomic status: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Review of Educational Research, 87(2), 243–282.… Read the rest

Mind the gap

A new research report published by the Department for Education explores success and good practice in supporting the achievement of disadvantaged pupils, and concludes that schools have meaningful scope to make a difference.

In England, the performance gap between pupils from more- and less-advantaged backgrounds is one of the largest among OECD countries. This research used school-level data, surveys, and interviews to identify schools that have successfully narrowed the gap, common features across these schools, and what lessons can be learned from success stories.

The authors found that between one- and two-thirds of the variance between schools in terms of disadvantaged pupils’ achievement can be explained by school-level characteristics, suggesting that intake and circumstance are influential but do not totally determine outcomes.

Seven building blocks for success were identified:

  • Promote an ethos of achievement for all pupils, rather than stereotyping disadvantaged pupils as a group with less potential to succeed.
  • Have an individualised approach to addressing barriers to learning and emotional support at an early stage, rather than providing access to generic support and focusing on pupils nearing the end of key stages.
  • Focus on high-quality teaching first rather than add-on strategies and activities outside school hours.
  • Focus on outcomes for individual pupils rather than on providing strategies.
  • Deploy the best staff to support disadvantaged pupils; develop skills and roles of teachers and Teaching Assistants rather than using additional staff who do not know the pupils well.
  • Make decisions based on data and respond to evidence using frequent, rather than one-off, assessment and decision points.
  • Have clear, responsive leadership: setting ever-higher aspirations and devolving responsibility for raising achievement to all staff, rather than accepting low aspirations and variable performance.

The report also has an accompanying briefing for school leaders which summarises the findings, identifies school risk factors and how schools can address them, and provides a list of suggested next steps.

 

Macleod, S., Sharp, C., Bernardinelli, D., Skipp, A., & Higgins, S. (2015). Supporting the attainment of disadvantaged pupils: articulating success and good practice: Research report November 2015. London, England: Department for Education.… Read the rest