卓越實證概述 Best Evidence in Brief
Does growth rate in spatial perception ability predict early arithmetic competence?

Two researchers respectively from The University of Hong Kong and The Education University of Hong Kong carried out a three-year longitudinal study of Chinese preschoolers to examine the predictability of the growth rate in spatial perception ability on children’s subsequent arithmetic skills.  Spatial perception is the ability to perceive spatial relations.

A total of 106 Chinese children from two non-profit-making preschools in Hong Kong were recruited to participate in the study. All participants were native Cantonese-speaking children and received instruction in Cantonese. Their average age was approximately 45 months (3.75 years old) at the beginning of the study.

The children were tested individually five times across three years of preschool studies. The five-time points were the spring of the first academic year (May, [T1]), the fall of the second academic year (November, [T2]), the spring of the second academic year (May, [T3]), the fall of the third academic year (November, [T4]), and the spring of the third academic year (May, [T5]). A total of seven tests, including spatial perception test and the arithmetic competencies test, were employed as measures, and the reliability of the tests were proved to be good. The purpose of the spatial perception test was to probe into children’s competence to identify spatial relations among task components despite the existences of distracting information.

After controlling for possibly confounding variables such as spatial analogic reasoning, spatial visualization, mental rotation and the level and rate of growth in phonological awareness, the finding indicates that the growth rate in spatial perception during the preschool years had predictive impact on children’s arithmetic competence at the end of preschool but the initial level of spatial perception did not have such predictive function. It also demonstrates that growth rate of spatial perception during preschool years had its unique value in predicting arithmetic competencies, even when other components of spatial ability are considered.

Such findings suggest that it is of significance to assist pre-school students to develop spatial perception which is likely to lead to improvement in their arithmetic competences. Thus, the learning process and progress in spatial ability is worthy of monitoring by teachers and practitioners, and those children whose rate of growth is slower than their fellow students need to be provided with appropriate spatial learning opportunities.

 

Source: Zhang, X. & Lin, D. (2017). Does growth rate in spatial ability matter in predicting early arithmetic competence? Learning and Instruction, 49, 232-241.… Read the rest

Poor literacy skills hold poorer pupils back in science

A report, published by the Education Endowment Foundation and the Royal Society, has reviewed existing studies to identify interventions and teaching approaches that have a positive impact on pupil learning in science, particularly for pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds.

The researchers from the University of Oxford analysed data in the National Pupil Database in England to measure the extent of the gap in the performance between economically disadvantaged pupils and pupils from higher socioeconomic status (SES) backgrounds on national science tests. This analysis confirmed that disadvantaged pupils (pupils who have been entitled to free school meals at least once in the last six years) had much lower scores and made poorer progress in science, at every stage of their school career, than pupils from higher SES backgrounds. The gap, they suggest, first becomes apparent at Key Stage 1 (ages 5–7) and only gets wider throughout primary and secondary school. The gap for science is as wide as it is in English and maths, and grows particularly strongly between the ages of 5–7 and 11–16.

The study also found that the strongest factor affecting pupils’ science scores was how well they understood written texts. According to the report, poor literacy skills affect how well a pupil is able to understand scientific vocabulary and to prepare scientific reports. This suggests that strategies to boost disadvantaged pupils’ reading comprehension could have a positive impact on their achievement in science too. The authors write: “In correlational studies of science learning, the strongest and most consistent predictor of pupils’ scientific attainment has undoubtedly been how literate they are”. They add that there is a “strong relationship” between pupils’ socioeconomic status and their literacy.

A study, which we covered in a previous edition of Best Evidence in Brief, found a similar relationship between literacy and science achievement gaps for pupils in US elementary and middle schools.

 

Source: Nunes, T., Bryant, P., Strand, S., Hillier, J., Barros, R., & Miller-Friedmann, J. (2017). Review of SES and Science Learning in Formal Educational Settings. UK: Education Endowment Foundation.… Read the rest

Engaging dads in a parenting intervention improved outcomes

A parenting programme in which fathers engage with their children through reading was found to boost the fathers’ parenting skills while also improving the child’s school readiness and behaviour, according to research published in the Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology.

The randomised controlled trial, conducted by Anil Chacko and colleagues, evaluated the effects of Fathers Supporting Success in Preschoolers, an intervention that focuses on integrating parent training with shared book reading to improve outcomes among fathers and their pre-school children. For the study, 126 low-income fathers – the majority of whom spoke Spanish – and their children were recruited across three Head Start centres in New York City. The intervention included eight weekly sessions, each lasting 90 minutes. The effects of the programme on parenting skills, child behaviour and language, and outcomes for fathers including stress and depression were measured before and immediately after participation in the programme. Measures included observations by the researchers using a behavioural coding system that measures the quality of parent-child social interactions, reports from the fathers and standardised assessments of child language.

The study found that parenting behaviours, child behaviours and the language development of the children improved. Moderate effect sizes were found for observed positive parenting (+0.63) and for observed child problem behaviour (+0.34). Using the Preschool Language Scales (PLS-4) to measure language outcomes, effect sizes of +0.52 were reported for auditory comprehension and +0.51 for expressive language. Parental stress and depression effect sizes were insignificant. Overall, the findings suggest more than a 30% improvement in parenting and school readiness outcomes.

 

Source: Chacko, A., Fabiano, G. A., Doctoroff, G. L., & Fortson, B. (2017). Engaging fathers in effective parenting for preschool children using shared book reading: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology, 1-14.… Read the rest

Does encouraging contingent talk benefit language development?

A study published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry examines whether language outcomes for low socio-economic status (SES) children can be improved by encouraging contingent talk (how often the parent talks about objects in the child’s current focus of attention) through a low-intensity intervention.

In a randomised controlled trial with high- and low-SES families, 142 children aged 11 months and their parents were randomly allocated to either a contingent talk intervention or a dental health control. Families in the intervention watched a video about contingent talk and were asked to practice it for 15 minutes a day for a month. Families were visited in their home twice when children were 11, 12, 18 and 24 months. Questionnaires were also collected by mail at 15 months. Parent communication was assessed at 11 months (baseline) and after one month. Infant communication was assessed at baseline, 12, 15, 18 and 24 months.

At baseline, the amount of contingent talk children hear is found to be associated with SES, with lower-SES parents engaging in less contingent talk. At post-test (when children were 12 months old) all parents who had taken part in the intervention engaged in more contingent talk, regardless of their socioeconomic status. Lower-SES parents in the intervention group reported that their children produced more words at 15 and 18 months. However, effects of the intervention didn’t persist at 24 months. So while parents’ contingent talk is increased through the intervention, and this is effective in promoting vocabulary growth for lower-SES infants in the short term, these effects are not long-lasting. The study concludes that follow-up interventions may be necessary to produce benefits lasting to school entry.

 

Source: McGillion, M., Pine, J. M., Herbert, J. S., & Matthews, D. (2017). A randomised controlled trial to test the effect of promoting caregiver contingent talk on language development in infants from diverse socioeconomic status backgrounds. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.… Read the rest

Cross-age peer tutoring benefits for EAL pupils and native English speakers

Research suggests that peer tutoring helps reading achievement, especially for pupils with English as an additional language (EAL). Studies of cross-age peer tutoring, where older pupils tutor younger pupils, have shown positive effects on vocabulary and comprehension. Given that EAL pupils often lag behind their non-EAL peers in reading, University of Maryland’s Rebecca Silverman and colleagues conducted the first study to examine whether the benefits of cross-age peer tutoring are equivalent for EAL pupils and native English speaking pupils.

For the study, researchers used a “reading buddies” design, pairing kindergarten pupils (Year 1 in the UK) with fourth grade (Year 5) pupils to discuss books they’d read about STEM-related topics. The programme incorporated strategies demonstrated to be effective with EAL pupils, such as explicit instruction about specific word meaning and using multi-modalities to demonstrate word learning and comprehension. Following development and field testing, the researchers evaluated the effects of the final programme, called the MTS Buddies Program, in 24 classrooms with high EAL populations. The sample included 12 classrooms (6 kindergarten, 6 fourth grade) that used the MTS Buddies Program and 12 classrooms (6 kindergarten, 6 fourth grade) that continued with business as usual.

All pupils were tested on vocabulary and comprehension using both standardised and researcher-made tests before and after receiving the 14-week intervention. Results showed benefits for vocabulary learning in kindergarten (Year 1) and fourth grade (Year 5) and also reading comprehension and strategy use for the fourth grade pupils. Both EAL pupils and native English speaking pupils demonstrated gains. Although expressive vocabulary scores were lower for EALs than non-EALs, the overall positive effects indicate that the MTS Buddies Program could be helpful for all pupils’ vocabulary learning, regardless of English proficiency.

 

Source: Silverman, R. D., Martin-Beltran, M., Peercy, M. M., Hartranft, A. M., McNeish, D. M., Artzi, L., & Nunn, S. (2017). Effects of a Cross-Age Peer Learning Program on the Vocabulary and Comprehension of English Learners and Non-English Learners in Elementary School. The Elementary School Journal117(3), 485-512.… Read the rest