卓越實證概述 Best Evidence in Brief
Providing free glasses to students in rural China

Nie and colleagues conducted a randomized controlled trial to examine the effects of providing free eyeglasses to junior high school students in a poor rural area of Western China. 

In this study, screening and vision testing were provided to 1,974 grade seven and eight students from 31 schools located in northern Shaanxi province in China before they were divided into treatment group and controlled group. Then, free eyeglasses were distributed in treatment schools to students found to need one, regardless of whether they had one already. In contrast, students from the control group schools received an eyeglass prescription for their parents only. The eyeglass usage of the treatment group increased from 31% at the baseline to 72%, while that of the control group increased from 28% to 50%.

The study questioned students about their academic aspirations, administered a standardized exam using items drawn from a bank of questions developed by the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), and measured the dropout rate to evaluate the intervention. It was found that:

  • Among the students without eyeglasses at baseline, the provision of eyeglasses increased their math achievement (E.S. = +0.196), while there was no effect on students who already had eyeglasses at baseline.
  • Providing eyeglasses also increased students’ aspiration for attending academic high schools by 9% on average
  • In addition, providing eyeglasses also reduced dropout by approximately 2%.

The authors suggested that the positive results were due to students becoming more motivated to learn, more confident in competing with peers, and more willing to invest time and resources into learning when the barrier to learning posed by vision problems was addressed.

 

Source: Nie, J., Pang, X., Sylvia, S., Wang, L., & Rozelle, S. (2018). Seeing is believing: Experimental evidence on the impact of eyeglasses on academic performance, aspirations and dropout among junior high school students in rural China. Economic Development and Cultural Change. Advance online publication. Doi:10.1086/700631Read the rest

The role of the teacher during collaborative learning

systematic review of the role of the teacher during collaborative learning in primary and secondary education suggests that several types of teacher guidance can be positive. However, the challenge for the teacher is to support interaction between students without taking control of the moments in which opportunities to learn arise for students.

The review, carried out by Anouschka van Leeuwen and Jeroen Janssen, included both qualitative and quantitative studies (n=66) conducted in primary and secondary schools, and looked at the relationship between the teacher’s role and the processes and outcomes of collaboration among students.

The authors found that

  • Feedback, prompting, questioning, and transferring control of the learning process to students were all effective strategies for collaborative learning.
  • In contrast, some aspects of teacher guidance were found negatively associated with students’ collaboration, such as when teachers were too present or absent.
  • Teachers' explanations and modelling behavior were not always contributive to students' collaboration.

The review concludes that when guiding collaborative learning, teachers should try to not only focus on the content of the task, but also on how students approach the task and the strategies they use for collaboration, and should let students know that help is available without imposing this help.


Source: Van Leeuwen, A., & Janssen, J. (2019). A systematic review of teacher guidance during collaborative learning in primary and secondary education. Educational Research Review, 27, 71–89.Read the rest

Understanding math anxiety

While mathematics is often considered a hard subject, not all difficulties with the subject result from cognitive difficulties. Many children and adults experience feelings of anxiety, apprehension, tension or discomfort when confronted by a math problem. Research conducted by the Centre for Neuroscience in Education at the University of Cambridge examined the math performance of more than 2,700 primary and secondary students in the UK and Italy who were screened for math anxiety and general anxiety. Researchers then worked one-to-one with the children in order to gain deeper understanding of their cognitive abilities and feelings towards math using a series of cognitive tasks, questionnaires, and interviews.

Emma Carey and colleagues found that

  • A general feeling that math was more difficult than other subjects often contributed to feelings of anxiety about the subject, and that teachers and parents may inadvertently play a role.
  • Girls in both primary and secondary school were found to have higher levels of both math anxiety and general anxiety.
  • Students indicated poor test results, or negative comparisons to peers or siblings, as reasons for feeling anxious.
  • Secondary school students also indicated that the transition from primary to secondary school was a cause of math anxiety, as the work seemed harder and there was greater pressure on tests and increased homework.

The report sets out a series of recommendations, including:

  • Teachers should be aware that math anxiety can affect students’ math performance.
  • Teachers and parents need to be aware that their own math anxiety might influence students’ math anxiety.
  • Teachers and parents also need to be aware that gendered stereotypes about math ability might contribute to the gender gap in math performance.
  • Reducing classroom pressure and using methods like free writing about emotions before a test could help to alleviate math anxiety.

Source (Open Access):Carey, E., Devine, A., Hill, F., Dowker, A., McLellan, R., & Szucs, D. (2019). Understanding mathematics anxiety: Investigating the experiences of UK primary and secondary school students. Centre for Neuroscience in Education, University of Cambridge. Read the rest

Positive effects of an urban debate league

Johns Hopkins University’s Daniel Shackelford has conducted the first quantitative study examining the effects of participation in an extracurricular debate club during preadolescence on students’ later academic and engagement outcomes, including entry to selective-entrance high schools.

Dr. Shackelford examined a 10-year sample of 2,263 4th to 8th graders participating in Baltimore City’s Baltimore Urban Debate League (BUDL) between the 2004 to 2013 school years, comparing their standardized math and reading scores, attendance, and entry to selective-entrance high schools to 81,906 peers who did not participate in BUDL. Ninety-one percent of both groups were African American, and 96% of both groups received free and reduced-price lunch. Results showed that:

  • Among the debate students themselves, preadolescent debate participation yielded more than a 6% increase in reading scores and a 4% increase in math scores on standardized testing.
  • While debate inherently involves reading and might be accountable for increased reading achievement, Dr. Shackelford observes that debaters were 10% less likely to be chronically absent than non-debaters, and this increased engagement in school may have yielded the improvements in math scores.
  • BUDL students were also more likely to attend a selective high school (E.S. = +0.122) or selective career tech high school (E.S. = +0.015) than to attend a traditional high school.

However, it is of note that these two groups were not matched at baseline: students who became debaters differed from controls prior to their participation in BUDL, with higher standardized test scores and attendance, so no true causal conclusion can be drawn from comparing groups.


Source: Shackelford, D. (2019). The BUDL Effect: Examining academic achievement and engagement outcomes of preadolescent Baltimore Urban Debate League participants. Educational Researcher, 48(3), 145–157. Read the rest

Parent-teacher meetings and student outcomes

Engaging parents in their children’s education, both at home and at school, can be an effective and low-cost way of improving learning outcomes for students. A study published in European Economic Review examines whether academic achievement can be improved by increasing parental involvement through scheduled parent-teacher meetings.

Asad Islam conducted the randomized controlled trial in schools in two southern districts of Bangladesh. Seventy-six primary schools were chosen randomly from more than 200 in these regions, with 40 schools randomly allocated to the intervention group and 36 to the control group. Students in these schools all came from low socioeconomic backgrounds, and a quarter of parents did not complete primary school.

The intervention involved monthly face-to-face meetings between parents and teachers over a period of two academic years. At each 15-minute meeting, teachers discussed with parents their child’s academic progress and provided them with a report card for their child. Student achievement outcomes were measured using standardized test scores.

  • Overall, test scores of students in the intervention schools increased by 0.26 standard deviations (SD) in the first year, and 0.38 SD by the end of the second year of the intervention.
  • Also, students in the intervention schools had made improvements in their reading and writing abilities and general knowledge.
  • Parents who attended the parent-teacher meetings reported that they felt encouraged to spend more time at home helping children study or do homework.
  • Both parents and teachers also reported improved attitudes, behavior and confidence of their children.

The authors suggested that engaging parents was an important way to support students’ learning, which was also cost-effective.


Source: Islam, A. (2019). Parent–teacher meetings and student outcomes: Evidence from a developing country. European Economic Review, 111, 273–304. Read the rest