卓越實證概述 Best Evidence in Brief
How UK students’ writing has changed since 1980

A Research published by Cambridge Assessment shows how 16-year-old students’ writing in exams has changed since 1980.

Aspects of Writing has been published by Cambridge Assessment approximately every 10 years, initially using a sample from 1980. This latest phase of the study focuses on writing samples from 2014. Key findings include:

  • The percentage of spelling errors at the lowest level of achievement is higher in 2014 than in most years. The incidence of spelling errors has changed very little among the mid- and higher-achieving students.
  • There is some evidence that use of “other” punctuation marks such as semi-colons has increased among higher-achieving students but decreased sharply among the lowest-achieving students.
  • There is a cautious indication of a general improvement in the use of commas.
  • There is an increase in the use of simple sentences among higher-achieving students. The researchers observe that these students tended to use simple sentences for literary effect.
  • Students of all abilities are using less-complex sentence structures.
  • Students at most levels of achievement are using more paragraphs than their predecessors.
  • There was almost no evidence of candidates using “text-speak “abbreviations in their work.

It recommended future studies in this topic to focus on social media, non-standard English, informal language, as well as spelling and gender.

 

Source (Open Access): Elliott, G., Green, S., Constantinou, F., Vitello, S., Chambers, L., Rushton, N.,… Beauchamp, D. (2016). Variations in aspects of writing in 16+ English examinations between 1980 and 2014. Research Matters: A Cambridge Assessment publication, Special Issue 4.Read the rest

Writing activities and reading comprehension: What’s the link?

An article in Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal presents a meta-analysis on the effects of different writing activities on reading comprehension. A total of 19 studies involving students in grades 1-12 met inclusion criteria, resulting in four comparisons between different writing activities: summary writing versus answering questions, summary writing versus note taking, answering questions versus note taking, and answering questions versus extended writing activities.

Results indicated that there were no statistically significant differences for any of the comparisons when effects were averaged over all reading comprehension measures, excluding treatment-inherent measures. However, statistically significant differences were found for two of the comparisons on specific measures:

  • Extended writing enhanced reading comprehension better than question answering on measures where comprehension was assessed via an extended writing activity.
  • Also, summary writing enhanced reading comprehension better than question answering on a free recall measure.

According to the authors, these results “provide limited support for the theoretical viewpoint that writing activities are differentially effective in improving reading comprehension based on how closely the writing activities are aligned with a particular measure.”

 

Source: Hebert, M., Simpson, A., & Graham, S. (2013). Comparing effects of different writing activities on reading comprehension: A meta-analysis. Reading and Writing, 26(1), 111–138. Read the rest

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