卓越實證概述 Best Evidence in Brief
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

Early oral competence linked to literacy

An article published in the British Journal of Educational Psychology describes a three-year longitudinal study exploring the predictive relationship between oral narrative competence at age 5/6 and written narrative competence during the following two years.

A total of 80 Italian children participated in the study. They were followed for three years and tested three times:

  • Oral production was assessed at the end of the first year of the study, when the children were at the end of kindergarten. This was in terms of narrative competence (cohesion, coherence, and structure).
  • Written production was assessed at the end of first grade in terms of narrative competence (cohesion, coherence, and structure) and orthographic competence (spelling).
  • Written production was assessed at the end of second grade in terms of narrative competence (cohesion, coherence, and structure).

Overall, the study demonstrated that oral narrative competence in kindergarten predicted written narrative competence in the following two years, with orthographic competence (spelling) playing a relevant mediating role.

The authors conclude that their results suggest the importance of practicing oral narrative competence in kindergarten and first grade and the value of composition quality independent of orthographic text accuracy.


Source: Pinto, G., Tarchi, C., & Bigozzi, L. (2015). The relationship between oral and written narratives: A three-year longitudinal study of narrative cohesion, coherence, and structure. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 85(4), 551–569. Read the rest

A review of the evidence on early language development

A review of the evidence on early language development, commissioned by the Education Endowment Foundation in the UK in partnership with Public Health England, has examined the most effective ways to support young children with delays in their early language development between birth and five years old.

James Law and colleagues looked at the existing evidence to find out which interventions have the greatest potential for boosting young children’s language skills and reducing inequalities in outcomes. They identified 44 intervention studies which focused on language and related skills in preschool. All the studies were randomized controlled trials or quasi-experimental, matched study designs. The findings were as follows:

  • Positive effect sizes were found in relation to receptive language in 29 studies. They found one of the best ways to improve early language development for this group is through training for teachers in early years settings so that they can deliver cost-effective and evidence-based interventions to those children who have fallen behind.
  • In addition to high-quality early years provision, the researchers identified interactions with parents as key, highlighting the need to promote positive interaction between parents and their children before they start preschool.

The report also stresses the need for better monitoring of children’s progress at different stages of their development, to catch those children falling behind and to identify those who need targeted, specialized support.


Source (Open access): Law, J., Charlton, J., Dockrell, J., Gascoigne, M., McKean, C. & Theakston, A. (2017). Early Language Development: Needs, provision, and intervention for preschool children from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds :A Report for the Education Endowment Foundation. London: Education Endowment Foundation. Read the rest

Setting up in-class libraries in rural China

A study published in Reading Research Quarterly examined the effects of installing an in-class library providing students with age-appropriate books on student reading outcomes and achievements in rural China.

Most previous studies of the effects of age-appropriate books have been conducted in developed regions. However, in rural China, not only are age-appropriate reading materials scarce, but schools, teachers and parents also believe independent reading will negatively affect students’ performance in high-stakes college entrance examinations.

To examine the actual effects in rural China, Yi and colleagues conducted a randomized controlled trial consisting of 11,083 fourth- and fifth- grade students from 120 schools in Jiangxi province in China. In the treatment schools, an in-class library stocked with 70 extracurricular books was installed in each classroom in the treatment schools. The books were carefully selected based on recommendations of reading specialists and educators. Students received a baseline survey before the intervention and a follow-up survey after eight months’ intervention. Besides asking students about their attitudes toward reading and reading habits, students’ performance in Chinese language and math was evaluated, and an assessment made of their reading skills using test items from the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS). They found that:

  • The in-class library significantly improved students' reading habits after eight months. Students borrowed books more, read more, enjoyed reading more, and communicated more with their friends about reading.
  • There were no significant effects on students’ performance in math and Chinese, despite the beliefs in China’s highly competitive system that independent reading would lower test scores.
  • However, there was no significant effect on students’ reading achievement.

The authors suggested that the non-positive effects might be due to the book choices, short duration of the programme, and the fact that tasks were not assigned to teachers regarding the use of the in-class libraries. They suggested that the results highlighted the importance of providing age-appropriate reading resources to primary students in rural China.


Source: Yi, H., Mo, D., Wang, H., Gao, Q., Shi, Y., Wu, P., ... & Rozelle, S. (2018). Do resources matter? Effects of an in‐class library project on student independent reading habits in primary schools in rural China. Reading Research Quarterly. Advanced online publication. doi: 10.1002/rrq.238
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