Teacher-pupil-parent feedback and academic performance

A discussion paper from the IZA Institute of Labor Economics reports on a randomised controlled trial to improve teacher-pupil-parent feedback in a rural area of central China with a large proportion of left-behind children (children who have both parents working in cities, and are living away from home).

W Stanley Siebert and colleagues collected data from over 4,000 primary school children (Years 4 and 6) over two school terms, which included academic scores from standardised tests. One class from each year group in each school was randomly chosen to be in the feedback group.  In these classes, all pupils received bi-weekly feedback from their teachers on their schoolwork and behaviour. Additionally, one-third of pupils in these classes were randomly selected to also have their bi-weekly feedback sent to their parents.

The results suggest that feedback does have a positive effect on improving maths and language scores for both left-behind and non-left behind children. In maths, there was an effect size of +0.16 standard deviations in Year 4 and +0.20 standard deviations in Year 6. For language the effect size was +0.09 standard deviations for Year 4 and +0.20 standard deviations for Year 6.  When feedback was communicated to parents the achievement gains were larger for younger left-behind children than for non-left behind children. For left-behind children in Year 4 there was an additional +0.30 standard deviations improvement in maths.

Source: Student feedback, parent-teacher communication, and academic performance: Experimental evidence from rural China (February 2018), IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Evidence-informed school improvement

The Education Endowment Foundation has published an evaluation of Research Leads Improving Students’ Education (RISE). The programme, which was developed and delivered by Huntington School in York, aimed to improve the maths and English achievement of pupils in secondary school using a research-informed school improvement model.

Forty schools took part in the randomised controlled trial and were randomly allocated to either take part in RISE or to a control group which continued with business as usual. Schools participating in RISE appointed a senior teacher as a Research Lead who was responsible for promoting and supporting the use of research throughout the school. Support for Research Leads included an initial eight professional development sessions held over eight months, occasional follow-up meetings over two academic years, a customised email newsletter, a website with resources, a peer network, and school visits by the RISE team. The RISE team also provided a workshop for headteachers and annual workshops for English and maths subject leads. 

The evaluation examined the impact on pupils in two cohorts: in the first cohort (A) the school was only exposed to one year of RISE, while in the second cohort (B) the school experienced two years of the intervention. For both the one-year and two-year cohorts, children in RISE schools made a small amount of additional progress in maths (effect size = +0.09 for cohort A and +0.04 for cohort B) and English (effect size = +0.05 for cohort A and +0.03 for cohort B)  compared to children in the control-group schools. However, the differences were small and not significant, so the evaluation concludes that there is no evidence that participating in one or two years of the RISE programme has a positive impact on pupil achievement.

In addition, the evaluation highlights the importance of schools’ ability and motivation to make use of the Research Lead in shaping school improvement decisions and processes. For example, it suggests that implementation was stronger when headteachers gave clear and visible support for the project and Research Leads had additional dedicated time to undertake the role.

Source: The RISE project: Evidence-informed school improvement (May 2019), Education Endowment Foundation

Promoting positive youth development in afterschool programmes

Researchers at Child Trends, the Claremont Evaluation Center, and LA’s BEST—a large afterschool programme for children aged 5 to 12, in Los Angeles—have developed a white paper for programme leaders, policymakers and other afterschool stakeholders that examines promising practices for promoting positive youth development in afterschool programmes.

The research team conducted a review of the literature (limited to meta-analyses) on protective and promotive factors that (1) support positive developmental outcomes among young people, (2) are malleable through intervention, and (3) have direct relevance to the afterschool context. The literature review highlighted four categories of actionable, evidence-informed practices that afterschool programme leadership and staff can implement to build protective and promotive factors. The four categories are as follows:

  • Intentional organisational practices: practices that afterschool leadership can purposefully utilise to support the implementation of high-quality programming in afterschool programmes (eg, leadership engages in thoughtful staff hiring, onboarding and training practices; leadership fosters collaboration among staff and across settings).
  • High-quality learning environments: practices fostered by staff that can create afterschool environments in which young people feel physically and emotionally safe and supported in various domains of development (eg, staff offer a variety of activities that align with diverse needs and interests of young people; staff facilitate small, interactive groups).
  • Supportive and nurturing relationships: practices that enhance staff members’ interactions and communications with, and responses to, young people enrolled in afterschool programmes (eg, staff model and reinforce positive behaviours, empower youth to discover and embrace their unique identities, set and enforce clear rules and expectations).
  • Intentional and explicit focus on youth skill development: staff can focus on this area through concrete supports that help young people develop malleable individual characteristics and competencies (eg, supporting the use of effective problem-solving skills, helping children develop positive interpersonal relationship skills and working with children to develop their understanding of emotions).

Source: Promising practices for building protective and promotive factors to support positive youth development in afterschool (November 2018), Claremont Evaluation Center, Claremont Graduate University

Does summer counselling help with transition to higher education?

An intervention report from the What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) presents a summary of findings from a systematic review of summer counselling.

In the US, summer counselling interventions are designed to help ensure that pupils who have finished high school and have an offer to go on to higher education complete the steps needed to successfully enrol. These steps could be taking placement tests, arranging for housing, acquiring medical insurance, obtaining financial aid, and registering for courses. The interventions are delivered during the months between leaving high school and enrolment into higher education, and typically involve outreach by college counsellors or peer mentors via text messaging campaigns, e-mail, phone, in-person meetings, instant messaging or social media. Summer counselling is also provided to help pupils overcome unanticipated financial, informational and socio-emotional barriers that prevent enrolment in to higher education.

The review identified five studies of summer counselling interventions which met WWC design standards. Together these studies included more than 13,000 pupils who had recently finished high school in 10 locations in the US. The results of the systematic review indicated that summer counselling had potentially positive effects on credit accumulation and persistence, and mixed effects on access to higher education and enrolment for students who had recently finished high school.

Source: Summer counseling (March 2018), What Works Clearinghouse Intervention Report, Institute of Education Sciences

What works for struggling readers?

Amanda Inns and colleagues from Johns Hopkins Center for Research and Reform in Education have completed a research review on effective programmes for struggling readers in elementary (primary) schools. A total of 61 studies of 48 programmes met study inclusion standards. 84% were randomised experiments and 16% quasi-experiments. Results showed positive outcomes for one-to-one tutoring and were positive but not as large for one-to-small group tutoring. There were no differences in outcomes between teachers and teaching assistants as tutors. Whole-class approaches (mostly cooperative learning) and whole-school approaches incorporating tutoring obtained outcomes for struggling readers as large as those found for one-to-one tutoring, and benefitted many more pupils. Technology-supported adaptive instruction did not have positive outcomes, however. The article concludes that approaches mixing classroom and school improvements with tutoring for the most at-risk pupils have the greatest potential for the largest numbers of struggling readers.

Source: A synthesis of quantitative research on programs for struggling readers in elementary schools (April 2019), Johns Hopkins Center for Research and Reform in Education

Trialling a social-emotional learning programme for teenagers

The MindOut programme is a social-emotional learning programme, developed in Ireland, and based on CASEL’s five core competencies for social-emotional learning: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship management and responsible decision-making. A new article by Katherine Dowling and colleagues in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence reports the results of a cluster-randomised controlled trial of the programme.

The study took place in 34 secondary schools in Ireland (17 intervention, 17 control) with high levels of disadvantage (at least 70% of pupils classified as educationally disadvantaged). Teachers from the intervention schools took part in a one-day training session, and then delivered the MindOut programme over 13 weekly sessions. A total of 675 pupils (ages 15-18) completed a baseline assessment, with 497 pupils remaining in the study post-intervention. A range of measures were used to evaluate the impact on social-emotional skills, mental health and well-being and academic outcomes.

Results showed that for some social and emotional skills, there were significant improvements for intervention pupils, including the use of more positive coping strategies and increased social support coping. On mental health and well-being, the intervention significantly reduced levels of stress and depressive symptoms. However, there was no effect on academic outcomes (pupils’ achievement motivation as rated by teachers, and attitudes toward school).

Source: A cluster randomized-controlled trial of the MindOut social and emotional learning program for disadvantaged post-primary school students (April 2019), Journal of Youth and Adolescence