Impact of Research Learning Communities on pupil achievement in reading

An evaluation led by Jo Rose at the University of Bristol and published by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) looks at the impact of Research Learning Communities (RLC) on pupil achievement in reading at Key Stage 2 and teachers’ awareness, understanding, and use of research.

As part of a randomised controlled trial involving 199 schools, 60 primary schools were allocated to the treatment condition for the RLC intervention delivered by a team of academics from the Institute of Education at University College London. Two teachers from each of the schools involved in the trial were designated “Evidence Champions”. They attended four RLC workshops in which they discussed research with academic experts and colleagues from other schools. The Evidence Champions were then required to develop school improvement strategies using their learnings from the workshops, and to support other teachers in their schools to engage with research.

While the results of the evaluation showed some evidence that being in an RLC increased teachers’ engagement with research, there appeared to be no evidence that the RLC intervention led to improvements in reading outcomes for 10- and 11-year-olds, compared with the control group (effect size =+0.02). However, there was evidence that there may be some relationship between how engaged teachers are with research and the achievement of their students, regardless of any involvement in the RLC.

Source: Research Learning Communities (December 2017), Education Endowment Foundation

Disseminating research to make a difference in classrooms

The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) has published the results of its Literacy Octopus trials – named after their multi-armed design – which looked at the impact of research dissemination on achievement in schools.

More than 13,000 primary schools across England were involved in the trials (823 schools in the first trial and 12,500 in the second trial), which drew on a wide range of evidence-based resources and events designed to support the teaching and learning of literacy at Key Stage 2. These included printed and online research summaries (including this Best Evidence in Brief e-newsletter), evidence-based practice guides, webinars, face-to-face professional development events and access to online tools.

The first trial tested whether sending schools high-quality evidence-based resources in a range of different formats would have an impact on pupil outcomes. The second trial tested whether combining the provision of resources with “light-touch” support on how to use them would have greater impact. Some schools were simply sent evidence-based resources, while others received the resources along with simple additional support, such as invitations to seminars on applying the resources in the classroom. As well as pupil outcomes, this trial also measured teachers’ use of research to measure the impact on teacher behaviour.

Neither of the Literacy Octopus trials found evidence of improved literacy achievement at Key Stage 2 for pupils whose teachers took part in the trials compared with the control group. The second trial found no increase in teachers’ use of, or engagement with, research. The results suggest that, in general, light-touch interventions and resources alone are unlikely to make a difference.

Source: The Literacy Octopus: Communicating and engaging with research (December 2017), The Education Endowment Foundation

Decades of evidence supports early childhood education

A recent meta-analysis of almost 60 years’ worth of high-quality early childhood education (ECE) studies in the US found that participating in ECE programmes significantly reduced special education placement and grade retention (pupils having to repeat a year), and lead to increased graduation rates from secondary school.

Dana Charles McCoy and colleagues examined data from studies spanning 1960-2016. All had to meet strict inclusion criteria and address ECE’s effects on special education placement, grade retention, or dropout rates, yielding 22 studies. Seven were randomised controlled studies, four were quasi-experimental, and eleven used non-randomised assignment and compared groups who were equivalent at baseline.

Results showed statistically significant effects of ECE. Compared to pupils who did not attend ECE, participants were 8.1% less likely to be placed in special education, 8.3% less likely to be held back a year and 11.4% more likely to graduate from secondary school.

Source: Impacts of early childhood education on medium- and long-term educational outcomes (November 2017), Educational Researcher Volume 46, issue 8

Examining the evidence on out-of-school-time programmes

Out-of-school-time (OST) programmes typically provide children with additional academic lessons outside of school hours and/or recreational and enrichment activities. To examine the evidence base on OST programmes, Jennifer McCombs and colleagues from the RAND Corporation reviewed meta-analyses and large-scale, rigorous experimental and quasi-experimental evaluations of after-school and summer programmes. Their review included specialty programmes (eg, sports or arts programmes); multipurpose programmes (eg, Boys and Girls clubs); and academic programmes (eg, summer learning programmes).

After reviewing the research, the authors compiled the following conclusions:

  • OST programmes provide measurable benefits to children and families on outcomes directly related to programme content.
  • Academic OST programmes with sufficient “dosage” (measured by the hours of content provided) can demonstrably improve pupil achievement.
  • Programme quality and intentionality influence outcomes.
  • Children need to attend regularly to measurably benefit from programming.

The authors provide a complete list of studies reviewed and their key findings.

A previous issue of Best Evidence in Brief included a study by the Nuffield Foundation, which examines the effect of OST study programmes on GCSE performance in England.

Source: The value of out-of-school-time programmes (2017), PE-267-WF, RAND Corporation

Evidence on the long-term effects of home visiting programmes

Children from low-income families are more likely than those from higher-income families to have poor social, emotional, cognitive, behavioural and health outcomes. One approach that has helped parents and their young children is home visiting, which provides information, resources and support to expectant parents and families with young children.

This MDRC brief summarises prior evidence on the effects of four evidence-based models of home visiting using information from seven studies of families with children aged 5- to 21-years-old. Specifically, the brief looks at what the effects of home visiting are for families as children get older, and how the monetary benefits of home visiting compare with their costs.

  • The key findings of the report include:
    Evidence-based home visiting has improved outcomes for parents and children across a wide range of child ages, outcome areas, and national models.
  • Evidence-based home visiting appears to be cost-effective in the long term.
  • The largest benefits from evidence-based home visiting come through reduced spending on government programmes and increased individual earnings.

The information in this brief will inform the design of a study to assess the long-term effects of home visiting. It will suggest where this long-term follow-up study can seek to replicate prior results, where it can try to fill gaps in current knowledge, and which outcomes are important to measure in order to assess the benefits and costs of home visiting.

Source: Evidence on the long-term effects of home visiting programs: Laying the groundwork for long- term follow-up in the mother and infant home visiting program evaluation (MIHOPE). (September 2017), OPRE Report 2017-73, MDRC

An evaluation of a Learner Response System

An evaluation published by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) tested a trial of a Learner Response System (LRS) using Promethean handsets to assess whether it could improve pupil outcomes by increasing the speed and quality of teacher and pupil feedback. An LRS is a classroom feedback tool. Teachers and pupils used electronic handheld devices to provide immediate feedback during lessons.

A team from Edge Hill University developed the intervention and trained teachers to deliver it to pupils in Years 5 and 6. The trial involved 6,572 pupils in 97 primary schools from the north west of England and West Yorkshire with higher-than-average proportions of children eligible for free school meals (35% compared to the national average of 18%). A cluster randomised controlled trial was used to evaluate the impact of the intervention on Year 6 maths and reading outcomes. Randomisation was at the school level, with 49 schools allocated to the intervention group (3,062 pupils), and 48 schools to the control group (3,510 pupils). The intervention was delivered over two school years (cohort B), or for only one school year (cohort A). The devices were used in at least three lessons a week for between 25 and 32 weeks each year.

The main finding was that the LRS intervention did little to improve pupils’ Key Stage 2 test scores (maths and reading standardised assessment tests at the end of Year 6), regardless of whether it was delivered over one or two years (effect sizes ranged from -0.09 to 0.00). However, teachers and pupils were generally positive about the LRS. Teachers welcomed the ability to quickly assess pupil responses and give instant feedback, and felt that the LRS helped to engage pupils and allowed different pupils to work at their own pace.

Source: Learner Response System: Evaluation report and executive summary (November 2017), Education Endowment Foundation