The effectiveness of education technology for enhancing maths achievement

Findings of this review of research into the effects of technology use on mathematics achievement suggest that educational technology applications produce a positive but small effect. This review was completed in 2011, but a new educator’s summary has been posted that presents the findings in a more accessible form.

The review, from the Johns Hopkins School of Education’s Center for Research and Reform in Education, examines three major categories of education technology:

  • comprehensive models, which use computer-assisted teaching alongside non-computer activities;
  • supplemental computer-assisted teaching programmes, which provide individualised computer-assisted instruction to supplement traditional classroom teaching; and
  • a computer-managed learning programme, Accelerated Math.

All three were found to produce a positive effect on mathematics achievement, with supplemental computer-assisted teaching programmes having the largest effect. The review concludes that educational technology is making some difference in mathematics learning, but new and better tools are needed to harness the power of technology to further enhance mathematics achievement for all students.

Source: The effectiveness of educational technology applications for enhancing mathematics achievement: A meta-analysis (2012), Best Evidence Encyclopedia

Recent policy developments in school sport

This policy update from the House of Commons library provides a summary of the debate around the type and level of provision of sport and physical education (PE) in schools. The Department for Education has confirmed that PE will remain a compulsory subject after the review of the National Curriculum in England.

Since the Secretary of State for Education’s October 2010 statement, calling for a new direction in school sport, there have been many significant policy changes, and the update provides a useful precis.

The next issue of Better: Evidence-based Education, published in June, takes as its theme “Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds” and looks at the evidence that sport and other non-academic activities, such as yoga and programmes to address problem behaviour, can boost children’s physical and mental health and help them to learn.

Source: School Sport (2012), House of Commons Library

A practical guide to low-cost randomised controlled trials

This guide from the Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy summarises five well-conducted, low-cost randomised controlled trials (RCTs) carried out in real-world community settings. As the guide states, RCTs are regarded as the strongest method for evaluating programme effectiveness. Evaluations of the Triple P (Positive Parenting Programme) system and New York City’s teacher incentive programme are reviewed. The purpose of the guide is to illustrate the feasibility and value of low-cost RCTs for policy makers and researchers.

Source: Rigorous program evaluations on a budget: How low-cost randomized controlled trials are possible in many areas of social policy (2012), Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy

Impact of a CPD course for science teachers

Making Sense of SCIENCE is a continuing professional development (CPD) course focused on force and motion. It incorporates physical science content, analysis of student work and thinking, and classroom teaching to develop teacher expertise about force and motion and science teaching. In this study from the US Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences, researchers examine the impact of the CPD on 8th grade (Year 9) pupil achievement in science. More than 100 Year 9 teachers were included in the sample.

Results indicated that the teachers who received the CPD had greater content knowledge about force and motion and confidence in teaching force and motion than teachers who did not receive the CPD. However, there was no impact of the programme on pupils’ physical science test scores.

Source: Effects of making sense of SCIENCE professional development on the achievement of middle school students including english language learners (2012), Institute of Education Sciences

Extracurricular activity: more is not necessarily better

In this study from the Journal of Youth and Adolescence, researchers examine how the breadth of activities in which an adolescent participates relates to academic outcomes. The sample included more than 800 ethnically diverse 11th grade (Year 12 pupils). The researchers looked at the relationships between these pupils’ participation in four activity domains (academic/leadership groups, arts activities, clubs, and sports) and their sense of belonging at school, academic engagement, and academic achievement.

Results showed that adolescents who were moderately involved (ie, in two domains) reported a greater sense of belonging at school in both Year 12 and Year 13, a higher grade point average in Year 12 and greater academic engagement in Year 13, relative to those who were more or less involved.

Source: Too much of a good thing? How breadth of extracurricular participation relates to school-related affect and academic outcomes during adolescence (2011), Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 41(3)

Homework, attendance, and learning quality predict student success

Time spent on homework in the secondary years is a relatively strong predictor of pupil success in English, maths, and science. That is one of the findings of the latest report from the EPPSE project (the Effective Pre-school, Primary and Secondary Education project), which has followed around 3,000 children since the age of 3 in 1997. Findings also indicate that the ratings given to secondary schools by Ofsted for the quality of pupils’ learning and learners’ attendance were good predictors of better attainment and progress. For example, better progress was made by EPPSE students in the three core subjects when they attended an “outstanding” compared to an “inadequate” school in terms of the Ofsted quality rating.

The report looks at a range of factors that influence children’s success across the following domains: individual student, family, and home; pre-school; primary school; and secondary school. The report concludes that there is no one factor alone which explains achievement and development; rather, it is the combination of factors that make a difference to young people’s long-term life chances.

Source: EPPSE 3 to 14 final report from the key stage 3 phase: influences on students’ development from age 11 to 14 (2012), Department for Education