Educational technology and reading achievement

In the last issue of Best Evidence in Brief, we highlighted findings from a review of research into the effects of technology use on mathematics achievement completed by the Johns Hopkins School of Education’s Center for Research and Reform in Education (CRRE). Related to this topic is an updated CRRE review that focuses on the effects of technology use on reading achievement.

Consistent with the technology and maths review, findings on reading technology suggest that educational technology applications produce a positive, though small, effect on achievement in comparison to traditional methods. Showing the most promise were innovative technology applications and integrated literacy interventions with the support of extensive professional development.

Source: The effectiveness of education technology for enhancing maths achievement (2011), Best Evidence Encyclopedia

Can educational attainment be raised by changing parents’ and children’s attitudes?

Changing three attitudes (aspirations, locus of control, and valuing school) does not affect educational attainment. That is one of the findings of a review by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation which examined whether educational attainment can be raised by focusing interventions on changing the attitudes of parents and children.

The study evaluated evidence from more than 60 research papers, of which almost 30 were evaluations of specific interventions. These interventions covered the following areas: parent involvement, extra-curricular activities, mentoring, volunteering, peer education, and interventions with a primary focus on changing attitudes.

The review looked for evidence of a chain of impact from changing a particular set of attitudes to a rise in attainment. These attitudes were the aspirations to do well at school and to aim for advanced education, the sense that one’s own actions can change one’s life, and the giving of value to schooling and school results, referred to as aspirations, locus of control, and valuing school. The evidence from this evaluation supports a shift in emphasis from “raising aspirations” to “keeping aspirations on track”.

Source: Can changing aspirations and attitudes impact on educational attainment? (2012), Joseph Rowntree Foundation

An integrated approach to science and literacy

This research article from the Journal of Research in Science Teaching investigates the effectiveness of an integrated science and literacy approach at primary school level. Teachers in 94 fourth-grade (Year 5) classrooms in one US Southern state participated.

Half of the teachers in the study taught an integrated science and literacy unit on light and energy, which was designed using a curriculum model that engages pupils in reading text, writing notes and reports, conducting first-hand investigations, and frequently discussing key concepts and processes to acquire inquiry skills and knowledge about science concepts. The other half of the teachers taught a content-comparable science-only unit on light and energy and provided their regular literacy instruction.

Results of the study showed that pupils in the integrated science and literacy group made significantly greater improvement in science understanding, science vocabulary, and science writing. Pupils in both groups made comparable improvements in science reading.

Source: The impact of an integrated approach to science and literacy in elementary school classrooms (2012), Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 49(5)

Does arts engagement work to increase student achievement?

This report from the US National Endowment for the Arts looks at correlations between arts activity among at-risk youth and subsequent levels of academic performance and civic engagement. Data was pulled from four large-scale, longitudinal studies that tracked a nationally representative sample of children and/or teenagers over time.

The following key findings emerged:

  • Socially and economically disadvantaged children and teenagers who have high levels of arts engagement or arts learning show more positive outcomes in a variety of areas than their low-arts-engaged peers;
  • At-risk teenagers or young adults with a history of intensive arts experiences show achievement levels closer to, and in some cases exceeding, the levels shown by the general population studied; and
  • Most of the positive relationships between arts involvement and academic outcomes apply only to at-risk populations (low socio-economic status). But positive relationships between arts and civic engagement are noted in higher socio-economic status groups as well.

Source: The arts and achievement in at-risk youth: Findings from four longitudinal studies (2012), National Endowment for the Arts

Are local authorities the ‘missing link’?

Local authorities could be the missing link in a system of autonomous schools, according to two research reports into effective school improvement published by the Association of Directors of Children’s Services. Both reports highlight concerns among head teachers, governors and local government officials that there are risks involved in increasing school autonomy. They identify where local authorities have been successful in supporting school improvement in the past, and how that work is changing in response to national policy and budget restrictions. In particular, the reports explore:

  • What are the characteristics of an effective local authority school improvement service?
  • What are the implications for school improvement of increased numbers of academies and free schools?
  • What kind of middle tier is needed for the next five years?
  • How will local authorities need to change if they are to fulfil that role?

They include case studies of successful local authorities and examples of the different models of school engagement that are emerging.

Source: The missing link: The evolving role of the local authority in school improvement (2012), ADCS

Entrepreneurship education in European schools

Europe faces a number of challenges that can only be met if it has innovative, well-educated, and entrepreneurial citizens, according to the Eurydice Network, which surveyed entrepreneurship studies in primary and secondary education in 31 European countries. Their analysis is divided into four areas:

  • National strategies and action plans to encourage the integration of entrepreneurship education;
  • How entrepreneurship education is currently being addressed;
  • Specific learning outcomes defined for entrepreneurship education and practical guidelines to support teachers; and
  • Initiatives to promote entrepreneurship education and current educational reforms on the subject.

The results of the survey show that two-thirds of European countries incorporate entrepreneurship education into the curriculum at primary education level, but that this changes significantly in secondary education, where virtually all countries integrate it into the curriculum in some form.

Source: Entrepreneurship education at school in Europe: National strategies, curricula and learning outcomes (2012), Eurydice