Best uses of TA time

The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) has published a guidance report Making Best Use of Teaching Assistants.

The report makes recommendations on the use of teaching assistants (TAs) in everyday classroom contexts, TAs delivering structured interventions out of class, and recommendations on linking learning from work led by teachers and TAs.

The main recommendations are:

  • TAs should not be used as an informal teaching resource for low-achieving students.
  • Use TAs to add value to what teachers do, not replace them.
  • Use TAs to help students develop independent learning skills and manage their own learning.
  • Use TAs to deliver high-quality one-to-one and small-group support using structured interventions.
  • Adopt evidence-based interventions to support TAs in their small-group and one-to-one instruction.
  • Ensure TAs are fully prepared for their role in the classroom.
  • Ensure explicit connections are made between learning from everyday classroom teaching and structured interventions.

Source: Making Best Use of Teaching Assistants (2015), Education Endowment Foundation

Accelerated Reader for quicker route to reading

Accelerated Reader is a web-based programme that aims to encourage independent reading by suggesting books that suit individual learners’ reading age and interests.

An Education Endowment Foundation (EEF)-funded study into the use of Accelerated Reader in England found that pupils who used the programme recorded higher literacy scores than those who did not.
Statistical analysis revealed an overall effect size of +0.24 in favour of the Accelerated Reader programme. This effect is equivalent to around three months’ extra progress in reading ages during the 22-week study. The effect size was larger (+0.38) for pupils in receipt of free school meals, but the smaller number of pupils (n=115) made this finding less secure. Overall, the trial involved 349 pupils across four secondary schools. The EEF rated the evidence from the study as moderate (3 out of 5) on their scale of evidence security.

Among the report’s main conclusions were:

  • Accelerated Reader appears to be effective for weaker readers as a catch-up intervention at the start of secondary school.
  • A well-stocked library with a wide collection of books banded according to the Accelerated Reader readability formula and easy access to computers with internet connection, are the main requirements for successful implementation.
  • Pupils at very low levels of reading may not be independent readers and would need initial support from a teacher to start reading books.

The report is one of nine new studies published by the EEF this month.

Source: Accelerated Reader – a web-based programme that encourages children to read for pleasure (2015), Education Endowment Foundation.

Achievement gap for EALs closes as time goes by

The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) has published two reports that investigate educational achievement by students who speak English as an additional language (EAL). There are around one million EAL pupils in England, representing 16.2% of the school population (up from 7.6% in 1997).

The first study analysed data from the National Pupil Database to find the most at-risk groups of EAL learners and to identify predictors of low attainment for them. Among the main findings were:

  • At age 5, EAL children were one-third less likely to achieve a target of good level of development than children with first-language English (FLE).
  • At age 16, EAL students demonstrated a small achievement gap for GCSE grades (58.3% of EAL students achieved five or more A*-C compared with 60.9% of FLE students), yet no gap at all for a scoring system based on performance in eight subjects at Key Stage 4.
  • There was no evidence of a negative impact on the attainment and progress of FLE students where there were high proportions of EAL students.

The second study was a systematic review that sought international evidence for effective interventions for raising standards in EAL students. Of the 29 studies that showed an impact, 27 were from the US, one from Canada, and one from the UK. Five of the studies addressed CPD for educators.

None of the interventions met criteria for high ratings for strength of evidence. The authors called for further and more rigorous research to increase the evidence base of effective interventions for EAL students.

Source: English as an Additional Language (EAL) and Educational Achievement in England: An Analysis of the National Pupil Database and A Systematic Review of Intervention Research Examining English Language and Literacy Development in Children with English as an Additional Language(EAL) (2015), Education Endowment Foundation

High hopes for good behaviour

A new review, published in the Review of Educational Research, analyses the evidence on The Good Behavior Game (GBG), a classroom management programme that has been used (and studied) for 40 years. Strategies in the programme include acknowledging appropriate behaviour, teaching classroom rules, providing feedback about inappropriate behaviour, verbal praise, and providing rewards as reinforcement.

A total of 22 studies met the authors’ inclusion criteria. In these, the programme was mainly being used in mainstream primary schools with externalising, challenging behaviours (eg, disruptive behaviour, off-task behaviour, aggression, talking out, and out-of-seat behaviours).

The review aimed to describe and quantify the effect of the GBG on various challenging behaviours in school and classroom settings. The findings suggested that the GBG had moderate to large effects on a range of challenging behaviours, and that these effects were immediate. The correct use of rewards was found to be important for intervention effectiveness. Few studies considered the long-term impact of the GBG, but the authors conclude that the effects were largely stable, with only a very slight decrease over time.

The authors note that the GBG has been implemented by individuals in a variety of school roles (such as classroom teachers, student teachers, librarians, and lunchtime staff), and that this highlights the ease with which the GBG can be implemented under a variety of conditions. Additionally, the relatively brief training for practitioners in the studies suggests that the GBG can be used successfully without extensive training.

The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) is currently funding a randomised controlled trial of the GBG in 74 schools in England.

Source: Effects of the Good Behavior Game on Challenging Behaviors in School Settings (2014), Review of Educational Research, online first June 2014.

Spectacular results using self-regulation to improve writing

A new study has used memorable visits and self-regulation to improve the writing of children in Year 6 and 7.

The Education Endowment Foundation project involved 23 primary schools and their Year 6 teachers in West Yorkshire. 11 schools were randomly allocated to receive training, from an external consultant, in the Self-Regulated Strategy Development (SRSD) approach. Twelve schools were allocated to the comparison. SRSD provides a clear structure to help pupils plan, monitor, and evaluate their writing. It aims to encourage pupils to take ownership of their work. Memorable experiences, such as trips to local landmarks or visits from World War II veterans, were used as a focus for writing lessons.

The project appeared to have a large positive impact on writing outcomes. The overall effect size for writing, comparing the progress of pupils in the project to similar pupils who did not participate, was +0.74. This was statistically significant, and equivalent to approximately nine months’ additional progress. The approach was even more effective for pupils eligible for free school meals, although this was not statistically significant.

Source: Improving Writing Quality Evaluation Report and Executive Summary (2014), Education Endowment Foundation.

Success in evidence-based reform: The importance of failure

The latest blog post from Robert Slavin, a Professor in the IEE and director of the Center for Research and Reform in Education, considers the large number of randomised experiments evaluating educational programmes that find few achievement effects. This is a problem that will take on increasing significance as results from the first cohort of the US Investing in Innovation (i3) grants are released.

At the same time, the Education Endowment Foundation in the UK, much like i3, will also begin to report outcomes. It’s possible that the majority of these projects will fail to produce significant positive effects in rigorous, well-conducted evaluations. However, there is much to be learned in the process. For example, the i3 process is producing a great deal of information about what works and what does not, what gets implemented and what does not, and the match between schools’ needs and programmes’ approaches.