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

The evidence for marking

The Education Endowment Foundation has published a new review of the evidence on written marking. Researchers from Oxford University found that there were very few robust studies – too few to conduct a formal systematic review or to make definitive recommendations. Based on the limited evidence, the review makes the following tentative suggestions:

  • Careless mistakes should be marked differently to errors resulting from misunderstanding. The latter may be best addressed by providing hints or questions which lead pupils to underlying principles; the former by simply marking the mistake as incorrect, without giving the right answer.
  • Awarding grades for every piece of work may reduce the impact of marking, particularly if pupils become preoccupied with grades at the expense of a consideration of teachers’ formative comments.
  • The use of targets to make marking as specific and actionable as possible is likely to increase pupil progress.
  • Pupils are unlikely to benefit from marking unless some time is set aside to enable pupils to consider and respond to marking.
  • Some forms of marking, including acknowledgement marking, are unlikely to enhance pupil progress. Schools should mark less in terms of the number of pieces of work marked, but mark better. 
The researchers argue that there is an urgent need for more studies so that teachers have better information about the most effective marking approaches.

Source: A Marked Improvement? (2016), Education Endowment Foundation.

Does inflated praise deflate some children?

A new article published in Psychological Science suggests that using inflated praise with children with low self-esteem may be counter-productive. The authors conducted three studies. Two of these tested whether adults are more likely to give inflated praise to children with low self-esteem than to children with high self-esteem, both inside the laboratory (Study 1. N = 712 adults) and outside the laboratory (Study 2. N = 114 parents). A third experiment looked at whether inflated praise decreases challenge-seeking in children with low self-esteem (N = 240 children aged 8-12).

The findings showed that adults are especially inclined to give inflated praise, such as “You made an incredibly beautiful drawing!”, to children with low self-esteem. However, they also found that such praise decreases challenge-seeking in children with low self-esteem and has the opposite effect on children with high self-esteem. They conclude that inflated praise, although well intended, may cause children with low self-esteem to avoid crucial learning experiences.

Source: “That’s Not Just Beautiful–That’s Incredibly Beautiful!”: The Adverse Impact of Inflated Praise on Children With Low Self-Esteem (2014),Psychological Science, online first January 2014.

Which feedback adds up for maths lessons?

Researchers from the University of Kassel in Germany have written a new paper comparing two kinds of feedback in mathematics.

Process-oriented feedback (POF) is an evidence-based approach where pupils are given written feedback, including which mathematical operations have been properly applied and which have not, as well as how strategies can be improved. In social-comparative feedback (SCF) pupils are given only a grade for their work.

A total of 146 ninth-grade pupils (mean age 15.3 years) from 23 German secondary schools were randomly assigned to one of the two feedback conditions, POF or SCF. The authors then explored how useful the pupils found their feedback, and the impact it had on achievement and interest. POF was perceived as more useful and competence supportive (pupils believing that others think they are capable) than SCF. The total effects of POF on interest and achievement development were positive, but did not reach the threshold of statistical significance. The authors note that grades are strongly attached to pupils’ pride and sense of worth, whereas process-oriented feedback was, in contrast, generally new to them – therefore the study may underestimate the impact of POF.

Source: Written Feedback in Mathematics: Mediated by Students’ Perception, Moderated by Goal Orientation (2013), Learning and Instruction, 27.

Clicking our way to great teaching

The latest blogpost by the IEE’s Robert Slavin looks at electronic response devices, and the recent studies of Questions for Learning (QfL) conducted by the IEE. He concludes: “The classroom of the future will surely have some means of giving teachers and students immediate feedback on students’ learning, and quick means of accommodating differences in student proficiency. QfL seems like a major step in this direction. The findings of the early research are encouraging, and as clickers get ever smarter, the possibilities seem exciting.”

Source: Clicking our way to great teaching (2012), Education Week (Sputnik Blog)

Self-paced learning looks promising

A new study by the Institute for Effective Education has shown that self-paced learning could produce significant gains in primary maths learning. In self-paced learning pupils answer, at their own pace, questions delivered directly to electronic handsets.

The technology instantly marks the responses and feeds back the results to both pupil and teacher. Teachers can use this formative assessment to help pupils and guide future teaching. Significant gains in pupils’ mathematical learning were made by those pupils using the self-paced learning technology.

Source: Self-paced learning: Effective technology-supported formative assessment report on achievement findings (2011), Institute for Effective Education