The Institute for Effective Education (IEE) has published a new
report from a project funded by their Innovation Evaluation Grants. The IEE
Innovation evaluations are small-scale and test the kinds of innovations that
schools are interested in.
Thirty-four Year 4 classes took part in the evaluation of Improving times table fluency, which was conducted by Underwood West Academy. A total of 876 children were included in the study.
Five groups of four or five classes were created by matching
the pre-test scores on a 25-item tables test and the percentage of children in
receipt of pupil premium. All groups had similar pre-test scores and similar
percentages of children in receipt of pupil premium. Each class used a different balance of
conceptual and procedural activities during times tables lessons. Conceptual
activities were games that focused on the connections and patterns in tables
facts, while procedural activities were games in which pupils practiced
Pupils had four 15-minute times tables lessons each week, and the
intervention lasted for 12 weeks. Before the intervention started, all
participating pupils carried out a simple times tables test comprising 25
spoken multiplication questions. The same test was repeated as a post-test.
The results of the trial showed that no one balance of practice
activities was more effective than another. The report concludes that times
tables may be best taught by using a balanced approach – teaching both the
concepts behind them and practising them in a range of ways with low-stakes
Increasing times table fluency (May 2019), Institute
for Effective Education
A new systematic review of research on early childhood programmes in Educational Research Review has been published. The paper seeks to identify effective approaches capable of improving literacy and language outcomes for preschoolers.
Researchers from The Institute for Effective Education (IEE) and The Center for Research and Reform in Education (CRRE) applied consistent standards to determine the strength of evidence supporting a variety of approaches, which fell into two main categories: comprehensive approaches, which include phonemic awareness, phonics, and other skills along with child-initiated activities, and developmental–constructivist approaches that focus on child-initiated activities with little direct teaching of early literacy skills. Inclusion criteria included use of randomised or matched control groups, evidence of initial equality, a minimum study duration of 12 weeks, and valid measures of literacy and language.
Thirty-two studies evaluating 22 programmes found that early childhood programmes that have a balance of skill-focused and child-initiated activities had significant evidence of positive literacy and language outcomes at the end of preschool and on kindergarten (Year 1) follow-up measures. Effects on both types of measures were smaller and not statistically significant for developmental-constructivist programmes.
Source: Literacy and Language Outcomes of Comprehensive and Developmental-Constructivist Approaches to Early Childhood Education: A Systematic Review (2016), Educational Research Review.
A new report, published by the Education Endowment Foundation, has described a randomised controlled trial to evaluate the effectiveness of a programme that aims to make science lessons more conceptually challenging, more practical, and more interactive. The report found the approach, called Thinking, Doing, Talking Science (TDTS), appeared to have a positive impact on attainment.
The trial involved 41 schools in England, 20 acting as a control group, with 655 Year 5 pupils from the other 21 schools receiving the intervention. Their teachers received four days of professional development across 18 months, with training in a repertoire of TDTS strategies aiming to encourage pupils to use higher order thinking skills. For example, pupils are posed ‘Big Questions’, such as ‘How do you know that the earth is a sphere?’ that are used to stimulate discussion about scientific topics and the principles of scientific enquiry. The teachers were also given time to work on TDTS with colleagues.
The evaluation, carried out by the IEE, found that overall Year 5 pupils in schools using the approach made approximately three additional months’ progress. The programme had a particularly positive effect on girls and on pupils with low prior attainment, as well as a positive impact on pupils’ attitudes to science, science lessons, and practical work in particular.
National test data will be used to assess the English and mathematics outcomes of participating pupils and to measure the long-term impact of the approach, and a final report will follow in 2016.
The study is one of ten new reports published by the Education Endowment Foundation.
Source: Thinking, Doing, Talking Science: Evaluation Report and Executive Summary (2015), Education Endowment Foundation.
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.
Robert Slavin, professor at the Institute for Effective Education and director of the Center for Research and Reform in Education, focuses his latest blog post not just on reading, writing, and arithmetic, but on the sometimes harder-to-define problems of education, such as managing resources and cultivating relationships.
He says, “Is there anyone out there who thinks that it is not important to identify effective and replicable approaches to teaching reading, algebra, and all the other relatively easy-to-define, easy-to-measure problems of education? Yet solving these does still leave some very important but less-well-defined problems that may take different approaches. These approaches should still be informed by evidence, but perhaps different types of evidence from the design-build-evaluate-disseminate model that usually leads to proven and replicable approaches to reading or algebra, if anything does.”
“Education research is as likely as medical research to lead to profound breakthroughs in practice and outcomes in the coming years.” That is the conclusion of the latest blog post from Robert Slavin, professor in the IEE and director of the Center for Research and Reform in Education, in which he discusses similarities and differences in the way evidence affects, or could affect, education and medicine.
To support his conclusion, Slavin offers several reasons why, with greater support, education research could have at least as profound an impact on education outcomes as medicine or public health do on health outcomes. For example, he says, “Education research is easier to do than medical research. The unlikelihood of serious negative side effects is one reason. Another is that because pretests in education are so highly correlated with post-tests, we can accurately predict what students would have achieved without treatment, making it easier to do studies.” Ultimately, Slavin says, “When we build up a stock of proven programs and have the support of government for using them, watch out. Education could show medicine a thing or two about how to improve outcomes on a national scale using rigorous research and innovation.”