The Sesame Street effect

“Count von Count, Sesame Street’s friendly mathematical vampire, is obsessed with a new number: 0.29”, says Dr Charlotte Cole, Senior Vice President of Global Education at Sesame Workshop. She was responding to a new article in the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology which found that the impact of Sesame Street is significant and positive, with an effect size of 0.292.

The authors conducted a meta-analysis examining the effects of children’s exposure to international co-productions of Sesame Street, synthesising the results of 24 studies, conducted with over 10,000 children in 15 countries. The results indicated significant positive effects of watching the programme, aggregated across learning outcomes, and within three outcome categories: cognitive outcomes, including literacy and numeracy; learning about the world, including health and safety knowledge; and social reasoning and respect for others.

Source: Effects of Sesame Street: A Meta-analysis of Children’s Learning in 15 Countries (2013), Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 34(3).

Educational technology and maths achievement

A new report on educational technology and maths achievement, from Johns Hopkins’ Center for Research and Reform in Education, is published in the June 2013 issue of Educational Research ReviewThe report examines research on the effects of educational technology applications on mathematics achievement in primary and secondary classrooms, applying consistent inclusion standards to focus on studies that met high methodological standards.

Findings suggest that educational technology applications generally produced a positive, though modest, effect (effect size = +0.15) in comparison to traditional methods. However, the effects may vary by educational technology type. Among the three types of educational technology applications reviewed, supplemental computer-assisted instruction had the largest effect, with an effect size of +0.18. The other two interventions, computer-management learning and comprehensive programmes, had a much smaller effect size, +0.08 and +0.07, respectively.

Source: The Effectiveness of Educational Technology Applications for Enhancing Mathematics Achievement in K-12 Classrooms: A Meta-analysis (2013),Educational Research Review, 9.

Writing activities and reading comprehension: What’s the link?

This article in Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal presents a meta-analysis on the effects of different writing activities on reading comprehension. A total of 19 studies, involving pupils at both primary and secondary level, met inclusion criteria, resulting in four comparisons between different writing activities:

  • summary writing versus answering questions;
  • summary writing versus note taking;
  • answering questions versus note taking; and
  • answering questions versus extended writing activities.

Results indicated that there were no statistically significant differences for any of the comparisons when effects were averaged over all reading comprehension measures, excluding treatment-inherent measures. However, statistically significant differences were found for two of the comparisons on specific measures:

  • Extended writing enhanced reading comprehension better than question answering on measures where comprehension was assessed via an extended writing activity; and
  • Summary writing enhanced reading comprehension better than question answering on a free recall measure.

According to the authors, these results “provide limited support for the theoretical viewpoint that writing activities are differentially effective in improving reading comprehension based on how closely the writing activities are aligned with a particular measure.”

Source: Comparing Effects of Different Writing Activities on Reading Comprehension: A Meta-analysis (2013), Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal, (6)1.

How parental involvement affects a child’s academic performance

This meta-analysis published in Urban Education;examines the relationship between school-based parental involvement programmes and the academic achievement of children aged four to 18. Findings of the study indicate that overall there is a significant relationship between parental involvement programmes and academic outcomes, but that further research is needed to examine why some types of programmes have a greater impact on educational achievement than others.

The types of parental involvement programmes examined are:

  • Shared reading programmes, which show the strongest relationship with improvement in educational outcomes (effect size = .51, p< .01).
  • Emphasised partnership programmes, which involve parents and teachers working together as equal partners to help improve pupils’ academic or behavioural outcomes. This type of programme has the second largest effect size on educational outcomes (ES=.35, p< .05).
  • Communication between parents and teachers has an effect size of .28 (p< .05).
    Checking homework produced the smallest effect size of the four programmes (ES=.27, p< .05).

A 2008 meta-analysis, published in the Review of Educational Research, found similar results. Parents who taught their children to read had a much larger impact than those that only listened to their children reading; suggesting that giving parents practical means of helping their children succeed in school is important in improving their children’s achievement.

Sources:A meta-analysis of the efficacy of different types of parental involvement programs for urban students (2012), Urban Education , 47(4),

The effect of family literacy interventions on children’s acquisition of reading from kindergarten to grade 3: A meta-analytic review (2008), Review of Educational Research, 78(4)

Writing about reading makes a difference

A recent meta-analysis from the Harvard Education Review has shown that writing about something they have read improves pupils’ understanding of the text, as well as their reading fluency and word reading.

To reach this conclusion, the authors reviewed findings from 92 studies on the topic. They focused on studies that had an experimental or quasi-experimental design; involved a treatment group that wrote about what they read, were taught to write, or increased how much they wrote; and included at least one reading measure that assessed the impact of the writing treatment or condition.

Source: Writing to Read: A meta-analysis of the impact of writing and writing instruction on reading (2011), Harvard Educational Review, 81(4)