Do physically active lessons improve pupil engagement?

A study published in Health Education and Behavior looks at the effects of introducing physically active lessons into primary school classes. Emma Norris and colleagues used the Virtual Traveller (VT) intervention to evaluate whether physically active lessons had any effect on pupil engagement, physical activity and on-task behaviour.

Virtual Traveller is a programme of pre-prepared physically active lesson sessions delivered using classroom interactive whiteboards during regular lessons. A total of 219 children aged 8- to 9-years-old from 10 schools in Greater London took part in the cluster-randomised controlled trial. Children in the intervention schools received 10-minute VT sessions three times a week, for six weeks, during maths and English lessons. To assess the effectiveness of VT, pupils’ physical activity levels, on-task behaviour and engagement were measured at baseline (T0), at weeks two (T1) and four  (T2) of the six-week intervention, and at one week (T3) and three months (T4) post-intervention.

Pupils in the intervention group showed more on-task behaviour than those in the control at T1 and T2, but this was not maintained post-intervention. No difference in pupil engagement between the control and intervention groups was observed at any time point. VT was found to increase physical activity, but only during lesson time.

Source: Physically active lessons improve lesson activity and on-task behavior: a cluster-randomized controlled trial of the “Virtual Traveller” intervention (March 2018), Health Education & Behavior DOI: 10.1177/1090198118762106

The academic benefits of pupil–teacher familiarity

A study published in the journal Economics of Education Review suggests that assigning pupils to the same teacher two years in a row may improve academic performance because teachers get to know their pupils and are able to adjust and target their teaching styles accordingly.

Andrew J Hill and Daniel B Jones used administrative data from North Carolina to observe the importance of pupil–teacher familiarity on academic performance in elementary (primary) school. They found that “looping”, in which an entire class moves to the next year with the same teacher, results in a small but statistically significant increase in pupil achievement. Pupils who spent a second year with the same teacher scored higher on end-of-year tests (on average 0.123 of a standard deviation) than those who weren’t matched. These benefits were greatest for minority pupils and lower-performing teachers (as measured by value-added).

Source: A teacher who knows me: The academic benefits of repeat student-teacher matches (June 2018) Economics of Education Review volume 64

The effects of teacher stress on pupil outcomes

A new article by Keith C Herman, Jal’et Hickmon-Rosa and Wendy M Reink explores the relationship between teacher stress and pupil outcomes.

Their study, which was published in the Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, included 121 teachers and 1,817 pupils between kindergarten and fourth grade (Years 1 5) from nine elementary (primary) schools in an urban Midwestern school district in the US. Data included survey responses from teachers on their levels of burnout, stress, efficacy and coping. Pupil outcome measures included teacher reports of pupil behaviour and the Woodcock–Johnson III Test of Achievement.

Based on the data, the authors grouped the teachers into four classes: stressed/low coping (3%), stressed/moderate coping (30%), stressed/high coping (60%) and well-adjusted (7%). The authors then linked these results with pupil behavioural and academic outcomes, and found that teachers in the high-stress, high-burnout, and low-coping class were associated with the poorest pupil outcomes.

In conclusion, the authors say that these findings suggest that investing resources in supporting teacher adaptation, both by equipping them with coping skills and by providing more environmental supports, may improve not only their well-being but also the well-being and functioning of pupils in their class.

Source: Empirically derived profiles of teacher stress, burnout, self-efficacy, and coping and associated student outcomes (October 2017), Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, Volume 20, Issue 2

Evaluation of computer game to teach pupils to read

The National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) recently carried out an evaluation of a trial of the GraphoGame Rime intervention for the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) and Wellcome Trust.

GraphoGame Rime is a computer game designed to teach pupils to read by developing their phonological awareness and phonic skills. The game is delivered in small groups supervised by a teacher or teaching assistant, with pupils working on individual devices, as the game is designed to constantly adjust the difficulty to challenge the learner at an appropriate level.

The pupil-randomised controlled trial involved 398 Year 2 pupils with low phonics skills in 15 schools in Cambridgeshire, and was designed to determine the impact of the intervention on pupils’ reading skills. The results of the evaluation found no evidence that GraphoGame Rime improved pupils’ reading or spelling test scores when compared to business-as-usual (effect size =-0.06). The intervention also showed no impact on reading or spelling test scores for pupils eligible for free school meals compared with the business-as-usual control group.

Source:  GraphoGame Rime: Evaluation report and executive summary (May 2018), Education Endowment Foundation

The impacts of Reading Recovery at scale

A study published in Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis presents findings from a four-year evaluation of a national scale-up of Reading Recovery – a one-to-one reading intervention for struggling first grade (Year 2) readers. The evaluation included an implementation study and a multisite randomised controlled trial with 6,888 pupils in 1,222 schools in the US.

Philip Sirinides and colleagues compared the achievement of struggling first grade (Year 2) readers following the Reading Recovery programme with business-as-usual literacy teaching. Results were measured using pupils’ scores on the Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS) total reading assessment, as well as the ITBS reading comprehension and reading words subtests.

Results showed a medium to large effect on pupils’ reading over the course of the four years (effect size = +0.37) compared to the control group. The impacts of Reading Recovery on the ITBS total reading scores showed an effect size of +0.37. The effect sizes for ITBS reading comprehension and reading words subtests were +0.38 and +0.35, respectively. Effect sizes tended to be larger in schools where pupils had lower average reading performance overall.

Source: The impacts of Reading Recovery at scale: results from the 4-year i3 external evaluation (March 2018), Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis

Mindfulness and yoga for primary pupils

A randomised controlled trial published in Psychology Research and Behavior Management assesses the benefits of introducing yoga and mindfulness into elementary (primary) classrooms.

Alessandra N Bazzano and colleagues worked with a public school in New Orleans to add mindfulness and yoga to the school’s existing empathy-based programme for pupils needing extra support. Third grade (Year 4) pupils were screened for symptoms of anxiety (using the Screen for Child Anxiety Related Emotional Disorders scale), and were then randomly split into an intervention group (n=20) and a control group (n=32). Pupils in the intervention group participated in a yoga and mindfulness programme for eight weeks, while the control group received the standard care, which included counselling and activities from a school social worker. All pupils filled out questionnaires to measure quality of life and life satisfaction across a number of different variables before, during and after the treatment period.

Pupils in the intervention group showed a significantly greater improvement in psychosocial and emotional quality of life compared with pupils who received standard care.

The researchers acknowledge that while this study was small, and more research is needed, introducing pupils to yoga and mindfulness may help to alleviate anxious feelings experienced in third grade due to their work becoming more complex, and learning how to handle these pressures sooner, rather than later, may promote healthy skills throughout life.

Source: Effect of mindfulness and yoga on quality of life for elementary school students and teachers: results of a randomized controlled school-based study (April 2018), Psychology Research and Behavior Management, Volume 2018:11