Educational technology and reading achievement

In the last issue of Best Evidence in Brief, we highlighted findings from a review of research into the effects of technology use on mathematics achievement completed by the Johns Hopkins School of Education’s Center for Research and Reform in Education (CRRE). Related to this topic is an updated CRRE review that focuses on the effects of technology use on reading achievement.

Consistent with the technology and maths review, findings on reading technology suggest that educational technology applications produce a positive, though small, effect on achievement in comparison to traditional methods. Showing the most promise were innovative technology applications and integrated literacy interventions with the support of extensive professional development.

Source: The effectiveness of education technology for enhancing maths achievement (2011), Best Evidence Encyclopedia

An integrated approach to science and literacy

This research article from the Journal of Research in Science Teaching investigates the effectiveness of an integrated science and literacy approach at primary school level. Teachers in 94 fourth-grade (Year 5) classrooms in one US Southern state participated.

Half of the teachers in the study taught an integrated science and literacy unit on light and energy, which was designed using a curriculum model that engages pupils in reading text, writing notes and reports, conducting first-hand investigations, and frequently discussing key concepts and processes to acquire inquiry skills and knowledge about science concepts. The other half of the teachers taught a content-comparable science-only unit on light and energy and provided their regular literacy instruction.

Results of the study showed that pupils in the integrated science and literacy group made significantly greater improvement in science understanding, science vocabulary, and science writing. Pupils in both groups made comparable improvements in science reading.

Source: The impact of an integrated approach to science and literacy in elementary school classrooms (2012), Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 49(5)

What makes for an effective summer reading programme?

This study from the US Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences tested the effectiveness of a summer reading programme on improving reading comprehension for disadvantaged Grade 3 pupils (age 8–9) reading below the 50th percentile. As part of the programme, children were sent a single delivery of eight books matched to their reading level and interest area during the first part of the summer. The delivery was followed by six weekly reminder postcards.

Findings showed that the summer reading programme did not have a statistically significant impact on pupil reading comprehension. However, the authors note that the study’s conclusions are constrained by several aspects of the programme’s design, including that the programme lasted just one summer and did not include teacher instruction and parent involvement. In previous studies, programmes with these components were found to be effective.

Source: Does a summer reading program based on Lexiles affect reading comprehension? (2012), Institute of Education Sciences

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)

Evaluating reading coach quality

A study from the RAND Corporation examines what makes for good reading coaches and coaching. The study included 113 schools from 8 districts in Florida. All used reading coaches to work with school staff to improve their reading teaching and leadership skills. The data showed no relationship between teacher and principal perceptions of coach quality and students’ reading achievement.

The researchers suggest that being an effective literacy coach may require more than content-area expertise and experience teaching children. They identify “understanding how to support adult learners” as a key area of expertise that was sometimes lacking with the coaches in the study.

Source: Reading Coach Quality: Findings from Florida Middle Schools (2012), Literacy Research and Instruction, 51(1).

Help for struggling readers

The latest issue of Better: Evidence-based Education, has just been published by the Institute for Effective Education, and provides advice on what to do to help struggling readers.

We know a lot about how to solve reading failure, and this issue presents articles on proven solutions in primary and secondary schools. The solutions vary in many ways, but together they show that virtually all children can succeed in reading.

Source: Better Evidence-based Education