Mindfulness-based interventions in schools

This Campbell systematic review examines the effectiveness of mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) implemented in school settings on cognition, behaviour, socio-emotional outcomes and academic achievement. MBIs are interventions that use a mindfulness component, broadly defined as “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally”, and is often combined with yoga, cognitive-behavioural strategies, or relaxation-skills training.

A total of 61 studies are included in the review, but only the 35 randomised or quasi-experimental studies are used in the meta-analysis, with a total of 6,207 pupil participants. Most of the studies were carried out in schools in the US (74%), with some in Asia (5%), Europe (16%) and Canada (5%). The interventions ranged in duration (4–28 weeks), number of sessions (6–125 sessions) and frequency of meetings (once every two weeks to five times a week).

The findings show that MBIs in schools have a small positive effect on cognitive outcomes and socio-emotional outcomes, but do not improve behaviour or academic achievement. There was little heterogeneity for all outcomes, apart from behavioural outcomes, suggesting that the interventions produced similar results across studies on cognitive, socio-emotional and academic outcomes, despite the interventions being quite diverse. Overall, Brandy Maynard and colleagues find a lack of support at post-test to indicate that the positive effects on cognitive and socio-emotional outcomes then translate into positive outcomes on behaviour and academic achievement.

Source: Mindfulness-based interventions for improving cognition, academic achievement, behavior, and socioemotional functioning of primary and secondary school students (March 2017), A Campbell Systematic Review 2017:5

Academic interventions for low-SES pupils

A systematic review and meta-analysis published in Review of Education Research looks at effective academic interventions for pupils with low socio-economic status (SES).

Jens Dietrichson and colleagues included studies that used a treatment–control group design, were performed in Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and EU countries and measured achievement with standardised tests in maths or reading. The analysis included 101 studies performed between 2000 and 2014, 76% of which were randomised controlled trials.

Positive effect sizes (ES) were reported for many of the interventions. Comparatively large and robust average effect sizes were found for interventions that involved tutoring (ES = +0.36), feedback and progress monitoring (ES = +0.32) and co-operative learning (ES = +0.22). The report points out that, although these effect sizes are not large enough to close the gap between high- and low-SES pupils, they represent a substantial reduction of that gap if targeted towards low-SES students.

Source: Academic interventions for elementary and middle school students with low socioeconomic status: a systematic review and meta-analysis (January 2017), Review of Educational Research

The effects of school-based decision-making

The Campbell Collaboration has released a research review by Roy Carr-Hill and colleagues on the effects of school-based decision-making on educational outcomes in low- and middle-income countries.

The report notes that “Many governments have addressed the low quality of education by devolving decision-making authority to schools. It is assumed that locating decision-making authority within schools will increase accountability, efficiency, and responsiveness to local needs”. To evaluate the evidence of effectiveness of this type of reform, the authors reviewed 26 studies on the impact of school-based decision-making on educational outcomes, and nine studies on barriers to, and enablers of, school-based decision-making.

Overall, findings showed that decentralising decision-making to schools has mainly small to moderate positive effects in reducing repetition, dropouts, and increasing test scores. These effects were restricted to middle-income countries, with fewer and smaller positive effects found in low-income countries or in disadvantaged communities.

The authors identify several implications for policy and practice, including:

  • School-based decision-making reforms in highly disadvantaged communities are less likely to be successful. Parental participation seems to be the key to the success of such reforms.
  • The involvement of school management committees in personnel decisions appears to play a role in improving proximal outcomes, such as teacher attendance, but success is also likely to be linked to the overall teacher job market and the prospects of long-term employment.

 Source:  The effects of school-based decision making on educational outcomes in low- and middle-income contexts (November 2016), A Campbell Systematic Review 2016:9, The Campbell Collaboration

Report presents latest research on Read 180 programme

The What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) has updated its Intervention Report on READ 180, a programme designed for struggling readers who are reading two or more years below grade level.

The WWC identified nine studies of READ 180 that fell within the scope of the WWC’s Adolescent Literacy topic area and met WWC research standards. Three studies met WWC standards without reservations, and six studies met WWC standards with reservations (according to the WWC, studies receiving this rating provide a lower degree of confidence that an observed effect was caused by the intervention). Together, these studies included 8,755 teenage readers in more than 66 schools in 15 school districts and 10 states.

After examining the research, the WWC concluded that READ 180 has positive effects on comprehension and general literacy achievement, potentially positive effects on reading fluency, but no discernible effects on alphabetics.

Source: READ 180® Adolescent Literacy What Works Clearinghouse Intervention Report:  A summary of findings from a systematic review of the evidence (2016), Institute of Education Sciences

The effects of parenting programmes

A new policy brief from The Campbell Collaboration summarises evidence from six Campbell systematic reviews of parenting programmes.

These programmes are designed to enhance parents’ knowledge, skills, and understanding, and to improve both child and parent behavioural and psychological outcomes. Programmes are typically offered to parents over the course of 8 to 12 weeks, for one or two hours each week. The programmes can be delivered on a one-to-one basis or to groups, and be provided in a range of settings, including hospitals, social work clinics, schools, and churches.

The six systematic reviews that have been published by The Campbell Collaboration have evaluated the effectiveness of a range of parenting programmes, including those aimed at addressing early onset conduct disorder and improving outcomes for children with ADHD. The reviews provide unequivocal evidence that parenting programmes are effective in improving aspects of parents’ psychosocial functioning (eg, depression, anxiety, confidence, and satisfaction with the partner relationship) in the short-term. Behavioural and cognitive-behavioural group-based parenting interventions have also been found to be effective at improving child conduct problems, parental mental health, and parenting skills in the short term for parents of children aged 3-12. However, the evidence of effectiveness for parents of younger children is less comprehensive.

Source: Effects of Parenting Programmes: A Review of Six Campbell Systematic Reviews (2016), The Campbell Collaboration.

What works for preschoolers?

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.