Are the youngest in class more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD?

Findings from a study published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry suggest that children who are the youngest in their classroom are more likely to be diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) than their older classmates.

Martin Whitely and colleagues conducted a systematic review of 22 studies that examined the relationship between a child’s age relative to their classmates and their chances of being diagnosed with, or medicated for, ADHD. Seventeen studies (with a total of more than 14 million children) found that it was more common for the youngest children in a school year to be diagnosed as ADHD than their older classmates. This effect was found for both countries that have a high diagnosis rate, like the US, Canada and Iceland, and countries where diagnosis is less common, like Finland and Sweden.

The researchers suggest that some teachers may be mistaking normal age-related immaturity of the youngest children in their class for ADHD, and that these findings highlight the importance of being aware of the impact of relative age and give the youngest children in class the extra time they may need to mature.

Source: Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder late birthdate effect common in both high and low prescribing international jurisdictions: systematic review (October 2018), The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry doi:10.1111/jcpp.12991

A systematic review of RCTs in education research

The use of randomised controlled trials (RCTs) in education research has increased over the last 15 years. However, the use of RCTs has also been subject to criticism, with four key criticisms being that it is not possible to carry out RCTs in education; the research design of RCTs ignores context and experience; RCTs tend to generate simplistic universal laws of “cause and effect”; and that they are descriptive and contribute little to theory.

To assess these four key criticisms, Paul Connolly and colleagues conducted a systematic review of RCTs in education research between 1980 and 2016 in order to consider the evidence in relation to the use of RCTs in education practice.

The systematic review found a total of 1,017 RCTs completed and reported between 1980 and 2016, of which just over three-quarters have been produced in the last 10 years. Just over half of all RCTs were conducted in North America and just under a third in Europe. This finding addresses the first criticism, and demonstrates that, overall, it is possible to conduct RCTs in education research.

While the researchers also find evidence to oppose the other key criticisms, the review suggests that some progress remains to be made. The article concludes by outlining some key challenges for researchers undertaking RCTs in education.

Source:  The trials of evidence-based practice in education: a systematic review of randomised controlled trials in education research 1980–2016 (July 2018), Educational Research, DOI: 10.1080/00131881.2018.1493353

Jury still out on Teach for America

A new Campbell Collaboration systematic review has been published, which looks at the impact of Teach for America on learning outcomes.

Teach for America (TFA) is a nationwide teacher preparation programme designed to address the shortage of effective teachers, specifically in high-poverty rural and urban schools across the United States. The systematic review by Herbert Turner and colleagues considered the impact of TFA-prepared teachers relative to novice teachers, and alumni relative to veteran teachers. The impacts studied were for K–12 (Years 1–13) pupil outcomes in maths, English and science.

A total of 24 studies were eligible for the review. However, once the research design, study quality and comparison groups were considered, this was reduced to four qualifying studies.

The review found no significant effect on reading by TFA teachers in their first or second year teaching elementary grades (Years 1–6) when compared with non-TFA novice teachers. There was a small positive impact for pre-K to grade 2 (Reception to Year 3) teachers on reading, but not on maths. However, given the small evidence base, the review counsels that these results should be treated with caution.

Source:  What are the effects of Teach for America on math, English language arts, and science outcomes of K–12 students in the USA? (June 2018), A Campbell Systematic Review 2018:7

A wide range of approaches may help improve pupils’ ability to manage behaviours and emotions

Research published in JAMA Pediatrics has found there are a wide range of different approaches that can be effective in improving self-regulation skills (the ability to control emotions, avoid inappropriate or aggressive behaviour and engage in self-directed learning) in children and teenagers.

Anuja Pandey and colleagues conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of evaluations of interventions designed to improve pupils’ self-regulation. Data from 49 studies with a total of more than 23,000 pupils ranging in age from 2 to 17 years was examined. The interventions were classified as curriculum-based programmes (n=21), mindfulness and yoga interventions (n=8), family-based programmes (n=9), exercise-based programmes (n=6) and interventions focused on social and personal skills (n= 6). The researchers found that most interventions (n=33) were successful in improving pupils’ ability to manage behaviour and emotion. A meta-analysis showed there was a positive effect of the interventions, with a pooled effect size of +0.42.

There was no age group in which interventions were more effective. While a curriculum-based approach was most commonly used to deliver interventions, the study found that self-regulation interventions can be effective in family settings targeting parenting practices and sibling relationships.

Source: Effectiveness of universal self-regulation–based interventions in children and adolescents: a systematic review and meta-analysis (April 2018), JAMA Pediatrics Doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2018.0232

Preschool language skills a predictor of later reading comprehension

A systematic review published by the Campbell Collaboration summarises the research on the correlation between reading-related preschool predictors, such as code-related skills  and linguistic comprehension, and later reading comprehension skills.

Sixty-four longitudinal studies met the eligibility criteria for the review. These studies spanned 1986 to 2016 and were mostly carried out in the US, Europe and Australia. Overall, the findings of the review found that code-related skills (rhyme awareness, phoneme awareness, letter knowledge and rapid automatised naming) are most important for reading comprehension in beginning readers, but linguistic comprehension (grammar and vocabulary) gradually takes over as children become older. All predictors, except for non-word repetition, were moderately to strongly correlated with later reading comprehension. Non-word repetition had only a weak to moderate correlation to later reading comprehension ability.

These results suggest a need for a broad focus on language skills in preschool-age children in order to establish a strong foundation for reading comprehension.

Source: Preschool predictors of later reading comprehension ability: a systematic review (December 2017), A Campbell Systematic Review 2017:4, Campbell Collaboration

Children with ADHD more likely to have language problems

Children with Attention-Deficient Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) can have trouble with hyperactivity, impulsivity, inattention and distractibility, all of which can affect language and communication and can lead to low academic performance and antisocial behavior. A systematic review published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry seeks to establish the types of language problems children with ADHD experience in order to inform future research into how these language problems contribute to long-term outcomes for children with ADHD.

Hannah Korrel and colleagues examined the last 35 years of ADHD research and identified 21 studies using 17 language measures, which included more than 2,000 participants (ADHD children = 1,209; non-ADHD children  = 1,101) for inclusion in the systematic review.

The study found that children with ADHD had poorer performance than non-ADHD children on 11 of the 12 measures of overall language (effect size = 1.09). Children with ADHD also had poorer performance on measures of expressive, receptive and pragmatic language compared with non-ADHD children.

Source: Research Review: Language problems in children with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder – a systematic meta-analytic review (2017), Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry Volume 58, Issue 6