Teaching strategies to improve science learning

A new systematic review in the Journal of Research in Science Teaching analyses the achievement outcomes of all types of approaches to teaching science in primary schools. It concludes that science teaching methods focused on enhancing teachers’ classroom instruction throughout the year, such as co-operative learning and science-reading integration, as well as approaches that give teachers technology tools to enhance instruction, have significant potential to improve science learning.

Study inclusion criteria included the use of randomised or matched control groups, study duration of at least four weeks, and use of achievement measures independent of the experimental treatment. A total of 23 studies met these criteria. Among studies evaluating inquiry-based teaching approaches, programmes that used science kits did not show positive outcomes on science achievement measures (weighted effect size (ES)=+0.02 in 7 studies), but inquiry-based programmes that emphasised professional development but not kits did show positive outcomes (weighted ES=+0.36 in 10 studies). Technological approaches integrating video and computer resources with teaching and co-operative learning showed positive outcomes in a few small, matched studies (ES=+0.42 in 6 studies).

Source: Experimental Evaluations of Elementary Science Programs: A Best-evidence Synthesis, Journal of Research in Science Teaching 51(7).

High hopes for good behaviour

A new review, published in the Review of Educational Research, analyses the evidence on The Good Behavior Game (GBG), a classroom management programme that has been used (and studied) for 40 years. Strategies in the programme include acknowledging appropriate behaviour, teaching classroom rules, providing feedback about inappropriate behaviour, verbal praise, and providing rewards as reinforcement.

A total of 22 studies met the authors’ inclusion criteria. In these, the programme was mainly being used in mainstream primary schools with externalising, challenging behaviours (eg, disruptive behaviour, off-task behaviour, aggression, talking out, and out-of-seat behaviours).

The review aimed to describe and quantify the effect of the GBG on various challenging behaviours in school and classroom settings. The findings suggested that the GBG had moderate to large effects on a range of challenging behaviours, and that these effects were immediate. The correct use of rewards was found to be important for intervention effectiveness. Few studies considered the long-term impact of the GBG, but the authors conclude that the effects were largely stable, with only a very slight decrease over time.

The authors note that the GBG has been implemented by individuals in a variety of school roles (such as classroom teachers, student teachers, librarians, and lunchtime staff), and that this highlights the ease with which the GBG can be implemented under a variety of conditions. Additionally, the relatively brief training for practitioners in the studies suggests that the GBG can be used successfully without extensive training.

The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) is currently funding a randomised controlled trial of the GBG in 74 schools in England.

Source: Effects of the Good Behavior Game on Challenging Behaviors in School Settings (2014), Review of Educational Research, online first June 2014.

What works for reintegrating disengaged children and young people?

This systematic review from The Campbell Collaboration summarises the effectiveness of harm-reduction and reintegration-promotion interventions for “street-connected” children and young people (ie, who live or work in street environments) up to the age of 24.

Eleven studies evaluating 12 interventions from high-income countries were included in the analysis (the authors note that they did not find any sufficiently robust evaluations conducted in low- and middle-income countries). All of the studies used a comparison group study design and were randomised or quasi-randomised. Interventions were included if their goal was to have an impact on any of the following key outcomes: inclusion, reintegration, health, well-being, and/or educational and occupational achievement.

The results of the studies were mixed, but overall the authors found that there were favourable changes from baseline in outcomes for most participants in therapy-based interventions and also in “standard” services (youth drop-in centres and shelters). However, no study measured the primary outcome of reintegration or reported on adverse effects.

Source: Interventions for Promoting Reintegration and Reducing Harmful Behaviour and Lifestyles in Street-connected Children and Young People: A Systematic Review (2013), The Campbell Collaboration.

Success for group-based parenting programmes

A new systematic review has shown that group-based parenting programmes can improve children’s behaviour problems in the short-term, as well as developing positive parenting skills and reducing parental anxiety, stress, and depression.

The review, which was produced for the Cochrane Collaboration, also concluded that these programmes were cost-effective when compared to the long-term social, educational, and legal costs associated with childhood conduct problems. The review was based on trials involving more than 1,000 participants in total.

Source: Behavioural and cognitive-behavioural group-based parenting programmes for early-onset conduct problems in children aged 3 to 12 years (2012), Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews