Writing supported by virtual reality

In a recently published article in the British Journal of Educational Technology, Hwang and Chang examined how the spherical video-based virtual reality (SVVR) approach can support descriptive article writing in high school writing classes in Taiwan.

In traditional language learning activities, the authors noted, there is usually no chance for pupils to develop in-depth feelings about the context of topics, resulting in low learning motivations and limited expression in the writing process.

To provide in-depth experiences and to facilitate pupils’ descriptive article writing, the study introduced an SVVR system that used 360-degree photos or videos in a VR environment supporting pupils before they started to write. Pupils from two grade 11 classes participated in the study, with 30 pupils allocated to the experimental group and 35 students to the control group. After pupils understood the writing tasks and read a descriptive article about the Jade Mountain in Taiwan, pupils in the experimental group used SVVR to experience the ascent of the mountain, while pupils in the control group only watched videos and saw photos of the mountain. The study was conducted over two weeks with three hours of class per week. Before and after the intervention, a pre-test and a post-test on pupils’ writing performance were administered, along with questionnaires. The results showed that:

  • While pupils’ writing performance in both groups was similar in the pre-test, pupils who learned with the SVVR approach obtained better post-test results in terms of content and appearance than pupils in the control group, but not in organisation and vocabulary use.
  • Pupils’ learning with the SVVR approach also outperformed that of control-group pupils in creativity tendency and writing self-efficacy on the post-test.
  • However, experimental-group pupil and control-group pupils did not differ in learning motivation and cognitive load on the post-test.

The authors suggest that SVVR is worth promoting in school settings for language courses and experiential learning activities, as a way to provide deep experience in specific learning contexts. 

Source: Learning to be a writer: A spherical video‐based virtual reality approach to supporting descriptive article writing in high school Chinese courses (December 2019), British Journal of Educational Technology

Test anxiety and performance in high-stakes testing

A study published in Contemporary Educational Psychology suggests that the relationship between test anxiety and performance in high-stakes tests is positive, but the relationship varies for pupils with different achievement levels.

Yao-Ting Sung and colleagues at the National Taiwan University used data from 1,931 Taiwanese ninth grade (Year 10) pupils from 37 schools. The Basic Competence Test (BCTEST) was used to benchmark their achievement. The BCTEST is a high-stakes test for Taiwan junior-high school pupils, determining to which high schools with different levels of prestige and tuition fees they will be admitted. Subjects in the test included Mandarin, English, mathematics, social studies, science and writing. Test anxiety was measured by the examination stress scale.

Findings include:

  • The overall relationship between text-anxiety and learning achievement in high-stakes testing was positive (r =+0.18).
  • Lower levels of test-anxiety were found among high-achievement and low-achievement pupils while higher levels of test-anxiety were found among moderate-achievement pupils.
  • For higher achievement pupils, the relationship between text-anxiety and achievement in high-stakes testing was found to be negative (r = -0.16), while for the group of pupils with lower achievement, a positive relationship was found (r= +0.22).

Source: Reexamining the relationship between test anxiety and learning achievement: An individual-differences perspective (July 2016), Contemporary Educational Pyschology, Volume 46

Focus on early maths to raise standards

East Asian countries dominate international standardised tests in mathematics. This new working paper, produced by the Institute of Education, compares English children with those from Japan, Singapore, Taiwan, and Hong Kong, to see how their performance changes between the ages of 10 and 16.

The results suggest that, although average maths test scores are higher in the East Asian countries, the achievement gap does not increase between ages 10 and 16. The conclusion is that policy makers should concentrate on reforms at pre-school and primary level if English children are to catch up. Although they do not believe that reforming secondary education is the answer, the authors do note that there is also a need to ensure that English high achievers manage to keep pace with the highest achieving pupils in other countries during secondary school via, for instance, gifted and talented schemes.

Source: The Mathematics Skills of Schoolchildren: How Does England Compare to the High Performing East Asian Jurisdictions? (2013), Institute of Education