Comprehension Circuit Training delivered via tablet shows reading benefits

Comprehension Circuit Training (CCT) is a programme for teenagers designed to improve reading comprehension through a set of circuit-like exercises in pre-reading, reading, and after-reading to improve foundational reading skills and text-processing abilities. A recent randomised study investigated the effects of CCT delivered electronically via tablet on the reading comprehension of struggling teenage readers.

Three schools in Texas in the US, involving 3 teachers and 228 struggling sixth- to eighth-graders (Years 7–9), participated in this study. Using a within-teacher design, middle school teachers’ reading intervention classes were randomly assigned to electronic CCT (n=9 classes, 112 pupils) or business as usual (n=7 classes, 116 pupils). All pupils had failed to score at the “proficient” level on the prior year’s state reading assessment, and no significant pre-test differences were found between the two groups. CCT pupils received 39 e-CCT lessons in word reading, vocabulary, and reading comprehension that were organised into ten levels delivered in a standard sequence. Each 50-minute lesson contained four video-instruction components – an Opening Comprehension Circuit, WarmUp Station, Reading Core Station, and Knowledge Flex Station – delivered three days a week via Apple iPad. After video instruction, pupils partnered to practice lesson content, with teacher-led assessment occurring in the Knowledge Flex Station.

Results showed statistically significant effects in favour of the experimental group on post-test measures of reading comprehension, vocabulary, and silent reading efficiency. Pupils who entered with lower-level reading comprehension showed the greatest gains.

Source: Impact of a technology-mediated reading intervention on adolescents’ reading comprehension. Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness, Vol. 10, 2.

Predicting success in STEM

The Regional Educational Laboratory Southwest has conducted a literature review to determine what predictors from primary school of postsecondary STEM success have been identified in peer-reviewed studies, with a focus on predictors for Hispanic students.

The review defined postsecondary STEM success as enrollment in, persistence in, and completion of postsecondary STEM majors or degrees. Twenty-three relevant studies were identified, but only four examined factors predictive of success specifically for Hispanic students.
Key findings from the review included:

  • The number of high school maths and science courses taken and the level of those courses predict postsecondary STEM success for all student subgroups, but racial/ethnic minority students were less likely than White students to take the highest level maths and science courses.
  • Interest or confidence in STEM showed statistically significant predictive relationships with students’ postsecondary STEM success, and the relationships were evident as early as middle school. Racial/ethnic minority and White students had similar interest and confidence in STEM.
  • Statistically significant high school predictors of postsecondary STEM success included schools’ academic rigour, percentage of students enrolled in college preparatory programmes, students’ satisfaction with their teachers, and levels of parent participation.

Source: A Review of the Literature to Identify Leading Indicators Related to Hispanic STEM Postsecondary Educational Outcomes (2016), Regional Educational Laboratory Southwest.

Trends in our schools

The Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology has produced a new briefing on trends in compulsory education across the whole of the UK, as well as the factors shaping these trends.

Using a broad raft of data, combined with previous research, they identified five trends.

  1. Changes in the attainment gap between different pupil groups. Although comparing data from different nations within the UK is problematic, the authors conclude that the largest attainment gap is between pupils from different socio-economic backgrounds – bigger than both the largest ethnic minority gap and gender gap.
  2. Rising pupil numbers. Pupil numbers have increased across the UK as a whole in recent years, although they are falling in secondary schools in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
  3. Decreasing numbers of people entering initial teacher training. The number of people entering training has been declining at secondary level in England, Scotland, and Wales since 2005/06 (data could not be identified for Northern Ireland). However, with the exception of Wales, the ratio of pupils to teachers has remained constant across the UK at all levels.
  4. The growing use of technology. Although technology is increasingly being adopted in classroom, research has shown that this does not in itself improve learning. The authors suggest one of the most promising ways in which technology could benefit teaching and learning is through changes to assessment.
  5. Changing levels of school autonomy and diversity. Schools in England have more autonomy from local authorities than in other UK nations, and there is a greater diversity of types of school.

The report also identified three key factors shaping these trends: population growth, inequality, and the changing labour market (particularly in terms of concerns about whether schools are providing children with the right knowledge and skills for the labour market of the future).

Source: Trends in Compulsory Education (2015), Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology.

Counting the benefits of new maths app

A new iPad app designed to bring maths into children’s homes through story time has led to improvements in achievement, according to new research published in Science. The results were particularly significant for children whose parents were anxious about the subject.

In Chicago, 587 families with a child aged 6 or 7 were recruited into the study. All were given an iPad mini and asked to use an app called Bedtime Learning Together (BLT) several times a week over the course of a school year. Of the families in the project, 420 were randomly assigned to use a maths version of the app, and 167 to a control group using a reading version. In each case, children and their parents were asked to read passages and answer corresponding questions that ranged in difficulty. Families could answer as many questions as they wanted during each interaction with the app.

The authors were able to track how often parents used the app with their children. In addition, each child’s maths achievement was assessed at school in a one-to-one session with a trained research assistant, using the Woodcock-Johnson Applied Problems scale, both at the beginning of the trial (before the iPads were distributed) and at the end of the school year.

The authors found that the maths intervention significantly increased children’s maths achievement across the school year compared to the reading control group, especially for children whose parents were habitually anxious about maths. Using the reading app did not have the same effect on maths achievement, showing that it was not academic engagement with parents in general that increased maths achievement, but engagement with maths content specifically.

The authors attribute the success of this app to its simplicity (avoiding distracting elements), and being designed to be used by parents and children together (based on the importance of early parental input, and specifically parent maths talk, for children’s achievement).

Source: Math at Home Adds up to Achievement in School (2015), Science, 350(6257).

Is technology improving outcomes?

A new report from PISA looks at how education systems and schools are integrating technology into learning experiences, and with what results.

The findings, taken from the 2012 OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), show that young people in general have very high levels of access to computers. A total of 96% of 15-year-olds in the OECD countries/economies reported that they had a computer at home, and 72% reported computer access at school.

But has accessibility made a difference to learning outcomes? The findings of this report indicate that pupils who use computers very frequently at school do a lot worse in most learning outcomes; that pupils in countries/economies that have invested heavily in technology showed no appreciable improvements in reading, maths, or science achievement; and that in places where it is common for pupils to use the internet at school for homework, pupils’ performance in reading declined between 2000 and 2012. However, pupils who used computers “moderately” at school tended to have somewhat better learning outcomes than those who used them rarely.

The authors also explore the “digital divide.” They say that as the gap in access to digital media and resources closes, research has started to focus on what people do with it, and this still depends on factors such as reading skills and social support. The report found that in general disadvantaged pupils preferred chat over email. Also, while in most countries/economies there were no differences related to socio-economic status in the use of video games, the influence of socio-economic status was strong when it came to reading news or obtaining practical information from the internet.

Source: Students, Computers and Learning: Making the Connection (2015), OECD.

Tech for tots

This report from the RAND Corporation identifies goals for technology use in early education. The information is based on findings from a literature review and a May forum that RAND hosted on the topic. The authors say that trends in US education suggest that young children may need to achieve basic digital literacy before starting kindergarten (Year 1), and the presence of a digital divide suggests that children from low-income families may need the most support to ensure readiness in digital literacy (see the previous story for research on technology for at-risk pupils). Based on their research, the authors present the following recommendations:

  • Technology is one of many tools: When technology is used as one tool in a larger toolbox, it can provide the greatest benefits while continuing to allow for the use of other learning tools and activities when they are likely to be most effective in supporting skill growth.
  • Support school readiness in digital literacy: With increasing standards for technology use in US elementary schools, forum experts agreed that all children, particularly those from deprived families, could benefit from acquiring basic technology literacy skills in early childhood education (ECE) settings to ensure readiness for technology use in the classroom.
  • Help narrow the digital divide: Technology use in ECE settings has the potential to address both aspects of the digital divide: access and use. In ECE settings, children from low-income families can access technology that is not available in the home, and they can be taught to use technology in ways that are more likely to result in skill growth and learning, thereby addressing disparities in use.
  • Expand resources for providers and families: Goals for technology use in ECE settings need not focus exclusively on use among children, as there are many ways that technology can be used to support providers and families as they, in turn, support the education of young children.

Source: Getting on the Same Page: Identifying Goals for Technology Use in Early Childhood Education (2014), RAND Corporation.