Education fashions detrimental to research

Fashions and fads in education are a real problem in terms of evidence-based practice, says the IEE’s Robert Slavin on his blog. Without an evidence base, policies and practice swing between enthusiasms and no progress is made.

Fashions can even have an impact on commissioned research. Many evaluations are of government policies, but these have often gone out of favour by the time the research is published. He does offer a solution: “ have a wide array of research going on at all times that is creating and evaluating promising solutions to longstanding problems”.

Source: Stop the pendulum, I want to get off (2011), Education Week (Sputnik Blog)

Are standards slipping?

The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) has shown a decline in the relative performance of England’s secondary pupils. Although this has been a concern to policy makers (and others) a new report from the Institute of Education argues that policy decisions should not be made on PISA findings alone. It suggests that England’s drop in the PISA ranking is not replicated in another major assessment, Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS). The author, John Jerrim, argues that there are possible data limitations in both surveys.

Source: England’s “plummeting” PISA test scores between 2000 and 2009: Is the performance of our secondary school pupils really in relative decline? (2011), Department of Quantitative Social Science

Keep your eye on the ball

Major football tournaments can be a serious distraction for some pupils, particularly during critical exam periods. A study by the Centre for Market and Public Organisation, published to coincide with the draw for next summer’s UEFA European football championship, found that some pupils perform less well in their GCSEs in years when there is a major international football tournament taking place. The effect was particularly noticeable for boys, and pupils from poorer areas, groups that are already lower performers on average.

Source: Student effort and educational attainment: Using the England football team to identify the education production function (2011), The Centre for Market and Public Organisation,

Fitness is related to academic performance

new report has shown that school pupils’ fitness is strongly related to their academic performance. The association is strongest during the early secondary years, and cardiovascular fitness made the most difference. The study, in the Journal of School Health, looked at over 250,000 pupils’ academic and fitness records, and recommends that schools should consider increasing PE time, and that PE teachers should emphasise cardiovascular fitness.

Source: Associations of physical fitness and academic performance among schoolchildren (2011), Journal of School Health, 81(12).

UK disappoints on social mobility

A report by the Sutton Trust, which compared social mobility in several countries, found that the UK performs poorly.

The key findings of the report were that:

  • Gaps in school readiness in England between disadvantaged children and their counterparts were wider than in similar countries, such as Canada and Australia, but narrower than the United States.
  • Formal preschool education can have lasting effects in reducing the educational gap between high and low income children.
  • Disparities in early child outcomes persist into adolescence.
  • Unlike other countries, the achievement gap in England actually widens in secondary school.
  • None of the countries in the study reduce the disparity as children age.

The report concludes that addressing the social stratification in secondary schools remains one of the key challenges for improving social mobility in the UK.

Source: Latest research report: what prospects for mobility in the UK? A cross-national study of educational inequalities and their implications for future education and earnings mobility (2011), Sutton Trust

CPD to improve vocabulary teaching

The latest issue of Better: Evidence-based Education includes an article on using Teacher Study Groups to improve vocabulary teaching. This new approach to professional development for teaching vocabulary, uses year level team meetings as a forum for new learning and enhancing existing curricula to conform to evidence-based principles. This approach can lead to enhanced outcomes in vocabulary, and significant change in teaching practice.

Source: Improving vocabulary teaching through teacher study groups (2011), Better: Evidence-based Education, 4(1).