Pupil awareness of the costs and benefits of university

A Centre for the Economics of Education Discussion Paper looks at what impact an information campaign and media reporting on university tuition fees had on pupils’ understanding of the costs and benefits of university.

Participating Year 10 pupils completed a survey about the cost and benefits of higher education, followed by a similar survey eight to 12 weeks later. In between the two surveys treatment schools were given information packages about the costs and benefits of staying in education. Control schools were given this after the second survey. At the time of the study the increase in tuition fees was announced, so the researchers also measured the impact of media reporting on both groups.

Their analysis showed that pupils had significant gaps in their basic knowledge of the costs and benefits of going to university, which was influenced by both the information campaign and media reporting. The change to fees, and specifically media reporting of it, increased the perception of going to university as “too expensive” – especially among lower income groups. However, it also showed that a relatively inexpensive and properly directed information campaign can help to mitigate this effect.

Source: Student awareness of costs and benefits of educational decisions: Effects of an information campaign (2012), Centre for the Economics of Education

Traditional teaching methods may be putting off maths pupils

Traditional teaching methods, where the teacher stands at the front and dictates to the class, may be affecting pupils’ attitudes toward maths, suggest researchers at the University of Manchester. The initial findings of the Economics and Social Research Council-funded study were presented at the British Educational Research Association’s annual conference.

More than 13,000 11- to 16-year-old pupils and 128 teachers at 40 secondary schools across England were asked to complete questionnaires detailing the kind of activities they experienced in maths lessons. Traditional activities such as copying the teacher’s notes from the board and being asked questions by the teacher were most frequently cited, ahead of alternative learning approaches such as using media, like magazines and videos, in class. Pupils who reported a more traditional teaching experience in their lessons also named maths as their least favourite subject.

The results of a 2009 review from the Institute for Effective Education,Effective programmes in secondary mathematics, found that the most successful programmes for teaching maths focus on changing daily teaching practices, particularly the use of co-operative learning methods, and encourage pupil interaction.

Sources: What works in teaching maths? (2009), Institute for Effective Education

Teaching and learning practices in secondary mathematics: measuring teaching from teachers’ and students perspectives (2012), Pampaka M, Wo L, Kalambouka A, Qasim S, and Swanson D, presentation at BERA Conference 2012

In case you missed them: two new research reviews

The Institute for Effective Education at the University of York and the Johns Hopkins School of Education’s Center for Research and Reform in Education (CRRE) released two new research reviews over the summer:

Findings from the primary science review support a view that improving outcomes in primary science depends on improving teachers’ skills in presenting lessons, engaging and motivating pupils, and integrating science and reading. Technology applications that help teachers teach more compelling lessons and that use video to reinforce lessons also showed promise.

The technology and struggling readers review found that educational technology applications produced a positive but modest effect on the reading skills of struggling readers in comparison to “business as usual” methods. Among four types of educational technology applications reviewed, small-group integrated applications such as Lindamood Phoneme Sequence Program and Read, Write, and Type produced the largest effect sizes, but these were mostly evaluated in small studies, which tend to overstate programme impacts.

To view these and other reports, visit theBest Evidence Encyclopaedia.

Sources: Effective programmes for primary science (2012), Best Evidence Encyclopedia, Educational technology applications for struggling readers (2012), Best Evidence Encyclopedia

Are pupils paying the price for regulation of teachers’ salaries?

A paper from the Centre for Market and Public Organisation at the University of Bristol investigates the relationship between regulated teacher salaries and school performance and finds that regulated wages could be having a negative impact on pupils’ achievement.

The study analysed school performance data from around 3,000 state secondary schools in England and matched it with data on local wages. They identified a loss of approximately one GCSE point per pupil – the equivalent of dropping one GCSE grade in one subject per pupil – when average outside wages increased by 10 per cent. The study accounted for variances in schools’ intake to allow for different levels of difficulty in educating pupils of varying backgrounds.

Source: Does wage regulation harm kids? Evidence from English schools (2012), Centre for Market and Public Organisation

Employer engagement in schools

The National Foundation for Educational Research has released this report that explores the best available evidence on ways employers engage with schools, the features and principles of successful employer involvement, and the impact of employers’ involvement on young peoples’ progression. Overall, the involvement of employers with schools is considered to be beneficial to all involved; however, there is a lack of evidence on the impact employer involvement has on pupils’ achievement and progression.

  • There are ten key features to successful employer involvement, which include good communication, commitment, flexibility, and a focus on the curriculum.
  • There is some evidence of a positive impact on pupils’ vocational skills, knowledge, and understanding; academic and learning outcomes; health and well-being; and enjoyment and engagement, but a lack of robust evidence on the impact on harder outcomes such as achievement and continuing education.
  • There is little evidence of the impact on specific groups of young people who might be at risk of becoming “NEET” (not in education, employment, or training).

Source: Employer involvement in schools: A rapid review of UK and international evidence (2012), National Foundation for Educational Research

Do scholarships to private primary schools increase college enrolment?

This randomised study examines the post-secondary education (college) enrolment of pupils in New York who participated in a voucher experiment at elementary (primary) school. In the spring of 1997, the New York School Choice Scholarships Foundation Program offered scholarships to low-income families to support their elementary-age children to attend private schools.

For the current study, researchers from the Brown Center on Eduation Policy at the Brookings Institute and Harvard’s Program on Education Policy and Governance obtained pupil information that allowed them to identify over 99 per cent of the pupils who participated in the original experiment and follow up on their college enrolment. Findings showed no overall impacts of the scholarships on college enrolment, but did find large, statistically significant positive impacts on the enrolment rate of African-American pupils in the study. Specifically, the researchers report significant increases in full-time college attendance, enrolment in private four-year colleges, and enrolment in selective four-year colleges for this group of pupils.

Source: The effects of school vouchers on college enrollment: Experimental evidence from New York City (2012), Brookings