Harnessing grammar: Weaving words and shaping texts

The Department for Education’s Schools Research News has picked up on an article in a recent issue of Better: Evidence-based Education that has already proved popular with readers. It summarised research by the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Writing at the University of Exeter, which has developed and tested an intervention that aims to improve secondary pupils’ use and knowledge of grammar by embedding grammar teaching as part of writing lessons.

The study showed strong evidence for the beneficial impact of teaching writing in this way. However, the intervention was most effective with able writers, while for some less able writers it had a negative effect. This could be because the language used, and the needs addressed, were more relevant to able writers.

Source: Harnessing Grammar: Weaving words and shaping texts (2011), Better: Evidence-based Education, 3(2).

Preventing or reducing socio-emotional problems in adolescents

Which programmes help adolescents struggling with social-emotional problems? Child Trends examined the effectiveness of 37 intervention programmes designed to prevent or treat internalising problems for adolescents (“internalising problems” are defined as problems or disorders of emotion or mood caused by difficulties regulating negative emotion).

Findings showed that programmes are most effective when they build cognitive behavioural skills (such as redirecting negative or self-defeating thoughts), build behavioural coping skills for developing healthy responses to stress, and teach social skills for improving interpersonal relationships and self-efficacy. Therapeutic approaches, such as family therapy, group therapy, individual therapy, and treatment-focused, school-based approaches were also shown to be effective.

Source: Research: What works to prevent or reduce internalizing problems or socio-emotional difficulties in adolescents (2012), National Adolescent and Young Adult Health Information Center 

Evaluating reading coach quality

A study from the RAND Corporation examines what makes for good reading coaches and coaching. The study included 113 schools from 8 districts in Florida. All used reading coaches to work with school staff to improve their reading teaching and leadership skills. The data showed no relationship between teacher and principal perceptions of coach quality and students’ reading achievement.

The researchers suggest that being an effective literacy coach may require more than content-area expertise and experience teaching children. They identify “understanding how to support adult learners” as a key area of expertise that was sometimes lacking with the coaches in the study.

Source: Reading Coach Quality: Findings from Florida Middle Schools (2012), Literacy Research and Instruction, 51(1).

Do summer schools help to widen participation in higher education?

The Sutton Trust has run summer schools aimed at Year 12 pupils from a “non-traditional HE background” since 1997. Around 10,000 young people have participated in the scheme, which aims to widen participation in higher education.

A new report from the University of Bristol looked at young people’s subsequent applications and registrations to universities. It found that the summer schools are effective in generating proportionately more UCAS applications and registrations from attendees. Underprivileged students are less likely to target the more elite universities, but the summer school helped to reduce this difference.

Source: The impact of the Sutton Trust’s summer schools on subsequent higher education participation: a report to the Sutton Trust (2011), Sutton Trust

Time to think about prevention

Should we put a fence at the top of the hill or an ambulance at the bottom? Instead, how about an ounce of prevention? That is the topic of a recent blog post from Robert Slavin, Director of the Institute for Effective Education.

On his new Education Week blog, “Sputnik: Advancing Education through Innovation and Evidence,” he writes, “There are good reasons to invest in proven educational programs at all levels and in all subjects, but when proven programs also reduce government expenditures within a few years, even the most bottom-line oriented administrator or legislator should see the need to invest in proven prevention”.

Source: Why not an ounce of prevention? (2012), Education Week (Sputnik Blog)