Excellent teaching needs political support

In the latest edition of Better: Evidence-based Education, Estelle Morris explores the interdependent relationship between education and politics. Looking forward, she describes the levers that are increasingly recognised as the way to ensure the education system delivers high standards for all pupils, with pedagogical change being the most important. She wants to see research brought to the fore, with better access to research for teachers and an improved relationship between politicians and education researchers.

Source: Managing change – The relationship between education and politics (2012), Better: Evidence-based Education, 4(2)

Professional development and high-stakes testing

This study, published in the International Journal of Science and Mathematics Education, examines the relationship between primary teacher participation in a multi-year professional development (CPD) effort and “high stakes” science test scores. 

A total of 1,269 US primary school teachers participated in the CPD programme, which utilised regional summer workshops and distance education to help the teachers learn science concepts, inquiry teaching strategies, and how to adapt science inquiry lessons to teach and reinforce skills in English lessons. Findings of the study showed that there was a significant positive relationship between the CPD hours experienced by the teachers and pupil gains.

Source: How much professional development is needed to effect positive gains in K-6 student achievement on high stakes science tests? (2012), International Journal of Science and Mathematics Education, 10(1)

What does the latest research say about head teachers?

This research brief from the RAND Corporation presents a summary of research on first-year principals’ (head teachers in the UK) experiences, actions, working conditions, and outcomes. It was created to inform efforts to promote school improvement and principal retention. To complete their study, RAND researchers looked at the experiences of first-year principals in six districts across the US. Findings included:

  • More than a fifth of first-year principals left their school within two years;
  • Schools that lost a principal after one year underperformed the following year;
  • The quality of principals’ actions was more relevant to outcomes than the amount of time devoted to the actions;
  • Greater teacher capacity and cohesiveness were related to better pupil outcomes; and
  • Principals’ personnel management skills are important.

Source: Challenges and opportunities facing principals in the first year at a school (2012), RAND Corporation

Success for group-based parenting programmes

A new systematic review has shown that group-based parenting programmes can improve children’s behaviour problems in the short-term, as well as developing positive parenting skills and reducing parental anxiety, stress, and depression.

The review, which was produced for the Cochrane Collaboration, also concluded that these programmes were cost-effective when compared to the long-term social, educational, and legal costs associated with childhood conduct problems. The review was based on trials involving more than 1,000 participants in total.

Source: Behavioural and cognitive-behavioural group-based parenting programmes for early-onset conduct problems in children aged 3 to 12 years (2012), Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews

Invest early, but use evidence

Researchers from the NFER have been looking at early intervention, that is, approaches delivered “early in the life of a problem, or when children are younger”. This study, which is the fourth in a series for the Local Government Association, found that such approaches can have greater benefits in the long term and therefore be more cost effective.

But it highlighted the need for programmes to be evidence-based, and for these to be delivered with fidelity to the programme’s design. The authors emphasise that more work is needed to improve the evidence that is available, especially information about cost-effectiveness. Meanwhile, the Department for Education has announced the next steps in the creation of the Early Intervention Foundation, which will provide advice and support on issues relating to early intervention.

Source: Early intervention: informing local practise (2012), National Foundation for Educational Research

Evidence, evidence, evidence

In a recent speech, and an article in The Times, Shadow Education Secretary, Stephen Twigg MP, has outlined his commitment to “evidence, evidence, evidence”.

He proposes the creation of an “Office for Educational Improvement, independent of ministers, along the lines of the Office for Budgetary Responsibility that was set up by this Government.”

Mentioning the Coalition for Evidence-based Education (CEBE), he notes that “Teachers rarely have time to look at research and academics don’t always see the relevance of their work to the classroom so I will look at how we can work with organisations such as [CEBE].”

CEBE is an alliance of researchers, policy makers, and practitioners who share an interest in reforming the way research evidence is used in policy and practice.

Source: Evidence, not dogma: a smart way to raise education standards (2012), Labour