Automaticity and motivation’s effects on reading comprehension

As struggling readers get older and the words they read get longer, the effort it takes them to decode longer words interferes with their reading comprehension. Jessica Toste and colleagues conducted a study examining the effects of an intervention designed to develop multisyllabic word reading (MWR) automaticity via repeated exposure to multisyllabic words in isolation and in context.

Fifty-nine struggling third and fourth grade pupils (Years 4 and 5) in two charter schools located in a large city in the southwestern US were randomly assigned to one of three groups: MWR only (n=18), MWR with motivational beliefs (MB) training (n=19), or business as usual (22). No significant differences in reading comprehension or motivational beliefs were found at pretest.

In groups of two to three pupils, the MWR and MWR + MB groups received tutoring sessions in reading for forty minutes a week, three times a week for eight weeks in addition to their regular reading lessons. The MWR + MB group also received five minutes of motivational learning each session, while the MWR-only group practised maths facts for their final five minutes. The MWR lessons consisted of seven components, starting with repeated reading of vowel patterns and progressing to target words in paragraphs. The MB component added self-reflection, positive self-talk and eliminating negative thoughts throughout the lesson.

Results showed that pupils in both MWR groups performed better than the control group at posttest on word fluency measures and performed moderately better than the controls on phonemic decoding, letter-word ID and word-attack subtests. The MWR + MB group had higher scores than the MWR group solely on sentence-level comprehension, but had higher scores than controls on the attributions for success subscale, meaning they were more likely to attribute success to internal causes like effort rather than external factors like luck. MWR + MB did not outperform MWR on motivational measures. The authors conclude that developing automaticity in multi-syllable word reading and motivation’s effect on reading comprehension are both promising interventions to develop MWR.

Source: Multisyllabic word-reading instruction with and without motivational beliefs training for struggling readers in the upper elementary grades: A pilot investigation (June 2017), The Elementary School Journal 117, no. 4

Are classroom management programmes effective?

Ada Chukwudozie and Howard White at The Campbell Collaboration have prepared a new summary of a previously published systematic review of teacher classroom management practices.

The review examined the effects of teacher classroom management programmes on disruptive or aggressive pupil behaviour and sought to identify which management components were most effective. Examples of the classroom management programmes included COMP (Classroom Organization and Management Program) and the Good Behaviour Game.

A total of 12 studies were included in the review. These studies reported on public school general education classes with pupils from Kindergarten to  12th grade (Years 1 to 13). Effectiveness studies had to use a valid experimental or quasi-experimental design with control groups to be included in the review.

According to the summary, multi-component classroom management programmes had a significant positive effect in decreasing aggressive or problematic behaviour in the classroom. Results showed that pupils in the treatment classrooms in all 12 studies reviewed showed less disruptive or problematic behaviors when compared to pupils in control classrooms without the intervention.

The summary notes that it was not possible to make any conclusions regarding which components of the management programmes were most effective due to small sample size and lack of information reported in the studies reviewed.

Source: Effective multi-component classroom management programmes seem to improve student behavior in the classroom but further research is needed (2017) The Campbell Collaboration.

Social media and children’s mental health

In a new report from the Education Policy Institute, Emily Firth has examined the evidence of the impact of using social media on young people’s mental health and emotional well-being.

One of the key findings from the report is evidence of a beneficial impact. This is because young people can connect with others to improve their social skills online, develop their character and resilience and collaborate on school projects. In the recent PISA well-being survey of 15-year-olds, 90.5% of boys and 92.3% of girls in the UK agreed or strongly agreed with the statement “It is very useful to have social networks on the internet”. Also, importantly, those with mental health problems are able to use the internet to seek support, either through social media networks or through the online provision of advice and counseling support. For example, 78% of young people contacting the organisation Childline now do so online.

However, the report also highlights several negative effects on the well-being of young people linked with social media, including cyber-bullying, concerns about excessive use and sharing of private information and harmful content. It also finds that attempts to restrict children’s internet access are likely to be counterproductive as they hinder the development of vital skills needed to counter such risks. Rather than seeking to protect young people from all online risks­, the report calls on policy makers to promote proactive measures that build resilience in children, in order to help them lead safe digital lives.

Source: Social media and children’s mental health: a review of the evidence (June 2017) Education Policy Institute

Pupils may do better on tests if they can go back and check their work

Joseph Hardcastle and colleagues conducted a study to compare pupil performance on computer-based tests (CBT) and traditional paper-and-pencil tests (PPT). More than 30,000 pupils in grades 4–12 (Years 5–13) were assessed on their understanding of energy using three testing systems: a paper and pencil test; a computer-based test that allowed pupils to skip items and move freely through the test; or a CBT that did not allow pupils to return to previous questions.

Overall, the results showed that being able to skip through questions, and review and change previous answers, could benefit younger pupils. Elementary (Years 5 and 6) and middle school (Years 7–9) pupils scored lower on a CBT that did not allow them to return to previous items than on a comparable computer-based test that allowed them to skip, review, and change previous responses. Elementary pupils also scored slightly higher on a CBT that allowed them to go back to previous answers than on the PPT, but there was no significant difference for middle school pupils on those two types of tests. High school pupils (Years 10–13) showed no difference in their performance on the three types of tests.

Gender was found to have little influence on a pupil’s performance on PPT or CBT; however, pupils whose primary language was not English had lower performance on both CBTs compared with the PPT.

Source: Comparing student performance on paper-and-pencil and computer-based-tests. Paper presented at the 2017 AERA Annual Meeting, 30 April 2017. American Association for the Advancement of Sciences.

Positive results for early language and pre-literacy intervention

A new study published in Child Development has found positive results for an intervention designed to improve early language and pre-literacy skills in children in Denmark.

Dorthe Bleses and colleagues conducted a randomised controlled trial of three variations of SPELL (Structured Preschool Efforts in Language and Literacy), to evaluate to what extent the intervention increased children’s language and pre-literacy skills compared to business as usual. SPELL, which is a Danish version of an existing programme, Read it Again-PreK!, is a 20-week storybook-based intervention for children aged  three- to six-years-old. Twice a week, children receive 30-minute lessons in small groups which include a before, during, and after reading activity to address the lesson’s objectives, which is delivered via an iPad-based digital learning technology.

For the trial, 6,483 children from 144 childcare settings were randomly assigned to one of three variations of SPELL, or continued with business as usual. Pre- to post-test comparisons showed an impact of all three interventions for literacy skills (effect sizes = +0.21 to +0.27) but not language skills (+0.04 to +0.16), with little difference among the three variations.

Source: The effectiveness of a large-scale language and preliteracy intervention: The SPELL randomized controlled trial in Denmark (2017), Child Development doi:10.1111/cdev.12859

Screen time or story time?

A new article published in Frontiers of Psychology analyses differences in parent-child talk and reading behaviour when reading print versus electronic versions of the same books.

Parents of 102 children aged 17-26 months from Toronto, Canada, were randomly assigned to read either two electronic books or two print format books with their child. The books had identical content, but while the parent read the words in the print books aloud, the electronic books had an automatic voiceover. After reading, the children were asked to identify an animal presented in the books. Children who read the e-book made more correct choices.

Gabrielle Strouse and Patricia Ganea found that parents who read the print books pointed more frequently to pages than parents who read the electronic books. But the opposite was true for the children. Parents and children spent almost twice as much time reading the electronic books as the print format books. Children who were read the electronic books paid more attention, made themselves more available for reading, participated in more page turns, and produced more content-related comments during reading than those who were read the print format books.

The researchers point out that while increased engagement does not always translate into increased learning, the positive engagement and content-related language observed in the children who were read the electronic books suggests they have a role in supporting learning for younger children. However, more work should be done to identify the potential benefits and hazards.

Source: Parent-toddler behavior and language differ when reading electronic and print picture books (May 2017), Frontiers in Psychology 8:677