An integrated approach to science and literacy

This research article from the Journal of Research in Science Teaching investigates the effectiveness of an integrated science and literacy approach at primary school level. Teachers in 94 fourth-grade (Year 5) classrooms in one US Southern state participated.

Half of the teachers in the study taught an integrated science and literacy unit on light and energy, which was designed using a curriculum model that engages pupils in reading text, writing notes and reports, conducting first-hand investigations, and frequently discussing key concepts and processes to acquire inquiry skills and knowledge about science concepts. The other half of the teachers taught a content-comparable science-only unit on light and energy and provided their regular literacy instruction.

Results of the study showed that pupils in the integrated science and literacy group made significantly greater improvement in science understanding, science vocabulary, and science writing. Pupils in both groups made comparable improvements in science reading.

Source: The impact of an integrated approach to science and literacy in elementary school classrooms (2012), Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 49(5)

Does arts engagement work to increase student achievement?

This report from the US National Endowment for the Arts looks at correlations between arts activity among at-risk youth and subsequent levels of academic performance and civic engagement. Data was pulled from four large-scale, longitudinal studies that tracked a nationally representative sample of children and/or teenagers over time.

The following key findings emerged:

  • Socially and economically disadvantaged children and teenagers who have high levels of arts engagement or arts learning show more positive outcomes in a variety of areas than their low-arts-engaged peers;
  • At-risk teenagers or young adults with a history of intensive arts experiences show achievement levels closer to, and in some cases exceeding, the levels shown by the general population studied; and
  • Most of the positive relationships between arts involvement and academic outcomes apply only to at-risk populations (low socio-economic status). But positive relationships between arts and civic engagement are noted in higher socio-economic status groups as well.

Source: The arts and achievement in at-risk youth: Findings from four longitudinal studies (2012), National Endowment for the Arts

Are local authorities the ‘missing link’?

Local authorities could be the missing link in a system of autonomous schools, according to two research reports into effective school improvement published by the Association of Directors of Children’s Services. Both reports highlight concerns among head teachers, governors and local government officials that there are risks involved in increasing school autonomy. They identify where local authorities have been successful in supporting school improvement in the past, and how that work is changing in response to national policy and budget restrictions. In particular, the reports explore:

  • What are the characteristics of an effective local authority school improvement service?
  • What are the implications for school improvement of increased numbers of academies and free schools?
  • What kind of middle tier is needed for the next five years?
  • How will local authorities need to change if they are to fulfil that role?

They include case studies of successful local authorities and examples of the different models of school engagement that are emerging.

Source: The missing link: The evolving role of the local authority in school improvement (2012), ADCS

Entrepreneurship education in European schools

Europe faces a number of challenges that can only be met if it has innovative, well-educated, and entrepreneurial citizens, according to the Eurydice Network, which surveyed entrepreneurship studies in primary and secondary education in 31 European countries. Their analysis is divided into four areas:

  • National strategies and action plans to encourage the integration of entrepreneurship education;
  • How entrepreneurship education is currently being addressed;
  • Specific learning outcomes defined for entrepreneurship education and practical guidelines to support teachers; and
  • Initiatives to promote entrepreneurship education and current educational reforms on the subject.

The results of the survey show that two-thirds of European countries incorporate entrepreneurship education into the curriculum at primary education level, but that this changes significantly in secondary education, where virtually all countries integrate it into the curriculum in some form.

Source: Entrepreneurship education at school in Europe: National strategies, curricula and learning outcomes (2012), Eurydice

The costs and benefits of education interventions

A new series of publications aims to provide independent investment advice for children’s services. Launched last Friday Investing in Children, from the Social Research Unit at Dartington, will publish reports on the effectiveness, and cost-effectiveness, of programmes and approaches. The reports look at the financial costs of particular interventions, the financial benefits to taxpayers and participants, and the risk that an approach might not be successful. The first two reports look at interventions for early years and education, and youth justice. In the early years and education report, programmes rated include Reading Recovery, Success for All and Life Skills Training.

Source: Investing in Children

The effectiveness of education technology for enhancing maths achievement

Findings of this review of research into the effects of technology use on mathematics achievement suggest that educational technology applications produce a positive but small effect. This review was completed in 2011, but a new educator’s summary has been posted that presents the findings in a more accessible form.

The review, from the Johns Hopkins School of Education’s Center for Research and Reform in Education, examines three major categories of education technology:

  • comprehensive models, which use computer-assisted teaching alongside non-computer activities;
  • supplemental computer-assisted teaching programmes, which provide individualised computer-assisted instruction to supplement traditional classroom teaching; and
  • a computer-managed learning programme, Accelerated Math.

All three were found to produce a positive effect on mathematics achievement, with supplemental computer-assisted teaching programmes having the largest effect. The review concludes that educational technology is making some difference in mathematics learning, but new and better tools are needed to harness the power of technology to further enhance mathematics achievement for all students.

Source: The effectiveness of educational technology applications for enhancing mathematics achievement: A meta-analysis (2012), Best Evidence Encyclopedia