What makes for an effective student reward?

A new working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research in the US explores the short-term effects of incentives on student effort and performance, varying the size and type of the rewards as well as how they are presented. As part of the study, field experiments were conducted across multiple years in over 7,000 US elementary and high schools. Findings were as follows:

  • Incentives framed as losses (ie, a reward that is given before an assessment begins that the pupil can keep if they meet the goal, or will have to give back if they don’t) have more robust effects than comparable incentives framed as gains (ie, receiving a reward only after the goal is met).
  • Non-financial incentives (eg, a trophy) are considerably more cost-effective than financial incentives for younger pupils, but were not effective with older pupils.
  • All motivating power of the incentives vanishes when rewards are handed out with a delay rather than immediately. For this study, the delay was one month.

Source: The Behavioralist goes to school: Leveraging behavioral economics to improve educational performance (2012), National Bureau of Economic Research

The effects of a volunteer mentoring programme on reading outcomes

This article from the Journal of Early Childhood Research presents findings of a randomised controlled trial evaluation of the effects of a volunteer mentoring programme on reading outcomes among struggling readers aged eight to nine years. The trial involved children from 50 primary schools who received two 30-minute mentoring sessions per week from volunteer mentors that involved paired reading activities.

The evaluation showed that the programme was effective in improving decoding skills, reading rate, and reading fluency. However, no evidence was found of the programme having an effect on reading comprehension or reading confidence and enjoyment of reading. The findings make an important contribution to the existing evidence in this area, and show that mentoring programmes that use non-specialist volunteers, rather than teachers or highly trained mentors, can be effective in improving some core reading but may be less effective in improving reading comprehension.

Source: The effects of a volunteer mentoring programme on reading outcomes among eight- to nine-year-old children: A follow up randomised controlled trial (2012), Journal of Early Childhood Research, 10(2)

Teaching and Learning Toolkit keeps growing

An expanded version of the Sutton Trust-EEF (Education Endowment Foundation) Teaching and Learning Toolkit is now available, providing guidance for teachers and schools on how to use their resources to improve the achievement of disadvantaged students. This new version has been developed from the “Pupil Premium Toolkit” and provides a summary of educational research on 21 topics in terms of potential impact on attainment, strength of supporting evidence, cost, and applicability.

A new addition to the Teaching and Learning Toolkit is phonics. The approach shows a moderate impact (an average impact of +4 months) for a moderate cost, and good evidence – three or more meta-analyses from well controlled experiments.

Source: Education Endowment Foundation, Sutton Trust

More evidence on persistent poverty and child outcomes

A new research paper for Policy and Politics, co-written by the Institute for Effective Education’s Kathleen Kiernan, provides further evidence that persistent poverty has a greater effect on children’s cognitive development than intermittent poverty. This article uses longitudinal data from the UK Millennium Cohort Study to examine the developmental contexts and outcomes of persistently poor children and identify potential resiliency factors.

The results show that as well as having more disadvantageous developmental contexts, persistently poor children also have worse cognitive and behavioural outcomes than children in poverty for shorter periods. The analyses point to the need for programmes that positively impact on maternal depression and the parent-child relationship which may be particularly important for improving the life chances of these very disadvantaged children.

Source: Persistent poverty and children’s development in the early years of childhood (2013), Policy and Politics, 41(1).

Improving college readiness and enrollment for disadvantaged populations

This paper from the Society for Research on Educational Effectiveness synthesises the evidence on the effectiveness of programmes designed to improve college readiness and enrollment for disadvantaged populations in the US. The purpose of the paper is to provide guidance for policymakers and practitioners implementing college access programmes, and to identify important gaps in the scientific evidence base that warrant further research.

The authors note that their findings are still preliminary. However, they do identify two early conclusions:

  • Measures of completed coursework are the best pre-college predictors of college graduation. The authors encourage evaluators to consider including these outcome measures in their evaluations of college access programmes.
  • The sharp differences in the size of estimated impacts between quasi-experimental designs (QEDs) and randomised controlled trials raise questions about the extent to which QEDs are identifying causal impacts.

Source:Effects of college access programs on college readiness and enrollment: A meta-analysis, Society for Research on Educational Effectiveness

What leads to positive change in teaching practice?

This report presents findings of a National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) study that looks at the research evidence about what leads to positive change in teaching practice in schools.

A literature review, which focused primarily on literature published in English since 2006, identified four factors that affect teaching practice: leadership, planning and preparation, practice development, and monitoring and evaluation. The report also highlights gaps in the evidence that may benefit from further research.

Source: What leads to positive change in teaching practice? (2012), National Foundation for Educational Research