A boost to maths learning at our fingertips?

The development of multi-touch surfaces has created opportunities for learning, including touchscreen desks. Researchers from Durham University have been exploring collaborative learning in mathematics using these desks. They created a group and whole-class multi-touch activity, called NumberNet, and, in this article in Learning and Instruction, they describe their research into its effectiveness.

In particular, they wanted to know whether it improved pupils’ mathematical fluency and flexibility. Results from their quasi-experimental study of 86 pupils (44 using NumberNet, 42 using a paper-based comparison activity) indicated that while all pupils increased in fluency after completing these activities, pupils who used NumberNet also increased in flexibility.

Source: Collaborative learning with multi-touch technology: Developing adaptive expertise (2012), Learning and Instruction, 25

Children who learn to read later do catch up

A new article in Early Childhood Research Quarterly shows that by age 10, children who had learned to read at seven (in Steiner schools) had caught up with those learning to read at five. Later starters had no long-term disadvantages.

The article presents the results of two New Zealand studies, one employing three pairs of longitudinal samples and the other cross-sectional, spanning the first six years of school, for pupils who learned to read at either five or seven years. Analyses accounted for receptive vocabulary, reported parental income and education, school/community affluence, classroom teaching, home literacy environment, reading self-concept, and age.

Source: Children learning to read later catch up to children reading earlier (2012), Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 28(1)

What do we know about well-being?

The Department for Education’s Childhood Wellbeing Research Centre has published a new review of evidence on well-being and learning. Their starting point was that, although previous literature suggests a link, less is known about how multiple dimensions of well-being (emotional, behavioural, social, school) predict later educational outcomes. The authors conducted a review of relevant literature, as well as using data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC). Key findings included:

  • Children with higher levels of emotional, behavioural, social, and school well-being, on average, have higher levels of academic achievement and are more engaged in school;
  • As children move through the school system, emotional and behavioural well-being become more important in explaining school engagement, while demographic and other characteristics become less important; and
  • The relationships between emotional, behavioural, social, and school well-being and later educational outcomes are generally similar for children and adolescents, regardless of their gender and parents’ educational level.

Source: The impact of pupil behaviour and wellbeing on educational outcomes (2012), Department for Education

Does happiness make you rich?

A new article published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) has found that happy people tend to earn more. The authors used data from a large representative panel in the US, and looked at earnings approximately ten years after well-being was measured.

 They found that adolescents and young adults who reported higher life satisfaction grew up to earn significantly higher levels of income later in life. This conclusion takes into account the possibility that people may imagine their future high socioeconomic status and that this might have a positive impact on their current well-being. Other factors, such as education, intelligence, physical health, and height were also taken into account in the analysis.

Source: Estimating the influence of life satisfaction and positive affect on later income using sibling fixed effects (2012), PNAS

We need more evidence on writing

Students perform less well in writing than in reading, maths, and science at Key Stages 1 and 2. A new review from the Department for Education synthesises the existing evidence from the UK and abroad, in and out of school, and for both primary and secondary pupils. It covers achievement, effective teaching, the gender gap, pupils’ attitudes, and writing as an activity outside school.

The review looks at “what works” in the classroom. Techniques that have been proven to be effective include teaching students to write for a variety of purposes, teaching the writing process, and providing daily time to write. Approaches that are effective for specific groups, such as boys and students with special education needs and disabilities, are also analysed. The review also looks at factors outside the classroom, for example, attainment in writing in the early years can be predicted by mother’s education, family size, parental assessment of the child’s writing ability, and a measure of home writing activities. However, the review highlights that there are evidence gaps in terms of specific interventions that can help students with writing, and on the effectiveness of teaching spelling. There is also little evidence on writing in studies of international comparisons.

The issue of Better on English (Winter 2013) included an article by Debra Myhill on the importance of teaching grammar, while a recent study by the IEE has shown how hand-held technology can help to improve primary pupils’ learning of grammar.

Sources: What is the research evidence on writing? (2012) Department for Education

Effects of technology-enhanced formative assessment on achievement in primary grammar (2012), Institute for Effective Education

Supporting students around the world

This systematic review from the Campbell Collaboration explores the question: “What are the effects of interventions implemented in developing countries on measures of students’ enrolment, attendance, graduation, and progression?” To be included in the review, studies had to meet certain research criteria; for example, studies had to use a randomised controlled trial (with or without baseline control), or a quasi-experimental approach in which baseline controls on main outcomes were included. The final sample included 73 experiments and quasi-experiments. The most common interventions were conditional cash transfers, funding or grants to communities, school breakfasts or lunches, or remedial education or tutoring.

Results showed that the average effects across four main outcome areas (school enrolment, attendance, dropout, or progression) were all positive and statistically significant, although effects on enrolment, attendance, and progression were larger than those on dropout. Results also indicated positive and statistically significant effects for maths achievement and language achievement, but there was no evidence of effects on standardised test scores or other achievement outcomes.

Overall, the authors note that the effects were relatively small in magnitude. They say that “despite the statistical significance of the findings for the main outcomes, most of the effects are equivalent to about 3-9% improvements in the intervention versus control groups.”

Source: Interventions in developing nations for improving primary and secondary school enrollment of children: A systematic review (2012), Campbell Systematic Reviews