Using pupil data to support teaching

A report from the Institute of Education Sciences has found that an intensive approach to providing support for using pupil data to inform teaching did not improve pupil achievement, perhaps because the approach did not change teachers’ use of data or their reported classroom practices.

For the study, researchers recruited 102 elementary (primary) schools from 12 US districts. Schools were randomly assigned to either a treatment or control group. Treatment schools received funding for a half-time data coach of their choosing, as well as intensive professional development for coaches and school leaders on helping teachers use pupil data to inform their teaching. The control schools received no additional funding for a data coach or professional development. Impacts on teacher and pupil outcomes were measured after an  18-month implementation period.

The results suggest that despite the additional resources, teachers in the treatment schools did not increase how often they used data or change their teaching practices in response to that data. Similar percentages of teachers in treatment and control schools reported data-related activities, such as analysing data to understand pupil needs. The intervention also had no effect on pupil achievement. On average, pupils in treatment and control schools had similar achievement in maths and English.          

Source: Evaluation of support for using student data to inform teachers’ instruction (September 2019), Institute of Education Sciences, US Department of Education. NCEE 2019-4008 

The impact of peer assessment on academic achievement

Researchers from the University of Oxford’s Department of Education conducted a meta-analysis to examine what effect peer assessment interventions have on academic performance.

Published in Educational Psychology Review, the meta-analysis evaluated the effect of peer assessment on academic performance when compared to no assessment and teacher assessment. Fifty-four studies were included in the meta-analysis, of which 45% were with school-age pupils. Studies had to examine the effect of peer assessment on non-self-reported measures of academic achievement and have a control or comparison group, using no assessment, teacher assessment, or self-assessment.

The findings from the analysis indicated that overall there was a significant positive effect of peer assessment on academic performance compared with no assessment (effect size = +0.31) and teacher assessment (ES = +0.28). The effect size was similar when peer assessment was compared with self-assessment (ES = +0.23) though this result was not significant. The effect sizes were slightly larger for school-age children than undergraduates. The analysis concludes that peer assessment can be effective across a wide range of subject areas, education levels, and assessment types.

Source: The impact of peer assessment on academic performance: A meta-analysis of control group studies (December 2019), Educational Psychology Review, doi:10.1007/s10648-019-09510-3

No impact for inquiry-based learning intervention

The Education Endowment Foundation has published an evaluation of an inquiry-based learning intervention – CREST Silver Award.

Delivered by the British Science Association, the CREST programme aims to help pupils engage with science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects by allowing them to develop their own project ideas. Eighty secondary schools in London and the south east took part in the trial, involving 2,810 Year 9 pupils (ages 13–14). While CREST can normally be delivered by any STEM department in the school, for the trial, CREST was delivered by the science department in each school. Schools had the flexibility to decide how they would deliver CREST (for example, as a whole class activity or as a STEM club) and when they would run the programme (during school, after school, lunch break, or during class time). Pupils were expected to complete 30 hours of project work in total.

The independent evaluation by NatCen found that pupils who took part in the programme made no additional progress in science achievement (as measured by the Progress Test in Science) compared to similar pupils who were not offered the programme (effect size = -0.01). Nor was there any evidence that the CREST Silver Award improved self-efficacy in science or increased the percentage of pupils aspiring to a STEM career; however, small positive impacts were found for pupil confidence and attitudes toward school.

Source: CREST Silver: Evaluation report (December 2019), Education Endowment Foundation

Suspending suspensions

Out-of-school suspensions have typically been used as punishment for pupils who are truant (absent from school without parental consent) or chronically absent (missing 10% or more of school days). Given that the goal is to keep pupils in school and academically engaged, a few US states have banned this practice. A recent JESPAR article examined the effects of this ban on absence rates in Arkansas, which established a law in 2013 banning out-of-school suspensions. The state offered no training to schools, and each was left to make its own way with the policy change. Although out-of-school suspensions were banned, other punishments were allowed to continue, including in-school suspension, which takes a pupil out of the regular classroom for a time but allows them to continue their work elsewhere.

Using data from all Arkansas state schools, researchers compared the attendance of truant and non-truant pupils between 2012–13 (pre-policy) and 2013–14 (post-policy) to see if there were any dramatic changes in attendance for truant pupils that did not occur with non-truant pupils. Subjects were limited to grades 7–12 (Years 8–13), in which 96% of truancy occurs.

Researchers found that compliance with the law was low, particularly in disadvantaged schools, with only a third of all schools complying. Among schools that did comply, there was no evidence of change in student behaviour after the policy went into effect. Three key findings were:

  • Policy alone is not enough to change behaviour—implementation of a policy must be overseen and reinforced.
  • When policies change, schools must be evaluated regarding whether their resources are sufficient to enforce this change, or whether they need support or training in order to be able to comply.
  • High-level policy changes need to be followed by quantitative and qualitative evaluation to assess key outcomes and compliance.

In addition, researchers reflected that, perhaps because there was still other punishment, truancy continued. They stated that punishment does not address the root causes as to why pupils are truant, and that pupil outcomes might not change if schools simply replace out-of-school suspensions with other types of punishment.

Source: Discipline reform: The impact of a statewide ban on suspensions for truancy (January 2019), Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk (JESPAR), Volume 24, Issue 1

Future planning and achievement among pupils

Several studies have related the benefits of future planning to academic achievement, but not many have examined whether academic achievement also influences how pupils plan their future. Zhao and colleagues from Shandong Normal University conducted a longitudinal study to examine the relationship between Chinese middle school pupils’ academic achievement and future planning in educational and occupational domains.

The study included three assessments six months apart from spring 2014 to spring 2015 in Shandong Province in eastern China. A total of 775 pupils from sixth to eighth grade (Years 7–9) participated in the first assessment wave. The questionnaire measured pupils’ future explorations, commitments, and affects concerning future education and occupations. Data on their academic achievement were collected from school records of their scores in Chinese, English and maths. The relationships were analysed with data collected at different times.

The analysis showed that:

  • There were reciprocal relationships between academic achievement and pupils’ future educational planning.
  • Reciprocal relationships were not seen between academic achievement and future planning in the occupational domain.
  • Commitment’s relationship to achievement was more robust than that of exploration to achievement.
  • The relationships were the same for both boys and girls.

The authors suggest that understanding the importance of educational performance led middle school pupils to invest more effort into improving achievement. The social status brought by high academic achievement in Chinese society might also trigger positive affects concerning future planning.

Source: Longitudinal relations between future planning and adolescents’ academic achievement in China (August 2019), Journal of Adolescence, Volume 75

More evidence for growth mindset

The findings of an MDRC evaluation of a growth mindset intervention have suggested a positive impact on pupils’ academic performance.

To test whether a growth mindset intervention could improve pupils’ academic performance, the National Study of Learning Mindsets implemented a randomised controlled trial of a low-cost growth mindset intervention specifically designed for ninth grade (Year 10) pupils. A total of 11,888 pupils from 63 high schools across the US took part in the intervention, which included two 25-minute self-administered online training modules on the topic of brain development. Pupils in the intervention group were given modules about growth mindset and were asked to answer reflective questions in a survey. Instead of learning about the brain’s malleability, pupils in the control group learned about basic brain functions, and they were also asked to answer survey questions.

The results of the evaluation found a positive impact on pupils’ average grade point average (GPA) (effect size = +0.04), as well as their maths GPA (effect size = +0.05). Other results from the evaluation suggest that:

  • The intervention changed pupils’ self-reported mindset beliefs, their attitudes towards efforts and failure and their views on academic challenges.
  • Immediately after the intervention, students were more likely to attempt more challenging academic tasks.
  • Pupils who were lower performing at pre-test benefited more than their higher-performing peers.

Source: Using a growth mindset intervention to help ninth-graders: An independent evaluation of the National Study of Leaning Mindsets (November 2019), MDRC