Test anxiety can have negative impacts on pupils’ performance and psychological health. This study published in PLoS One examined whether expressive writing could be beneficial to alleviate test anxiety. Lujun Shen and colleagues conducted a randomised controlled trial among high school pupils in China who were facing The National Higher Education Entrance Examination (Gaokao), which is considered a crucial exam.
The study randomly selected 200 pupils (aged 16-17) from three high schools in Xinxiang city. Pupils were first assessed for eligibility. A sample of 75 pupils was recruited into the study for having a high level of test anxiety. Next, 38 of the pupils were allocated into an expressive writing group, and 37 of them were allocated to a control writing group. Pupils in the expressive writing group were instructed to write for 20 minutes about the positive emotions they had each day, consecutively for 30 days. Pupils in the control writing group were instructed to write about their daily activities consecutively for the same period of time.
Pupils were assessed using the Test Anxiety Scale (TAS)
during the recruitment (late April), and after the end of the writing (early
June). The study also analysed summaries of the writing manuscripts of the 38
expressive writing group pupils for qualitative data. The findings were as
The expressive writing group scored
significantly lower than the control writing group in the Test Anxiety Scale
There were no significant gender differences in
the post-test TAS scores.
Qualitative analysis of the writing found more
elements of positive emotion in the last ten days of expressive writing
compared to the first ten days among the expressive writing group.
The authors suggest that expressive writing is an easy,
inexpensive, and convenient method to cope with anxiety because it does not
require a psychological counsellor nor a specific location.
of expressive writing in reducing test anxiety: A randomized controlled trial
in Chinese samples (February 2018), PLoS
A meta-analysis in the Journal of Research in Reading has synthesised the findings of studies comparing print and digital text regarding time required to read, reading comprehension and readers’ perceptions of their comprehension. Researcher Virginia Clinton performed a systematic literature review, only including studies using random assignment and that were published between 2008 and 2018, yielding 29 reports of 33 studies for analysis. She found that readers require equal amounts of time to read print and digital text, although screen reading negatively impacted reading comprehension (effect size = -0.25). Readers were more accurately able to judge their comprehension on paper (effect size = +0.20) than on screen.
The negative effect on performance for reading text from
screens rather than paper did not vary for readers who were adults or children
(under 18). However, the author suggests this finding should be interpreted
with caution because there were more studies with adult participants (26) than
child participants (7).
Best Evidence in Brief reported on an earlier meta-analysis solely examining reading comprehension, whose results also favoured printed text.
Source: Reading from paper compared to screens: A systematic review and meta‐analysis (May 2019), Journal of Research in Reading, volume 42, issue 2
A study published in American Economic Journal: Applied Economics presents the results from a randomised controlled trial of the City University of New York’s (CUNY) Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) initiative on students’ academic progress and success. This latest paper considers the long-term impact of the programme (we covered the original study previously in Best Evidence in Brief).
The CUNY ASAP programme is a comprehensive three-year
programme aimed at helping more students to graduate from community college more
quickly than they otherwise would (in the US, community colleges provide higher
education from the age of 18). It aims to remove the barriers to academic
success often faced by low-income students and comprises the following
Students are required to attend college full
time, take remedial courses early, and graduate in three years.
Each student is provided with a dedicated ASAP
Students receive a tuition waiver covering the
difference between the financial aid provided and the cost of tuition and fees.
They are also provided with free passes for public transport and free use of
Students can enrol in courses with other ASAP
students in convenient schedules.
The results of the study showed that ASAP had positive
impacts on full-time enrolment and credit accumulation. It had an estimated 18
percentage point effect on three-year graduation rates, increased six-year
graduation rates by an estimated 10 percentage points, and helped students to
graduate more quickly than students in the control group.
Supporting community college students from start to degree completion:
Long-term evidence from a randomized trial of CUNY’s ASAP” (July 2019), American Economic Journal: Applied
Economics, 11 (3).
In the field of education, professional development (PD) is intended to improve both classroom teaching and children’s learning. A new study, published in Journal of Educational Psychology, looks at what effect PD has when used at scale with large numbers of educators.
In this large-scale randomised controlled trial, Shayne B
Piasta and colleagues examined the effectiveness of a language and literacy PD
programme on both teacher and child outcomes in early childhood education. More
than 500 teachers across one US state took part in the trial and were randomly
assigned to one of three groups: professional development with coaching,
professional development without coaching, or a comparison group. Teachers in
the PD groups received 30 hours of state-sponsored language and literacy
professional development, with those assigned to the coaching groups also
receiving ongoing individualised coaching throughout the academic year.
Teachers in the comparison group also received state-sponsored PD, but in other
The results of the trial suggest that PD affected only a few
aspects of classroom language and literacy teaching practices relative to the
comparison group, and did not affect children’s literacy learning. PD with coaching
showed a small positive impact on the quantity of phonological awareness, while
both PD with and without coaching had a small positive impact on the quality of
teaching in phonological awareness and writing.
state-sponsored language and literacy professional development: Impacts on early
childhood classroom practices and children’s outcomes (June 2019), Journal of Educational Psychology
School climate includes factors that serve as conditions for learning, and support physical and emotional safety, connection, support and engagement, as the US Department of Education suggests. In this study published in School Psychology Quarterly, George Bear and colleagues examined how pupils in China and the US perceive school climate differently and how it relates to their engagement in schools.
A total of 3,716 Chinese pupils from 18 schools in Guangzhou and
4,085 American pupils from 15 schools in Delaware were compared in the study.
All schools were suburban schools or urban schools. The sample of American pupils
was randomly selected from a larger dataset consisting of 37,255 pupils
prepared by the Delaware Department of Education to match the pupil numbers of
the Chinese pupil sample. Pupils who participated in this study were from
grades 3–5 (Years 4–6), 7–8 (Years 8–9), and 10–12 (Years 11–13). Grade 6 (Year
7) and grade 9 (Year 10) were excluded from this study since pupils in these
two grades were placed in different levels in Chinese and American schools.
Pupils were compared in their perceptions of school climate, which
included teacher-pupil relations, pupil-pupil relations, fairness of school
rules, clarity of behavioural expectations, respect for diversity, school
safety, engagement school-wide, and bullying school-wide. Pupils’ engagement
was measured by the Delaware Student Engagement Scale. The findings showed:
Chinese pupils perceived all aspects of school
climate significantly more positively than American pupils during middle school
and high (secondary) school.
The difference was smaller in elementary (primary)
schools, with no significant differences for fairness of rules, clarity of
behavioural expectations and school safety.
US pupils’ engagement was greater in
elementary schools, while Chinese pupils reported greater emotional engagement
in middle and high schools.
A significant relation between school climate
and engagement was found for American pupils but not Chinese pupils.
The authors suggest that the findings might encourage schools to
develop and promote those social-emotional competencies, values and norms which
have been shown to underlie the high academic achievement of Chinese pupils in
addition to school climate.
in school climate and student engagement in China and the United States (June
2018), School Psychology Quarterly, Vol
The Ministry of Education in France introduced a policy in 2002 that reduced class size to no more than 12 pupils in areas determined to have social difficulties and high proportions of at-risk pupils, called Zones d’Education Prioritaire (ZEP). In order to evaluate the effectiveness and usefulness of this policy, researcher Jean Ecalle and colleagues in France examined the results of the policy-mandated class size reduction on the reading achievement of first grade (Year 2) pupils (Study 1), and compared them to the effects of an evidence-based literacy intervention on the reading achievement of at-risk children in normal-sized classes (20 pupils) (Study 2).
Study 1, reducing class size, involved assigning classrooms to
either small (12 pupils/class n=100 classes) or large (20–25 pupils/class,
n=100 classes) class sizes (with the support of the Ministry). At the start of
the 2002–03 school year, 1,095 children were pre-tested on pre-reading skills
and matched at pre-test. At the end of the school year, children were post-tested,
with results favouring the small-class-size group on word reading (effect size=+0.14)
and word spelling (effect size=+0.22).
In Study 2, researchers separated 2,803 first grade (Year 2)
pupils in ZEP areas into an experimental group who received an evidence-based
reading intervention, and a control group who did not. The intervention was a
protocol developed by the Association Agir pour l’Ecole (Act for School), who
developed a hierarchy of teaching reading based on evidence-based methods of
learning to read, progressing from training phonological skills, to learning
letter sounds, decoding, and fluency. Act for School monitored compliance with
the protocol weekly. Class size for both groups was 20 pupils. Experimental
teachers received one day of training, and provided 30 minutes of teaching a
day to average or high readers in groups of 10 to 12, and one hour a day for
lower readers in groups of four to six. Again, children were pre-tested on
reading skills and matched between groups. All areas post-tested favoured the
experimental group, with significant effects in word reading (effect size=+0.13)
and word spelling (effect size=+0.12).
Researchers stated that based on the results of both studies, the
optimal recommendation to improve literacy skills for at-risk pupils would be a
double intervention, combining evidence-based practices within small classes.
of policy and educational interventions intended to reduce difficulties in
literacy skills in grade 1 (June 2019), Studies
in Educational Evaluation, Volume 61