Importance of pupil-teacher relationships for pupil engagement and behaviour

In an article published in School Psychology, Mylien Duong and colleagues examine how important the pupil-teacher relationship is for pupil engagement and behaviour.

The study examines the effects of the Establish-Maintain-Restore (EMR) approach – a professional development programme for middle school teachers aimed at enhancing their skills in building relationships with pupils. In this randomised controlled trial, 20 teachers and 190 pupils from a US middle school (Years 7–9) in the Pacific Northwest region were assigned to either EMR or control conditions. Teachers in the EMR condition received three hours of training and ongoing implementation support. Control teachers were given the same amount of professional development time.

Observers rated academically engaged time and disruptive behaviour. Teachers reported on relationship quality using a modified version of the Student-Teacher Relationship Scale, which used only the five items deemed most relevant for EMR of the 28 items usually measured. The results showed that pupils of EMR-trained teachers had improved behaviour in the classroom (effect size = +1.07). EMR also resulted in improvements in pupil-teacher relationships (effect size = +0.61) and academically engaged time – instances when a pupil was paying attention to the teacher or working on a lesson task (effect size = +0.81).

While these findings are promising, it is important to note that the study included only teachers and pupils from one middle school, so replication with larger samples is needed before conclusions about effectiveness can be drawn.

Source: Brief teacher training improves student behavior and student-teacher relationships in middle school (March 2019), School Psychology, Vol 14, 2

What is the impact of the New York City Community Schools initiative?

Research published by the RAND Corporation assesses the impact of the New York City Community Schools initiative (NYC-CS) on outcomes related to attendance, achievement, pupil behaviour, and school climate and culture.

Launched in 2014, the NYC-CS is a strategy to organise resources in schools and provide various services to address the comprehensive needs of pupils, families, and communities through collaboration with community agencies and local government. As part of the study, William R Johnston and colleagues assessed the effects of NYC-CS during the 2017–2018 school year to determine whether pupils were performing better than they would be had their schools not been designated as Community Schools, using average pupil outcomes in each school.

Among the key findings, the results indicate that NYC-CS had positive effects on most of the outcomes examined. In particular, NYC-CS had a positive impact on attendance for pupils in all grades, and these effects appeared to be increasing over time. There was also evidence that NYC-CS led to a reduction in disciplinary incidents for elementary and middle school pupils (Years 1–9) but not for high school students (Years 10–13).

Source: Illustrating the promise of Community Schools: An assessment of the impact of the New York City Community Schools initiative (January 2020), Rand Corporation, RR-3245-NYCCEO

Examining the effects of the CW-FIT intervention

Class-Wide Function-Related Intervention Teams (CW-FIT) is a classroom programme designed to increase academic, social and behavioural success for pupils. The programme emphasises group contingencies and self-management. It teaches positive social skills, uses teacher praise and group points for good behaviour, incorporates goal setting and provides rewards.

In order to build CW-FIT’s research base, a randomised controlled trial was carried out over four years, designed to replicate one site’s original study by adding two more research groups and to include investigators who were not the developers of the programme.

Seven elementary (primary) schools in three US states participated. Pupils were in grades K–6 (Years 1–7), 55% were of minority ethnicities, and 69% received free- or reduced-price school meals. Within each school were experimental and control classes – 83 experimental and 74 control in total. Baseline data collection included measures of pupil time on-task and teacher use of reinforcement during business-as-usual conditions for two to three weeks. At baseline, no teacher was observed using token rewards or group rewards. During the study, control group teachers received a two-hour training in general classroom management and were referred to district protocol when pupil behaviour problems occurred. Experimental group teachers implemented CW-FIT during one targeted period three to five times per week from October to March. During CW-FIT sessions, after teaching pupils the appropriate way to get attention, follow directions, and ignore inappropriate behaviour, the teacher set a timer at two to five minute intervals, awarding a point to teams with all members behaving at that moment. At the end of class, awards were given to all team members who met specific goals.

At the end of the study, results favoured the CW-FIT group. On-task behaviour for CW-FIT pupils increased from 55% to 80%, while the control group remained close to baseline at 58%. Teacher classroom management behaviours increased from 52% to 86% for the CW-FIT group, but remained at 55% for the control group. These results are reflective of earlier studies’ findings.

Source: Class-wide Function-Related Intervention Teams (CW-FIT): student and teacher outcomes from a multisite randomized replication trial (September 2018), The Elementary School Journal 119, no. 1

Improving behaviour in schools

The Education Endowment Foundation has published a review of the current evidence on approaches to behaviour in schools.

The review, which was carried out by researchers at the University of Exeter, synthesises the best available international evidence on approaches to behaviour in schools. The goal is to:

  • explain why pupils may misbehave
  • review what types of classroom management approaches are most effective
  • review what types of school-wide management approaches are most effective.

The report, which offers schools some recommendations for improving behaviour, suggests that universal systems are unlikely to work for all pupils, and for those pupils who need more intensive support with their behaviour, a personalised approach is likely to be better.

Source: Improving behaviour in schools: evidence review (December 2019), Education Endowment Foundation

Effects of different rewards on spelling scores and prosocial behaviour

A study published in Educational Psychology examines how different approaches to rewarding pupils affected their spelling scores and prosocial behaviour for different ability levels.

A total of 1,005 pupils, ages 9 and 10, in 28 classes were recruited from three primary schools in Singapore. Classes were randomly assigned to one of five reward conditions: competitive, cooperative, individualistic, cooperative-competitive, and cooperative-individualistic. An ABABA (A= implementation, B = withdrawal) design was used for each condition, and pupils’ spelling scores were tracked over a period of 10 weeks. Teachers were asked to rate pupils’ prosocial behaviour before and after the study.

The results showed that the different conditions did affect pupils’ spelling scores and prosocial behaviour, but that these effects depended on ability level, such that different conditions were more effective for different ability levels.  Across all five conditions, only the cooperative-competitive condition resulted in increased spelling scores and prosocial behaviour across all three ability groups, with these improvements maintained when the intervention was withdrawn. In the cooperative-competitive condition, pupils cooperated as a group and the group with the highest average spelling score (compared to other groups) was rewarded.

Source: Effects of reward pedagogy on spelling scores and prosocial behaviors in primary school students in Singapore (October 2019), Journal of Educational Psychology

Reassessing concerns about school may help improve academic achievement

A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, looks at what impact an intervention designed to help students with concerns about starting middle school has on their academic achievement, behaviour, and well-being.

Geoffrey Borman and colleagues conducted the study with 1,304 sixth graders (Year 7) at 11 middle schools in a US Midwestern school district. Within each of the 11 schools, students were randomly assigned to the intervention or control condition. The intervention group was given reflective writing exercises, two months apart, which were designed to help students reassess any concerns and worries they might have about belonging in school. The control condition exercises asked students to write about neutral middle school experiences that were not related to school belonging.

The researchers collected pre- and post-intervention survey data on students’ reported social and emotional well-being, and official school records of student attendance, disciplinary records, and grades. The results of the study suggested that the intervention reduced behavioural referrals by 34% (effect size = -0.14), decreased absence by 12% (ES = -0.13), and reduced the number of failing grades by 18% (ES = -0.11). Differences across demographic groups were not statistically significant.

Source: Reappraising academic and social adversity improves middle school students’ academic achievement, behavior, and well-being (August 2019) Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences