To study or to sleep?

The amount of time spent studying may not matter if the pupil has not had enough sleep, according to research published in Child Development. This longitudinal study examined the effect that varying amounts of study and sleep had on teenagers’ studies the following day. The results suggest that regardless of how much a pupil generally studies each day, if they sacrifice sleep time to study more than usual they will be more likely to struggle in class, or on an assignment or test, the following day.

This problem becomes increasingly prevalent over time, the study proposes, because pupils are more likely to sacrifice sleep time for study time in the latter years of secondary school. A further study in this area, reported in the latest Better: Evidence-based Education, adds to the evidence that the amount of sleep a teenager gets (too much or too little) affects academic performance. It found that teenagers who sleep seven hours a night tend to have the highest test scores, while teenagers who sleep for less than six or more than 11 hours tend to perform poorly on tests.

Source: To study or to sleep? The academic costs of extra studying at the Expense of Sleep (2012), Child Development, 84(1)

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

Does paying teachers based on performance improve teaching?

Performance-based pay is worth considering in some contexts, but making it work well can be a challenge, according to a recent PISA in focus review, which looks at the effects of performance-based pay for teachers on pupil performance. It shows that in countries with comparatively low teachers’ salaries in relation to national income, using performance-related pay results in better pupil performance, while in countries where teachers are relatively well paid, the opposite is true.

The report also highlights challenges to making a performance-based pay system work well, and the need to have valid measures of performance in place if the system is to be fair and accurate. It emphasises that pay can only play a part, and countries that have made teaching an attractive profession have done so by raising the status of teaching and offering real career prospects, and not through pay alone.

Source: Does performance-based pay improve teaching? (2012), PISA in focus, 12

Does arts engagement work to increase student achievement?

This report from the US National Endowment for the Arts looks at correlations between arts activity among at-risk youth and subsequent levels of academic performance and civic engagement. Data was pulled from four large-scale, longitudinal studies that tracked a nationally representative sample of children and/or teenagers over time.

The following key findings emerged:

  • Socially and economically disadvantaged children and teenagers who have high levels of arts engagement or arts learning show more positive outcomes in a variety of areas than their low-arts-engaged peers;
  • At-risk teenagers or young adults with a history of intensive arts experiences show achievement levels closer to, and in some cases exceeding, the levels shown by the general population studied; and
  • Most of the positive relationships between arts involvement and academic outcomes apply only to at-risk populations (low socio-economic status). But positive relationships between arts and civic engagement are noted in higher socio-economic status groups as well.

Source: The arts and achievement in at-risk youth: Findings from four longitudinal studies (2012), National Endowment for the Arts

Are local authorities the ‘missing link’?

Local authorities could be the missing link in a system of autonomous schools, according to two research reports into effective school improvement published by the Association of Directors of Children’s Services. Both reports highlight concerns among head teachers, governors and local government officials that there are risks involved in increasing school autonomy. They identify where local authorities have been successful in supporting school improvement in the past, and how that work is changing in response to national policy and budget restrictions. In particular, the reports explore:

  • What are the characteristics of an effective local authority school improvement service?
  • What are the implications for school improvement of increased numbers of academies and free schools?
  • What kind of middle tier is needed for the next five years?
  • How will local authorities need to change if they are to fulfil that role?

They include case studies of successful local authorities and examples of the different models of school engagement that are emerging.

Source: The missing link: The evolving role of the local authority in school improvement (2012), ADCS