A thirty-year look at studies on computer-assisted maths

During the past 30 years, thousands of articles have been written about technology’s effects on pupil achievement. In order to quantify technology’s effects on maths achievement, Jamaal Young at the University of Texas conducted a meta-analysis of all of the meta-analyses on the topic during the last three decades. His second-order meta-analysis was comprised of 19 meta-analyses representing 663 primary studies, more than 141,000 pupils and 1,263 effect sizes. Each meta-analysis that was included had to address the use of technology as a supplement to instruction, use pupil maths achievement as an outcome measure, report an effect size or enough data to calculate one, have been published after 1985 and be accessible to the public.

The author found that all technology enhancements positively affected pupil achievement, regardless of the technology’s purpose. However, technology that helped pupils perform computational functions had the greatest effects on pupil achievement, while combinations of enhancements demonstrated the least effects on pupil achievement. The author found that study quality and the type of technology used in the classroom were the main influencers on effect sizes. The highest-quality studies had the lowest effect sizes, which he attributes to their more rigorous analysis procedures. The high-quality reviews gave an overall effect size for the use of technology of +0.16 (compared with +0.38 for low- and +0.46 for medium-quality reviews).

Source: Technology-enhanced mathematics instruction: A second-order meta-analysis of 30 years of research (November 2017), Educational Research Review, Volume 22

What works for preschoolers?

A new systematic review of research on early childhood programmes in Educational Research Review has been published. The paper seeks to identify effective approaches capable of improving literacy and language outcomes for preschoolers.

Researchers from The Institute for Effective Education (IEE) and The Center for Research and Reform in Education (CRRE) applied consistent standards to determine the strength of evidence supporting a variety of approaches, which fell into two main categories: comprehensive approaches, which include phonemic awareness, phonics, and other skills along with child-initiated activities, and developmental–constructivist approaches that focus on child-initiated activities with little direct teaching of early literacy skills. Inclusion criteria included use of randomised or matched control groups, evidence of initial equality, a minimum study duration of 12 weeks, and valid measures of literacy and language.

Thirty-two studies evaluating 22 programmes found that early childhood programmes that have a balance of skill-focused and child-initiated activities had significant evidence of positive literacy and language outcomes at the end of preschool and on kindergarten (Year 1) follow-up measures. Effects on both types of measures were smaller and not statistically significant for developmental-constructivist programmes.

Source: Literacy and Language Outcomes of Comprehensive and Developmental-Constructivist Approaches to Early Childhood Education: A Systematic Review (2016), Educational Research Review.

Prerequisites for Assessment for Learning

A new systematic review in the Educational Research Review has analysed the evidence on prerequisites for implementing Assessment for Learning (AfL) in classroom practice. The aim was not to provide a “recipe for success,” but to generate a better understanding of what needs to be considered.

A total of 25 studies met the inclusion criteria. Of these, nine were conducted in the context of primary education, ten in secondary, and six covered both. The results included data from eleven different countries, although nine of the studies were conducted in the US.

The authors found that the knowledge, skills, and attitudes of individual teachers influenced the establishment of an AfL-based learning environment. Pedagogical knowledge and content knowledge had an impact on a teacher’s ability to provide pupils with accurate and complete feedback. They also needed to have the ability to foster the participation of pupils in discussions about their answers, and construct questions that drew out evidence about their learning. The authors found that the quality of AfL was influenced by teachers’ commitment to its underlying ideals, the extent to which they felt responsible for pupils’ attainment of goals, and their willingness to change their assessment practices to implement AfL.

To a lesser extent, pupils’ knowledge, skills, and attitudes also had an impact. A positive attitude and taking an active role in their own learning process was found to foster autonomy and responsibility.

The wider school context also determined how successfully the implementation of AfL was facilitated. School leaders played an important role in establishing a school-wide AfL culture with a vision and expectations for AfL use, as well as providing time to prepare for and carry out professional development.

The review considered the nature of the assessment itself. It concluded that feedback should be substantial, constructive, and focused, and provide the pupils with cues for how to proceed. AfL should be aligned with the curriculum and standards, as well as being integrated into classroom teaching (rather than being an add-on activity).

Source: A Systematic Review of Prerequisites for Implementing Assessment for Learning in Classroom Practice (2016), Educational Research Review, 17.

Parent involvement and academic achievement reviewed quantitatively

A recent meta-analysis published in Educational Research Review examined the effects of parental involvement on pupil achievement.

The authors looked at 5,000 studies and found 37 that met their selection criteria. The selected studies included more than 80,000 pupils and their families.

The included studies had to:

  • Take place between kindergarten (Year 1) and 12th grade (Year 13).
  • Be published between 2000 and 2013.
  • Report parent participation in their children’s education, but not as part of a designated programme.
  • Examine the effects of parent involvement on academic achievement quantitatively. 

Because each study looked at different variables affecting achievement outcomes, as well as different populations affected, the authors broke down each study into independent analytical units and calculated 108 effect sizes for comparison.

They found that parental expectations had the largest influence on children’s academic achievement, followed by discussing school activities with children and helping them develop reading habits. Homework supervision and participation in school activities demonstrated the least effect.

Source: Parental involvement on student academic achievement: a meta-analysis (2015), Educational Research Review

How teachers use Web 2.0 technologies makes a difference

A new review from the National Institute of Education in Singapore has explored evidence-based pedagogical approaches related to the use of Web 2.0 technologies in both schools and higher education settings. Web 2.0, which is also known as the read-write web, allows two-way communication between a website and users.

The review suggests that actual evidence regarding the impact of Web 2.0 technologies on pupil learning is fairly weak, though generally positive. However, positive effects are not necessarily attributed to the technologies per se but to how the technologies are used.

The review included empirical studies that examined the impact of Web 2.0 technologies on learning, excluding anecdotal studies and studies only focusing on pupil self-reported data and interviews.

Source: Use of Web 2.0 Technologies in K-12 and Higher Education: The Search for Evidence-based Practice (2013), Educational Research Review, 9.

Educational technology and maths achievement

A new report on educational technology and maths achievement, from Johns Hopkins’ Center for Research and Reform in Education, is published in the June 2013 issue of Educational Research ReviewThe report examines research on the effects of educational technology applications on mathematics achievement in primary and secondary classrooms, applying consistent inclusion standards to focus on studies that met high methodological standards.

Findings suggest that educational technology applications generally produced a positive, though modest, effect (effect size = +0.15) in comparison to traditional methods. However, the effects may vary by educational technology type. Among the three types of educational technology applications reviewed, supplemental computer-assisted instruction had the largest effect, with an effect size of +0.18. The other two interventions, computer-management learning and comprehensive programmes, had a much smaller effect size, +0.08 and +0.07, respectively.

Source: The Effectiveness of Educational Technology Applications for Enhancing Mathematics Achievement in K-12 Classrooms: A Meta-analysis (2013),Educational Research Review, 9.