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
A study published in Health Education and Behavior looks at the effects of introducing physically active lessons into primary school classes. Emma Norris and colleagues used the Virtual Traveller (VT) intervention to evaluate whether physically active lessons had any effect on pupil engagement, physical activity and on-task behaviour.
Virtual Traveller is a programme of pre-prepared physically active lesson sessions delivered using classroom interactive whiteboards during regular lessons. A total of 219 children aged 8- to 9-years-old from 10 schools in Greater London took part in the cluster-randomised controlled trial. Children in the intervention schools received 10-minute VT sessions three times a week, for six weeks, during maths and English lessons. To assess the effectiveness of VT, pupils’ physical activity levels, on-task behaviour and engagement were measured at baseline (T0), at weeks two (T1) and four (T2) of the six-week intervention, and at one week (T3) and three months (T4) post-intervention.
Pupils in the intervention group showed more on-task behaviour than those in the control at T1 and T2, but this was not maintained post-intervention. No difference in pupil engagement between the control and intervention groups was observed at any time point. VT was found to increase physical activity, but only during lesson time.
Source: Physically active lessons improve lesson activity and on-task behavior: a cluster-randomized controlled trial of the “Virtual Traveller” intervention (March 2018), Health Education & Behavior DOI: 10.1177/1090198118762106
An intervention that trained teachers to improve and monitor the quality of classroom talk had a positive impact on primary pupils’ test scores in English, maths and science, a report published by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) reveals.
Seventy-six primary schools with higher-than-average proportions of disadvantaged pupils took part in a randomised control trial of the Dialogic Teaching intervention, which is designed to improve the quality of classroom talk as a means of increasing pupils’ engagement, learning and achievement. Year 5 teachers in 38 schools (2,493 pupils), and a teacher mentor from each school, received resources and training from the delivery team and then implemented the intervention over the course of the autumn and spring terms in the 2015/16 school year. A control group of 38 schools (2,466 pupils) continued with business as usual. Following the intervention, pupils were tested in English, maths and science.
The results showed that pupils in the intervention schools did better in the main outcome measures of English (effect size = +0.16), science (+0.12), and maths (+0.09) when compared with pupils in the control schools who didn’t receive the intervention. For pupils who received free school meals, the intervention had a higher impact on maths (+0.16), but around the same for English (+0.12) and science (+0.11). Teachers reported positive effects on pupil engagement and confidence, and on the whole the intervention was highly regarded by participating schools. However, some teachers felt that it would take longer than two terms to fully embed a Dialogic Teaching approach in their classrooms.
The Dialogic Teaching intervention was developed by the Cambridge Primary Review Trust and the University of York. This University of York news story has more.
Source: Dialogic teaching: evaluation report and executive summary (July 2017), Education Endowment Foundation
Brookings’ Evidence Speaks series recently featured an article by Susanna Loeb and Jing Liu describing the effects of teacher engagement on students’ later life outcomes. The article explains that teachers who keep their students engaged are more likely to have students attend their classes, which leads to higher graduation rates. Research shows that absence rates double between middle and secondary school, due to multiple factors including difficulty getting to school, students’ preferring to work to bring in money, and the unpleasantness of being in certain classes. Many students only miss partial days of school, skipping classes that are either too difficult or too easy.
In order to isolate the effects of individual teachers on student attendance, Loeb and Liu examined teachers’ abilities to engage with students as measured by class-period absence rates versus whole-day absence rates. They found that teachers who improved their students’ class-period attendance rates, and therefore were deemed engaging teachers, were a positive influence on these students’ graduation rates.
Source: Going to school is optional: Schools need to engage students to increase their lifetime opportunities (2016), The Brookings Institution
Low-achieving students respond to incentives to increase their effort and engagement at school and do better than predicted on GCSE exams as a consequence. That is the main finding of a discussion paper published by the University of Bristol.
The project, led by Simon Burgess, Director of the Centre for Market and Public Organisation (CMPO), included more than 10,000 Year 11 students in 63 schools. The schools were recruited in the poorest parts of neighbourhoods in England and were randomised to one of the following treatment groups: financial incentives, non-financial incentives, or control. Students in the incentive treatment groups earned rewards every half-term based on inputs such as attendance, conduct, homework, and classwork, rather than for outputs such as assessment results. The financial incentive rewarded students with cash up to the value of £80 per half-term, while the non-financial incentive offered students the chance to qualify for a high-value event determined jointly by the school and students, such as a sporting event or trip to a theme park.
The researchers hoped to find that the incentives would improve effort and engagement and ultimately lead to improved GCSE performance even though the results themselves carried no rewards. The analysis showed that overall the impact of either financial or non-financial incentives on achievement was low, with small, positive but statistically insignificant effects on exam performance. However, among students with low predicted GCSE grades, those in the intervention groups got better marks than students in the control group, with treatment effects stronger for the financial incentives than the non-financial incentives (particularly in science). For students who were expected to do well, and already making an effort at school, the incentives made little difference.
Source: Understanding the response to financial and non-financial incentives in education: Field experimental evidence using high-stakes assessments (2016), Discussion Paper 16 / 678, University of Bristol
The first study examines the gender gap in reading. Historically, boys in the US score lower than girls on standardised reading tests and the gap widens in middle and high school. This trend is seen around the world, even in countries that scored high on the PISA reading subtests. The authors debunk several popular explanations for the gap, most notably the theory that females are biologically better at reading. The authors also note that the reading gap disappears in adulthood and that after age 35, men score significantly higher on reading measures than women. The authors comment that the effects of life cycle experiences on reading proficiency need to be examined.
The second study looks at the effects of intrinsic motivation on maths in 15-year-olds. Surprisingly, results showed a negative correlation between engagement level and maths achievement (higher engagement levels yielded lower test scores). Fifteen-year-olds in the US scored at average engagement levels. Countries who scored higher in PISA scores (Japan, Finland, South Korea) reported lower engagement levels for mathematics.
The third study discusses the early effects of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) – a set of standards that details what children age 5 to 18 should know in maths and literacy. The findings showed small, non-significant effects in fourth grade (Year 5) reading and eighth grade (Year 9) maths in states with strong CCSS implementation.
Source:How Well Are American Students Learning? (2015), Brown Centre on Education Policy