Evidence-based back-to-school teaching tips

Now that the schools are back, the What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) has compiled quick tips from their practice guides to help educators put research findings into action. Topics include:

  • How do I help pupils with mathematical problem solving? (Quick tip: Teach kids to use visuals such as number lines and graphs)
  • How do I decrease problem behaviour? (Quick tip: Rearrange the classroom and reinforce expectations)

Each tip links to a topic-related practice guide, where other recommendations and resources can be found. For each recommendation, the WWC summarises and rates the supporting evidence of effectiveness.

We need more evidence on writing

Students perform less well in writing than in reading, maths, and science at Key Stages 1 and 2. A new review from the Department for Education synthesises the existing evidence from the UK and abroad, in and out of school, and for both primary and secondary pupils. It covers achievement, effective teaching, the gender gap, pupils’ attitudes, and writing as an activity outside school.

The review looks at “what works” in the classroom. Techniques that have been proven to be effective include teaching students to write for a variety of purposes, teaching the writing process, and providing daily time to write. Approaches that are effective for specific groups, such as boys and students with special education needs and disabilities, are also analysed. The review also looks at factors outside the classroom, for example, attainment in writing in the early years can be predicted by mother’s education, family size, parental assessment of the child’s writing ability, and a measure of home writing activities. However, the review highlights that there are evidence gaps in terms of specific interventions that can help students with writing, and on the effectiveness of teaching spelling. There is also little evidence on writing in studies of international comparisons.

The issue of Better on English (Winter 2013) included an article by Debra Myhill on the importance of teaching grammar, while a recent study by the IEE has shown how hand-held technology can help to improve primary pupils’ learning of grammar.

Sources: What is the research evidence on writing? (2012) Department for Education

Effects of technology-enhanced formative assessment on achievement in primary grammar (2012), Institute for Effective Education