Let’s Talk about language development

The findings from a randomised controlled trial of Let’s Talk – an interactive intervention to support young children’s language development – suggest that the intervention has a positive effect on narrative and vocabulary development.

The trial, conducted by Gillian Lake and Maria Evangelou, and published in European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, involved 94 three- to four-year-old children in early education settings in Oxfordshire. The children were randomly assigned to control or intervention groups and tested pre- and post-intervention on standardised vocabulary and narrative assessments. Children in the intervention group attended twice-weekly sessions over ten weeks, in groups of three to five children. The first session of the week was a group shared storybook reading session with a puppet, while the second weekly session consisted of a planned pretend play session based on the storybook read in the first session that week. Children in the control group completed age-appropriate early numeracy activities and games – also in groups of three to five children.

The results suggest that the intervention had a positive effect on the vocabulary of the children in the intervention group, with medium to large effect sizes, and also on their narrative ability.

Source: Let’s Talk! An interactive intervention to support children’s language development (February 2019). European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, 27:2

Improving the language and communication of secondary school children with language difficulties

A research report published in the International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders investigates the effectiveness of teaching assistant (TA)-delivered narrative and vocabulary interventions to secondary school children with language difficulties.

Researchers at City University of London and University of Oxford conducted a randomised controlled trial in two outer London boroughs. Across 21 schools, 358 Year 7 underperforming pupils (mean age = 12.8 years) were recruited, and randomised to four groups within each school: vocabulary intervention, narrative intervention, combined narrative and vocabulary intervention, and delayed waiting control group. The narrative programme focused on the understanding and telling of stories, using a story structure to support story generation. Pupils were introduced to different types of stories (fictional, non‐fictional, scripts) and narrative genres. The vocabulary programme focused on developing key concepts and vocabulary items relevant to the curriculum (eg, nutrition) and age-appropriate (eg, careers). A variety of tasks including word associations, categorisation, mind‐mapping and word‐building were used to reinforce word learning.

The language and communication programmes (narrative, vocabulary, and combined narrative and vocabulary) were delivered by TAs in the classroom, three times per week, for 45–60 min each, over six weeks, totalling 18 sessions. Assessments were conducted pre- and post-intervention.

Overall, pupils in the intervention groups made greater improvements on standardised measures of narrative (effect size = +0.296), but not vocabulary skills, compared with control group children.

Source: Improving storytelling and vocabulary in secondary school students with language disorder: a randomized controlled trial (March 2019), International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders, 54:4

Effects of positive emotion interventions on Chinese adolescents

In recent years, interventions that apply positive psychology principles have become increasingly popular, providing an alternative approach to promoting pupils’ well-being. A recent research study published in Frontiers in Psychology examined a positive education programme in China focusing on positive emotion for middle school pupils.

Participants were drawn from a public middle school in the city of Chengdu, China. A total of 173 eighth graders (Year 9) from six classes participated in the study, of which three classes (84 pupils) were randomly allocated to the intervention group, and three classes (89 pupils) were assigned to the control group. Pupils in the intervention group received a 10-session positive education programme delivered by their teachers who received training in positive psychology from the researchers. The programme consisted of three main modules, namely understanding emotions, fostering positive emotions, and managing negative emotions. Each session lasted 45 minutes. Pupils in the control group spent the same time taking a moral education class that covered moral character, school discipline and class culture building.

Pupils completed online assessments (a Chinese version of the PROMIS paediatric scale) measuring depressive symptoms before and after the intervention. The study found that:

  • The level of depressive symptoms for pupils in both groups increased as measured by the post-test.
  • However, compared to the pupils in the control group, the increase in the level of depressive symptoms of pupils in the intervention group was significantly less.

The authors suggest that compared to correcting pupils’ behaviours, positive interventions which keep pupils intrinsically motivated could also help pupils improve their life in an effective way.

Source: Positive education interventions prevent depression in Chinese adolescents (June 2019), Frontiers in Psychology, volume 10

Research on writing approaches for pupils in Years 3 to 13

 This paper, written by Robert Slavin and colleagues from Johns Hopkins University, the University of Liege and the Institute for Effective Education, reviews research on the outcomes of writing interventions for pupils in Years 3 to 13. Studies had to meet rigorous standards of research including use of randomised or well-matched control groups; measures independent of the programme developers, researchers and teachers; and adequate sample size and duration. Fourteen studies of 12 programmes met the criteria and programmes were divided into three categories: writing process models, cooperative learning writing programmes, and programmes integrating reading and writing.

Pupil achievement effects on writing were positive in all categories, with an effect size of +0.18 across all 14 studies. Similar outcomes were found for writing programmes that focused on the writing process (effect size = +0.17), those using cooperative learning (effect size = +0.16), and those focusing on interactions between reading and writing (effect size = +0.19).

Source: A quantitative synthesis of research on writing approaches in Years 3 to 13 (July 2019), Education Endowment Foundation

Review of school-based interventions for children with ADHD

A systematic review published in Review of Education looks at the evidence from randomised controlled trials of the effectiveness of interventions for children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in school settings.

Twenty-eight studies were included in the review and were sorted into eight categories of school-based intervention for ADHD. They were analysed for effectiveness according to a range of different ADHD symptoms, difficulties and school outcomes. The eight categories of intervention were: combined/multiple component; cognitive training; daily report card; neuro-feedback; relaxation; self-monitoring; study and organisation skills training; and task modification.

The strongest evidence of beneficial effects was found for interventions that combine multiple components. There was a large effect size (+0.79) for improved ADHD symptoms rated by teachers and parents, and a small effect size (+0.30) for parent- and teacher-rated academic outcomes.

Interventions involving daily report cards also showed some promise for academic outcomes (effect size = +0.68). There was a beneficial effect on academic outcomes for neuro-feedback interventions, and mixed findings for relaxation and self-monitoring interventions.

Source: School‐based interventions for attention‐deficit/hyperactivity disorder: A systematic review with multiple synthesis methods (October 2018), Review of Education Volume 6, Issue 3

Classroom-based intervention for pupils with autism

Findings from a cluster randomised trial published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology suggest that classroom teachers can effectively deliver a programme for young pupils with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) that results in better outcomes relative to usual school-based education.

Lindee Morgan and colleagues conducted a trial of the Social, Communication, Emotional Regulation and Transactional Support (SCERTS) intervention – a classroom-based, teacher-implemented intervention aimed at improving active engagement, adaptive communication, social skills, executive functioning and problem behaviour in elementary (primary) school pupils with ASD – to assess what improvement pupils in the intervention group made across a variety of measures compared to pupils in the control group. Sixty schools from three US states were randomly assigned to either the intervention or control groups. Teachers in the intervention group were trained in how to deliver the SCERTS programme and received coaching throughout the school year.

Results showed better outcomes for the intervention group than the control group on observed measures of classroom active engagement with respect to social interaction. The intervention group also had better outcomes on measures of adaptive communication, social skills and executive functioning (effect sizes ranged from +0.31 to +0.45).

Source: Cluster randomized trial of the classroom SCERTS intervention for elementary students with autism spectrum disorder (July 2018), Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, Volume 86(7)