Are prematurely born children at higher risk of lower academic performance?

Published in the open access journal JAMA Network Open, this systematic review and meta-analysis considers the associations between premature birth and academic achievement in reading and maths.

Melinda McBryde and colleagues looked at 33 unique studies comparing the academic outcomes of school-age children who were born prematurely (n=4,006) with children born full-term (n=3,317). The meta-analysis compared mean scores from standardised tests of reading and maths (and associated subskills).

The results showed that children who were born prematurely scored lower on reading comprehension and applied mathematical problems than their full-term peers. Premature children also scored lower than their term-born peers in maths calculation, decoding, mathematical knowledge, word identification and mathematical fluency.

Extremely premature children (those born at less than 28 weeks’ gestation) had significantly lower reading performance compared with children born full-term. However, children born at 28 to 32 weeks’ gestation did not exhibit later reading deficits compared with full-term peers.

Looking at the ages when assessments were carried out, in reading, prematurely born children ages 5 to 8 performed significantly worse than full-term peers, as did those ages 9 to 11. Reading deficits were significant but less pronounced when children were assessed at 12 to 18. In contrast, the magnitude of deficits in maths in prematurely born children was similar across age groups.

Source: Academic outcomes of school-aged children born preterm: A systematic review and meta-analysis (April 2020), JAMA Network Open. 2020;3(4)

A meta-analysis of writing in social studies, science and maths

Is writing about classroom content an effective way to learn? Arizona State University’s Steven Graham and colleagues at the University of Utah recently performed a meta-analysis on the effects of writing about classroom content in social studies, science and maths. Specifically, they examined if writing increased pupil achievement, if the results differed among subjects, and if any relationships existed by year level, activity type, or any other factors.

To be included, studies had to meet quality criteria including true or quasi-experimental research design, reliability of measures, controlling for teacher effects, multiple classes in the experimental and control conditions, experimental and control group pre-test equivalence, and both groups experiencing equal amounts of time learning the same topics.

This search yielded 56 studies in 53 documents meeting criteria for inclusion, involving 6,235 pupils in grades 1-11 (Years 2-12). Pupils in experimental groups wrote about classroom content, while most controls did not write at all. Forty-six percent of the studies assessed the impact of writing on science, 38% on maths and 14% on social studies. Thirty-four percent examined elementary (primary) pupils, and 32% each examined middle and high school (secondary) pupils. The types of writing activities for the experimental groups included writing informational text, such as summarising information or writing a report (34%); journal writing (32%); argumentative writing (13%); and narrative writing, such as creating a word problem in maths lessons (5%). These were coded to determine which, if any, were more effective than others.

Results showed that writing about content increased pupil achievement when compared to equivalent peers in non-writing control groups. Average weighted effect sizes were statistically significant in science (+0.31), social studies (+0.31) and maths (+0.32), as they were when broken down by elementary (+0.29), middle (+0.30) and high school (+0.30) levels. No correlation was found with number of treatment days, type of writing task, or type of assessment.

Source: The effects of writing on learning in science, social studies, and mathematics: A meta-analysis (March 2020), Review of Educational Research

Do teacher pay incentives improve pupil test scores?

A meta-analysis published in the American Educational Research Journal looks at the association between teacher pay incentives and pupils’ test scores, and suggests that teacher pay incentives have the potential to improve pupil test scores in some contexts.

Lam D Pham and colleagues analysed effect sizes across 37 studies, 26 of which were conducted in the US. To be included in the meta-analysis, studies had to include a sample comprising teachers and pupils in K-12 education (Year 1 to Year 13) located in a school district or area that had a teacher pay incentive programme. Studies also had to use a randomised controlled trial with a business-as-usual comparison group, and report on pupil outcomes on standardised tests.

Overall, among the US-based studies, the effect of teacher pay incentives on pupil test scores was positive (effect size +0.04), however, this varied across subjects and settings. The average effect size of pay incentives on pupils’ maths test scores (+0.05) was larger than the effect on English test scores (+0.03). Pay incentives for elementary (primary) school teachers were associated with larger effects (+0.10) than middle school teachers (+0.01). In addition, larger pay incentives, and pay incentives that are based on multiple measures of teacher effectiveness, were associated with larger effect sizes.

Source: Teacher merit pay: A meta-analysis (February 2020), American Educational Research Journal

The effects of high-quality CPD on teachers and pupils

A report from the Education Policy Institute (EPI) reviews the evidence on the impact of continuing professional development (CPD) for teachers, and finds that high-quality CPD can play a role in improving teaching quality.

Commissioned by Wellcome, the rapid review and meta-analysis examined 52 randomised controlled trials evaluating CPD programmes for teachers in order to establish their impact on pupil and teacher outcomes. These were trials of interventions that went beyond current practice in school, and might include training courses, mentoring, seminars and peer review.

The findings of the report suggest that high-quality CPD has a positive effect on pupils’ learning outcomes with an effect size of +0.09. The review also suggests that the availability of high-quality CPD may have a positive impact on teacher retention, particularly for early-career teachers.

Source: the effects of high-quality professional development on teachers and students: A rapid review and meta-analysis (February 2020), The Education Policy Institute

The benefits of peer learning

Harriet R Tenenbaum and colleagues conducted a meta-analysis to examine results from 71 studies about the effects of peer interaction on learning. To be included in the review, studies had to include a comparison group. Peer interaction was defined as small groups of pupils working together to achieve common goals of learning. Approaches using more formal training, such as cooperative learning or peer tutoring, were excluded. The majority of the studies were conducted in the US and UK and included more than 7,000 children between ages 4 and 18.

Published in Journal of Educational Psychology, their findings suggest that peer interaction was effective in promoting learning in comparison with other types of learning conditions (effect size = +0.40) across different gender and age groups. In contrast, children working in peer groups were not more effective than children working individually with adults. There was also no effect for group size, with findings suggesting that children learn the same amount in groups of two children and in larger groups. Moderator analyses also indicated that peer interaction is more effective when children are specifically instructed to reach consensus than when no instruction is given.

The researchers conclude that although peer interaction does facilitate learning, the conditions and means by which this happens varies and depends on a number of moderating factors. They say the findings indicate that the benefits of peer interaction can be realised by educators if they create opportunities not just for discussion, but also for the negotiation of a shared understanding.

Source: How effective is peer interaction in facilitating learning? A meta-analysis (December 2019), Journal of Educational Psychology

The impact of peer assessment on academic achievement

Researchers from the University of Oxford’s Department of Education conducted a meta-analysis to examine what effect peer assessment interventions have on academic performance.

Published in Educational Psychology Review, the meta-analysis evaluated the effect of peer assessment on academic performance when compared to no assessment and teacher assessment. Fifty-four studies were included in the meta-analysis, of which 45% were with school-age pupils. Studies had to examine the effect of peer assessment on non-self-reported measures of academic achievement and have a control or comparison group, using no assessment, teacher assessment, or self-assessment.

The findings from the analysis indicated that overall there was a significant positive effect of peer assessment on academic performance compared with no assessment (effect size = +0.31) and teacher assessment (ES = +0.28). The effect size was similar when peer assessment was compared with self-assessment (ES = +0.23) though this result was not significant. The effect sizes were slightly larger for school-age children than undergraduates. The analysis concludes that peer assessment can be effective across a wide range of subject areas, education levels, and assessment types.

Source: The impact of peer assessment on academic performance: A meta-analysis of control group studies (December 2019), Educational Psychology Review, doi:10.1007/s10648-019-09510-3