One tongue or two?

Concerns that a multilingual learning environment may confuse students and harm their learning are unfounded, according to a meta-analysis by researchers at the University of Luxembourg.

The review investigated the effectiveness of bilingual programmes for academic achievement in language-minority children in Europe. Similar reviews have been conducted in North America, but not previously in Europe.

The meta-analysis combined data from five European studies and revealed a small positive effect (g=0.23) on academic achievement, including reading, for language-minority children educated bilingually compared with those who experience submersion programmes (which use only the majority language).

The authors say that their analysis supports the importance of bilingual education. They note that the small number of included studies limit the extent to which their findings could be generalised to other settings. They call for further studies and closer attention to the size of the effects.

Effect sizes in the analysis are in line with previous meta-analyses in the United States, such as those of Slavin and Cheung, which also found small positive effects in support of bilingual programmes when compared with monolingual education.

Source: A meta-analysis on the effectiveness of bilingual programs in Europe (2014), Review of Educational Research

Phonics works, but other approaches need more research

A new meta-analysis published online in PLoS ONE has concluded that phonics is the only approach whose effectiveness on reading and spelling performance in children and adolescents with reading difficulties has been proven.

The research aimed to determine the effectiveness of a number of different treatment approaches for improving the literacy skills of children and adolescents with reading problems. A total of 22 studies met the search criteria, and these assessed a number of approaches: phonemic awareness instruction, phonics instruction, reading fluency training, reading comprehension training, auditory training, medical treatment, and coloured overlays.

The analysis concluded that teaching phonics is the only approach proven to have a statistically significant effect on reading and spelling performance. However, this approach was also the most intensively investigated, and therefore the only one where enough trials had been conducted to provide a reliable answer.

The Education Elf blog provides further analysis of this research.

Source: Effectiveness of Treatment Approaches for Children and Adolescents with Reading Disabilities: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials (2014), PLoS ONE.

Bullying linked to poor parenting

new article published in Child Abuse & Neglect explores the link between childhood bullying and parenting. It found that both victims and bully/victims (those who bully and are victims of bullying) were more likely to be exposed to negative parenting behaviour, including abuse and neglect. The effects were generally small-to-moderate for victims but moderate for bully/victims. Although parental involvement, support, and high supervision decrease the chances of children being involved in bullying behaviour, for victims, overprotection increased the risk.

A number of possible explanations are given. Some mistreated and abused children may be submissive at home to maintain their safety, or they may learn that they are powerless, have less confidence, and become less able to assert themselves. On the other hand, some mistreated children display heightened levels of aggression, which suggests that they may be more inclined to bully. Most studies did not differentiate cause and effect, so it could be that a bullied child may be difficult and this might lead to poor parenting.

Seventy studies met the inclusion criteria for the meta-analysis, with a final sample of over 200,000 children and young people aged 4–25. The authors’ recommendations include intervention programmes that target children who are exposed to harsh or abusive parenting, and parental training programmes to strengthen supportive involvement and warm and affectionate parenting.

Source: Parenting Behavior and the Risk of Becoming a Victim and a Bully/Victim: A Meta-analysis Study (2013), Child Abuse & Neglect

The Sesame Street effect

“Count von Count, Sesame Street’s friendly mathematical vampire, is obsessed with a new number: 0.29”, says Dr Charlotte Cole, Senior Vice President of Global Education at Sesame Workshop. She was responding to a new article in the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology which found that the impact of Sesame Street is significant and positive, with an effect size of 0.292.

The authors conducted a meta-analysis examining the effects of children’s exposure to international co-productions of Sesame Street, synthesising the results of 24 studies, conducted with over 10,000 children in 15 countries. The results indicated significant positive effects of watching the programme, aggregated across learning outcomes, and within three outcome categories: cognitive outcomes, including literacy and numeracy; learning about the world, including health and safety knowledge; and social reasoning and respect for others.

Source: Effects of Sesame Street: A Meta-analysis of Children’s Learning in 15 Countries (2013), Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 34(3).

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.

Writing activities and reading comprehension: What’s the link?

This article in Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal presents a meta-analysis on the effects of different writing activities on reading comprehension. A total of 19 studies, involving pupils at both primary and secondary level, met inclusion criteria, resulting in four comparisons between different writing activities:

  • summary writing versus answering questions;
  • summary writing versus note taking;
  • answering questions versus note taking; and
  • answering questions versus extended writing activities.

Results indicated that there were no statistically significant differences for any of the comparisons when effects were averaged over all reading comprehension measures, excluding treatment-inherent measures. However, statistically significant differences were found for two of the comparisons on specific measures:

  • Extended writing enhanced reading comprehension better than question answering on measures where comprehension was assessed via an extended writing activity; and
  • Summary writing enhanced reading comprehension better than question answering on a free recall measure.

According to the authors, these results “provide limited support for the theoretical viewpoint that writing activities are differentially effective in improving reading comprehension based on how closely the writing activities are aligned with a particular measure.”

Source: Comparing Effects of Different Writing Activities on Reading Comprehension: A Meta-analysis (2013), Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal, (6)1.