Pupil motivation and school reform

The Center on Education Policy in the US offers a series of papers that examines topics related to pupils’ academic motivation. The summary paper, Student Motivation: An Overlooked Piece of School Reform, summarises findings from a wide array of studies by academics in a range of disciplines, as well as lessons from programmes intended to increase motivation.

Topics include: why motivation is important and how it might be defined and measured; whether rewarding pupils can result in higher motivation; whether pupils can be motivated by goal-setting; the role of parental involvement, family background, and culture; strategies schools might use to motivate pupils; and non-traditional approaches to motivating otherwise unenthusiastic pupils.

A few of the many suggestions that the authors offer for schools to consider are:

  • Programmes that reward academic accomplishments are most effective when they reward pupils for mastering certain skills or increasing their understanding rather than rewarding them for reaching a performance target or outperforming others.
  • Tests are more motivating when pupils have an opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge through low-stakes tests, performance tasks, or frequent assessments that gradually increase in difficulty before they take a high-stakes test.

Source:S tudent Motivation: An overlooked piece of school reform (2012), Center on Education Policy

Citizenship education in Europe

This report from the Eurydice network summarises how policies and measures relating to citizenship education have evolved in recent years. Citizenship education has gained prominence in teaching across Europe, with 20 of the 31 countries (EU Member States, Iceland, Norway, Croatia, and Turkey) dedicating a separate compulsory subject to its teaching.

The report focusses in particular on curriculum aims and organisation; student and parent participation in schools; school culture and student participation in society; assessment and evaluation; and support for teachers and school heads.

Citizenship features on the curriculum in all countries, but the authors say that more needs to be done to improve teachers’ knowledge and skills for teaching it. In general, citizenship education is integrated into initial teacher training courses for secondary education in subjects such as history and geography, but only England and Slovakia offer training as a specialist teacher in citizenship education.

Source: Citizenship education in Europe (2012), Eurydice

Can educational attainment be raised by changing parents’ and children’s attitudes?

Changing three attitudes (aspirations, locus of control, and valuing school) does not affect educational attainment. That is one of the findings of a review by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation which examined whether educational attainment can be raised by focusing interventions on changing the attitudes of parents and children.

The study evaluated evidence from more than 60 research papers, of which almost 30 were evaluations of specific interventions. These interventions covered the following areas: parent involvement, extra-curricular activities, mentoring, volunteering, peer education, and interventions with a primary focus on changing attitudes.

The review looked for evidence of a chain of impact from changing a particular set of attitudes to a rise in attainment. These attitudes were the aspirations to do well at school and to aim for advanced education, the sense that one’s own actions can change one’s life, and the giving of value to schooling and school results, referred to as aspirations, locus of control, and valuing school. The evidence from this evaluation supports a shift in emphasis from “raising aspirations” to “keeping aspirations on track”.

Source: Can changing aspirations and attitudes impact on educational attainment? (2012), Joseph Rowntree Foundation

Excellent results with Incredible Years

The online magazine Prevention Action has published a report on Incredible Years. This evidence-based parent training programme has previously been proven to achieve considerable success in improving outcomes for children aged three to eight years old with challenging behaviours.

New research has shown it also produces positive results with older children and their families. Studies of Incredible Years in Ireland, and also of the programme’s therapeutic dinosaur, for small groups of children at high risk of developing conduct disorder, are also underway.

Source: Incredible results for the Incredible Years (2011), Prevention Action

Family literacy programmes should help children and parents

A new study has found that children living in poverty and whose mothers have no educational qualifications do less well in language, literacy and social development than their peers. Frequent home learning alone does not compensate for this disadvantage.

It suggests that family literacy programmes should have a wider remit in terms of supporting families (for example, encouraging parents to take part in educational activities themselves) rather than solely focusing on supporting parents to give specific literacy or numeracy skills to their children.

Source: Families’ social backgrounds matter: socio-economic factors, home learning and young children’s language, literacy and social outcomes (2011), British Educational Research Journal 37(6)