The Nuffield Foundation has published a systematic review by researchers at Ulster University that analyses the outcomes of classroom-based mathematical interventions.
The systematic review included studies that assessed the
outcomes of interventions aimed at improving maths achievement in primary
school children. Forty-five randomised controlled trials were included along
with thirty-five quasi-experimental studies. The studies were published between
2000 and 2017, and were mostly conducted in the US and Europe.
The results of the review suggest that there are effective
strategies teachers can use to help with learning maths and being fluent with
mathematical facts. It also found there are many different ways teachers can
support children to have a wide bank of strategies to complete mathematical
problems, and for children to know when is best to apply them. Technology in
the classroom can also be helpful as long as these tools have been developed
with a clear understanding of how children learn.
The report concludes that the evidence base on mathematical
interventions is weak, and recommends that researchers should test how
effective mathematical interventions are in order to help teachers support
to improve mathematical achievement in primary school-aged children. A systematic
review (June 2019), Nuffield Foundation
The Institute for Effective Education (IEE) has published a new
report from a project funded by their Innovation Evaluation Grants. The IEE
Innovation evaluations are small-scale and test the kinds of innovations that
schools are interested in.
Thirty-four Year 4 classes took part in the evaluation of Improving times table fluency, which was conducted by Underwood West Academy. A total of 876 children were included in the study.
Five groups of four or five classes were created by matching
the pre-test scores on a 25-item tables test and the percentage of children in
receipt of pupil premium. All groups had similar pre-test scores and similar
percentages of children in receipt of pupil premium. Each class used a different balance of
conceptual and procedural activities during times tables lessons. Conceptual
activities were games that focused on the connections and patterns in tables
facts, while procedural activities were games in which pupils practiced
Pupils had four 15-minute times tables lessons each week, and the
intervention lasted for 12 weeks. Before the intervention started, all
participating pupils carried out a simple times tables test comprising 25
spoken multiplication questions. The same test was repeated as a post-test.
The results of the trial showed that no one balance of practice
activities was more effective than another. The report concludes that times
tables may be best taught by using a balanced approach – teaching both the
concepts behind them and practising them in a range of ways with low-stakes
Increasing times table fluency (May 2019), Institute
for Effective Education
A discussion paper from the IZA Institute of Labor Economics reports on a randomised controlled trial to improve teacher-pupil-parent feedback in a rural area of central China with a large proportion of left-behind children (children who have both parents working in cities, and are living away from home).
W Stanley Siebert and colleagues collected data from over 4,000 primary school children (Years 4 and 6) over two school terms, which included academic scores from standardised tests. One class from each year group in each school was randomly chosen to be in the feedback group. In these classes, all pupils received bi-weekly feedback from their teachers on their schoolwork and behaviour. Additionally, one-third of pupils in these classes were randomly selected to also have their bi-weekly feedback sent to their parents.
The results suggest that feedback does have a positive
effect on improving maths and language scores for both left-behind and non-left
behind children. In maths, there was an effect size of +0.16 standard
deviations in Year 4 and +0.20 standard deviations in Year 6. For language the
effect size was +0.09 standard deviations for Year 4 and +0.20 standard
deviations for Year 6. When feedback was
communicated to parents the achievement gains were larger for younger
left-behind children than for non-left behind children. For left-behind
children in Year 4 there was an additional +0.30 standard deviations
improvement in maths.
feedback, parent-teacher communication, and academic performance: Experimental
evidence from rural China (February 2018), IZA
Institute of Labor Economics
Amanda Inns and colleagues from Johns Hopkins Center for Research and Reform in Education have completed a research review on effective programmes for struggling readers in elementary (primary) schools. A total of 61 studies of 48 programmes met study inclusion standards. 84% were randomised experiments and 16% quasi-experiments. Results showed positive outcomes for one-to-one tutoring and were positive but not as large for one-to-small group tutoring. There were no differences in outcomes between teachers and teaching assistants as tutors. Whole-class approaches (mostly cooperative learning) and whole-school approaches incorporating tutoring obtained outcomes for struggling readers as large as those found for one-to-one tutoring, and benefitted many more pupils. Technology-supported adaptive instruction did not have positive outcomes, however. The article concludes that approaches mixing classroom and school improvements with tutoring for the most at-risk pupils have the greatest potential for the largest numbers of struggling readers.
Source: A synthesis of quantitative research on
programs for struggling readers in elementary schools (April 2019), Johns Hopkins Center for Research and Reform
Celia Gomez and colleagues from the RAND Corporation have released a new research brief that examines Big Lift, a preschool to third-grade initiative designed to boost literacy skills and ensure that children are reading proficiently by third grade (Year 4). The initiative has been implemented in seven US school districts in San Mateo County, California, that have below-average third-grade reading levels. According to the brief, Big Lift seeks to improve third-grade reading through a set of four co-ordinated and integrated “pillars”: High-Quality Preschool, Summer Learning, School Attendance and Family Engagement.
The researchers have examined outcomes for two cohorts of
pupils: Cohort 1 includes pupils in four districts who receive Big Lift services,
and Cohort 2 an additional three districts. Data sources include early
childhood cognitive assessments, kindergarten (Year 1) and first-grade (Year 2)
entry forms completed by parents, and the San Mateo County Office of
Education’s countywide data system.
The current research brief is part of a multiphase
evaluation of Big Lift, and reports on findings after two years of implementation.
Key findings are as follows:
Lift preschool children in the 2017–2018 kindergarten class were better
prepared for kindergarten than demographically similar peers who did not attend
preschool — but they were less prepared than similar peers who attended non–Big
Lift preschool programmes.
who attended two years of Big Lift preschool were more kindergarten-ready than
similar peers who attended only one year.
the 2016–2017 kindergarten class, Big Lift preschool children had reading
levels at the end of kindergarten and the start of first grade that were on par
with similar peers who attended other preschool programmes and higher than
similar peers who attended no preschool at all.
Source: The Big
Lift preschool, two years in: What have we learned so far? (2018), RAND Corporation Research Briefs RB-10047-SVCF
A new study published in American Psychologist looks at evidence of bias against women and girls for jobs or activities requiring intellectual ability.
Andrei Cimpian conducted a series of three experiments to test for evidence of gender bias and its developmental roots. In the two initial experiments, more than 1,150 participants (mean age 35 years) were asked to refer individuals for a job. The results showed that participants were less likely to refer a woman when the job description mentioned intellectual ability (43.5% female referrals) than when it did not (50.8%).
In the third experiment, the researchers looked at whether young children favour boys over girls for intellectually challenging activities. Children ages five to seven (n= 192) were recruited from a small mid-western city in the US, and taught how to play a team game. Half of the children were told that the game was for “really, really smart” children, the other half were not. Children were then asked to select three teammates from among six children (three boys and three girls) they did not know.
Initially, the children selected teammates of the same gender as themselves (so, girls chose the other girls, and boys chose the other boys), but by the third selection round they became less likely to select girls as teammates for the “smart” game (37.6% girls selected) than for the control game (53.4%). Girls were less likely to select other girls as teammates across selection rounds, particularly for the “smart” game.
Source: Evidence of bias against girls and women in contexts that emphasize intellectual ability (December 2018), American Psychologist 73(9)