Sketchy findings for arts research

A new systematic review from researchers at Durham University explores the impact of arts education on the cognitive and non-cognitive outcomes of school-aged children aged 3-16, especially disadvantaged children.

The authors found 199 studies that met their inclusion criteria. They considered arts education to include a broad range of subjects, from traditional fine arts to modern dance and movement, hip hop, poetry and creative writing. The majority of studies were about music education or a combination of art forms.

The review found no convincing evidence that demonstrated a causal relationship between arts education and young people’s academic and other wider outcomes, although music (instrumental, music education and music integration) showed promise across all age groups.

The authors rated almost all the studies in the review as providing weak evidence because of serious design flaws, meaning it was difficult to state conclusively what the impact of arts activities in education might be. However, they point out that as a large number of the studies suggest positive effects more rigorous and robust evaluations would be justified.

The Education Endowment Foundation, who commissioned the research, argue that whether or not there is a causal link to attainment, schools should still find space in their day to ensure all children benefit from a stimulating arts education.

Source: Impact of Arts Education on the Cognitive and Non-cognitive Outcomes of School-aged Children: A Review of Evidence (2015), Education Endowment Foundation.

Being in care is not the problem

A new systematic review from the University of Oxford has shown that although children in foster care lag behind their peers in a number of educational outcomes, this is not simply the result of being in care.

The authors considered all studies undertaken in English and published since 1990, with 28 studies meeting their inclusion criteria. These showed that children in foster or kinship care had poorer outcomes than their peers on a number of measures of educational attainment, including grades, literacy and numeracy test scores, attendance, and exclusions.

However, the studies reviewed suggest that the relationship between being in such care and low educational outcomes is partly explained by pre-care experiences, such as mistreatment and neglect. Also, the strength of the relationship between being in care and educational outcomes was also reduced when other individual characteristics such as gender, ethnicity, and special educational needs, known to be linked to attainment, were taken into consideration.

The authors conclude that being in care does not appear to be harmful in itself to children’s academic performance, and recommend that more needs to be done to help those in care to succeed and thrive.

Source: What is the Relationship Between Being in Care and the Educational Outcomes of Children? An International Systematic Review (2015), Rees Centre for Research in Fostering and Education.

Predicting success for pupils with disabilities

A systematic review in Review of Educational Research uses meta-analysis to consider in-school predictors of post-school success for pupils with disabilities. The examined predictors of success include various aspects of education, employment, and independent living.

The study gathered data on 16,957 individuals from 35 sources published between 1984 and 2010. Analysis revealed a small but significant overall association between the in-school predictors and post-school outcomes.

The authors reported that their findings “showed positive relationships between predictors and outcomes in almost all cases” and that although the effects were small, they were meaningful and robust.

More specifically, the authors highlighted that their analysis showed positive effects for widely studied areas (such as vocational education, inclusive classrooms, and paid work) and understudied areas (such as Student-focused Planning and Parent Involvement, and interagency collaboration).

The paper includes discussion of implications for practice and suggested directions for future research.

Source: What works, when, for whom, and with whom: a meta-analytic review of predictors of postsecondary success for students with disabilities (2015), Review of Educational Research

Achievement gap for EALs closes as time goes by

The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) has published two reports that investigate educational achievement by students who speak English as an additional language (EAL). There are around one million EAL pupils in England, representing 16.2% of the school population (up from 7.6% in 1997).

The first study analysed data from the National Pupil Database to find the most at-risk groups of EAL learners and to identify predictors of low attainment for them. Among the main findings were:

  • At age 5, EAL children were one-third less likely to achieve a target of good level of development than children with first-language English (FLE).
  • At age 16, EAL students demonstrated a small achievement gap for GCSE grades (58.3% of EAL students achieved five or more A*-C compared with 60.9% of FLE students), yet no gap at all for a scoring system based on performance in eight subjects at Key Stage 4.
  • There was no evidence of a negative impact on the attainment and progress of FLE students where there were high proportions of EAL students.

The second study was a systematic review that sought international evidence for effective interventions for raising standards in EAL students. Of the 29 studies that showed an impact, 27 were from the US, one from Canada, and one from the UK. Five of the studies addressed CPD for educators.

None of the interventions met criteria for high ratings for strength of evidence. The authors called for further and more rigorous research to increase the evidence base of effective interventions for EAL students.

Source: English as an Additional Language (EAL) and Educational Achievement in England: An Analysis of the National Pupil Database and A Systematic Review of Intervention Research Examining English Language and Literacy Development in Children with English as an Additional Language(EAL) (2015), Education Endowment Foundation

Teaching strategies to improve science learning

A new systematic review in the Journal of Research in Science Teaching analyses the achievement outcomes of all types of approaches to teaching science in primary schools. It concludes that science teaching methods focused on enhancing teachers’ classroom instruction throughout the year, such as co-operative learning and science-reading integration, as well as approaches that give teachers technology tools to enhance instruction, have significant potential to improve science learning.

Study inclusion criteria included the use of randomised or matched control groups, study duration of at least four weeks, and use of achievement measures independent of the experimental treatment. A total of 23 studies met these criteria. Among studies evaluating inquiry-based teaching approaches, programmes that used science kits did not show positive outcomes on science achievement measures (weighted effect size (ES)=+0.02 in 7 studies), but inquiry-based programmes that emphasised professional development but not kits did show positive outcomes (weighted ES=+0.36 in 10 studies). Technological approaches integrating video and computer resources with teaching and co-operative learning showed positive outcomes in a few small, matched studies (ES=+0.42 in 6 studies).

Source: Experimental Evaluations of Elementary Science Programs: A Best-evidence Synthesis, Journal of Research in Science Teaching 51(7).

High hopes for good behaviour

A new review, published in the Review of Educational Research, analyses the evidence on The Good Behavior Game (GBG), a classroom management programme that has been used (and studied) for 40 years. Strategies in the programme include acknowledging appropriate behaviour, teaching classroom rules, providing feedback about inappropriate behaviour, verbal praise, and providing rewards as reinforcement.

A total of 22 studies met the authors’ inclusion criteria. In these, the programme was mainly being used in mainstream primary schools with externalising, challenging behaviours (eg, disruptive behaviour, off-task behaviour, aggression, talking out, and out-of-seat behaviours).

The review aimed to describe and quantify the effect of the GBG on various challenging behaviours in school and classroom settings. The findings suggested that the GBG had moderate to large effects on a range of challenging behaviours, and that these effects were immediate. The correct use of rewards was found to be important for intervention effectiveness. Few studies considered the long-term impact of the GBG, but the authors conclude that the effects were largely stable, with only a very slight decrease over time.

The authors note that the GBG has been implemented by individuals in a variety of school roles (such as classroom teachers, student teachers, librarians, and lunchtime staff), and that this highlights the ease with which the GBG can be implemented under a variety of conditions. Additionally, the relatively brief training for practitioners in the studies suggests that the GBG can be used successfully without extensive training.

The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) is currently funding a randomised controlled trial of the GBG in 74 schools in England.

Source: Effects of the Good Behavior Game on Challenging Behaviors in School Settings (2014), Review of Educational Research, online first June 2014.