Teachers’ use of intervention programmes to support underachieving pupils

A new research report from the RAND Corporation provides insight into teachers’ use of intervention programmes and the factors that may influence that use.

Laura Stelitano and colleagues used data from a sample of 4,402 teachers who indicated on the spring 2019 American Instructional Resources Survey (AIRS) that they teach English and/or maths. The survey asked teachers whether they used intervention programmes to support pupils who are performing below the required level for their year group in their respective subject area, and if so, to select the programmes they use from a list of common interventions.

The report found that, overall, intervention programmes were used less often for maths and in high (secondary) schools. Teachers were more likely to use intervention programmes in English (62%) than in maths (52%). Although high school teachers were least likely to use an intervention programme than elementary (primary) or middle school teachers, 42% of high school teachers reported using a reading or maths intervention. The report also found that teachers’ use of intervention programmes varied depending on the level of school poverty. Teachers in high-poverty schools were more likely than those in lower-poverty schools to use intervention programmes in English. However, the use of maths intervention programmes does not appear to be tied to school poverty levels.

The authors of the report recommend that research could also explore why such a large percentage of teachers are using intervention programmes, the quality of the programmes they are using, and how they are using the interventions to support learning.

Source: Teachers’ use of intervention programs: Who uses them and how context matters (2020), Insights from the American Educator Panels, RAND Corporation, RR-2575/16-BMGF/SFF/OFF

Using pupil data to support teaching

A report from the Institute of Education Sciences has found that an intensive approach to providing support for using pupil data to inform teaching did not improve pupil achievement, perhaps because the approach did not change teachers’ use of data or their reported classroom practices.

For the study, researchers recruited 102 elementary (primary) schools from 12 US districts. Schools were randomly assigned to either a treatment or control group. Treatment schools received funding for a half-time data coach of their choosing, as well as intensive professional development for coaches and school leaders on helping teachers use pupil data to inform their teaching. The control schools received no additional funding for a data coach or professional development. Impacts on teacher and pupil outcomes were measured after an  18-month implementation period.

The results suggest that despite the additional resources, teachers in the treatment schools did not increase how often they used data or change their teaching practices in response to that data. Similar percentages of teachers in treatment and control schools reported data-related activities, such as analysing data to understand pupil needs. The intervention also had no effect on pupil achievement. On average, pupils in treatment and control schools had similar achievement in maths and English.          

Source: Evaluation of support for using student data to inform teachers’ instruction (September 2019), Institute of Education Sciences, US Department of Education. NCEE 2019-4008 

Effects of different rewards on spelling scores and prosocial behaviour

A study published in Educational Psychology examines how different approaches to rewarding pupils affected their spelling scores and prosocial behaviour for different ability levels.

A total of 1,005 pupils, ages 9 and 10, in 28 classes were recruited from three primary schools in Singapore. Classes were randomly assigned to one of five reward conditions: competitive, cooperative, individualistic, cooperative-competitive, and cooperative-individualistic. An ABABA (A= implementation, B = withdrawal) design was used for each condition, and pupils’ spelling scores were tracked over a period of 10 weeks. Teachers were asked to rate pupils’ prosocial behaviour before and after the study.

The results showed that the different conditions did affect pupils’ spelling scores and prosocial behaviour, but that these effects depended on ability level, such that different conditions were more effective for different ability levels.  Across all five conditions, only the cooperative-competitive condition resulted in increased spelling scores and prosocial behaviour across all three ability groups, with these improvements maintained when the intervention was withdrawn. In the cooperative-competitive condition, pupils cooperated as a group and the group with the highest average spelling score (compared to other groups) was rewarded.

Source: Effects of reward pedagogy on spelling scores and prosocial behaviors in primary school students in Singapore (October 2019), Journal of Educational Psychology

Can teaching be simplified?

Technology that simplifies teaching by providing teachers with “off-the-shelf” lessons may increase pupil achievement, particularly if the teachers are supported in using them, according to a working paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER).

The study, conducted by Kirabo Jackson and Alexey Makarin, provided middle school maths teachers with online lessons from the Mathalicious curriculum – an inquiry-based maths curriculum for grades 6 to 12 (Years 7 to 13) grounded in real-world topics and situations. Maths teachers from 170 schools across Virginia, US, took part and were randomly assigned to one of three conditions: full treatment (online access to Mathalicious lessons along with supports to promote their use); lesson-only (online access to Mathalicious lessons only); or control (business-as-usual).

While positive effects on pupil achievement in maths were seen in both the full treatment and lesson-only conditions, results were only significant for the full-treatment group. Providing teachers with online access to the lessons along with supports to promote their use increased pupil maths achievement by an effect size of +0.09 (p<.05). Test scores for pupils in the lesson-only group were non-significantly higher than those of the control group (effect size = +0.04).

Source: Can Online Off-The-Shelf Lessons Improve Student Outcomes? Evidence from A Field Experiment (January 2017), National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), NBER Working Paper No. 22398

Children’s temperament and teachers as mediators

A new article in Child Development reports on a Finnish study of children’s temperament and their maths and reading development, focusing on whether teachers’ interaction style acts as a mediator between pupils’ temperament characteristics and their skill development.

The study followed 156 Finnish children, each from a different class, during their first year of primary school (equivalent to Year 3 in the UK). The participating children completed maths and English tests in October and April, and parents and teachers completed questionnaires about the child’s temperament. Teachers also answered daily questionnaires over a one-week period about their interaction style with the target child.

There were four components of the child’s temperament: Task orientation (activity, persistence, and distractibility); inhibition; positive mood; and negative emotionality. There were three components of teacher’s interaction styles: Affection (a positive and warm daily relationship with the child); behavioural control (the degree to which the teacher aimed to directly influence the child’s behaviour); and psychological control (teachers expressing disappointment and appealing to guilt).

The authors found different results for reading and maths. Although children’s low task orientation and negative emotionality were negatively associated with the children’s initial reading skill level at the beginning of the year, temperament did not predict children’s subsequent reading skill development during the year. The authors suggest this may reflect the relatively late school starting age and the consistent nature of Finnish orthography.

In contrast, the study indicated that for maths, temperament does play a role, perhaps reflecting the different learning process. The results showed that the impact of children’s low task orientation and negative emotionality on maths skill development was mediated by teachers’ behavioural control and, among girls, also by psychological control. However, the negative impact of children’s inhibition on maths skill development was not mediated by teachers’ interaction style.

Source: Children’s Temperament and Academic Skill Development During First Grade: Teachers’ Interaction Styles as Mediators (2015), Child Development, 86(4).

Effective teacher collaboration

A new article in the Educational Research Review presents a systematic review on teacher collaboration, with 82 studies meeting the authors’ inclusion criteria.

The authors found that such collaboration appeared to hold most benefits for the teachers themselves, including increased motivation and morale, increased communication, and decreased workload. However, the review also identified possible negatives for them, including competitiveness, a loss of autonomy, an increased workload, and a push towards conformity with the majority.

Pupils were found to benefit from improved understanding and performance, with teaching strategies becoming more pupil-centred. Organisational level benefits included a positive influence on the perception that the school climate is supportive of innovation, improved adaptation and innovation, a cultural shift to more equity, a school-wide attention for needs of pupils, a flattened power structure, and the fostering of a professional culture of intellectual enquiry.

The review found that successful collaboration required a number of factors, including realising task interdependence, developing clear roles for the members, and a defined focus for collaboration. Structural support was also required, for example providing meeting time.

Source: Teacher Collaboration: A Systematic Review (2015), Educational Research Review, 15.