An integrated approach to science and literacy

This research article from the Journal of Research in Science Teaching investigates the effectiveness of an integrated science and literacy approach at primary school level. Teachers in 94 fourth-grade (Year 5) classrooms in one US Southern state participated.

Half of the teachers in the study taught an integrated science and literacy unit on light and energy, which was designed using a curriculum model that engages pupils in reading text, writing notes and reports, conducting first-hand investigations, and frequently discussing key concepts and processes to acquire inquiry skills and knowledge about science concepts. The other half of the teachers taught a content-comparable science-only unit on light and energy and provided their regular literacy instruction.

Results of the study showed that pupils in the integrated science and literacy group made significantly greater improvement in science understanding, science vocabulary, and science writing. Pupils in both groups made comparable improvements in science reading.

Source: The impact of an integrated approach to science and literacy in elementary school classrooms (2012), Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 49(5)

Does arts engagement work to increase student achievement?

This report from the US National Endowment for the Arts looks at correlations between arts activity among at-risk youth and subsequent levels of academic performance and civic engagement. Data was pulled from four large-scale, longitudinal studies that tracked a nationally representative sample of children and/or teenagers over time.

The following key findings emerged:

  • Socially and economically disadvantaged children and teenagers who have high levels of arts engagement or arts learning show more positive outcomes in a variety of areas than their low-arts-engaged peers;
  • At-risk teenagers or young adults with a history of intensive arts experiences show achievement levels closer to, and in some cases exceeding, the levels shown by the general population studied; and
  • Most of the positive relationships between arts involvement and academic outcomes apply only to at-risk populations (low socio-economic status). But positive relationships between arts and civic engagement are noted in higher socio-economic status groups as well.

Source: The arts and achievement in at-risk youth: Findings from four longitudinal studies (2012), National Endowment for the Arts

A practical guide to low-cost randomised controlled trials

This guide from the Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy summarises five well-conducted, low-cost randomised controlled trials (RCTs) carried out in real-world community settings. As the guide states, RCTs are regarded as the strongest method for evaluating programme effectiveness. Evaluations of the Triple P (Positive Parenting Programme) system and New York City’s teacher incentive programme are reviewed. The purpose of the guide is to illustrate the feasibility and value of low-cost RCTs for policy makers and researchers.

Source: Rigorous program evaluations on a budget: How low-cost randomized controlled trials are possible in many areas of social policy (2012), Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy

Impact of a CPD course for science teachers

Making Sense of SCIENCE is a continuing professional development (CPD) course focused on force and motion. It incorporates physical science content, analysis of student work and thinking, and classroom teaching to develop teacher expertise about force and motion and science teaching. In this study from the US Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences, researchers examine the impact of the CPD on 8th grade (Year 9) pupil achievement in science. More than 100 Year 9 teachers were included in the sample.

Results indicated that the teachers who received the CPD had greater content knowledge about force and motion and confidence in teaching force and motion than teachers who did not receive the CPD. However, there was no impact of the programme on pupils’ physical science test scores.

Source: Effects of making sense of SCIENCE professional development on the achievement of middle school students including english language learners (2012), Institute of Education Sciences

Extracurricular activity: more is not necessarily better

In this study from the Journal of Youth and Adolescence, researchers examine how the breadth of activities in which an adolescent participates relates to academic outcomes. The sample included more than 800 ethnically diverse 11th grade (Year 12 pupils). The researchers looked at the relationships between these pupils’ participation in four activity domains (academic/leadership groups, arts activities, clubs, and sports) and their sense of belonging at school, academic engagement, and academic achievement.

Results showed that adolescents who were moderately involved (ie, in two domains) reported a greater sense of belonging at school in both Year 12 and Year 13, a higher grade point average in Year 12 and greater academic engagement in Year 13, relative to those who were more or less involved.

Source: Too much of a good thing? How breadth of extracurricular participation relates to school-related affect and academic outcomes during adolescence (2011), Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 41(3)

Key components of successful coaching

Head Start CARES (Classroom-based Approaches and Resources for Emotion and Social Skill Promotion) is a large-scale, US national research demonstration to test a one-year programme to improve pre-kindergarteners’ (age 4–5) social and emotional readiness for school. To facilitate the delivery of the programme, teachers attended training workshops and worked with coaches throughout the school year. In this report from MDRC, researchers present lessons learned from Head Start CARES about coaching social-emotional curricula in a large and complex early childhood education system. Key findings include:

  • Successful coaches exhibited a combination of skills in three important areas: knowledge of the programme, general coaching and consultation skills, and knowledge of and experience in early childhood development and/or teaching.
  • Incorporating coaching into day-to-day practices requires flexibility and is necessary for implementation success.
  • Site-level administrators must be actively engaged in supporting and supervising coaching as well as general implementation processes.

Source: Coaching as a Key Component in Teachers’ Professional Development: Improving Classroom Practices in Head Start Settings (2012), MDRC