Restorative Practices Intervention did not produce significant changes

The results of a randomised controlled trial of a whole-school intervention designed to build a supportive school environment and reduce bullying found that it did not produce significant changes in the treatment schools.

The study, published in Journal of Youth and Adolescence, evaluated the Restorative Practices Intervention to assess the extent of implementation and changes in school connectedness, positive developmental outcomes, and bullying. The intervention involves training all school staff on how to carry out 11 restorative practices (eg, communication approaches that aim to build stronger bonds among leadership, staff, and pupils such as using “I” statements, encouraging pupils to express their feelings).

For the randomised controlled trial, Joie Acosta and colleagues collected baseline and two-year post survey data from pupils in grades 6 and 7 (Years 7 and 8) at 14 US middle schools. Schools were randomised so that seven schools received the Restorative Practices Intervention and seven did not.

The results of the study suggest that the intervention did not produce any significant changes in the treatment schools. Intervention schools did not report more school connectedness, better school climate, more positive peer relationships, or less victimisation. Indeed, the Restorative Practices Intervention only delivered a modest amount of restorative experiences, and not much different from the amount control schools received.

However, pupils’ self-reported experience with restorative practices significantly predicted improved school climate and connectedness, peer attachment and social skills, and reduced cyberbullying victimisation. The researchers conclude that, while more work is needed on how interventions can reliably produce restorative experiences, this study suggests that the restorative model can be useful in promoting positive behaviours and addressing bullying.

Source: Evaluation of a whole-school change intervention: findings from a two-year cluster-randomized trial of the restorative practices intervention (March 2019), Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 48

Improving behaviour in schools

The Education Endowment Foundation has published a review of the current evidence on approaches to behaviour in schools.

The review, which was carried out by researchers at the University of Exeter, synthesises the best available international evidence on approaches to behaviour in schools. The goal is to:

  • explain why pupils may misbehave
  • review what types of classroom management approaches are most effective
  • review what types of school-wide management approaches are most effective.

The report, which offers schools some recommendations for improving behaviour, suggests that universal systems are unlikely to work for all pupils, and for those pupils who need more intensive support with their behaviour, a personalised approach is likely to be better.

Source: Improving behaviour in schools: evidence review (December 2019), Education Endowment Foundation

Does enhancing teacher expectation benefit pupils?

A recent study published in Learning and Individual Differences investigates the effects of an intervention in China that enhances teachers’ approaches to conveying high expectations to pupils.

The researchers randomly selected two schools in an urban area of a city in south China. Four grade 8 (Year 9) English teachers in each school were randomly chosen and evenly assigned to either the intervention or control group. While the control group teachers did not receive training, the intervention group teachers were provided with training workshops focusing on three strands of high-expectation behaviour, namely, giving pupils challenging tasks, providing affirmation or suggestions to pupils about their performance, and enhancing how teachers impart personal regard to pupils.

Teachers were asked to estimate the final exam score they believed each pupil would achieve for the study to categorise pupils into high-, middle- and low-expectation groups. Then, the researchers selected 30 pupils from each class, consisting of 10 each of high-, middle-, and low-expectation pupils, to participate in the study. Among the 240 pupils selected, 229 pupils provided complete data for analysis. Pupils’ self-concepts regarding English and the English test achievement of 113 pupils from the intervention group and 116 pupils from the control group were gathered at the end of Grade 7 (Year 8) and at the middle and the end of Grade 8 (Year 9).

Results showed that:

  • While the self-concept of pupils from the control group significantly declined from the end of grade 7 (Year 8) to the end of grade 8 (Year 9), the self-concept of mid- and low-expectation pupils from the intervention group significantly increased over the year.
  • English achievement increased for pupils in the intervention group, while no significant changes were found among pupils in the control group.
  • Low-expectation pupils exhibited the most gains in both self-concept and achievement.

The authors conclude that teachers giving challenging tasks, detailed feedback, and enhanced personal regard to pupils has a positive impact on improving pupils’ self-belief and academic achievement.

Source: Teacher expectation intervention: Is it effective for all students? (August 2019), Learning and Individual Differences, Volume 74

The benefits of peer learning

Harriet R Tenenbaum and colleagues conducted a meta-analysis to examine results from 71 studies about the effects of peer interaction on learning. To be included in the review, studies had to include a comparison group. Peer interaction was defined as small groups of pupils working together to achieve common goals of learning. Approaches using more formal training, such as cooperative learning or peer tutoring, were excluded. The majority of the studies were conducted in the US and UK and included more than 7,000 children between ages 4 and 18.

Published in Journal of Educational Psychology, their findings suggest that peer interaction was effective in promoting learning in comparison with other types of learning conditions (effect size = +0.40) across different gender and age groups. In contrast, children working in peer groups were not more effective than children working individually with adults. There was also no effect for group size, with findings suggesting that children learn the same amount in groups of two children and in larger groups. Moderator analyses also indicated that peer interaction is more effective when children are specifically instructed to reach consensus than when no instruction is given.

The researchers conclude that although peer interaction does facilitate learning, the conditions and means by which this happens varies and depends on a number of moderating factors. They say the findings indicate that the benefits of peer interaction can be realised by educators if they create opportunities not just for discussion, but also for the negotiation of a shared understanding.

Source: How effective is peer interaction in facilitating learning? A meta-analysis (December 2019), Journal of Educational Psychology

Digital vs. paper reading

A study published in the American Educational Research Journal compares reading processes and outcomes for pupils when reading a text from paper with the same text delivered on a touchscreen laptop.

Amanda P Goodwin and colleagues conducted the study with 371 pupils in grades 5–8 (Years 6–9) from three schools in an urban district in the southeastern US. Pupils were randomly assigned to two conditions: Condition A read the first section of a text on paper, and the second half digitally, whereas pupils in Condition B read the first part digitally and the second part on paper. The content in both conditions was identical. When reading on paper, pupils had access to highlighters, pens and sticky notes; when reading digitally, they had access to digital highlighters, annotating and dictionaries.

Results suggest that pupils highlight and annotate more when reading on paper vs. digital text. Also, reading on paper vs. digitally was slightly supportive of reading comprehension for the longer sections of text, although effect sizes were very small (odds ratio of 1.077).

Source: Digital versus paper reading processes and links to comprehension for middle school students (December 209), American Educational Research Journal

Learning together to reduce bullying

A study published in Public Health Research reports on an evaluation of the Learning Together intervention, which aims to reduce bullying and aggression and to promote pupil health and well-being.

Forty secondary schools in southeast England participated in the trial, with 20 schools randomly assigned to deliver the intervention over three years, and 20 schools continuing with existing practices. In the intervention schools, staff and pupils collaborated in an “action group” to change school rules and policies, with the goal of making it a healthier environment. This included focusing on improving relationships rather than merely punishment-based approaches to discipline, and using a classroom curriculum aimed at encouraging social-emotional skills.

All pupils completed a questionnaire at the start of the trial, and this was repeated three years later. Results showed that self-reported experiences of bullying victimisation were lower in intervention schools than in control schools (adjusted effect size = –0.08). There was no evidence of a reduction in pupil reports of aggression. Pupils in intervention schools also had higher scores on quality of life and psychological well-being measures, and lower scores on a psychological difficulties measure. They also reported lower rates of having smoked, drunk alcohol, been offered or tried illicit drugs, or been in contact with the police in the previous 12 months.

Source:  Modifying the secondary school environment to reduce bullying and aggression: the INCLUSIVE cluster RCT. (November 2019). Public Health Research Volume: 7, Issue: 18