The latest research

Effectiveness of the Mindfulness in Schools Programme: Non-randomised Controlled Feasibility Study (2013)

What? A study of the Mindfulness in Schools Project (MiSP) has shown that it reduces depressive symptoms, lowers stress, and increases well-being in teenagers. The MiSP program is a complex intervention that includes elements for young people who are stressed and experiencing mental health difficulties, for those in the normal range of mental health, and for those who are flourishing. It consists of nine lessons given weekly. A non-randomized controlled feasibility study matched six UK secondary schools teaching the MiSP program with similar schools. Young people aged 12–16 took part in the program and were tested before the intervention, after the intervention (two months later), and at follow-up (three months later). After the intervention, there was strong evidence of lower depression scores for those receiving the MiSP program. At follow-up, there was evidence of increased well-being, lower stress, and lower depression scores. The authors say that the next step should be a randomized control trial, with longer follow-ups, to examine key processes and outcomes, and to see whether the program is effective in a wider range of schools.

Authors: Kuyken W et al.

Where? The British Journal of Psychiatry, 203(1).

The Effects of Musical Training on the Decoding Skills of German-speaking Primary School Children (2013)

What? This study examines the relationship between musical skills and reading skills, and investigates whether musical training has a positive effect on reading ability. A total of 159 primary school children from eight classes in Germany participated in the study. Children in the experimental group received special musical training twice a week for eight months, while children in the comparison group had additional training in visual arts to the same extent as the musical training. A second comparison group did not receive any special training for the period of the study. Assignment to the different groups was randomized. Pretests (a standardized test, a questionnaire that explored socioeconomic background, and music and reading measurements) were conducted before the training began, and then reading skills and musical ability were tested again immediately after the training had been administered. Key findings were as follows:

● Rhythmical abilities (the ability to differentiate between rhythmic patterns and tone lengths) were correlated significantly positively with decoding skills (both reading accuracy and reading prosody – the rhythm, stress, and intonation of speech).

● Tonal skills (discrimination of pitch and melodic/tonal patterns) were not correlated with reading skills.

● The special musical training had a significant effect on reading accuracy in word reading.

Author: Rautenberg I.

Where? Journal of Research on Reading, first published online June 2013.

Experimental Evidence on the Effects of Home Computers on Academic Achievement among Schoolchildren (2013)

What? Researchers from the US National Bureau of Economic Research have explored how important access to a home computer is to the educational achievement of children. They found no effects, either positive or negative, on a range of outcomes. The authors conducted a randomized controlled trial with 1,123 students aged 11–16 without home computers from 15 schools across California. In the largest ever experiment involving the provision of free home computers, half of the children were randomly selected to receive free computers, while the other half served as the control group. The goal of the study was to evaluate the effects of home computers alone, so no training or other assistance was provided to the children who received the free computers. At the end of the school year, data from the schools was used to measure the impact of the home computers on numerous educational outcomes. Findings showed that, although computer ownership and use increased substantially, there were no effects on grades, test scores, credits earned, attendance, or disciplinary actions in the experimental group.

Authors: Fairlie R and Robinson J.

Where? The paper is available from the NBER website.

KIPP Middle Schools: Impacts on Achievement and Other Outcomes Final Report (2013)

What? The Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP) is a chain of US charter schools that aims to improve education for low-income children. This report says that the impact on student achievement in KIPP middle schools (for ages 11–14) is positive, statistically significant, and educationally substantial. The report compared the progress of children in 43 KIPP middle schools with that of their former peers from elementary school. The two groups of children were similar, although KIPP students were less likely to have received special education services or have limited proficiency in English. The estimated gains made by KIPP children over the three years were substantial, with an effect size of +0.36 for mathematics (equivalent to an additional 11 months learning) and +0.21 for reading (equivalent to an extra seven months). There were few differences in student behavior and attitude, but KIPP students did complete around 50% more homework than their peers. KIPP schools also have an extended school day (on average more than nine hours), but the study found that KIPP schools with the longest days produced less impact on achievement, perhaps because the extra time was spent on non-core academic activities.

Authors: Clark Tuttle C et al.

Where? The report was published by Mathematica Policy Research.

Incentive Pay Programs Do Not Affect Teacher Motivation or Reported Practices: Results From Three Randomized Studies (2013)

What? This article, published in Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, analysed the results of three randomized studies of pay-for-performance incentive programs for teachers. The three programs considered were: Project on Incentives in Teaching, Project on Team Incentives, and School-Wide Performance Bonus. Findings showed that the programs did not motivate teachers to make the behavioral changes that lead to student achievement gains.

Authors: Yuan K et al.

Where? Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 35(1).

Comparing the Impact of Online and Face-to-Face Professional Development in the Context of Curriculum Implementation (2013)

What? This article compares the impact of delivering professional development face-to-face and online. The authors conducted a cluster randomized experiment on a training program designed to prepare US high school teachers to implement a year-long environmental science curriculum. A total of 49 teachers were randomly assigned to either the face-to-face condition (a week-long workshop totalling 48 hours) or the online condition (to be completed by teachers at their own pace). Comparison of classroom practice and student learning outcomes is normally difficult to establish in professional development research, but using a common set of curriculum materials enabled the authors to do so in this case. Their analysis found that both teachers and students (n=1,132) exhibited significant gains in both conditions, face-to-face and online, but that there was no significant difference between the conditions.

Source: Journal of Teacher Education, published online July 2013

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October 2013