The latest research

Report: Effects of Educational Technology Applications on Reading Outcomes for Struggling Readers: A Best Evidence Synthesis (July 2012)

What? The findings of a new review indicate that educational technology applications produce a positive but modest effect on the reading skills of struggling readers in comparison to “business as usual” methods.

The review, co-written by the Institute for Effective Education’s Robert Slavin, examines the effectiveness of educational technology for improving the reading achievement of struggling readers in primary schools. Four major categories of education technology applications are reviewed: small-group integrated applications, comprehensive models, supplemental computer-assisted instruction (CAI) programmes, and the Fast ForWord programme.

Small-group integrated applications such as Lindamood Phoneme Sequence Program and Read, Write, and Type produced the largest effect sizes, but these were mostly small studies, which tend to overstate programme impacts. Supplementary models, such as Lexia, had a larger number of studies and a more modest effect size. Comprehensive models and the Fast ForWord programme did not produce meaningful positive effect sizes. However, the results for these two categories of programmes should be interpreted with extreme caution because of the small number of studies involved. The review also found some evidence that technology applications might be more effective with younger primary school children, suggesting that early intervention is important for struggling readers.

One of the most important practical implications of this review is that there is a limited evidence base – only 20 studies met the inclusion standards, and many of these were small experiments. The review concludes that the evidence shows promise for some types of technology applications, but more remains to be done both in research and development of more effective solutions.

Authors: Alan Cheung and Robert Slavin

Where? The full report, and an educator’s summary, is available on the Best Evidence Encyclopaedia website,

Report: Summer School Effects in a Randomised Field Trial (May 2012)

What? This randomised trial, from Early Childhood Research Quarterly, examined the effects of a summer literacy programme on struggling readers in the US (where summer holidays are longer), and found that pupils who went to summer school had improved their literacy performance at the end of the summer.

Overall, pupils who didn’t attend summer school showed mean declines in the reading of nonsense words (a standard test of fluency) of approximately five words per minute over the summer. Children who attended summer school at the end of Kindergarten (Year 1) had a fluency gain of approximately 12 words-per minute. Pupils at the end of Grade 1 (Year 2) had a fluency gain of 7.5 words per minute.

The findings are generally consistent with previous studies of summer school effects and the summer learning outcomes of children, and suggest that summer school can be a useful strategy to support learning over the summer months.

Authors: Keith Zvoch and Joseph J Stevens

Where? Early Childhood Research Quarterly

Report: Randomised Controlled Trial of the ‘Teens and Toddlers’ Programme (May 2012)

What? A randomised controlled trial (RCT) was carried out to evaluate the impact of the Teens and Toddlers (T&T) programme. The programme’s aim is to reduce teenage pregnancy by raising the aspirations and educational attainment of 13- to 17-year-old girls at most risk of leaving education early, social exclusion, and becoming pregnant.

The T&T programme, which consisted of weekly three-hour sessions over 18 to 20 weeks, combined group-based learning with work experience in a nursery. The RCT measured the impact of the programme on a specific set of outcomes while it was taking place, immediately afterwards, and one year later. Immediately after the intervention, there was no evidence of a positive impact on the three primary outcomes:

  • Use of contraception;
  • Expectation of teenage parenthood; and
  • General social and emotional development.

However, there was evidence of improved self-esteem and sexual-health knowledge, which were secondary outcomes. One year later, the only impact was that the teenagers were less likely to have low self-esteem.

Authors: Ruth Maisey et al.


Report: Effective Evidence-based Interventions for Emotional Well-being: Lessons for Policy and Practice (May 2012)

What? This paper summarises a selective review of effective school-based social and emotional learning programmes, and draws on lessons for policy and practice regarding choice and implementation. The evidence suggests that among universal and targeted evidence-based interventions, multi-modal/ component approaches work in promoting cross-context competence and wellbeing. However, the scaling up of effective programmes remains difficult, and there are too few analyses of the cost-effectiveness or cost-benefit of effective programmes.

Choosing a programme “that works” is not enough to guarantee success; implementing the programme with fidelity takes time and resources, but is necessary to achieve the desired outcomes. A shift from being narrowly focused on “clinical effectiveness” and outcomes to being more inclusive of cost and process evaluations should result in more promising approaches, with a good potential for long-term financial and societal savings.

Authors: Tracey Bywater and Jonathan Sharples

Where? Research Papers in Education 1522.2012.690242

Report: Outcomes and Process in Reading Tutoring (July 2012)

What? A two-year study of peer tutoring in reading was undertaken in 87 primary schools in one local education authority in Scotland. The study, which used a paired reading intervention, looked at relative effectiveness of cross-age versus same-age tutoring, light versus intensive intervention, and reading versus both reading and mathematics tutoring.

The study found that paired reading tutoring improved reading compared with pupils not participating in the intervention. This was true in the long term for cross-age tutoring, and in the short term for both cross-age and same-age tutoring. Intensity of tutoring had no effect but dual-subject (reading and mathematics) tutoring did. Low-socio-economic status, low-ability and female pupils did better.

Authors: KJ Topping, A Thurston, K McGavock, and N Conlin Where? Educational Research 54(3) 31881.2012.710086

Report: Literacy Through Music: A research Evaluation of the New London Orchestra’s Literacy Through Music Programme (July 2012)

What? An independent evaluation of the New London Orchestra’s (NLO) “Literacy through Music” programme shows that participants achieve significantly more in literacy and music compared to similar children outside the programme.

The 20-week NLO programme took place in seven Year 2 classes in three schools in the London Borough of Newham in the spring and summer terms of 2011. The programme was delivered by a team of two NLO practitioners and aimed to improve the reading abilities of six- to seven-year-old children by engaging them in a special programme of music activities that were combined with sessions involving games, poetry, and story-telling. Teachers and classroom assistants also took part in the programme so that they were able to follow up the NLO activities in between the weekly sessions. The key objectives were to enhance literacy skills, give pupils a direct experience of making music and develop teachers’ skills and confidence in using music in the classroom.

Researchers tested children at the beginning and end of the NLO programme through the application of two standardised measures on children’s oral language and reading. Comparative data was collected from a control group of children from a neighbouring school. In addition, the children’s singing ability was assessed and they were asked to complete a questionnaire which included questions about their attitudes to music and their sense of social inclusion. This was designed in order to see if there were any wider benefits of the intervention outside music and literacy.

The results of the evaluation showed that participants’ reading ages went up by 8.4 months on average. The reading ages of the children in the control group improved by only 1.8 months. Participants’ singing ability also improved significantly, as measured by a researcher-led singing assessment, as did their sense of being socially included. The impacts of the programme were seen to be equally beneficial for both sexes.

Authors: Graham Welch, Jo Saunders, Angela Hobsbaum, and Evangelos Himonides

Where? Download the report and the summary here:


April 2013