Effective programmes in reading and mathematics: lessons from the Best Evidence Encyclopaedia
Volume 24 Number 4, 2014; Pages 383–391
The article provides an overview of systematic reviews of research into mathematics and reading, at both primary and secondary levels. The material investigated forms part of the Best Evidence Encyclopaedia (BEE). The interventions selected for investigation were required to have control groups and had a minimum of 12 weeks’ duration; they had a practical focus, and were designed to be scalable. There were 77 curriculum-based interventions, based around changing what is taught, eg through the introduction of new textbooks or curriculum. They included the introduction of new textbooks with more emphasis on phonetics, and maths curricula with more emphasis on problem-solving or mathematical concepts. A further 130 studies examined the use of new technologies to assist students’ reading or mathematical learning. A total of 100 studies looked at instructional programs based around, for example, cooperative learning, or the teaching of metacognitive skills. Programs designed to develop teaching were found to be more effective at improving student learning than programs based around curriculum reform or the use of ICT. Programs producing greatest sustained gains in student achievement tended to involve changes to core teaching practices, extensive professional learning and/or coaching. Programs involving the introduction of new ICT or curriculum were most effective when these elements of education were subordinate parts of changes to instructional practices. (To purchase this article, go to the Taylor & Francis home page and type the article title into the search box.)
Key Learning AreasEnglish
Subject HeadingsEducational evaluation
Five smart ways to deploy tablets
Volume 30 Number 2, March 2014
Tablet devices hold great promise for school education. They offer a vast range of frequently updated content, including apps targeted to specific learning needs. They are portable for children, and intuitive to use. Their value for learning is supported by ‘emerging and anecdotal evidence’. However, efforts to implement them have come up against problems such as technical malfunction, damage, and hacking by older students. The article suggests five ways to ‘be smart about adopting tablets’, drawing on the experiences of school districts in the USA. Firstly, the choice of hardware and model should be left to the very end of the decision-making and testing process, after educational priorities have been decided and extensive trialling around those priorities has taken place. Secondly, priorities should be based around particular high-need areas, and activities should be developed that can address those areas. The mobile devices and apps should then be trialled for use as part of those activities. A third consideration is infrastructure. The system needs to allow large groups of students simultaneously to log on, upload and download material. It should therefore be load-tested. The battery life of the devices also needs to be confirmed. One school district noted the need to allow for the ‘near-permanent presence’ of an internet support company. Fourthly, teachers need to be empowered, and involved in the planning process. This process may take months or even years before final, broad adoption of the new technology. Teachers need extensive opportunities to ‘play with’ new devices before they are used in the classroom. Professional development should be hands-on and should involve teachers using the specific devices or software they will be using in class, to bring out problems ahead of time. Professional learning should be targeted to the distinct needs of different groups of teachers. Finally, the introduction of the new technology should be integrated with moves towards new ways to teach. If the key goal is to develop students’ higher-order thinking, teachers should know how to use the technology for this purpose, and this consideration should be covered during observations and debriefings.
Subject HeadingsEducational planning
Teaching and learning
The impact of supplemental instruction on low-achieving adolescents’ reading engagement
Volume 107 Number 1, 2014; Pages 36–58
When students learn cognitive strategies for comprehending text, their engagement with reading grows, which in turn increases their willingness to deepen their grasp of comprehension strategies. In fact, research has found that engagement levels correlate with reading comprehension more closely than do ‘gender, income, family educational background, or ethnicity’. The article examines the interaction of engagement and cognitive reading strategies as factors influencing the comprehension levels of struggling adolescent readers. In particular the article describes the impact of one intervention, the Learning Strategies Curriculum (LSC). The intervention took place at 12 schools in a rural state in the USA. Professional development was provided to all teachers involved in content area literacy. The LSC was used with a targeted group of 462 struggling readers, and additional professional development was provided to these students’ teachers. The students were placed in the LSC course as well as their usual reading and language arts classes. In the first year of the intervention the LSC covered skills such as ‘word identification, self-questioning, visual imagery, vocabulary, paraphrasing and sentence writing’. In the following two years the course also covered summarising and inferencing. Teachers received instruction manuals covering each strategy. The teachers explained each strategy to students, using think-alouds, and the advantages it would bring them. Teachers were encouraged to use their professional judgement as to the emphasis they placed on each strategy. They also tested students’ ability to use each strategy before and after its introduction. Evidence was also gathered through a survey of students, to assess their motivation levels, and through records of students’ use of comprehension strategies during students’ think-alouds in class. Results were compared to those from a control group of 389 other students. The intervention was found to increase the participating students’ use of reading comprehension strategies, and their motivation to read. However, it did not produce gains in their test performances. It may be that the students had not internalised the use of newly developed strategies well enough to apply them to new situations. More time may have been needed to allow this development to occur. (To purchase this article, go to the Taylor & Francis home page and type the article title into the search box.)
Subject HeadingsEducational evaluation
Improving student engagement (CLJ archived article)
Volume 10 Number 17, 12 October 2012
The issue of student engagement has been of interest to educators for decades. Historically, attention to student engagement was seen as a way to re-engage or reclaim a minority of predominantly socioeconomically disadvantaged students at risk of dropping out of high school, by encouraging achievement, positive behaviours and a sense of belonging at school. Over time, student engagement strategies were further developed and more broadly implemented as a way to manage classroom behaviour. More recently, student engagement has been built around the goal of enhancing all students' abilities to 'learn how to learn' and become lifelong learners in a knowledge-based society. This general interest in engagement for learning informs the current article. The authors review literature on the topic published over the last decade.
Subject HeadingsStudent engagement
Berry School Book Club: engaging readers and writers
Volume 21 Number 3, October 2013; Pages 32–40
Students’ engagement with reading can be promoted when they learn to ‘read like a writer’, and recognise literacy devices used by accomplished authors. Another way to engage students with reading is through the close reading of texts undertaken through book clubs. The group of educators running the Berry School Book Club endeavoured to use both these strategies to engage students in reading. Berry Public School is based in a prosperous rural area south of Sydney. In 2011 an action learning team at the school established the Book Club as a way to spur further development of a group of eight already-prolific readers in grades 4 to 6. It was also seen as means to develop the use of imagery in these students’ own writings. The club was run by an action learning team comprised of a class teacher, a school librarian, the principal, and a university academic. In 2012 the club meetings moved into school time. It also incorporated a writing component, along with the understanding that the students would use their own time outside school hours to read the text currently being studied. The club also expanded to 20 students. The article details the preparation and organisation of the expanded club.
Parents reading with their toddlers: the role of personalization in book engagement
Volume 13 Number 4, 2013; Pages 445–470
Software programs now allow individuals to create personalised ebooks using their own text and images. Parents may wish to create a ‘personalised book’ around the lives of one of their own young children, and read it to the child, as an engaging introduction to the world of reading. A study has examined how seven parent–child pairs experienced the use of personalised books. The children were found to display higher levels of visual and vocal engagement when the parent read a personalised rather than a non-personalised book. Personalised books have several advantages over commercially produced books targeted to young children. Commercial books do not always match a child’s personal interests, or sociocultural background. The personalised book can provide all these things, as well as making the individual children themselves the centre of attention. Personalised books also encourage engagement of the parents: as the book’s creator, it reflects their values and concerns. The resulting enthusiasm of the parent is likely to be communicated to the child, adding to their own engagement with the reading activity.
Subject HeadingsChild development
Parent and child
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