Tag Archives: Education

Keeping a Child Back at School

We have often talked about Hattie’s work on evidence-based education.[1-4] Now we turn to retention (pages 97-99) – the act of keeping a child back and having them repeat a year of school on the grounds of poor performance.[5] Numerous papers, including a meta-analysis of 20 studies,[6] have shown retention to be associated with negative effects for the retained student. In subsequent years they have lower scores for a whole range of subjects: language, arts, reading, mathematics, work-study skills, and social studies, as well as social and emotional adjustment and behaviour, self-concept, and attitude to school. So a picture is starting to emerge – remember streaming is also unhelpful.[7] So any act that demeans a child or destroys her self-confidence is bad, while bright children are not held back by having less bright peers in the classroom. See also our News Blog on the Michelle Obama effect.[8]

— Richard Lilford, CLAHRC WM Director

References:

  1. Lilford RJ. Evidence-based Education. NIHR CLAHRC West Midlands News Blog. 24 February 2017.
  2. Lilford RJ. The School, the Teacher of the Pupil – Which is Most Important? NIHR CLAHRC West Midlands News Blog. 28 October 2016.
  3. Lilford RJ. Ask Not to Whether, But Why, Before the Bell Tolls. NIHR CLAHRC West Midlands News Blog. 29 July 2016.
  4. Lilford RJ. Education Update. NIHR CLAHRC West Midlands News Blog. 2 September 2016.
  5. Hattie J. Visible Learning: A Synthesis of Over 800 Meta-Analyses Relating to Achievement. Oxon, UK: Routledge, 2009.
  6. Jimerson SR. Meta-analysis of Grade Retention Research: Implications for Practice in the 21st Century. School Psychol Rev. 2001; 30(3): 420-37.
  7. Lilford RJ. Evidence-Based Education (or How Wrong the CLAHRC WM Director Was). NIHR CLAHRC West Midlands News Blog. 15 July 2016.
  8. Lilford RJ. More on Education. NIHR CLAHRC West Midlands News Blog. 16 September 2016.

More on Brain Health in Young Children and Effect on Life Course

Brain health in early childhood is a recurring theme of your News Blog. Peter Chilton referred me to an interesting article in Nature Human Behaviour published at the end of last year.[1] This study was based on a prospective study of children in the South Island of New Zealand. The investigators wanted to determine the prognosis for the 20% of the population with the worst brain health indicators at age three. These indicators include single parent family; low socioeconomic group; poor self-control; and low IQ. Outcome variables covered a range of important economically burdensome outcomes, such as obesity, cigarette smoking, and crime. These variables were harvested from various databases where health and crime statistics are recorded. A 20% ‘segment’ of this young population could be defined which predicted 80% of crime, and similar high rates on other outcomes. This 20:80 ratio, called the Pareto ratio, is often encountered in social science – for example, wealth distributes itself roughly in this proportion across many societies (about 20% of people control 80% of wealth). The authors say that their study shows plenty of ‘headroom’ for preventive interventions. That is to say, society could achieve massive gains if health and social outcomes among the highest risk segment could be improved to average levels. We have discussed interventions, such as early childhood education, before.[2-4] Many studies show statistically significant and economically worthwhile results for such interventions, but the gains come nowhere near the theoretical headroom defined here. Likely this is because brain health at age three is only partly the result of remediable factors.

— Richard Lilford, CLAHRC WM Director

References:

  1. Caspi A, Houts RM, Belsky DW, Harrington H, Hogan S, Ramrakha S, Poulton R, Moffitt TE. Childhood forecasting of a small segment of the population with large economic burden. Nature Hum Behav. 2016; 1: 0005.
  2. Lilford RJ. Pregnancy before age 16 – dropping quite rapidly from a peak in 1997. NIHR CLAHRC West Midlands News Blog. February 10, 2017.
  3. Lilford RJ. If you want to reduce partner violence or teenage pregnancy, then teach algebra and history? NIHR CLAHRC West Midlands News Blog. December 9, 2016.
  4. Lilford RJ. Evidence-based education (or how wrong the CLAHRC WM Director was). NIHR CLAHRC West Midlands News Blog. July 15, 2016.

Evidence-Based Education

Another shibboleth bites the dust. Have you ever heard (dinner parties?) that girls do better in all girl classes? If so, this is correct – there is indeed such an association. But the observational studies do not compare like with like – the comparison groups are not equivalent since single sex schools tend to have more selective intakes than their controls. So we need within school comparisons or, even better, RCTs. There is one example of each in Hattie’s monumental study (pages 96-97),[1] – Marsh & Rowe [2] and Signorella, Frieze & Hershey.[3] In both cases there were – wait for it – no advantages for all girl classes on educational attainment or career choices, and in the former study, the point estimates were negative for the brightest girls. Likewise, boys did not perform differently in all-male vs. mixed sex classes.

— Richard Lilford, CLAHRC WM Director

References:

  1. Hattie J. Visible Learning: A Synthesis of Over 800 Meta-Analyses Relating to Achievement. Oxon, UK: Routledge, 2009.
  2. Marsh HW, & Rowe KJ. The Effects of Single-Sex and Mixed-Sex Mathematics Classes Within a Coeducational School: A Reanalysis and Comment. Austral J Educ. 1996; 40(2): 147-62.
  3. Signorella ML, Frieze and Hershey. Single-Sex versus Mixed-Sex Classes and Gender Schemata in Children and Adolescents: A Longitudinal Comparison. Psychol Women Quart. 1996; 20: 599-607.

 

If You Want to Reduce Partner Violence or Teenage Pregnancy, Then Teach Algebra and History?

There is little doubt that highly educated men are less likely than poorly educated men to perpetrate violence against their partners,[1] and that highly educated women are less likely than poorly educated women to get pregnant in their teens.[2] But what is going on here – which way does causality run? Certainly, an educated man is likely to earn more than one less educated. More money means less stress, and since stress is a harbinger of partner violence, it is plausible that education leads to less violence through this mediating (intervening) variable. Alternatively, the kind of person who acquires education may be the sort of person who is less innately pre-disposed to violence than a person who does not acquire education. A person who seeks out education may have greater mental resources, such that a wider range of responses are available to him – and hence he is less likely to lash out. But could it be that education per se increases moral rectitude, even when the education is not targeted at moral behaviour? One can devise a theory for such an effect. Algebra, history and other ‘academic’ subjects exercise the capacity for abstract thought. Could the capacity spill over from the topic of instruction to influence behaviour more generally? Compassion, for example, is abstract – it requires the ability to imagine what another person is feeling. Teaching abstract academic subjects may spill over in to heightened sensitivity to the suffering of others. This hypothesis could be tested neurophysiologically – highly educated persons, on average, may manifest greater specific responses on functional neuro-imaging than those of similar IQ, but lower educational attainment, when confronted with a compassion-arousing event. The brain, after all, is a learning machine that is permanently altered by education. This might explain why sex education has a rather small effect on teenage pregnancy, but being educated is associated with a large effect. It is sometimes said that education refers to what is left when all the facts have been forgotten, or to quote BF Skinner more accurately, “Education is what survives when what has been learnt has been forgotten”?

— Richard Lilford, CLAHRC WM Director

References:

  1. Abramsky T, Watts CH, Garcia-Moreno C, et al. What factors are associated with recent intimate partner violence? findings from the WHO multi-country study on women’s health and domestic violence. BMC Public Health. 2011; 11: 109.
  2. Girma S & Paton D. Is education the best contraception: The case of teenage pregnancy in England? Soc Sci Med. 2015; 131: 1-9.

The School, the Teacher, or the Pupil – Which is Most Important?

News Blog readers will know that the CLAHRC WM Director takes a critical look at Hattie’s monumental overview of evidence-based education in most of our posts.[1-4] Today let’s look at a fundamental question Hattie addresses in the monograph – the question of how much of the variance in educational outcomes resides in the pupil, the teacher, or the school. Not surprisingly this has been looked at many times. It is a little like separating the components of variance in the outcome of surgery according to the patient, the surgeon, and the hospital. Hattie [5] quotes a meta-analysis by Marzano who found that the lion’s share (80%) of variance in achievement was accounted for by student level variables, the smallest share (7%) by school effects, and an intermediate share by teachers (13%). Of course, as we shall see in future blogs based on Hattie’s work, this is not the end of the story. For instance, student effects include the effect on the student of previous education – i.e. previous teachers are consolidated within the student component of variance. More important still, is the effect of parents / guardians, since this is also consolidated within students in cross-sectional studies. We will look at unravelling these factors in future news blogs. In the meantime, we can say that ineffectual teachers have a negative effect on achievement, no matter how good the school, and exceptional teachers can more than compensate for a rubbish school.

— Richard Lilford, CLAHRC WM Director

References:

  1. Lilford RJ. Evidence-based Education. (Or How Wrong the CLAHRC WM Director Was). NIHR CLAHRC West Midlands News Blog. 15 July 2016.
  2. Lilford RJ. Ask Not to Whether, But Why, Before the Bell Tolls. NIHR CLAHRC West Midlands News Blog. 29 July 2016.
  3. Lilford RJ. Education Update. NIHR CLAHRC West Midlands News Blog. 2 September 2016.
  4. Lilford RJ. Bring Back the University Lecture: More on Evidence-Based Teaching. NIHR CLAHRC West Midlands News Blog. 2 September 2016.
  5. Hattie J. The Applicability of Visible Learning to Higher Education. Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Psychology. 2015; 1(1): 79-91.

More on Education

Michelle Obama visited an all-girls school in London back in 2009. She met with the pupils again in 2011 and 2012. The school is named after the first English woman doctor, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson. Simon Burgess has examined performance at the school over the years preceding and following these meetings.[1] He used the results of national examinations (the GCSE) and compared the school’s results with those from the rest of London’s schools. A sharp uptick in performance, which later returned to baseline, was seen in the ‘intervention’ school, but not in the controls. Burgess used a difference-in-difference type approach in a multivariate statistical analysis (though a synthetic control may have been even better, as discussed in a previous post). The ‘treatment effect’ was half a standard deviation, which would carry a student destined to achieve eight grade ‘B’s, to achieving a mix of ‘A*’s and ‘A’s. The paper is worth a read – it is really beautifully written and packs a powerful message regarding the beneficial effect of aspirations. The First Lady did not tell her listeners that getting good grades is easy. She said it’s hard, but ‘you can do it’. Most of the pupils at the school are not white and Michelle Obama would have been a great role model.

— Richard Lilford, CLAHRC WM Director

Reference:

  1. Burgess S. Michelle Obama and an English school: the power of inspiration. 2016.

Bring Back the University Lecture: More on Evidence-Based Teaching

News Blog readers are now familiar with Hattie’s monumental work on evidence-based education [1] – an overview (meta-synthesis) of:

063-dcvi-more-on-evidence-based-teaching

To remind you, the huge proportion of the meta-analyses and studies (96%) show positive effects – maybe a Hawthorne effect of some sort. So an influence or intervention that produces an effect size of, say, only 0.2 of a standard deviation must be considered not particularly useful – it will be at the bottom end of a distribution in which nearly everything ‘works’.

In our last two posts [2] [3] we identified two factors that were, perhaps surprisingly, effete:

  1. Small class sizes.
  2. Problem-based learning.

I should have mentioned that there is no threshold class size – reducing from 200 to 60; 60 to 20; 20 to 8 all yield nugatory benefits. Moreover, and again perhaps surprisingly, the results of most studies are not very age-group dependent. You can see where I am going – abandoning the lecture in universities, in line with current fashion, should be questioned, especially given the cost-efficiency of the method. Important variables (have the students pre-prepared; does the lecturer stop and ask questions to assess understanding; do the students set time aside to reflect; does the lecturer assess herself; does she adapt herself to the type of class/group she is teaching) are all more important than the size of the class. A great lecturer is a scarce resource to be used wisely. Think TED talks.

— Richard Lilford, CLAHRC WM Director

References:

  1. Hattie J. The Applicability of Visible Learning to Higher Education. Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Psychology. 2015; 1(1): 79-91.
  2. Lilford RJ. Evidence-Based Education (or how wrong the CLAHRC WM Director was). NIHR CLAHRC West Midlands News Blog. 15 July 2016.
  3. Lilford RJ. Ask to Not Whether, But Why, Before the Bell Tolls! NIHR CLAHRC West Midlands News Blog. 29 July 2016.

Education Update

As News Blog readers know the CLAHRC WM Director summarises an empirical finding from the experimental educational literature in each fortnightly post. In this issue our focus turns to university education [1] and to just one aspect of it – the perennial question of Problem-Based Learning (PBL). Nine meta-analyses have evaluated this method, and most constituent studies were carried out in universities rather than in schools. Most studies were carried out among medical students. It turns out that PBL is effete – the summary measure of effect is nugatory (0.08 of a standard deviation). It is one of the smallest effect sizes of any pedagogic method evaluated across the entire corpus of the experimental education literature. Moreover, it is actually harmful in some situations – namely those where PBL precedes learning the basic content. PBL is most likely to be effective where the intellectual scaffold has already been built and the student now has to learn to apply the new knowledge.

Consider a patient with pyrexia of unknown origin. Working back to the causes of a temperature when one does not know the causes does not create an intellectual scaffold from which forward reasoning can work. Rather start with the potential causes and then narrow them down as information accrues.

— Richard Lilford,

Reference:

  1. Hattie J. The applicability of visible learning to higher education. Scholarship Teaching Learning in Psychology. 2015; 1(1): 79-91.

Ask to not whether, but why, before the bell tolls!

In the last News Blog we mentioned the recent overview of trials of different teaching methods. It turns out that frequent interaction with the class is important.[1] Teachers in England tend to ask ‘what’ questions. However, it is more effective to stimulate the minds of pupils with ‘why’ questions, as teachers in Singapore or Shanghai do (the world’s premier cities for pedagogy). As one of the Shanghai teachers said – “I don’t teach physics, I teach my pupils how to learn physics.” In the next News Blog we will summarise the evidence on Problem-Based Learning (PBL).

— Richard Lilford, CLAHRC WM Director

References:

  1. Hattie J. The Applicability of Visible Learning to Higher Education. Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Psychology. 2015; 1(1): 79-91.

 

Evidence-Based Education (or how wrong the CLAHRC WM Director was)

I really thought that streaming by ability was a good idea in schools – the pupils struggling with maths would surely benefit from more time on each topic, while the gifted could soar ahead. Well, an overview (systematic review of systematic reviews) [1] of pedagogic variables was recently brought to my attention.[2] The study was based on 65,000 research papers, hundreds of interventions, and 250 million pupils, by Jupiter! Anyway, it turns out that streaming by ability is completely ineffective (with the point estimate suggesting a negative effect). And what else did the overview show? I will discuss some aspects of this colossal piece of secondary research in the next exciting instalment of your News Blog.

— Richard Lilford, CLAHRC WM Director

References:

  1. Hattie J. The Applicability of Visible Learning to Higher Education. Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Psychology. 2015; 1(1): 79-91.
  2. The Economist. Teaching the Teachers. The Economist.