How do teachers with different expectations of their students teach differently?

How do teachers with different expectations of their students teach differently?

By Ken To, Centre for University  and School Partnership, The Chinese University of Hong Kong

Regardless of students’ actual achievement, teachers’ expectations of their class can make a difference because these may affect how they treat the class. A recently published article in Social Psychology of Education examined how teaching practices and classroom interactions differ between high- and low-expectation junior high school teachers in China.

A teacher expectation survey was first completed by 50 junior high school teachers to classify them with respect to their expectations of their class. Teachers who had a high level of expectation relative to the actual achievement were classified as high-expectation teachers. Finally, the study randomly selected and approached 10 teachers, eight of whom agreed to participate in the class observation study. Thirty-two lessons by these teachers were observed and coded using a structured observation protocol that noted the occurrence of teacher questioning, feedback, and classroom management every two minutes. The teaching practices and interaction patterns of high- and low-expectation teachers were compared.

The results showed that in some aspects, such as the amount of questioning, giving praise, and criticism, there were no significant differences between high- and low-expectation teachers. However, high-expectation teachers did stand out in the following features:

  • High-expectation teachers referred to students’ prior knowledge and learning experiences more frequently, and gave more orientation or focus statements, telling students about the learning activities that would take place.
  • High-expectation teachers provided more feedback to the whole class.
  • When students answered correctly, high-expectation teachers were more likely to question further or provide explanations.
  • When students answered incorrectly, high-expectation teachers were more likely to encourage the students to try again.

The authors suggested that the result could help teachers understand how their expectations get communicated to students. They recommended that teachers form high and appropriate expectations for all students, with the aid of effective teaching strategies and a warm learning environment, to support all students to fulfill their potential.

Balanced reading and writing programs: More than the sum of their parts

Balanced reading and writing programs: More than the sum of their parts

By Nathan Storey, Johns Hopkins University

While many reviews already examine the impact of either reading or writing interventions, a recent meta-analysis took an alternative approach by analyzing studies focused on programs balancing writing and reading instruction to determine if these programs had greater success in developing these skills. Including 47 studies, Graham and colleagues analyzed 46 unique programs, each with no more than 60% of instruction dedicated to either reading or writing, arguing that programs focused on both skill sets could improve skills in both reading and writing, and that while research shows that reading instruction improves writing and vice versa, studies had not determined the impact of balanced programs.

The included programs were divided into 9 categories: cooperative learning, content literacy, early literacy, home based, literature based, remedial, strategy instruction, whole language, and IBM’s Writing to Read (a computer-based program). Of these, cooperative learning approaches were the most common type of program, followed by Writing to Read, remedial programs, and early literacy approaches. The majority of studies included in the analysis were quasi-experimental studies, included assessments of both reading and writing performance, were conducted in typical classrooms, and focused on native English speakers (15% of studies included English learners as the predominant focus group).

Graham and colleagues found generally positive and statistically significant results, with a total reading average weighted effect size (ES) of +0.33, compared with a total writing ES of +0.37. When considering specific skill areas, statistically significant effect sizes were found for reading comprehension (+0.39), reading decoding (+0.53), reading vocabulary (+0.35), writing quality (+0.47), writing mechanics (+0.18), and writing output (+0.69).

When breaking down reading programs by type, positive and significant effect sizes were found for cooperative learning (+0.48), early literacy (+0.46), remedial programs (+0.28), and Writing to Read (+0.16). Writing programs using a cooperative learning approach (+0.37) and remedial learning (+0.32) were also found to be statistically significant. In contrast, reading/writing instruction programs using content instruction contexts were not found to have significant effects on reading, while Writing to Read, whole language approaches, and cooperative learning programs were not found to have a significant improvement on writing.

The researchers argue that the programs with insignificant effect sizes for writing may have to do with the form of writing instruction included in the programs, which may not be as overt or systematic enough to build stronger effects for students in writing skill areas, or that teachers may place greater value on developing reading skills than writing ones, impacting how the programs are implemented, regardless of their stated intent or structures. Ultimately, programs with a balanced reading and writing instructional approach (ES=+ 0.66) demonstrated larger effects on reading skills than those emphasizing either reading (ES = +0.37) or writing (ES =+ 0.27) independently.

Improving the quality of meta-analyses

Improving the quality of meta-analyses

By Amanda Neitzel, Johns Hopkins University

Encouraging educators and policymakers to use evidence to guide their decisions relies on high-quality evidence.  A recent paper by Pigott and Polanin, published in Review of Educational Research, has identified guidelines for modern, rigorous systematic reviews including meta-analyses.

The guidelines are organized into three sections: elements for the systematic review, practices for the statistical synthesis of findings (meta-analysis), and presentation of the methods and results.  When conducting the actual systematic review, researchers should ensure that they have clearly specified procedures, documented in advance, that identify what question they hope to answer, where and how they are searching for studies, and a process for screening, reviewing, and extracting information from those studies.  These procedures should be made publicly available.

When conducting the actual meta-analysis, researchers should utilize the most up-to-date methods, such as strategies to handle multiple outcomes from a single study, adequately addressing missing data, and explore variation in impacts.  This helps to answer not just how well a particular approach works on average, but additional questions, such as if it works better for certain students or in particular settings.

Finally, when researchers report the results of their meta-analyses, they must clearly describe how they arrived at their results, including making their data available.  They should also strive to interpret their results so they are relevant to a wide audience.  This may include translating findings into easily understood metrics, including converting effect sizes into “natural metrics,” such as gains on commonly used tests, and producing plain language summaries.

These guidelines highlight the “gold-standard” for meta-analyses.

Virtual charter schools’ consistent and persistent negative impacts

Virtual charter schools’ consistent and persistent negative impacts

By Ashley Grant, Johns Hopkins University

As COVID pushes more schools online, the call for evidence of online learning is at a premium. Virtual charter schools are one recent innovation claiming to utilize technology for more individualized and flexible learning. However, a recent article published in Educational Researcher from Fitzpatrick and colleagues used a robust quasi-experimental approach to confirm prior negative effects of the virtual charter model as a whole.

Fitzpatrick and colleagues looked at state-wide end-of-year test results from Indiana in grades 3-8, including data from students in four virtual charter schools and 67 in-person (“bricks and mortar”) charter schools. The researchers set up a comparison group by matching students who transferred into a virtual charter school to a similar student in a traditional public school. They also looked at how virtual students compared to students who transferred into the more typical, in-person charter school.

Results show that virtual charters schools negatively affected student achievement. This effect grew over time (ES = -0.41, – 0.50 SD in Math and ES= -0.29, -0.33 SD in ELA), and this effect was consistent across all virtual charter schools. This suggests that virtual charters produce worse outcomes for students than traditional public schools or in-person charter schools (which performed equally as well as traditional public schools). Thus, virtual charters may not be a good investment for public education funding. Also of note from these findings, part of this virtual charter effect can be explained by teachers’ lower experience and larger class sizes in virtual charters. (The average class size being 101 students in virtual charters, compared to 23 students in non-virtual charters and other public schools.)

Teaching Students to Recognize Expository Text Structures

Teaching Students to Recognize Expository Text Structures

By Claire Chuter, Johns Hopkins University

Students tend to struggle understanding informational text more than narrative text. What instructional strategies for fostering informational (expository) text comprehension are backed by strong evidence of effectiveness?

One intervention strategy is teaching students to recognize expository text structures. Text structure is the organization of ideas, the relationship among the ideas, and the vocabulary used to convey meaning to the reader. The thought is that if readers can understand that authors purposely use various structures to organize text, then readers are assisted to construct an integrated mental representation of key ideas similar to the text’s organization.

In a systematic review of 21 studies, Pyle and colleagues examined the effects of expository text structure interventions on comprehension outcomes of typically achieving students, at-risk students, and students with learning disabilities in grades K–12. Supporting the findings of previous reviews, Pyle found that teaching students to recognize text structures produced large effects on reading comprehension. Using fixed-error assumptions, the weighted mean d index was 0.83 (95% CI  [0.76, 0.91]) and was significantly different from zero. With a random-errors model, the weighted average d index was 0.95 (95% CI [0.71, 1.19]) and was significantly different from zero. This meta-analysis further affirms the theory that readers use text structure knowledge to help them build a mental schema of the text. By having a basic framework of the author’s purpose and how the text is structured, readers can focus more of their energy on understanding the content.

Future teachers benefit from classroom management coaching

Future teachers benefit from classroom management coaching

A recent study examined the effects of coaching on developing preservice teachers’ classroom management skills .

Subjects were student teachers learning the Responsive Classroom framework in their program and discussing its techniques in a classroom management course during the Spring, 2018 semester.  While interacting with a computer-simulated classroom containing misbehaving avatar students, 105 teaching majors were randomly assigned  to receive either “bug-in-the-ear plus coaching” (BIC+C), which was word-for-word coaching via earpiece, 5 minutes of feedback, and a chance to re-do the simulation (n=38); “coaching only,” (CO) which was the same but without earpiece coaching (n=34); or “self-reflection,” spending 5 minutes reflecting after the interaction in lieu of coaching (n=33). During the simulations, which occurred at baseline and then 3 times during the semester, subjects were instructed to apply Responsive Classroom’s “effective redirections” techniques to re-direct disruptive avatars, with their responses recorded using a rubric based on Responsive Classroom strategies. At baseline, subjects also completed The IOWA Conners Rating Scale (a measure of impulsive-inattentive-overactive or oppositional defiant behaviors) for the avatars, and ranked their likelihood of special education referrals for them.

Results at the semester’s end showed that the teaching majors in the coaching groups outperformed the self-reflection group in applying classroom management strategies effectively (ES=+0.40 for BIC+C, +0.45 for CO). The type of coaching, however, did not make a statistically significant difference, suggesting that while coaching is clearly beneficial, more coaching is not necessarily better. Students in the coached groups were also less likely to rate the avatars as impulsive-inattentive-overactive or oppositional/defiant than the students in the self-reflection group. This is of note because the avatars were simply off-task, and suggests that newer teachers without support are more likely to label minor misbehavior as problematic. The same pattern was observed for likelihood of special education referrals.

How does teacher support matter for the mental well-being of students?

How does teacher support matter for the mental well-being of students?

By Ken To, Centre for University  and School Partnership, The Chinese University of Hong Kong

Teacher support is one of the factors that can promote mental well-being among adolescents. A study recently published in Frontiers in Psychology aimed to explore how teacher support did this by examining the relationship between mental well-being, teacher support, resilience, and negative emotion. According to the study, teacher support matters not only because it can reduce negative emotions, but it can also improve resilience – a quality that builds up the healthy mental well-being of adolescents.

1228 Chinese adolescents participated in this study and completed a questionnaire containing measures for mental well-being, teacher support, negative emotions, and resilience. The results showed that:

  • Teacher support can significantly assist adolescents’ mental well-being.
  • Part of the effect of teacher support on mental well-being was through promoting resilience, which accounted for 30% of the total effects.
  • Moreover, teacher support also promoted mental well-being by reducing negative emotions. Reducing negative emotions had positive impacts on resilience, which in turn promoted mental well-being. 

The authors suggested that the findings provide insights into actions for improving adolescents’ mental well-being. They suggested that schools develop prevention programs to inform teachers about the importance of their support, stress the importance of good interactions and communication between teachers and students, as well as provide activities that could develop adolescent resilience, such as by teaching them how to learn from their experience, how to control themselves, seek help, and regulate their negative emotions.