Thursday, March 9, 2017

Data suggests blogging impacts literacy achievement

Teachers are investing time, and in some cases their own vacations, in supporting learners who blog in the holidays and want to know if it impacts academic achievement. Feedback from colleagues about my previous posts, sharing evidence of the significant impact blogging outside of school can have on learners literacy achievement, indicates that there is wide interest in research being conducted in this area. 

The programme being conducted in Manaiakalani schools to address the Summer Learning Effect (where students’ learning is adversely impacted over the summer period, in particular, because many school-like learning activities desist during this time) is being carried out by the Woolf Fisher Research Centre and led by Dr Rachel Williams.

Rachel has recently published an update on the pilot, carried out over the summer of 2015 -2016, tracking the original cohort of participants throughout the 2016 academic year. The difference in achievement over time on writing test scores is shown in this graph. The blue line is the participants, red line is matched baseline control group who did not participate.

Rachel comments:
"The data suggests to me that participation in the Summer Learning Journey has the potential to truly accelerate achievement in writing for our students. The SLJ participants continued to improve their writing over the course of the 2016 school year and ended with an average e-asTTle score of 74.5 (up from 63.47). Our matched control group also realised a significant improvement in writing over the course of the year (up from -119 to 12.88). Interestingly, however, despite the great gains that the matched control group made they could not catch up with our participants and ended the year approximately 60 points below the SLJ participants. This is a significant difference and represents a genuine 'gap' in achievement for the two groups. I find this quite startling as they both ended the 2015 at the same level. The matched control students then dropped over summer and were not able to re-gain the learning that they had lost over summer while our participants steamed ahead."

A further paper published by Rachel and Dr Rebecca Jesson investigates the achievement trajectory of these matched cohorts of young people over five time points. By using data available from the previous year, they show the two cohorts of learners following a parallel pathway from the end of year high in 2014, dropping back over the summer holidays to a low point at the beginning of 2015, then encouraging acceleration during the school year towards a high point at the end of 2015.

And then their pathways separate.
Those who participated in the first Summer Learning Journey, blogging over the summer holidays, settle into a positive incline pattern.  Those who didn’t, not only continued the ‘yo-yo’ sliding effect, but also failed to catch up during the school year.
Rebecca concludes:
While this is a small study to gauge the effectiveness of blogging as a suitable vehicle for summer programmes, the results are promising.  Of particular note are the sizes of the differences between the writing scores of participants and both estimates of the control condition: students’ own scores in previous summers and the scores of matched control group. This provides initial evidence that participating in a blogging programme over the summer holiday period can attenuate the drop in literacy scores realised by students attending schools in low SES communities. Given the high rates of SLE previously reported by these schools, and the negative effect that low literacy ability has on students, these results offer an important building block for tackling the educational challenge facing these schools, who seek educational solutions to ongoing challenges using digital learning initiatives.

I would like to acknowledge colleagues (eg Helen King, Sandy Lagitupu, Andrea Tele’a, Jenny She and Priscilla Lavakula) who have regularly supported and encouraged learners by commenting on their blogs over the summer holidays for almost a decade now.

And more recently teachers (eg Robyn Anderson, Kiri Kirkpatrick, Karen Belt and Jackie Buchanan) who have designed and monitored holiday blogging programmes for their own classes.

We had a hunch this was making a difference!