Emer Smyth (ESRI) School factors and student outcomes: insights

Report
School factors and student
outcomes: insights from
longitudinal research
Emer Smyth
What can schools do?


Education in a time of austerity
But there are key areas in which research
evidence can contribute to enhanced practice:
1.
2.
3.

Ability grouping
Approaches to teaching and learning
School climate: day-to-day interaction between
teachers and students
Draw mainly on the Post-Primary Longitudinal
Study but highlight potential of Growing Up in
Ireland data
Background to the Post-Primary
Longitudinal Study


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
The first longitudinal study exploring students’
experiences in Ireland
Cohort of 900 students in 12 case-study schools
Surveyed from 1st year to 6th year plus group
interviews with students
Follow-up of individual early school leavers
Survey of, and interviews with, parents
Unique insights - capture the student voice but
multiple perspectives (principals, key personnel,
parents)
1. Ability grouping in Ireland


Reduction in the use of the streaming over time but
increasingly concentrated in schools serving more
disadvantaged populations
Streaming has very significant consequences for
student outcomes
Streaming and JC Grades
8
7
6
5
4
3
2
1
0
Mixed ability
Higher
stream
Middle
stream
Lower stream
Early school leaving
70
60
50
%
40
30
20
10
0
Mixed ability
Higher stream
Middle stream
Lower stream
Number of higher level subjects by
ability group
7
6
5
4
3
2
1
0
Mixed ability
Higher
stream
Middle
stream
Lower stream
Why impact of streaming?


Access to higher level subjects
Labelling:
They are clever and we are dumb.
(Dixon Street, coeducational school, working-class, lower/middle
streams, 1st year)
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Student and teacher expectations:
We don’t do our homework so we don’t get it. Teachers know we
don’t do it so they don’t bother checking it.
We don’t get homework.
We never did get homework.
We’re sort of the thick class. (Same group, JC year)
Mixed ability base classes: setting

Crucial issue is how setting is implemented
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Complex interaction between allocation policy,
teacher and student expectations

Different pattern of higher level take-up among
schools serving similar groups of students:
timing, ‘rationing’, role of teachers and students
Number of higher level subjects
by school (second lowest reading quintile)
9
8
7
6
5
4
3
2
1
0
Lang St
Barrack St
Dixon St
Working-class
Hay St
Dawes Point
Dawson St
Park St
Belmore St
Mixed
Wattle St
Fig Lane
Middle-class
2. What is good teaching? Teaching methods
 Clear explanation
If they explain things well enough for the student to understand.
If they have a second way of explaining it maybe; if you didn’t get it
the first way, they can tell you the second way.
(Hay Street, coeducational school, working-class, LC)

Preference for active learning, fun
I remember the [teacher] came in and she had like, not games but …
I think that stuck in my head more.
Like cards, like a picture and the French underneath.
It's more like fun to remember, when you do it in a fun way.
(Harris Street, girls’ school, middle-class, JC)

Being allowed to express opinions; interactive
What is good teaching?
Teacher qualities
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Enthusiasm for the subject
Respect
A caring environment
An orderly environment
[A good teacher is] One that actually cares about the students,
whether or not they do well in their exams as opposed to just going
in for the forty minutes, teaching and then leaving.
Yeah, they have to have patience as well.
(Fig Lane, coeducational school, middle-class, LC)
What is bad teaching?
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Didactic methods; reading from a book
Lack of respect for students
I don't know, she [the teacher] doesn't explain things, she just kind
of puts it there and do it, do it and that's it, she doesn't explain it,
it’s like do it and you’re just sitting there looking at it and then she
gives out to you.
(Dixon Street, coeducational school, working-class, JC)
Because when they give out to you, you can't concentrate, well I
can't.
Because when a teacher gives out to you you're in a fuss then with
them and then you can't just sit there and concentrate then after
that … You just won't work for them because they're roaring at you.
(Barrack Street, girls’ school, working-class, JC)
Teaching in the exam years

Junior Cert students contrast ‘good teaching’ with the exam
focus in 3rd year
You used to do fun things in class, they'd come in and say let's play
games. If you say it this year you get like stared at, what do you
think you are? (Harris Street, girls’ school, middle-class, JC)

By 6th year, many view teaching to the test as a signal of a
good lesson; more evident for middle-class students with high
aspirations
Like some teachers kind of go off the point sometimes and just
waffle on about pointless things that isn’t on the course and stuff.
(Fig Lane, middle-class coeducational school, LC)
3. School climate and support
structures
Changes in student-teacher relations
3
2.5
2
1.5
1
0.5
0
1st year
(September)
1st year
(May)
2nd year
Positive
JC year
Negative
5th year
LC year
Liking school and teachers
3.5
3
2.5
2
1.5
1st year
(Sept)
1st year 2nd year
(May)
Liking school
JC year
5th year
Liking teachers
LC year
Student disaffection
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Emerging dynamic of ‘giving out’ and ‘acting up’
Negative interaction increases more in workingclass schools and in lower streamed classes
School drives you mad, it actually would, the teachers, if you'd
better teachers there would be no one getting in trouble.
When you come back at the start of the year you’re alright for a
while.
You calm down but then it starts building up through the year
because you’re so bored of school and you want to get out of it.
(Lang Street, working-class boys’ school, middle stream class)
Impact of school climate

School completion: negative relations with teachers a
dominant theme in early leaver accounts
I hit third year and I just started not getting on with the teachers
and all. I kept getting thrown out of classes and suspended all and I
just hated it and I hate that school. (Elaine, Dixon Street, Senior
Cycle Leaver)
The teachers say stuff to you like, you know kind of put you down …
so then you feel like oh I haven’t got the teacher on my side, they
don’t want to teach me so like, is there any point being here at all.
(Eric, Argyle Street, Senior Cycle Leaver)
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Educational achievement: negative interaction and
underperformance
Personal and social development: stress levels; self-image,
including capacity to cope with schoolwork
Student engagement at primary level
(GUI)
100
90
80
70
60
% 50
School
40
Teacher
30
20
10
0
Prof./manag. Non-man/sk. Semi/unsk Never worked
Always/sometimes like
Transition to second-level (GUI)
Liking school 'very much’ at 13 years of age
40
35
30
%
25
20
15
10
5
0
Male
Female
Gender
Prof./manag.
Non-man./Sk.
Semi/unsk
Social class
Never worked
Lower sec.
Degree
Mother's education
The way forward?
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Listening to student perspectives can contribute
to policy development (national/school levels)
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Current mode of assessment is impacting on
young people’s view of learning

Positive features of junior cycle reform but
importance of school-based as well as system
change
What can schools do?: Organisation
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Adopt a subject sampling approach so that
students are not ‘locked into’ choices too early
Move away from streaming to adopt a more
flexible approach to ability grouping
Promote access to higher level subjects from
early in junior and senior cycle; hold high
expectations for all students
Support for differentiation within mixed ability
classes; CPD and peer support
What can schools do? Teaching and
school climate
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Support staff in using diverse teaching methods
to promote student engagement; role of teacher
development and peer support
Positive social climate: initial and continuing
teacher education; school development planning
Positive behaviour policy (clear and consistent
approach) v. emphasis on sanctions; student
involvement in school life

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