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Does class size matter? We’ll get a better answer if we rethink the debate

Blog Editor, IOE Digital13 November 2020

Peter Blatchford and Anthony Russell.

For many teachers, large classes present problems which adversely affect their practice and their pupils’ learning. This is what our surveys show. But researchers and commentators often have a different view. For them the class size debate can be summed up with the question: does class size affect pupil attainment?

As we show in our new open access book, ‘Rethinking Class Size: The Complex Story of Impact on Teaching and Learning’, published by UCL Press this week, researchers (contrary to a practitioner view) commonly find that the statistical association between class size and attainment is not marked and so conclude that class size does not matter much. This has led some to even suggest that we could raise class sizes, and instead invest savings in professional development for teachers. Currently, in the wake of the Covid pandemic and teacher absences, there are reports of some schools being forced to create supersized classes of 60 pupils.

The view that class size is not important is probably the predominant view among researchers and policy makers, and so they may be relatively relaxed about increases in class size. We therefore need – more than ever – good quality evidence on class size effects, but in our view much research is limited and leads to misleading conclusions.

We identify three problems. (more…)

Celebrating Geoff Whitty’s contribution to education research

Blog Editor, IOE Digital18 September 2020

Emma Wisby and Andrew Brown.

As Covid-19 was reaching its first peak towards the end of March, we were preparing to publish an edited collection in honour of one of the IOE’s former Directors, the late Professor Geoff Whitty: Knowledge, Policy and Practice in Education and the Struggle for Social Justice – Essays Inspired by the Work of Geoff Whitty. Our plans to celebrate the book by gathering together friends, colleagues and interested readers remain on hold. In the meantime, here we reflect on the project and how it builds on Geoff’s scholarship as one of the foremost sociologists of education of his generation.

Geoff conducted incisive and powerful research studies across the themes of knowledge, policy and practice in education.

He was also a prominent voice in examining the field of education studies itself and its relationship to policy and practice.  The collection takes inspiration from all those (more…)

COVID-19: a defining moment for longitudinal research?

Blog Editor, IOE Digital15 May 2020

Rob Davies, republished from the CLOSER blog.

It is clear the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic for individuals, families and society will be deep and long-lasting. However, we still don’t fully understand the impact of the virus, nationally or regionally, or how it will entrench existing challenges such as inequalities or mental health.

Data and evidence from longitudinal studies will be vital to the UK’s response to COVID-19. Harnessing the power of existing longitudinal studies will help to understand the immediate and long-term impacts on individuals, families, households and society, providing valuable information for research and policy throughout and after the pandemic. Crucially, due to the unique nature of longitudinal studies, it will also be possible to track the longer-term consequences and impacts for years to come.

Rapid response with the future in mind

The response by the longitudinal research community to the COVID-19 pandemic has (more…)

Is England’s PISA 2018 data reliable?

Blog Editor, IOE Digital3 December 2019

John Jerrim.

The PISA 2018 results are out today. PISA is supposed to test a representative sample of 15-year-olds across more than 70 countries around the world.

However, questions sometimes arise over how representative the PISA data really is.

And it seems that there were some problems with the PISA 2018 data for the UK. This blogpost will try to explain the issue.

(more…)

10 years on: how researchers and the autistic community are making a future together

Blog Editor, IOE Digital27 November 2019

Anna Remington and Laura Crane.

The way we view autism is slowly changing. When the Centre for Research in Autism Education (CRAE) was set up in 2009, autistic people were not often heard. Today, a world-wide Climate Change protest is led by a 16-year-old young woman who calls autism her ‘superpower’. 

But while this is positive, it should not overshadow the fact that autism is a wide spectrum and that there is still a long way to go before the voices of the wider autistic community come into their own. 

This month, the CRAE team celebrated its tenth anniversary.  Housed within UCL Institute of Education, CRAE’s mission is to enhance the lives of autistic people through conducting high quality research that has a genuine impact on autistic people’s day-to-day lives. We achieve this by meaningfully engaging autistic people and their allies – such as families and teachers – in the research we do.

(more…)

Should England continue participating in PISA?

Blog Editor, IOE Digital26 November 2019

John Jerrim.

PISA has now been running since 2000, with England participating in every cycle. Yet involvement does not come cheap. It costs more than £2m every three years for England, Wales and Northern Ireland to take part. Not to mention the burden it places upon nearly 500 schools.

It therefore seems important that we consider whether all this time and effort is worthwhile. Is England really getting enough out of its continued participation in the PISA study?

This blogpost focuses on four key reasons why England has participated in the PISA study, and the value that they bring.

(more…)

Is PISA ‘fundamentally flawed’ because of the scaling methodology used?

Blog Editor, IOE Digital5 November 2019

John Jerrim.

Every time PISA results are released, concerns are raised about the methodology that underpins the work.

One area that has come in for repeated criticism is how the test scores of students are actually produced, as in this article, which asked whether PISA was “fundamentally flawed”.

Such concerns were exacerbated by a seminal paper by Svend Kreiner and Karl Bang Christensen who claimed that their results indicated that using PISA to compare countries was “meaningless”.

(more…)

How do headteachers in England use test data, and does this differ from other countries?

Blog Editor, IOE Digital15 October 2019

John Jerrim.

In England we are fortunate to have a lot of data available about school pupils and how they are achieving academically at school.

Organisations such as FFT aim to make this data available and easily digestible to schools through services such as Aspire so that it can be used to inform the decisions of teachers and school leaders.

But how does the way schools in England make use of data compare to schools in other countries?

(more…)

How well-off and healthy were my parents when I was little? Am I a hard-working high flier, or an advantaged one?

Blog Editor, IOE Digital12 August 2019

Gabriella Melis and Ingrid Schoon.

Our research looked at how inequalities amongst families in the 1970s in England have been passed on onto their offspring when they were adults themselves. We call the parent’s generation G1, and the offspring generation, born in 1970, G2.

Drawing on data from the British Cohort Study 1970 (BCS70), we considered several measures of socio-economic and health-related risk factors for both the parents (G1) and their children (G2) ­at age 42. The data covered around 11,000 individuals and their families over a 42-year timespan, which makes our sample a very robust one for the study of transmission of inequality from one generation to the next.

We found that individuals who grew up in more disadvantaged families are significantly more likely to end up in disadvantaged socio-economic and health conditions by age 42 when compared to those from relatively more privileged families. This is true, in particular, for those from families where the parents were physically ill or depressed. There is however also a considerable degree of social mobility, for some (more…)

Rules of engagement: 5 takeaways for research impact from the award-winning ASPIRES project

Blog Editor, IOE Digital11 July 2019

 

Tatiana Souteiro Dias and Emily Macleod

Collaboration with individuals and organisations beyond academia for the benefit of society is an increasingly important part of research teams’ activities. But how can academics achieve this when there are so many competing priorities? For Professor Louise Archer, Principal Investigator of the ASPIRES/ASPIRES 2 project – who received the 2019 ESRC Celebrating Impact Prize Panel’s Choice Award this week – investing time and effort in building long-term relationships based on trust and respect is one of the answers.

The multiple award winning team of ASPIRES, a longitudinal research project studying young people’s science and career ambitions from age 10 to 19, shared their successful impact strategies as part of the first IOE Impact Meet-up, a new series of workshops bringing together experts, doctoral students and early career researchers from the IOE to discuss how to make authentic impact a key (more…)