This article reports a systematic review of research on science programs in grades 6-12. Twenty-one studies met inclusion criteria including use of randomized or matched assignment to conditions, measures that assess content emphasized equally in experimental and control groups, and a duration of at least 12 weeks. Programs fell into four categories. Instructional process programs (ES=+0.24) and technology programs (ES=+0.47) had positive sample-size weighted mean effect sizes, while use of science kits (ES=+0.05) and innovative textbooks (ES=+0.10) had much lower effects. Outcomes support the use of programs with a strong focus on professional development, technology, and support for teaching, rather than materials-focused innovations.
Which science programs have been proven to help elementary students to succeed? To find out, this review summarizes evidence on three types of programs designed to improve the science achievement of students in grades K–6:
Inquiry-oriented programs without science kits, such as Increasing Conceptual Challenge, Science IDEAS, and Collaborative Concept Mapping. These programs help teachers learn and use generic processes, such as cooperative learning, concept development, and science-reading integration, in their daily science teaching.
Inquiry-oriented programs with science kits, such as Insights, FOSS, STC, SCALE, and Teaching SMART. The theory of action in science kit programs is that implementing hands-on activities helps to build deep learning about the scientific process and core concepts of elementary science.
Technology programs, such as BrainPOP, The Voyage of the Mimi, and web-based labs. Technologies utilized in these approaches include computer-assisted instruction and class-focused technology (such as video and interactive whiteboard technologies).
The evidence from studies that met the review’s inclusion criteria supports a view that improving outcomes in elementary science depends on improving teachers’ skills in presenting lessons, engaging and motivating students, and integrating science and reading. Technology applications that help teachers teach more compelling lessons and that use video to reinforce lessons also have promise.
Slavin, R. E., Lake, C., Hanley, P., & Thurston, A. (2014). Experimental evaluations of elementary science programs: A best-evidence synthesis. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 51 (7), 870-901.
This paper reviews research on outcomes of writing programs for students in grades 2 to 12. Studies had to meet rigorous standards of research including use of randomized or wellmatched control groups, measures independent of the program developers, researchers, and teachers, and adequate sample size and duration. Fourteen studies of 12 programs met the standards. Twelve (86%) were randomized, two matched. Programs were divided into three categories. Student achievement effects on writing were positive on average in all categories (Effect Size=+0.18), with similar outcomes for writing programs focused on the writing process (ES=+0.17), those using cooperative learning (ES=+0.16), and those focusing on interactions between reading and writing (ES=+0.19).
The Center for Research and Reform in Education has completed reviews of educational technology and reading achievement, focusing on the effects of technology use on reading achievement in K-12 classrooms, and also on reading outcomes for struggling readers. The reviews can be accessed from the following links:
Effects of Technology Applications on Reading Achievement in K-12 Classrooms
Cheung, A., & Slavin, R.E. (2012). How features of educational technology programs affect student reading outcomes: A meta-analysis. Educational Research Review, 7 (3), 198-215. Doi:10.1016/j.edurev.2012.05.002
Effects of Technology Applications on Reading Outcomes for Struggling Readers
This article reviews research on the outcomes of diverse reading programs on the achievement of struggling readers in elementary schools. Sixty-five studies of 51 different programs met rigorous standards. Eighty-three percent were randomized experiments and 17% quasi-experiments. Outcomes were positive for one-to-one tutoring and were positive but not as large for one-to-small group tutoring. There were no differences in outcomes between teachers and teaching assistants as tutors. Whole-class approaches (mostly cooperative learning) and whole-class/whole-school approaches incorporating tutoring for struggling readers obtained outcomes for struggling readers as large as those found for all forms of tutoring, on average, and benefitted many more students. Technology-supported adaptive instruction did not have significant positive outcomes for struggling readers, however. In agreement with previous reviews, this synthesis found that substantial impacts can be obtained for struggling readers with interventions aligned within a response to intervention network.
Neitzel, A., Lake, C., Pellegrini, M., & Slavin, R. (in press). A synthesis of quantitative research on programs for struggling readers in elementary schools. Reading Research Quarterly57 (1), 149-179. doi:10.1002/rrq.379
Recent initiatives in the U.S. and U.K. have added greatly to the amount and quality of research on the effectiveness of secondary reading programs, especially programs for struggling readers. This review of the experimental research on secondary reading programs focuses on 69 studies that used random assignment (n=62) or high-quality quasi-experiments (n=7) to evaluate outcomes of 51 programs on widely accepted measures of reading. Categories of programs using one-to-one and small-group tutoring, cooperative learning, whole-school approaches including organizational reforms such as teacher teams, and writing-focused approaches showed positive outcomes. Individual approaches in a few other categories also showed positive impacts. These include programs emphasizing social studies/science, structured strategies, and personalized and group/personalization rotation approaches for struggling readers. Programs that provide a daily extra period of reading and those utilizing technology were no more effective, on average, than programs that did not provide these resources. The findings suggest that secondary readers benefit more from socially and cognitively engaging instruction than from additional reading periods or technology.
This review examines research on the effectiveness of educational technology applications for enhancing mathematics achievement in K-12 classrooms. It applies rigorous, consistent inclusion standards to focus on studies that meet high methodological standards. Three key research questions are addressed:
Do education technology applications improve mathematics achievement in K-12 classrooms as compared to traditional teaching methods without education technology?
What study and research features moderate the effects of education technology applications on student mathematics achievement?
Large-scale randomized studies by Dynarski and Campuzzano found near-zero effects of modern CAI programs on math achievement. Do other high-quality studies agree or disagree with these findings?
A total of 74 qualifying studies, with a total sample size of 56,886 K-12 students, are included in the final analysis. Three major categories of education technology are reviewed:
Computer-managed learning, which included only Accelerated Math. This program uses computers to assess students’ mathematics levels, assign mathematics materials at appropriate levels, score tests on this material, and chart students’ progress.
Comprehensive models, such as Cognitive Tutor and I Can Learn, use computer-assisted instruction along with non-computer activities as the students’ core approach to mathematics.
Supplemental CAI technology, which consists of individualized computer-assisted instruction (CAI). Supplemental CAI programs, such as Jostens, PLATO, Larson Pre-Algebra, and SRA Drill and Practice, provide additional instruction at students’ assessed levels of need to supplement traditional classroom instruction.
Findings of the review indicate that educational technology applications produce a positive but small effect (ES=+0.16) on mathematics achievement. In particular, supplemental CAI had the largest effect, with an effect size of +0.19. The other two categories, computer-managed learning and comprehensive models, had a much smaller effect size, +0.09 and +0.06, respectively.
Cheung, A., & Slavin, R. E. (2013). The effectiveness of educational technology applications for enhancing mathematics achievement in K-12 classrooms: A meta-analysis. Educational Research Review, 9, 88-113.
What mathematics programs have been proven to help middle and high school students to succeed? To find out, this review summarizes evidence on three types of programs designed to improve the mathematics achievement of students in grades 6-12:
Mathematics Curricula (MC), such as The University of Chicago School Mathematics Project, Connected Mathematics, Saxon Math, and other standard and alternative textbooks.
Computer-Assisted Instruction (CAI), such as I Can Learn, Jostens/Compass Learning, and Accelerated Math.
Instructional Process Programs (IP), such as cooperative learning, mastery learning, and other approaches primarily intended to change teachers’ instructional strategies rather than curriculum or technology.