research round up

Research Round Up – September 2018

This quarter, the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) have published several reports:

Schools in the trial spent one hour a week developing pupils’ spoken language and communication skills to help them express their thoughts and ideas. Schools received materials and training in oracy based approaches.

The programme showed promise and was well received by teachers. All school staff felt there were improvements to pupils’ oracy skills. Teachers were not confident that the observed improvements to oracy skills would have an immediate impact on attainment but some felt that there could be longer-term academic benefits.

This report pulls out key evidenced principles in the teaching of communication, language and literacy to children between the ages of three and five. The first principles indicate that practitioners should prioritise the development of communication and language, summarising: language provides the foundation of thinking and learning and should be prioritised. The second principles emphasise the need for a balanced approach in developing literacy where one single approach is not enough.

This report highlights the key issues associated with the attainment gap and describes 15 key lessons that the EEF has learned during their first six years work.

The attainment gap is largest for children and young people eligible for free school meals and those assessed with special educational needs. For disadvantaged children, this gap begins early and is already evident when children start school. It grows wider throughout school – 9.5 months by the end of primary school and 19.3 months by the end of secondary school.

This shows the importance of intervening early and continuing to attend to the needs of disadvantaged pupils.

This report stresses the importance of thinking through how to implement an evidenced approach. Aimed at school leaders, the purpose of this guidance is to begin to describe and demystify implementation –i.e. to document our knowledge of the steps that effective schools take to manage change well.

Research and commentary on children and young people’s speech, language and communication:

The relationship between information carrying words, memory and language skills in school age children with specific language impairment – Frizelle et al 2017

Many speech and language therapists use the construct of Information Carrying Words (ICWs) in the assessment and intervention with children with developmental language disorder (DLD). However, historically there has been an absence of validation of the ICW construct. This study, looking at 7-year-olds, found a significant relationship between both language and memory measures and children’s ICW score, i.e. the higher the ICW score, the higher the children’s performance on tests of language and memory. The strongest associations were between ICW score and receptive language, and ICW score and working memory.

Language Exposure Relates to Structural Neural Connectivity in Childhood Romeo et al (2018) Journal of Neuroscience

This article explores parent’s interactions with their children to find out what kind of interaction makes the most difference to children’s language. They found that the most relevant component of children’s language exposure is not the sheer number of words they hear but the amount of back-and-forth adult-child conversation they experience. They link these ‘conversational turns’ to the physical strength of white-matter connections between the two key language regions in the left hemisphere of the brain. The study also shows that the importance on conversational turns is significant across all sociodemographic backgrounds.

Bridging Oral and Written Language: An Oral Narrative Language Intervention Study with Writing Outcomes Spencer and Petersen (2018) Language, Speech and Hearing Services in Schools

We often talk about the link between oral language and written language ability but there is little evidence showing a causal connection. So this article is interesting – it found that in a group of 6-year-old children, narrative instruction delivered exclusively orally had a positive effect on 6-year-old children’s writing.

Behaviour as a form of communication – what’s the problem? Blog by Pamela Snow

This informative blog summarises the evidence linking language disorder with mental health and behaviour problems. It recommends that encouraging teachers and parents to think of behaviour as a form of communication might be a very good start in widening the lens on behaviour. It could also increase collaboration opportunities between teachers and allied health professionals, such as speech pathologists, psychologists and occupational therapists.