Celebrating 200 issues of Best Evidence in Brief

Posted on 14 November 2019

This week we have sent out the 200th issue of Best Evidence in Brief. Produced by the IEE in collaboration with the Center for Research and Reform in Education at Johns Hopkins University, Best Evidence in Brief has been sent out every two weeks since the very first issue in November 2011.

That first issue included summaries of research on family literacy programmes, self-paced learning, summer-born children and struggling readers. There are now over 800 pieces of research in our archive, covering topics such as feedback, parental engagement and ability grouping, and visitor numbers to the website have grown 50% year-on-year. Last month we had more than 2,000 visitors to our website – the most visits in a month ever.

And over the eight years, not only has the number of subscribers grown (there are now more than 5,000 subscribers in the UK, and over 15,000 for the US version), the Best Evidence in Brief family has grown too. Nanjing Normal University, The Chinese University of Hong Kong’s Centre for University and School Partnership and Fundació Bancària “la Caixa” – Àrea Acció Educativa each send out versions of Best Evidence in Brief, written in their own languages. All centres publish information regarding recent developments in educational research, yet each country’s version is a little different and each emphasises research most relevant to their national context.

Earlier this year we joined up with The National College to provide a monthly Best Evidence in Brief roundup in video format; again focusing on stories with practical implications for schools and policy makers. You can watch all the episodes here.

If you follow us on Twitter, you will know that usually at Christmas we like to indulge ourselves by choosing our twelve favourite research articles from the past year, and tweeting one piece each day of the 12 days of Christmas. So, as a nod to that tradition, we’ve gone through the archives to select a favourite piece of research from each year in celebration of 200 issues, and eight years, of Best Evidence in Brief. Here are our eight favourites from the last eight years:

1. Does when you are born matter? (2011) 

One of our first stories, and a question that we have returned to over the years. This report from the Institute for Fiscal Studies looked at the impact of month of birth on children’s cognitive and non-cognitive skills, and found that, overall, children born in August do worse than children born in September.

2. To study or to sleep? (2012)

The results of this longitudinal study suggested that regardless of how much a pupil generally studied each day, if they sacrificed sleep time to study more than usual, they would be more likely to struggle in class the following day.

3. Is there more to reading than phonics? (2013)

This UK study suggested that children’s reading and spelling was improved if they were taught about morphology, etymology and rules about form in addition to traditional phonics.

4. Let them have a lie-in (2014) 

Later school start times might help teenage pupils’ academic performance and reduce the number of car accidents for teen drivers, were among the findings from a three-year US study on high school (age 14-18) start times. This is also a useful illustration of how country contexts influence the research. Schools in the US have earlier start times, and more students drive to school.

5. Gender stereotypes follow primary school kids into adulthood (2015)

This research from National Bureau of Economic Research suggested that teacher biases in favour of boys in primary school had a positive effect on boys and a negative effect on girls that continued through middle and high school and affected subject choice – such as whether to enrol for advanced maths and science courses – that may have long-term implications for occupation choice and earnings. Recent research in the UK has similarly shown that secondary schools believe boys and white students are better at maths.

6. Stories about struggling scientists improved science grades (2016)

This was a straightforward intervention aimed at increasing pupil engagement with science. There were three clear intervention groups – stories of scientists struggling emotionally, stories of scientists struggling intellectually, and a control. The results of the intervention weren’t stunning, but they were positive, and it’s more actionable than many of the larger studies have included.

7. Unpacking cognitive load theory (2017)

While we mostly focus on recent studies or reviews, sometimes we will include a really good overview of a subject, particularly if new studies in the area are fairly rare. In a popular post from 2017, we looked at a report from the Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation in New South Wales, Australia, examined the existing research on cognitive load theory and what it looks like in practice..

8. Age and ADHD (2018)

This review showed that children who were the youngest in their classroom were more likely to be diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) than their older classmates, and that this was the case no matter which country they lived in.

And you can find out what our favourites from 2019 are in this year’s #12StudiesOfXmas.

A final note: The IEE has brought you Best Evidence in Brief free for the last eight years. This includes both the fortnightly e-newsletter and a searchable website. We want to continue to make it freely available to as many people as possible, with that in mind, we would like to ask for donations to support the service.

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