Does Order Matter?

A recent randomized control trial conducted by Sarama and colleagues compares the order of instructional activities promoted within a learning trajectories (LT) approach to a reverse-sequence (REV) design and a business-as-usual (BAU) design. The LT approach operates under the assumption that a student learns best when content and activities are sequenced according to the children’s developmental progression or level of thinking. In comparison, the theoretical approach of the REV design is supported by some research suggesting that challenging students with content beyond their current level of thinking may help them see the value in future instruction designed to facilitate their understanding of the challenging material.

The study focused on the development of length measurement understanding and involved 185 kindergarten students, with 69 assigned to the LT condition, 59 assigned to the REV condition, and 57 assigned to the BAU condition. Students assigned to the LT condition and REV condition received ten 12-minute (total 120 minutes) one-on-one instructional sections over the course of multiple weeks while students assigned to the BAU condition did not receive any additional instruction. Researchers developed an assessment of length measurement learning based on the Research-Based Early Mathematics Assessment and the Cognitively Based Assessment. A model comparing the LT condition with the BAU condition and REV condition indicates evidence:

Significant positive effects for the LT approach when compared with BAU (ES = + 0.58) and with REV (ES = + 0.32).

This provides evidence that the material provided in the LT approach is effective and that the order in which this material is presented is important for maximizing student learning.


The authors acknowledge that differing instructional approaches between the LT and REV groups may have also affected student outcomes beyond the ordering of the instructional material. However, the authors indicate this is the first study to focus on sequence of material presented in the LT approach and it therefore provides valuable insight on the approach’s usefulness and may provide direction for future research.

Source:Sarama, J., Clements, D. H., Baroody, A. J., Kutaka, T. S., Chernyavskiy, P., Shi, J., & Cong, M. (2021). Testing a Theoretical Assumption of a Learning-Trajectories Approach in Teaching Length Measurement to Kindergartners. AERA Open, 7, 23328584211026656. https://doi.org/10.1177/23328584211026657
Excessive Use of Electronic Devices Harms Children’s School Performance

Interactive technology (e.g., Internet, social media, video games, etc.) is an integral part of life for youth. In a recently published research paper in Computers and Human Behavior, Anthony and her colleagues report the impact of amounts of interactive technology use on school engagement and academic performance. Two-wave survey data of 9,449 middle school students (mean age = 13.5 years) were collected in 2013-2014 and 2014-15 from the China Education Panel Survey (CEPS), a national survey in China.

Students reported the time spent on their electronic devices for entertainment on school days and on weekends. Academic performance was assessed with midterm scores (Chinese, English and Mathematics), cognitive competency was measured by 20 test items (verbal, figure, quantitative). Truancy, educational aspirations, concentration in class, and boredom at school were reported by students one year later as proxy for school engagement.

 After a comparison with those who did not spend any time on interactive technology for entertainment / non-school related activities, the findings showed:

Even 1+ hours of usage on school days resulted in performance in academic outcomes and cognitive scores becoming worse.

During weekends, using 2+ hours daily resulted in significantly lower Chinese exam scores, and using 4+ hours daily resulted in significantly lower Math exam scores one year later.

There was no significant association between weekend usage and English exam scores.

The usage of 1+ hours on school days and weekends could lower educational aspirations and increase the likelihood of lacking concentration in class at follow-up.

Using 1+ hours on school days or 4+ hours on weekends was significantly associated with greater likelihood of feeling bored at school.

However, children who spent less than 1 hour on interactive technology on weekends experienced less boredom at school.

The authors recommended a preliminary guideline with a moderate threshold for technology entertainment which may minimise potential adverse effects:

No more than 1 hour daily on school days


No more than 4 hours daily on weekends

Source:Anthony, W. L., Zhu, Y., & Nower, L. (2021). The relationship of interactive technology use for entertainment and school performance and engagement: Evidence from a longitudinal study in a nationally representative sample of middle school students in China. Computers in Human Behavior, 122, 106846. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2021.106846
The Effect of Four-day School Weeks on Attendance, Achievement, and Discipline in High School

Although the four-day school week schedule is not a new phenomenon, it has seen unprecedented growth in its adoption over the past two decades, reaching 662 public school districts in 24 states in 2019. Prior limited research shows that the schedule reduces school expenditures by a small amount but doesn’t affect the attendance among students in grades 3-8. In a recent working paper published by the Annenberg Institute at Brown University, the author assessed the impact of the four-day school week policy in Oklahoma on high school students’ attendance, achievement, and school discipline.

The author employed district-level high school data from Oklahoma and a quasi-experimental research method to provide a rigorous analysis of the effect of the four-day school week on high school students’ attendance. Results indicate that:

Four-day school weeks have no significant effect on either math and English ACT scores as well as high school attendance rates.

Findings indicate positive impacts on school discipline, with reductions in bullying, fighting, and assaults.

Other types of disciplinary infractions, such as vandalism and drugs did not show any significant impacts.


While 29% of four-day week districts from a national sample of four-day school week districts say that attendance is their primary driver to adopt this schedule, this this study suggests adopting a four-day school week schedule may not improving attendance but may have other positive impacts of interest to schools.

Source:Morton, Emily. (2021). Effects of four-day school weeks on adolescents: Examining impacts of the schedule on academic achievement, attendance, and behavior in high school. (EdWorkingPaper: 21-416). Retrieved from Annenberg Institute at Brown University: https://doi.org/10.26300/y2qy-ea03
A Service-learning Program in Science to Improve Academic Achievement and Civic Engagement

A recent randomized evaluation conducted by Rimm-Kaufman and colleagues investigated the effects of Connect Science on student academic achievement and civic engagement. Connect Science is a service-learning program, a form of project-based learning that aims to prepare students to tackle with social and environmental problems in their community. The content of the intervention in this study was related to energy use and social emotional skills in groupwork.

The study involved 41 fourth grade classes in the South-Central US randomly assigned to receive the intervention over 14-22 weeks or to continue with their regular practice. Science achievement and civic engagement were measured using quantitative tests developed by the researchers who conducted the study. Researcher-made measures may overestimate the effect of the intervention compared to independent tests, such as standardized or state tests. For this reason, the results presented below should be used with caution. Results showed:

Significant positive effects for science achievement (ES = +0.32).

Significant positive effects for domain-specific civic engagement measured by Energy Attitudes & Behaviors (ES =+0.31).

No statistically significant effects were found for general civic engagement (Civic Efficacy & Skills, ES = +0.21).


Although the study was well-conducted and the results showed positive effects in students’ science achievement, further research is needed to test the effectiveness of Connect Science using independent measures of science achievement.

Source:Rimm-Kaufman, S. E., Merritt, E. G., Lapan, C., DeCoster, J., Hunt, A., & Bowers, N. (2021). Can service-learning boost science achievement, civic engagement, and social skills? A randomized controlled trial of Connect Science. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 74, 101236. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appdev.2020.101236
The Relationship between Parental Style and Cyber Victimization of Junior High School Students

Due to the increasing number of young people using the Internet, cyberbullying may cause greater harm than traditional bullying. Therefore, effective bullying behavior intervention has always been the focus of researchers. A large number of studies have shown that parenting styles are closely related to the development trajectory of traditional bullying behaviors and that online bullying behaviors are highly correlated with traditional bullying behaviors. Therefore, it can be speculated that the development track of online bullying behavior of junior high school students is related to the parenting style. This study predicts that junior high school students’ cyberbullying behavior may have multiple development trajectories, and parenting styles may be an important predictor of these development trajectories. Therefore, researchers took 491 junior high school students as the research object, conducted 4 longitudinal tests on their online bullying behavior over a period of 2 years, and then tested their parenting styles. The mixed growth model of latent variables is used to explore the multiple development trajectories of online bullying behavior of junior high school students, and to analyze the influence of parenting styles. The results of the study are as follow:

First: The longitudinal study found that within 2 years (that is, from the 8th to the 9th grade), the cyberbullying behavior of junior high school students showed a significant downward trend. It is also found that there are individual differences in the rate of decline in online bullying behavior among teenagers from the 8th to 9th grade. Specifically, most junior high school students have a slower decline in online bullying behavior, while a small number of junior high school students have a faster decline. The above-mentioned downward trend and its heterogeneous results have certain inspirations for the intervention of online bullying behavior of junior high school students. Since the 8th grade, junior high school students will experience a significant reduction in online bullying behavior. The implementation of intervention programs should pay attention to this critical time. At this point, intervention at the beginning of the 8th grade will have a better effect.

Second: This study found that parental refusal can positively predict the initial level of online bullying behavior of junior high school students, and negatively predict the rate of decline, and it can also increase the probability of being in the fast group. Junior high school students who are rejected by their parents have higher social anxiety, poorer peer relationships, more withdrawal behaviors, and stronger anger. This leads to more frequent peer conflicts and more unreasonable coping strategies, so they are more likely to be bullied. This study also found that parental warmth makes junior high school students belong to the group of the slow decline in online bullying behavior. The possible reason for the significant difference between fathers and mothers in the influence of emotional warmth is that emotionally warm fathers pay more attention to fairness, justice, and the shaping of values, and emotionally warm mothers pay more attention to the development of junior high school students' interpersonal communication and emotional expression. Junior high school students are more willing to share or communicate peer relationships with their mothers, so the mother's emotional warmth is more likely to prevent junior high school students from encountering cyberbullying, and they are more likely to belong to the slow decline group.

Third: This study finds that parental overprotection can increase the probability of junior high school students belonging to the rapidly declining group of online bullying behaviors. Overprotective parents will excessively restrict normal activities and provide excessive interventions, resulting in lower self-protection ability and fewer opportunities for peers to interact with junior high school students, thereby increasing the probability of being bullied. In terms of the difference in the influence of overprotection between fathers and mothers, the possible reasons are: In terms of intervention and protection, overprotective fathers are more serious than mothers, and overprotective fathers weaken the self-protection ability of junior high school students. As a result, they will encounter more bullying behaviors and are more likely to belong to the rapid decline group.


Based on this, this longitudinal study found that the online bullying behavior of junior high school students showed an overall downward trend within 2 years. The more adolescents who were bullied online in the 8th grade, the faster the decline. At the same time, the development trajectory of online bullying behavior of junior high school students has two groups: rapid decline and slow decline. Finally, parenting styles can significantly predict the initial level and rate of decline of online bullying behavior of junior high school students, and can also significantly predict their probability of belonging to the development group of online bullying behavior. The implementation of intervention programs through mothers' education can make junior high school students suffer from cyberbullying even more. In the future, more attention should be paid to interventions through mothers' education.

Source:Wu, P., Zhang, Q., & Wang, Y. (2021). The relationship between parental style and cyber victimization of junior high school students: A longitudinal study. Psychological Development and Education, (05):719-726.