ESRC Conference: Methodological challenges for the 21 st Century, Nov 22 nd , 2007. The suitability of using RCTs in educational research. Dr Carole Torgerson Senior Research Fellow Institute for Effective Education University of York.
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ESRC Conference: Methodological challenges for the 21st Century, Nov 22nd, 2007
Dr Carole Torgerson
Senior Research Fellow
Institute for Effective Education
University of York
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We recently completed a trial of 156 children looking at the effect of computers for literacy learning
In a typical English secondary school we randomly allocated all Year 7 pupils (aged 11) to have 10 hours of computer teaching over two weeks
The control group received ‘normal’ teaching
Randomisation was performed independently by the York Trials Unit
Sample size had > 80% power to show an effect size of 0.5 (moderate) of the computer programme
We measured two outcomes: spelling and reading ability (spelling was our a priori primary outcome measure)
Similar results to the US study obtained - no evidence of any benefit of using computers for literacy learning
Brooks et al, Ed Studies, 32(2), 2006.
P = 0.74
P = 0.001
This trial, which is the largest ever undertaken in the UK, shows no evidence of benefit of computer technology on spelling progression and supports the large field trial in the US. The small difference in spelling scores is not statistically significantly different. There is a statistically significant difference in reading scores; however, this favours the control group.
The use of software packages for literacy learning in schools could and should be tested in large rigorously designed RCTs.
Brooks et al, (2006). Educational Studies 2006;32:133-43.
Kreuger and Zhu 2002; NBER working paper, 9418
Banerjee et al, 2005; NBER working paper 11904
Decker et al. Mathematica Policy Research, 2004
Senior Research Fellow
University of York, Heslington,
YORK YO10 5DD
Telephone: 01904 328152