Sunday 20 September 2015

Russian and UK school kids



Elaine White1,2 , Margherita Malanchini1,2 , Dina Zueva2 , Olga Bogdanova2 , Yulia Kovas1,2

1 Goldsmiths, University of London, UK,

2 Tomsk State University, Russia.

Research suggests that within any country, almost the whole spectrum of individual variation in academic achievement is observed in any school or classroom, with only a small portion of within-population variance attributable to differences across teachers, classes and school (e.g. Asbury et al., 2008).

It may be that shared effects of class/teacher are weaker or stronger as a function of such factors as teacher training, curricula, educational norms, and cultural stereotypes (e.g. Kovas et al., 2013). As longitudinal research into teacher/classroom effects are limited to date and neglect the contribution of non-cognitive factors, this study investigates teacher/classroom effects on academic achievement, across several points of the academic year in two countries.

This longitudinal study follows 622 11-12 year old Russian and UK secondary school students at several waves across one academic year. As students have subject-specific teachers for the first time in their education, comparisons can be made between their classrooms for two subjects, maths and geography. The students from 3 urban schools completed a range of tests and self-report questionnaires during their maths lesson. Data were collected to assess cognitive and non-cognitive factors in relation to academic progress. The students’ school achievement data were also obtained.

We explore differences: across the two countries; within and between classes; across the two school subjects; and motivational factors. Preliminary results (from the first 3 waves) suggest stability of the measures, maths ability and maths self-efficacy, over time. A reciprocal relationship was shown between maths ability and maths self-efficacy across time 1 and time 2. This suggests that higher performance increases self-efficacy and higher self-efficacy increases performance. This reciprocal relationship remains when controlling for IQ and the relationship strengthens between ability at time 1 and self-efficacy at time 2. A negative relationship, which appears between ability at time 2 and self-efficacy at time 3, is likely to be the result of performance feedback.

This research investigates potential differences between Russian and UK education systems comparing classroom environments of mathematics in contrast to geography. Although taught and utilised differently, both academic subjects contain similar attributes. Both Russian and UK secondary school students have specific subject teachers for the first time in their education. UK students have the same teacher for all subjects during primary school and changes yearly, whereas Russian students have the same teacher throughout the four years of their primary education. The study therefore provides an ideal comparison of cognitive and non-cognitive factors across subject and classroom environments. Identifying factors moderating classroom effects is important for educational policy and provision.

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