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Christian Bokhove @cbokhove
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This is the journal article of the EEF study. -> Can explicit teaching of knowledge improve reading attainment? An evaluation of the Core Knowledge curriculum - See - 2017 - British Educational Research Journal - Wiley Online Library onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.10…
The trial was about a year long. According to the article the theory behind the programme (based on CKLA) is “The theory is that if children understand the words they read, they can understand the text.” - of course criticism has been on *what text*, relevant if donain-specific.
Nevertheless, IMO it makes sense to at least also, certainly after 69 45 minute lessons on history and geography, measure reading comprehension with standardised tests. I do agree though that a bespoke test would also make sense. This didn’t have one,the EEF report said ‘invalid’
I now understand that some see this as de facto agreeing with Hirsch (cos ‘measured what was explicitly taught’) but imo, after exploring claims on sites etc, there *is* a claim that explicitly teaching words (knowledge), this eventually contributes to comprehension in general.
Maybe it takes longer than one year though, but I wonder how many schools, unless already committed to a programme, would want to do that. In the WRR trial by the EEF, most schools were academies, for example, given background Curticulum Centre likely aligned with some MATs.
But OK, maybe longer or with different bespoke measurements fared better. The article gives a concise overview. I think the EEF report has a bit more educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/projects-and-e…
It is indeed clear that the CKLA programme (I’ll come back to a crucial difference in the WRR one by the EEF) had mixed results. Can’t summarise all of it, so please read yourself, several trials much longer so here I would at least expect some effect.
On standardised measures this was disappointing, although here the quality of implementation played a large role. Some studies included bespoke Core Knowledge tests which did show positive effects. So there is truth in the ‘bespoke test thesis’. But there is a twist...
If you read Datnow et al jstor.org/stable/1002341 or reports by Stringfield et al there are intriguing descriptions of the implementation in some schools that improved bespoke test scores...
It turned out that the schools *had* implemented the programme and taught the content, but they had used ‘progressive teaching methods’ (you won’t be surprised I find that label somewhat opaque).
So with bespoke outcome tests Core Knowledge was effective but the way it was taught was at odds with how some, incl Hirsch, would prefer it to be taught. Could it be that a focussed, coherent curriculum is the ‘working ingredient’, I’m wondering.
More on the EEF trial (WRR).
Schools randomised but cos of the relatively small number the groups were a bit unbalanced. Attrition was an issue here too but as weaker pupils dropped out more, and more from intervention than control, it was likely to bias in favour of intervention
Quite some effort was put into the process evaluation. There were no discernable results, using the standardised PiE test. There was no bespoke test. There were a lot of interesting things that arose from the process evaluations.
Students and teachers were positive, but several points were noted...
A lack of differentiation. Materials did not take into account different ability levels. This is interesting because ‘differentiation’ also often is a concept targeted by those advicating Hirsch. Here it’s teachers themselves from schools that are positive about CK, asking it.
It also was clear that support and quality of materials played a role. That is a shame, cos to me it seems something that could be corrected quite easily. It does, however, seem there also is a link with teaching approaches....
..according to the article this intervention was quite scripted. Teachers thought there was a ‘lack of opportunity to engage in in-depth discussions’. In the conclusion authors state...
“Hirsch recommended that 50% of the curriculum be devoted to the teaching of content with the other 50% for wider discussions of the topics covered” - so that would be quite a big departure, I would say.
Teachers’ knowledge also was a crucial aspect. That makes sense, I think, teachers have got to know what they teach, of course.
Conclusion summarises several aspects. For example the prescriptive nature (contrasting with teachers’ wish for discussion), duration, pre-school years more beneficial. No mention measurement which is a bit of an omission perhaps. A final positive twist.. does not harm literacy.
An epilogue. Stringfield et al. is at jhucsos.com/wp-content/upl…

Here a graph of actual teaching practices in Core Knowledge implementations (recall no effect standardised tests, but there were effects on bespoke CK tests).
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