Research in the spotlight

Succes at school

Are girls better at languages than boys? And are boys better at maths and the science subjects? Or does it depend on the stage of their intellectual development? How can you ensure that schoolchildren can learn to concentrate better? Does it matter if the teacher is young or old? What is the effect of a good breakfast on children’s school performance? Do they achieve more if they know how their brains work? Or if they go to bed earlier? These and many other questions are at the heart of a large-scale research project that is currently being carried out by the Amsterdam Zwolle Institute for Research in Education (AZIRE) in collaboration with other institutions. The research is concentrating on schoolchildren in primary and secondary education.

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Responsible factors

Almost 1,000 children aged between 10 and 18 are taking part in the research project by filling in questionnaires; it also comprises a neuropsychological survey that will measure their abilities using cognitive tests. The parents of the children have also been approached as part of the research project. They can give their opinions of the abilities and school performance of their children via a questionnaire.

But there is more to it than that. Not only the children and their parents, but also the teachers feature in the research project: how do they process information? How does this change during the course of a working day? And what is the difference between younger and older teachers?

By analysing this information, it is possible to assess which factors are responsible for success at school and for the motivation to learn, and also to find out what characteristics of a child and its environment lead to impulsive behaviour and other problems (whether learning-related or not). The researchers believe that, apart from the teachers, there are biological factors, the domestic situation, the gender and physiological aspects of a child that can play a significant role in levels of achievement and motivation to do well at school.

Improving education

Experimental research on this large scale involving schoolchildren, parents and teachers provides knowledge that can be useful in bringing about improvements in education, and help motivate and enhance the achievements of pupils and teachers. This method is a relatively new trend in education research in the Netherlands, known as ‘evidence based education’: in other words, education that is scientifically proven to work. It is a potentially groundbreaking research approach that involves universities, colleges, secondary schools and primary schools working intensively together.

The added value of this research is that three fields yield a tangible ‘product’, with both fundamental knowledge and applied insights – in other words, to gain insights into the area of new educational interventions for schoolchildren and teachers that can be applied in practice.

For more information, please go to AZIRE.
This is a research project of the Amsterdam Zwolle Institute for Research in Education (AZIRE).