Third graders’ results boosted by right digital technology

Digital technology when correctly used in third grade teaching enabled pupils to considerably improve their performance, with the most significant improvement in reading and writing for boys. This has been shown in a new study by Annika Agélii Genlott and Åke Grönlund at Örebro University.

Annika Agélii Genlott

Åke Grönlund

“It is important to integrate technology in teaching in a structured way”, says Annika Agélii Genlott, who shares her time between Örebro University, Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions (SALAR), and Sollentuna Municipality.

As a result of the study, eleven Swedish municipalities are now taking part in a SALAR project where teachers are trained to spread the method further in their home municipalities.

Annika Agélii Genlott and Åke Grönlund used the national tests for third graders to compare the results between three groups of pupils. The researchers' aim was to see how well a particular form of structured digital support worked in teaching. This was compared to both traditional teaching, and with a group of pupils who had access to computers, but no structure for social interaction, formative feedback and formative learning. Here formative basically means that teachers guide pupils towards their learning objectives.

Support from previous research

The examined method Writing to learn (WTL) is based on pupils receiving continuous, formative assessment from their classmates and teachers, to step by step improve their performance and develop towards their learning outcomes. Previous research has shown that this teaching method has given good results.

The Örebro study concluded that the WTL resulted in up to a 20 per cent higher performance in school subjects, as compared to both of the other teaching methods. Underperforming pupils particularly improved their performance, as this technology makes it possible to reduce the barriers to learning.

One result of the study really stands out according to Annika Agélii Genlott:

"We were probably most surprised that equivalence between boys and girls was increased by the method Writing to learn. In mathematics, results were quite similar between genders, and in the subject Swedish, the disparities were strikingly reduced.

Low performance without structure

Of the two control groups, the low results were attained by pupils who had access to digital technology, however without explicit structure for integrating the technology with teaching.

"New technologies do not automatically mean better results. In fact, they may even have the opposite effect. However, if digital technology is used in a way that promotes learning factors of various kinds, it can act as a positive stimulus for learning," says Annika Agélii Genlott.

The method has been used for the past five years in the further education of teachers in Sollentuna Municipality and will now be spread via SALAR to other municipalities in Sweden.

 Text: Maria Elisson
Translation: Jerry Gray