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Projects to bring out the best

There are five research projects. Gender issues and raising the achievement of boys is an area giving concern, with girls now out-performing boys. The project intends to focus on the fundamental concerns of teaching and learning, issues of classroom organisation and management, and the preferred learning styles of boys. By reviewing the experiences of teachers it is hoped to identify and disseminate best practice.

In the second project, 15 pupils from P6P7 from disaffected families who are likely to under-achieve have been identified by schools. These pupils will be monitored over a specific period to identify factors with the greatest effect on under-achievement.

Emphasis will be placed on attendance, recurring underachievement within family groups, and the effect of the fractured secondary curriculum on under-achievement in certain subjects.

The project will also look at how problems can be alleviated by promoting independent learners through improving "reading for information" skills, more effective organisation and management of time, and a review of schools' policies and practices at the transition from primary to secondary.

While this project focuses on previously identified "disaffected families", the third more generally seeks to identify pupils at risk of under-achieving in P7 and S1 Initial agreement on common criteria for identifying "vulnerable" pupils will be sought from the cluster schools before moving on to isolating specific factors likely to lead to under-achievement.

The fourth project will focus on the effects of making pupils' thinking skills an explicit part of the curriculum using a programme called "Instrumental Enrichment". This was initially developed 40 years ago and was intended for culturally disadvantaged, low-performing Israeli adolescents; it is now used widely across age groups and abilities.

The research will investigate the effectiveness of individual target-setting in raising achievement, specifically in writing.

It will assess the usefulness of identifying achievable, short-term targets to increase the pace of improvement and to promote motivation and boost self esteem. Additionally, it will investigate how pupils can become involved in the process of target setting through self-evaluation.

The fifth project is mainly concerned with parental involvement in learning. Thirty years of research have finally convinced many teachers of the value of involving parents. It may be useful to examine how parents perceive their children as learners and what they can tell us now about the current strategies, based on observing their work at home.

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