13th November 2015 at 00:00

Empathy is a great motivator

Dissatisfied with your pupils’ progress at school? Try being nicer. A new study has revealed that students with empathetic teachers are more motivated at school and have better reading, writing and arithmetic skills than those with teachers who lack empathy. Eija Pakarinen, along with six other academics from two Finnish universities, asked 166 Finnish children from 70 classrooms to sit challenging tests. They found that the quality of the interaction between teachers and pupils played a greater role in determining academic outcomes than educational materials or class sizes.

Birth order myths busted

It is a long-accepted classroom truism: first-born children are likely to be hard-working introverts, while their younger siblings will be friendly extroverts. But this has now been shown to be false. Julia M Rohrer and Stefan Schmukle of Leipzig University and Boris Egloff of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, examined data from more than 20,000 adults in Britain, the US and Germany. They found that birth order had no effect on personality traits such as extroversion, emotional stability, agreeableness and conscientiousness.

Costly textbooks aren’t the best

Good news for school budgets: expensive textbooks and classroom resources are not always the best. Ulrich Boser, Matthew Chingos and Chelsea Straus, from the Center for American Progress, conducted a detailed study of textbooks and resource materials used in 19 US states. They found that the most expensive products tended to cost about $13 more than the cheapest in the same category. But the most expensive products were often among the least effective. Higher-quality products tended to cost less.

Private-school pay advantage

Better education, superior academic performance and entry to higher-ranking universities are the main reasons why men who attended private schools earn 34 per cent more than their state-school peers by the age of 42. Women who attended fee-paying schools earn an average of 21 per cent more than their state-school counterparts by the same age. Professor Francis Green, of the UCL Institute of Education, analysed information from almost 11,000 British adults. He found that raising state-school pupils’ aspirations, self-confidence or access to social networks did little to counter the pay advantages conferred by a private-school education.

Adi Bloom (

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