Blogging students defy the summer learning slump

Student blogging is an effective tool to maintain reading and writing skills during the long summer break, according to new research from Auckland University.

The Summer Learning Journey Project was developed by the university’s Woolf Fisher Research Centre in 2015 to see whether primary students in a cluster of low-decile schools could beat the “summer slump” in reading and writing by blogging during their holidays. 

The cluster of schools, termed the ‘Manaiakalani cluster’, has adopted a digital approach to their teaching and learning.

More than 400 pupils from 11 of the cluster’s primary and intermediate schools have taken part in the project, now in its second year, and the researchers have found that students who blogged maintained their literacy skills much better than those who did not.

The SLJ pupils had e-asTTle scores that were, on average, 31.65 points higher than non-bloggers and PAT scores that were 5.05 points higher than non-bloggers.

When assessed after the summer, the participants were, on average, 7.5 months ahead of non-participants in writing and 6 months ahead of non-participants in reading.

“The summer holiday period is particularly important as evidence shows that students’ learning is adversely impacted during this time when school-based learning activities stop,” says project leader Dr Rachel Williams.

“All too often our students leave school at the end of the year and don’t practise their reading or writing very much over the summer holidays. When they return to school they struggle to remember what they learned the year before.

“The decrease in student achievement over summer has been termed the ‘Summer Learning Effect’ and is particularly pervasive amongst students attending low-decile schools in New Zealand.”

Children taking part in the SLJ completed short, online activities then posted their findings on blogs. Dr Williams monitored every blog and wrote comments in response to every post. She also recruited students from Canada, England, Chile, Malaysia and Germany to read the students’ posts and comment on them.

“At the end of the summer our students had completed 2,432 posts and provided 1,493 comments on one another’s blogs. 

Dr Williams is now looking to expand the programme to 41 schools in Northland, Auckland, Christchurch and Greymouth.

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