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Dynamics of children  development during the primary school

Priority areas of development: state and public administration
Department: Center of Education Quality Monitoring
The project has been carried out as part of the HSE Program of Fundamental Studies.

Goal of research:

The goal of the project «Dynamics of children  development during the primary school» is to study specifics of academic and social-emotional development of children in primary school by creating a system of progress assessment in primary school and analyzing the factor related to success in primary school.

The main objectives of the research in 2017 include:

1) conceptual development and piloting of the instrument to assess cognitive and noncognitive skills of children in the 3d grade of primary school, including assessment tools and background questionnaires;

2) Psychometric analysis of the new instrument, analysis of its reliability and validity;

3) Development of methodological approaches to the analysis of cognitive and noncognitive development of children (growth models) taking into account the context information.


The development of the assessment instrument for students and questionnaires for parents and teachers was done using literature reviews, group discussions among experts and preliminary piloting by the means of cognitive labs. The literature reviews for each assessment tool and for each part of each assessment tool were done in the following framework:
1. What factors were found to be significant in the studies of the same construct in the international practice?
2. What factors were found to be significant in Russian studies of the same construct (if such studies took place at all)?
3. What results are listed in the Russian Federal State Standards of primary education and Exemplary program of general education in Russia regarding the chosen constructs?  
The development and analysis of the instrument was done in the framework of Item Response Theory, using Rasch modelling. The analysis of cognitive and noncognitive development of primary school students was done using statistical methods such as ANOVA, multilevel regression analysis and structural equation modelling.

Empirical base of research:

In accordance with the objective to research factors of cognitive and noncognitive development, several samples of students were used: students from Tatar Republic (about 5000 children), students from Krasnoyarsk (about 1100 children and 55 teachers) and on a joint sample of students from Krasnoyarsk and Kazan (about 2700 children). All children were assessed in three cycles: in the beginning and in the end of their first grade (2014-2015) they were assessed with iPIPS instrument; in the beginning of their third grade (autumn 2016) they filled in a psychological questionnaires for students and had a reading test developed in the Institute of Psychology of the Russian Science Academy and in Krasnoyarsk Center for psychology and pedagogics. The context questionnaires for parents and teachers were also administered in first and third grades. The newly developed instrument for assessment of cognitive and noncognitive development of third-graders was named iPIPS+ and piloted on the sample of 2000 children from Tatar Republic who had previously been assessed using iPIPS tools (in 2015).

Results of research:

According to the project objective, an assessment instrument to estimate factors of cognitive and noncognitive development of third-graders was developed. This instrument is called iPIPS+ and consists of the following parts:

1) Vocabulary

2) Language competence

3) Reading comprehension

4) Mathematical literacy.

Together with these parts, a teacher questionnaire, parent questionnaire and student questionnaire of social and emotional development were developed. The results of the psychometric analysis demonstrated good psychometric qualities of the tool and all the items, and high reliability of the whole set of instruments. As a result of methodological study, a common approach to the data analysis was created. It includes: use of advanced statistical methods (multilevel regression analysis, structural modelling); study of variable functioning as mediators and moderators; use of longitudinal design in order to estimate closest to causal relationships of predictors and outcomes. In the research of factors of students’ cognitive and noncognitive development, the following results were obtained:

1. The study of teachers’ beliefs demonstrated that some of primary school teachers’ beliefs are significant predicators of students’ progress. For example, the belief that child’s verbal ability is not a constant and should be developed is a significant predicator of reading progress of children in the first school year even taking into account their context factors (SES, teacher’s work experience, initial reading skills of children), while the effect of teacher’s beliefs about self-efficacy was found to be nonsignificant.

2. The study of interrelations between cognitive development of children, their behavioral problems and family SES allowed to estimate the role of behavioral problems in school achievements while controlling for SES. Behavioral problems were allocated to three subgroups: hyperactive/impulsive; inattentive; and mixed type. The results have shown a big discrepancy in the first three school years between girls and boys who had behavioral problems of inattentive and mixed types. For children whose behavior was of the hyperactive/impulsive type, effect size was nonsignificant for boys and very small for girls.

3. The study of gender differences in mathematic achievements during the first year of schooling demonstrated that in the beginning of school boys had higher results in numbers knowledge, numbers manipulation and formal mathematics. During the first school year, all children had good progress in mathematics, but in numbers knowledge girls’ progress was lower than boys’ progress. Verbal skills may be the factor that reduces gender differences in mathematics because on the high level of verbal skills math differences become nonsignificant, thus, gender differences in primary school achievements should be estimated while controlling for verbal skills.

4. The results of the previous study were taken into account in the study of direct and indirect effects of phonological and verbal abilities on mathematical progress during the first school year. The results demonstrated that the model in which phonology and verbal skills have indirect effect on mathematics fits the data worse than the model with direct effects. Vocabulary has no direct effect of formal mathematics via reading. Phonology has a significant effect on all components of mathematics skills in the end of the first school year. This study confirmed that phonology is a meta-subject predictor of achievements after controlling the initial level of mathematical and reading skills. In the whole, all the studies were dedicated to the factors of school development which had been little studied or not studied at all in Russia before.

Level of implementation, recommendations on implementation or outcomes of the implementation of the results

BothiPIPS and iPIPS+ instruments belong to the same family of instruments and share a common vertical scale allowing to assess educational progress of children in primary school. The results of the assessments may be used both on the level of region or city and on the level of school and class. After the assessments using iPIPS and iPIPS+ instruments, class teachers and school principals receive analytical reports with students’ results. These results together with included methodological recommendations may be used to define individual learning trajectories of children and to plan group activities in class, or to adjust school development strategy. The results of the studies conducted in the project may be used to inform teachers and educational specialists in pre-school institutions and primary schools who develop recommendations on teaching approaches.