Improved communication skills boost academic performance

Pupil’s academic performance can improve by almost a fifth, with just one weekly lesson which stresses oral communication skills

They can use activities drawn from a new book by former University of Bedfordshire Vice Chancellor Dr Tony Wood.

Speak, Listen and Learn, written by Dr Wood in association with The English-Speaking Union and launching on 18 May, provides a teaching resource to boost self-confidence and communication skills in 7-13 year olds.

The book, which incorporates activities focusing on the use of persuasive speech, questioning and debating, is based on the groundbreaking results of a research project carried out in 2013.

The controlled study, taking place over a period of seven months, divided 120 7-9 year olds into groups matched by educational and social criteria. One group followed Dr Wood’s proposals once a week, while the other took part in alternative activities.

The results, which were based on nationally standardised tests, were staggering.

The Key Stage 2 performance of children taught to Dr Wood’s communication-based course increased, on average, by between 6% and 19% more than the control group. Academic improvement was seen across all four curriculum areas regardless of background, academic ability or standard of English.

In short, the group following Dr Wood’s guidelines gained the equivalent of several months of education.

“Most people would accept that an ability to use language effectively and be confident and competent in dialogue with others can be a great asset in life,” said Dr Wood, Honorary Senior Research Fellow at the University.

“What this research has shown for the first time is that helping children develop these skills will also result in improved school performance and progress – undoubtedly a win-win situation for both pupils and teachers.”

In addition to the controlled research, prior to publication the teaching materials in the book were trialled with more than 3000 children over three years in schools across the UK.

Former Schools’ Commissioner for London Sir Tim Brighouse says Dr Wood’s book will ‘unlock the minds and hearts of children’:

“Throughout the English-speaking world there will be teachers who will fall on this book with enthusiasm.

“Tony Wood has put together an approach and set of materials and suggestions which will increase the likelihood of teachers unlocking the minds and opening the hearts of the pupils they teach.”

Sir Tim is guest speaker at the book’s launch event, which will also feature demonstrations of some of the activities suggested in the text.

Speak, Listen and Learn launched at Bedford’s Queens Park Academy this week.



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