“Writing about Values” is designed to improve the academic performance of disadvantaged pupils by tackling negative stereotypes related to disadvantage which can undermine pupil performance. During English lessons, pupils were asked to write short essays about values of importance to them, such as friendships and honesty. All pupils participated, but an effect was only expected for disadvantaged groups
Previous self-affirmation research has suggested that engaging in ‘value affirmation writing’ can improve the performance of minority groups in the United States. The EEF co-funded this project with the Department for Education to test whether it could have a similar impact on economically disadvantaged pupils in English schools. This trial found that for pupils who had been eligible for Free School Meals in the past 6 years, those who did the writing exercises made slightly more progress between primary school and GCSEs than comparison pupils, but the difference was small, with further analysis suggesting the impact was close to zero. There was no evidence of any impact on other pupils, as is consistent with the theory behind the intervention.
These results are for pupils in Year 11, who undertook the written exercises in 2016/17.
In January 2020 an addendum to the report was published, examining the results for Year 10 pupils, who ended KS4 in May/June 2018 (a year after the end of the intervention). The addendum examined whether there were any delayed or sustained effect of the intervention. The addendum found a similar (close to zero) positive effect of the intervention
- Among disadvantaged pupils, those who received the self-affirmation intervention made slightly more progress between the end of primary school and GCSEs than the comparison pupils, but the size of the impact was very small and further analysis suggests the impact was close to zero. This result has a high security rating.
- Pupils who completed more writing exercises made slightly more progress. This may mean that the intervention can lead to better outcomes if implemented more thoroughly, but might also be because the kind of pupils who completed more exercises would make more progress anyway.
- Neither pupils nor teachers were aware of the nature of the intervention or why the tasks were undertaken because there is some wider evidence that knowledge about the purpose of the intervention can reduce its effectiveness. Schools considering this approach should bear in mind the difficulty of replicating these conditions.