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Robust evidence is vital in informing the development of strategy and policy that will improve outcomes for learners and the system as a whole. We develop and disseminate robust evidence on the impact of ICT on education.

Narrowing the Gap research

An exploration of the ways technology can support approaches to narrowing the gap for underachieving and low-achieving learners in secondary schools

The research presented here comes under Becta's Harnessing Technology Programme and specifically addresses how technology can be used to meet the challenge of equipping young people with the skills to participate in learning throughout their lives. The specific focus is on low-achieving and underachieving learners, with the aim of identifying and analysing a range of effective pedagogical approaches that may help to narrow the gap for such students in secondary schools.

The Narrowing the Gap project involved two distinct phases: an initial review of the literature followed by a programme of field research. The report presents the field research - download the report in Word (957 KB), PDF (530 KB), or ODT (730KB).

In phase one, the literature review explored and identified the interplay of factors linked to low achievement or underachievement of learners. With these parameters established, the field research focused on current strategies proven to be effective in supporting learners identified as low-achieving or underachieving in a range of schools. Essentially we asked how technology can be used to reduce the attainment gap between low-achieving and underachieving learners and the majority of students in secondary schools.

The scope of the study was broadened to explore questions that arose from the initial fieldwork. In this further work we aimed to capture key activities at the interface of primary and secondary schools.

A further output emerging from this research is a set of examples of good practice that hold promise for addressing the problems associated with the target learners. These have been developed to provide a range of teacher-support materials - these Virtual School materials are planned to be launched end of February 2010.

Key messages

This project explored how various educational stakeholders conceptualise low achievement and underachievement. Central to the project was the exploration of strategies that support low-achieving and underachieving learners and serve as examples of good practice. In particular, there was a focus on how technology can be used to help improve educational attainment of both low achievers and underachievers.

We found that:         

  • there is a high level of agreement among educational stakeholders as to what constitutes low achievement and underachievement
  • establishing effective practice to tackle the problems of low achievement and underachievement is seen as a priority goal at all levels of the educational system. However, overlapping policies and responsibilities at the local authority level have the potential to cause confusion.
  • the concept of readiness for learning is key to many learners’ achievement in school
  • technology can be seen as a beneficial but not exclusive approach to resolving the problems associated with low achievement and underachievement
  • learner profiling has become widespread with the increased availability of technology. Many effective strategies start with detailed profiling.
  • an individual learner’s self-efficacy, an essential component of academic achievement, can be improved through a variety of strategies that provide the learner with success in an educational setting.


Printer friendly printer friendly version of this page Published: 04 January 2010