Welcome to the Author Blog for Sheila Nutkins. Here you will find information and Sheila's own thoughts and opinions on topical issues relating to early childhood education and care.

Friday, 10 May 2013

Research on exposure to Sesame Street

Email sent to Mary Stephen co-author of Early Childhood Education and Care -

A Meta-analysis of Improvements in Children's Learning in 15 Countries - Effects of Sesame Street - http://www.comminit.com/early-child/content/effect-sesame-street-around-world-meta-analysis-15-countries

Greetings Mary

Many best wishes. As people and agencies involved in communication and media for development and social and behavioural change, we are continually asked: "Where is the impact?" By which the people asking the question mean high-quality methodology, high-credibility, independent research papers published in peer-reviewed journals that draw a direct link and relationship between a communication and media for development, social and behavioural change initiative or trend, and a measurable, wide-scale improvement in the status of a development issue.

Early child education is just such an issue - as a priority development issue in and of itself and as the foundation stone for progress on so many other development issues. 

Writing in the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, authors Marie-Louise Mares and Zhongdang Pan provide a systematic evaluation of the effectiveness of the local co-productions of Sesame Street. The series currently airs in over 150 countries and is reaching at least 156 million children in the 0-7 age range.

The article is based on summative and other studies of the programme's educational effects, synthesising the results of 24 studies conducted with over 10,000 children in 15 countries. It examines the extent to which children outside the United States (US) may learn from viewing local Sesame Street productions on TV in diverse social, political, and economic circumstances - including in some of the world's economically poorest regions. This is impact data on which we can all draw to highlight the impact of our field of work.

A summary of the article is available in the Early Childhood Development section of our website at this URL: http://www.comminit.com/early-child/content/effect-sesame-street-around-world-meta-analysis-15-countries

In brief: The results indicated significant positive effects of exposure to the programme, aggregated across learning outcomes, and within each of the 3 outcome categories: cognitive outcomes, including literacy and numeracy; learning about the world, including health and safety knowledge; and social reasoning and attitudes toward out-groups [groups that a person does not psychologically identify as being a member]. The effects were significant across different methods, and they were observed both in high-income and low- and middle-income (LAMI) countries.

Specific selected findings:

* Researchers found an overall effect size of 0.29. This translates into an 11.6 percentile gain (in terms of education). That is, an average child who does not watch Sesame Street is at the 50th percentile, whereas a child who watches is at the 62nd percentile.

* Moderation by methodological features:

~ Effects by outcome category: There were significant positive effects for each of the 3 outcome categories: d [unbiased estimate of the average effect size] = .189 for social attitudes, d= .284 for cognitive outcomes, and d = .339 for learning about the world.

~ Effects by country income: 82% of whole-sample effect size estimates came from studies conducted in low- and middle-income countries. The average effect size from these countries was significant and positive (d = .293). Most effect size estimates from low- and middle-income countries came from experimental or quasi-experimental studies (74%).

~ Effects by sample SES (socio-economic status): There were 9 studies in which researchers explicitly reported sampling children exclusively from low-SES populations. Overall, the effect of exposure to Sesame Street in low-SES samples was positive and significant (d = .413).

It is necessary for the media and communication for development, social and behavioural communication change community to build a body of independent, peer-reviewed, reputable journal-based impact data. That is highly desired and very valuable. But there is a downside. Peer-reviewed journals charge for access. That is the price we pay for having high-quality research that has high credibility. If you are interested in purchasing the full article (for $US35.95), please see:

Article citation: Mares, M.-L., & Pan, Z., Effects of Sesame Street: A Meta-Analysis of Children's Learning in 15 Countries, Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology (2013) May/June issue, Volume 34, Issue 3.

Mary  - This is impact results data upon which, in my opinion, we can all draw and quote to support the impact of all of our work. Not everyone has the capacity to undertake such extensive and authoritative research. 

Please note that we will be prompting and facilitating a dialogue on this research in The Communication Initiative's Early Child Development community of practice. We are very interested in your critique of this data and the methodology.

If you are not already a member, please do join the dialogue by accessing this link  http://networks.comminit.com/user/register and choosing the "Early Child Development" network when you register (and other groups if they are of interest). If you are already a member and have forgotten your password, there is a password recovery system. 

With many thanks and best wishes - Warren

Warren Feek
Executive Director
The Communication Initiative


Twitter: https://twitter.com/warrencomminit

Facebook: The Communication Initiative Network

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