In the pilot study the students’ scores from the two assessments were compared to their baseline scores. In the pilot study the students in the test group (using reader pens) made more progress from the baseline test to the first test (0.4 marks) than the control group (0 marks); and from the baseline test to the second test (2.7 marks) than the control group (2.0 marks). These results seem to suggest that the reader pens were able to support and have a positive effect on attainment for EAL, SEND, and students with low reading ages.
In the larger study students’ scores from the two assessments (mock 2 and actual exam) and the baseline assessment (mock 1) were compared to the control and test groups students’ scores. In the larger study the students in the test group (using the reader pens) made more progress in their second mock exam (0.48 grades on average) than in their first (baseline) mock exam; compared to the control group who made less progress (-0.41 grades on average). There was a difference of nearly 1 grade (0.89 on average), with the test group outperforming the control group. The test group made more progress in their actual GCSE exam (1.48 grades on average) than in their first mock exam; compared to the control group who made slightly less progress (1.33 grades on average). There was a slight difference of 0.15 grades on average. Although, this difference seems slight, it is important to note that none of the students in the control group have EAL, SEND or low reading ages. Therefore, any progress made by the test group towards matching the grades of the control group is very positive. The reader pens appear to have ensured the academic progress of vulnerable (EAL, SEND and low reading ages) students.
The results of this study seem to support similar research from Garner Education Services Ltd (2016) which concluded that exam reader pens can support dyslexic students in achieving an improved grade in their GCSE English Reading paper; (5 out of the 6 students, who undertook the paper with the assistance of the reader pens, achieved a real increase in their results) whilst also improving emotional well-being, improved confidence, and attitude to learning. The results of the Higgins and Raskind (2005) study indicated significant and moderate gains in performance when students were able to use the reading pen.
It has been suggested that characteristics associated with SEND may block a student’s access to the content of the test (Thurlow, et al., 2009), with the result being that students are not able to show their knowledge and skills simply because the assessment itself has created a barrier to doing so (Thurlow, et al., 2010). This study indicates that reader pens can benefit students with EAL, SEND and low reading ages by providing them with a means to independently undertake exams. The students can take an exam in the same room as their peers by plugging in the headphones. Furthermore, the Exam Reader Pen can be used during public exams (GCSE’s) without any special access arrangements and can provide support to all EAL/SEND students. It is important that students are given time to familiarize themselves with the reader pen technology (Thurlow, et al., 2010).