The use of item response models to estimate the growth trajectories of students’ literacy, numeracy, and socio-emotional development from kindergarten to primary grade 2 in a Southeast Asian country

Year: 2019

Author: Cheng, Jacqueline, Cloney, Dan, Parker, Rachel

Type of paper: Abstract refereed


This paper reports results from an ongoing longitudinal study conducted in a Southeast Asian country. Students were tested at four time points from 2015 to 2018 on three outcomes: literacy, mathematics, and socio-emotional development, at the start and end of kindergarten, and end of grades 1 and 2. Contextual questionnaires and qualitative case studies provided additional insight into potential factors affecting students’ development.

Anticipated significance

This study is of methodological and substantive significance. Methodologically, the study uses a mix of quantitative methodologies to yield growth trajectories of students’ learning. In addition, the use of qualitative case studies is able to add richness to the quantitative data.

Substantively, the study offers insights into the skills and knowledge of students entering school in a newly established kindergarten year, and the factors that support or hinder their achievement and growth.


This study addresses three research questions:

1. How do cognitive and social-emotional skills develop in different contexts?
2. How does participation in pre-school relate to cognitive and social-emotional skills in school?
3. How do factors related to a child’s home, classroom, and school affect their cognitive, and social-emotional development?



Schools were sampled from nine divisions related to one of three main language groups in the country. Initially, 65 schools were selected at Round 1. Due to concerns about attrition, an additional two schools were selected at Round 2.


The literacy and mathematics tests assessed the skills set out in the country’s curriculum for the relevant grades. The Social and Emotional Development Survey measured skills such as cooperation, empathy and resilience.


A number of variables had significant effects on students’ learning outcomes and growth trajectories at the end of round four. For example, students who lived in disaster/urban-poor regions achieved the highest scores on average, compared to those in conflict-affected regions, although these students had the fastest estimated rate of growth.

Implications for further research

Results indicated that the effects of students living in more disadvantaged areas or in families with low cultural capital may be counterbalanced, to a degree, by educational policies.

Future research in subsequent rounds of this study will indicate whether initially disadvantaged students have caught up with their peers before the end of primary school and what mechanisms have further contributed or hindered their growth.