AERA 2015 is just around the corner! Each year the American Educational Research Association publishes a list of its 10 most-read articles. NPR’s educational blog reviewed these articles and summarized what the 5 major lessons from educational research were in 2014. Below are the 5 major lessons plus excerpts from NPR’s findings.
1. What’s The Best Way To Teach Math To Struggling First-Graders? The Old-Fashioned Way
In “Which Instructional Practices Most Help First-Grade Students With and Without Mathematics Difficulties?” the researchers found that plain, old-fashioned practice and drills — directed by the teacher — were far more effective than “creative” methods such as music, math toys and student-directed learning
2. The Effectiveness Of Alignment
When a teacher’s curriculum is perfectly aligned with a set of standards, meaning they’re teaching exactly what they’re told to, will students’ test scores rise? That’s the question a group of researchers set out to answer in “Instructional Alignment as a Measure of Teaching Quality.”… The results did not show a meaningful relationship between the two. Meaning, perfectly aligned curriculum is no more likely to be associated with gains in tests scores than perfectly unaligned curriculum.
3./4.On The Higher-Ed Front
Two of the most-read education research articles of 2014 were focused on different aspects of community college… It’s no surprise that the researchers found that those with associate degrees and long-term certificates were more likely to be employed and had higher earnings compared with a group that attended community college but didn’t obtain a credential. We know that the more education you obtain, the better off you’ll be… Community college students hoping to increase their earnings further likely require a bachelor’s degree. But the path from community college to a four-year school is filled with “choke points.”
5. What SEL-Based Curriculum May And May Not Be Able To Do
When teachers spend time focusing and emphasizing social-emotional learning, or SEL, some may worry it may be at the expense of time spent on other subjects and that students’ performance in those subjects may suffer. The findings from “Efficacy of the Responsive Classroom Approach: Results from a 3-Year, Longitudinal Randomized Controlled Trial,” which looked at 276 classrooms in 24 schools, suggest otherwise… a subset of students with teachers using the curriculum exactly the way researchers designed it saw substantial gains in math and reading. This could be evidence that a curriculum approach based on SEL can have high returns, but only when teachers are trained extensively. Or, it could just be that teachers who are well-trained and follow directions are better teachers.
To read NPR’s entire summary, click here:
Yes, I (Clive) know I should get a life, but lately I’ve been reading Dewey, Vygotsky, and Piaget (there’s a constructivist connection).
Skimming through Piaget’s The Moral Judgment of the Child (R&KP, 1932) I came across this wonderful quote in the very last paragraph (p. 414).
“Educational experiment…is certainly more instructive for psychology than any amount of laboratory experiments…. But the type of experiment which such research would require can only be conducted by teachers or by the combined efforts of practical workers and educational psychologists. And it is not in our power to deduce the results to which this would lead.”
This captures so well what I was trying to say in my previous blog. Academics and teachers must inquire together, rather than taking pot-shots at each other.
It feels good to be backed up by the likes of Piaget.
This past week I (Clive) had intense discussions with students in my Foundations of Curriculum graduate course; the topic was educational research and classroom-based teacher learning. Several were reluctant to accept that teachers are “researchers” and “knowledge generators” in an important sense.
I argued that teachers are in an excellent position to conduct inquiry because they are immersed in the classroom for ten full months, year after year: rarely do academics have such a rich context for educational research. They argued that teachers’ research methodology is not rigorous enough to produce genuine knowledge.
Thinking it over, I’ve decided to offer a compromise. I agree that education academics often have much to contribute because they are aware of other disciplines and other real-world contexts. Although they rarely have the same depth of educational experience as teachers, they often have greater breadth of knowledge in certain areas.
However, I will offer this compromise with three provisos:
(i) Teachers’ inquiry is just as rigorous as that of academics, since they observe so carefully the processes and outcomes of their teaching: they have a vested interest in doing so.
(ii) Teachers and academics have equal but somewhat different contributions to make to educational research.
(iii) Accordingly, the relationship between the two must be one of dialogue as equals, rather than “laying down the law” by one party or the other.
Of course, it is true that teachers could enhance their inquiry in certain ways; but the same is true of academics.
Teachers are not always conscious of what they have discovered through experience; it is often “implicit” knowledge. Hence, a major role of education academics is to study teachers and help make their insights explicit and available to others. But it is the teachers who discovered these insights and who must be given the credit.
I’ll try out this compromise on my students next week and see what they think!