Monday, June 16, 2008

What Works Part 1

As someone who works with struggling learners, I want to know what works. What works in education; what promotes student learning.

I often observe improvement in student engagement and learning but it is typically anecdotal. When I recommend a particular strategy or technology tool, I encourage data collection to determine effectiveness of the tool or strategy. But, what works AND has been validated through the research? Does the research confirm my observations about student learning? Are current instructional methods sufficient for students or are there ways that technology can support validated learning research?

These are some of the questions I consider (and lose sleep over!)

So, when Larry Ferlazzo blogged about a recent publication from the National Center for Education Research entitled, "Organizing Instruction and Study to Improve Student Learning: A Practice Guide" I sat up and took notice. The overview states:

Much of teaching is about helping students master new knowledge and skills and then helping students not to forget what they have learned. The recommendations in this practice guide are intended to provide teachers with specific strategies for organizing both instruction and students’ studying of material to facilitate learning and remembering information, and to enable students to use what they have learned in new situations.

The seven recommendations in this practice guide reflect our panel’s consensus on some of the most important concrete and applicable principles to emerge from research on learning and memory.

They offer seven recommendations, summarized as follows:

1. Space learning over time. Arrange to review key elements of course content after a delay of several weeks to several months after initial presentation.

2. Interleave worked example solutions with problem-solving exercises. Have students alternate between reading already worked solutions and trying to solve problems on their own.

3. Combine graphics with verbal descriptions. Combine graphical presentations (e.g., graphs, figures) that illustrate key processes and procedures with verbal descriptions.

4. Connect and integrate abstract and concrete representations of concepts.Connect and integrate abstract representations of a concept with concrete representations of the same concept.

5. Use quizzing to promote learning. Use quizzing with active retrieval of information at all phases of the learning process to exploit the ability of retrieval directly to facilitate long-lasting memory traces.

5a. Use pre-questions to introduce a new topic.

5b. Use quizzes to re-expose students to key content.. Strong

6. Help students allocate study time efficiently. Assist students in identifying whatmaterial they know well, and what needs further study, by teaching children how to judge what they have learned. (Note: interestingly, this one showed the lowest level of evidence)

6a. Teach students how to use delayed judgments of learning to identify content that needs further study.

6b. Use tests and quizzes to identify content that needs to be learned.

7. Ask deep explanatory questions. Use instructional prompts that encourage students to pose and answer “deep-level” questions on course material. These questions enable students to respond with explanations and supports deep understanding of taught material.

If you only have to time to quickly peruse the publication, turn to page 4 to find a convenient checklist for implementing the recommendations.

Finally, their Conclusion states:

This practice guide has attempted to distill some of the more well supported and actionable
educational recommendations to emerge from recent (and sometimes not-so-recent) research in the fields of cognitive science and cognitive psychology. These recommendations are meant to shed light on how educators can facilitate not only initial learning and understanding, but—equally importantly—the long-term retention of information and skills taught in schools.

Like medicine, teaching remains an art even as it seeks to ground its practices more heavilyon scientifically collected evidence. . . .As with professionals in other fields, such as medicine, that also seek to rely on a base of evidence and yet must deal with important practical problems on a daily basis, educators must make the best use they can of the current knowledge as it is, even while being mindful of its imperfection.

What does this have to do with technology?

Part 2 will deal with practical technology applications that consider the seven recommendations which promote student learning.
Photo credit:


Brian Wojcik said...

Funny...I was reading the report when I got your tweet. This has some interesting implications for teaching and student learning. It also goes to show that there still exists a lack of research in a number of areas of 'what works' in education. This is a start though...

Looking forward to your part 2...

Thanks for sharing,


loonyhiker said...

I enjoyed reading your post and will be checking out the report. This brings me to a question about Response to Intervention and what scientifically based research we have to back up these inventions. There seems to be a major lack of research and a lot of interpretation going on.

Lisa Parisi said...

I do agree that we need to use data to prove that what we do actually works. And I do like much of the suggestions for teaching. But I am surprised by how many ideas are about quizzing and testing. Too many students cannot take quizzes and/or tests successfully. They need alternatives to prove their knowledge. Technology such as podcasting tools afford us these alternatives.

Karen Janowski said...

Thanks for stopping by - I'm looking forward to Part 2, also. Need the time to write it!

If you find some additional research, let me know.

Yes, that is one of the areas that I will addresss when I finally write Part 2. You know I'm all about UDL - multiple methods of engagement, representation and expression. Students need multiple was to demonstrate what they know.

Thank you all for leaving your comments!

Marybeth said...

I enjoyed this this article and will definitely read Part 2. I feel like we use 5 out of the 7 recommendations. I do question the quizzing and testing part as well. Our school tests so much and tracks that data. I really like the idea to track data to identify how the students learn. Also, since I do not do well on tests, and have many students who do too, I like the idea using other technology for test alternatives. I can't wait to visit this link to read more on this topic.