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Improving Student Learning A Strategic Plan for Education Research and Its Utilization Committee on a Feasibility Study for a Strategic Education Research Program Commission on Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education National Research Council NATIONAL ACADEMY PRESS Washington, DC
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NATIONAL ACADEMY PRESS 2101 Constitution Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20418 NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance. This study was supported by the National Research Council. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Improving student learning : a strategic plan for education research and its utilization / Committee or a Feasibility Study for a Strategic Education Research Program, Commission on Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education, National Research Council. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references. ISBN 0-309-06489-9 (pbk.) 1. Education—Research—United States. 2. School improvement programs—United States. I. National Research Council (U.S.). Committee on a Feasibility Study for a Strategic Education Research Program. LB1028.25.U6I66 1999 370'.7'20973—dc21 99-6599 Additional copies of this report are available from: National Academy Press 2101 Constitution Avenue, N.W. Lock Box 285 Washington, D.C. 20055 Call 800-624-6242 or 202-334-3313 (in the Washington Metropolitan Area). This report is also available on line at http://www.nap.edu Printed in the United States of America Copyright 1999 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
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Committee on a Feasibility Study for a Strategic Education Research Program RICHARD C. WALLACE (Chair), School Leadership Collaborative, University of Pittsburgh DAVID A. GOSLIN (Vice Chair), American Institutes for Research in the Behavioral Sciences, Washington, DC EMERSON J. ELLIOTT, National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, Washington, DC HERBERT P. GINSBURG, Teachers College, Columbia University NANCY S. GRASMICK, Maryland State Department of Education, Baltimore WILLIS D. HAWLEY, College of Education, University of Maryland ANTHONY W. JACKSON, Disney Learning Initiative, Burbank, California CAROL R. JOHNSON, Minneapolis Public Schools, Minnesota MARTHA M. MCCARTHY, School of Education, Indiana University RICHARD P. MILLS, New York State Education Department, Albany P. DAVID PEARSON, College of Education, Michigan State University S. JEANNE REARDON, Damascus Elementary School, Maryland RUTH SCHOENBACH, WestEd, San Francisco MARIA TUKEVA, Bell Multicultural High School, Washington, DC CAROL H. WEISS, Graduate School of Education, Harvard University RONALD A. WOLK, Consultant in Education and Media Relations, Warwick, Rhode Island BRUCE M. ALBERTS (ex officio), President, National Academy of Sciences; Chair, National Research Council ALEXANDRA K. WIGDOR, Director, Division on Education, Labor, and Human Performance PEG GRIFFIN, Study Director (through 1997) RIMA SHORE, Consultant
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The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Bruce M. Alberts is president of the National Academy of Sciences. The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964, under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members, sharing with the National Academy of Sciences the responsibility for advising the federal government. The National Academy of Engineering also sponsors engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers. Dr. William A. Wulf is president of the National Academy of Engineering. The Institute of Medicine was established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences to secure the services of eminent members of appropriate professions in the examination of policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. The Institute acts under the responsibility given to the National Academy of Sciences by its congressional charter to be an adviser to the federal government and, upon its own initiative, to identify issues of medical care, research, and education. Dr. Kenneth I. Shine is president of the Institute of Medicine. The National Research Council was organized by the National Academy of Sciences in 1916 to associate the broad community of science and technology with the Academy's purposes of furthering knowledge and advising the federal government. Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the government, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The Council is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Bruce M. Alberts and Dr. William A. Wulf are chairman and vice chairman, respectively, of the National Research Council.
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Contents Preface vii Acknowledgments x Executive Summary 1 Four Key Questions, 2 The Proposed Strategic Education Research Program, 3 How This Plan Differs from Other Efforts, 5 How This Plan Relates to Other Efforts, 6 Why a Strategic Plan Is Needed, 7 Next Steps, 7 1 Can Research Serve the Needs of Education? 9 Education Reform and Education Research, 10 Education Reform: An American Passion, 10 The Role of Research, 11 Toward a Strategic Approach to Research, 14 Defining Strategic, 15 Benefits of a Strategic Plan, 16 How This Plan Relates to Other Efforts, 17 2 Focusing Our Efforts: Four Key Questions 21 Incorporating Research on Cognition, Learning, and Development into Educational Practice, 22 Teaching That Builds on Students' Prior Learning, 24 Teaching for Deep Understanding, 25 Effective Transfer of Knowledge to New Situations, 26 Building an Environment That Supports Learning, 27 Increasing Student Motivation and Engagement in Learning, 29 Expectations, Effort, and Performance, 31 Motivating by Design, 34 Understanding Student Disengagement from Learning, 35 Motivation and Learning, 37 Transforming Schools and School Districts for Continuous Improvement, 38
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Promoting the Use of Education Research to Improve Student Learning, 42 Use of Research for Policy, 44 Use of Research for Practice, 45 A Collaborative Approach to Research, 46 Coda, 47 "Every Child Can Learn," 47 The Challenge of Schools and School Districts with Diverse and Disadvantaged Students, 47 3 Getting Answers: Designing a Strategic Research Program 49 A New Model for Education Research, 50 The SERP Networks, 53 Core Components, 54 Network Strategic Plans, 54 Network Activities, 56 Relation to Other Programs, 58 Governance, 59 Host Organization, 60 SERP Governing Board, 60 Time Frame, 63 Next Steps, 63 References 67
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Preface It has been my good fortune to chair the National Research Council (NRC) for the last 6 years. The NRC is the operating arm of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine—four nongovernmental organizations that are collectively referred to as the National Academies. The NRC focuses on harnessing the best science in order to improve the general welfare. At the request of the government, we carry out studies that cover an enormous variety of important issues—biodiversity, global warming, human nutritional requirements, health and behavior, and human learning to name a few. Many thousands of the nation's leading scientists, engineers, medical experts, policy experts, and practitioners contribute their time and knowledge to these projects every year. In nearly every study we do, we are building new collaborations across disciplines and professions, so as to bring the best resources to bear on important problems. Over the last decade, education has become a central element in the NRC program. In 1996, we completed a 4-year project to develop national standards for science education in the primary and secondary grades. Hundreds of scientists and educators were involved in developing these standards, and the draft standards were sent to 40,000 people for comment. At about the same time, we established a new Center for Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Education. In addition, our Commission on Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education has undertaken many important studies on issues in testing and assessment, education finance, preventing reading difficulties in young children, and human learning and educational practice. As I survey the work of the National Research Council, it is poignantly clear that research has not had the kind of impact on
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education that is visible in medical practice, space exploration, energy, and many other fields. My personal experience as a scientist who worked to improve science instruction in the San Francisco public elementary schools in the 1980s and early 1990s gave me a sense of how difficult and complicated it is to reform education. Over the past 6 years of my presidency, my conversations with educators, reform leaders, and researchers in virtually every part of the country have convinced me that even the most successful innovations will fail to take root and spread—unless the reform dynamic changes substantially. This small book has a very big ambition: to increase the usefulness and relevance of research to educational practice. The report outlines a highly focused program of research designed to support improved student learning, proposing a new model—drawn in part from the MacArthur Foundation research networks—for carrying out that research. Most significantly, this Strategic Education Research Program (SERP) calls for a new kind of collaboration that will respect and involve not only the many scientific disciplines that have something to contribute to education, but also those individuals who understand education from the inside: teachers, administrators, and policy makers. The idea for this Strategic Education Research Program came from a very unlikely source: highway research. In the 1980s, highway research had very little impact on the construction and repair of the nation's highways and roads. The research that was done was disconnected from the needs of the practitioners—those who build highways. As a result, state agencies saw each dollar spent on research as one dollar less for badly needed construction, as did the construction industry. And yet the nation's roads were poorly built. The NRC undertook a study to see if the disparate interests could unite to support a research agenda of great practical importance. As a consequence of that study, Congress enacted a 10-year, $150 million Strategic Highway Research Program (SHRP) in 1985. The SHRP was administered by the NRC's Transportation Research Board, and it brought the research, policy, and practice communities together in a concerted effort that all could support. By the time it ended, SHRP had not only produced results that were widely recognized as useful, it had also created stronger links among the research, policy, and practice communities. What do U.S. highways and education have in common? Both are administered by the states. Both involve a large public
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investment. Both badly need research that speaks to the needs of everyday practice. There are obvious limits to the analogy, but the success of SHRP led us to wonder if a similar effort could propel a widespread process of education reform. The presidents of the National Academies underwrote this project to explore the feasibility of mounting a strategic program of research in education. I joined the group of educators, policy experts, and researchers who undertook the study at many of their meetings. We think we have a powerful idea and at least the beginnings of a plan. But such a large research effort and the new kinds of collaborations it will require are unlikely to spring fully formed from the work of one committee. It is now time to engage in a larger conversation among educators, policy makers, and researchers—as well as with the public- and private-sector organizations that are the SERP's likely sponsors. On behalf of the National Academies, I invite all interested parties to join in a year of public dialogue concerning a Strategic Education Research Program. How can we best work together to build a science of education that optimizes the potential of students, teachers, and schools—creating a practice of education that continually improves as it incorporates the best available knowledge about learning and teaching for all kinds of children? Knowing that there is no more important question for the future of our nation, I hope that this report will catalyze new partnerships and major new investments in education to provide the badly needed answers. BRUCE ALBERTS PRESIDENT, NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES CHAIR, NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL
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Acknowledgments This report has been reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise, in accordance with procedures approved by the Report Review Committee of the National Research Council. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the institution in making the published report as sound as possible and to ensure that the report meets institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process. We thank the following individuals for their participation in the review of this report: Christopher Cross, Council for Basic Education, Washington, D.C.; Jay W. Forrester, Sloan School of Management, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Timothy H. Goldsmith, Department of Biology, Yale University; Paul Goren, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Chicago, Ill.; Donald Kennedy, Institute for International Studies, Stanford University; Michael W. Kirst, School of Education, Stanford University; Gardner Lindzey, Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, Stanford, Calif.; Lorraine McDonnell, Department of Political Science, University of California, Santa Barbara; and William Morrill, Mathtech, Inc., Princeton, N.J. Although the individuals listed above have provided constructive comments and suggestions, it must be emphasized that responsibility for the final content of this report rests entirely with the authoring committee and the institution.
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