Archive for the 'Research' Category

Brit neuroscientists ding learning styles

In a March 2017 letter to the Guardian, a group of prominent neuroscientists from Great Britain argued expressly against basing instruction on learning styles. They contended that not only are there too many so-called styles to form a coherent framework for guiding instruction and not only is there little evidence supporting benefits from teaching according to learning styles, but also, using resources to follow learning-styles approaches wastes valuable instruction time. Here’s a link to the original letter and another link to an accompanying article by Sally Weale. Continue reading ‘Brit neuroscientists ding learning styles’

Slavin on Shanker, professionalism, and evidence

Over on the Huffington Post blog, in a fine remembrance of the founder of the American Federation of Teachers, Bob Slavin reminded readers that Al Shanker championed both professionalism and evidence.

Back in the day, I knew Al Shanker, the founder of the American Federation of Teachers. No one has ever been more of an advocate for teachers’ rights – or for their professionalism. At the same time, no one was more of an advocate for evidence as a basis for teaching. He saw no conflict between evidence-based teaching and professionalism. In fact, he saw them as complementary.

Professor Slavin continues his remembrance with sage argument about the importance of teachers embracing evidence-based practices. Ultimately he cited the value of Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) evidence standards.

I applaud Professor Slavin’s argument and amplify it with an additional call for educators not only to embrace evidence-based practices, but to do even more. As professionals, we educators have a duty to

  • Identify evidence-based practices that have the strongest effects. Some evidence-based practices are more effective than others (in fact, Professor Slavin has been among the leaders in helping refine research methods to compare instructional practices). Professionals need to know how to find those practices.
  • Implement evidence-based practices with fidelity (see Cook & Odom, 2013). Having a great recipe for a soufflé is no guarantee that one will serve a gourmet dish; one has to use the right ingredients and execute the steps in preparing it, as well. That’s a big part of professionalism.
  • Monitor the effects of programs on individual students and groups of students so that, when needed, adjustments can be made. It is inevitable that evidence-based practices will move too slowly or rapidly for some learners. Professionals need to adjust instruction for them. These adjustments should, of course, employ evidence-based practices. See this post for an illustration.

There may be other important relationships between professionalism in education and evidence-based practices. Readers are welcome to suggest them in comments.

Cook, B. G., & Odom, S. L. (2013). Evidence-based practices and implementation science in special education. Exceptional Children, 79, 135-144. doi: 10.1177/001440291307900201

You want evidence-based teaching practices?

In “How to Improve Student Learning in Every Classroom Now,” Janet Twyman and Bill Heward (in press) published excellent descriptions of effective practices, complete with descriptions, examples, links, and more. If you follow Teach Effectively, you'll be familiar with the practices they describe, but their article brings them together in one clear summary. Here's their abstract:

This paper is our attempt to help any of the world’s 60 million teachers who ask, “What can I do right now to improve learning in my classroom?” We describe three easy-to-use teaching tactics derived from applied behavior analysis that consistently yield measurably superior learning outcomes. Each tactic is applicable across curriculum content and students’ age and skill levels. Considerations for using digital tools to support and extend these “low-tech” tactics are also discussed.

Oh, about that evidence stuff: They provide plenty of references to solid research.

Twyman, J. S., & Heward, W. L. (in press). How to improve student learning in every classroom now. International Journal of Educationa Research. doi:10.1016/j.ijer.2016.05.007

Teach reading effectively

head-and-shoulders shot snagged from video
K. Hempenstall

Professor Kerry Hempenstall wrote a literature review on teaching reading for Australia’s Centre for Independent Studies. It is an excellent resource, because it is true to the scientific evidence, but it is written in a way that is accessible to lay readers.

Parents, teachers, administrators, and interested others: You don’t have to put up with the statistics-ese and mumbo-jargon that we researchers often use when discussing scientific evidence. In Read About It:
Scientific Evidence for Effective Teaching of Reading
, Professor Hempenstall clearly explains the five fundamental features of reading competence and how to foster them in learners. Down load a copy of this excellent PDF or follow this link to learn how to purchase a hard copy.

Does monitoring progress help?

Does it actually help to monitor students’ progress and adjust instruction on the basis of how they are doing? Deborah Simmons and her colleagues provided compelling evidence that, within a tier-2 implementation of the Early Reading Intervention (ERI) program at the Kindergarten level, it surely does.

Although it was published online earlier, in the May 2015 issue of Journal of Learning Disabilities, Professor Simmons and her team described a study in which they compared the reading performace of children for whom teachers had made adjustments in the pacing of instruction, either providing additional practice on lessons or skipping lessons, to the reading performance of children who had not received the adjustments. The adjustments were based on frequent assessments of students’ progress through the ERI program.

Simmons Figure 2

Among the children who received the adjustment, they identified four different groups. The graphic at the right, taken from Simmons et al. (2015) Figure 2, depicts the four groups, as described in the following list.

Continue reading ‘Does monitoring progress help?’

Yet another plea to consider instruction

I am a presenter at the conference of the Division of International Special Education and Services (DISES) of the Council for Exceptional Children in Braga, Portugal, on 15 July 2014. There are a lot of people here who will be, in keeping with the conference theme of “Embracing Inclusive Approaches,” talking a lot about where special education happens.

In many ways, on the international scene, simply having students with disabilities included—as in not excluded from—education is important. As faithful readers will know, I think it’s great to include students with disabilities, but I think that what happens with them when they’re included is incredibly important. The instruction that occurs in schools is critical. Why send them to school to be defeated by lousy instruction? This is especially true for students with high-incidence disabilities when being “included” very often plays out as meaning being assigned to a regular or general education setting full time.

So I’m talking about including science about effective teaching…just taking the opportunity to enter another plea for teaching effectively. A PDF copy of my slide deck and a couple of pages of the references to which I refer are available.

CEC standards for evidence-based practice

The Council for Exceptional Children released a document providing guidance for identifying evidence-based practices in special education on 23 January 2014. Developed by a work group composed of leaders from the Division for Research—Bryan Cook (chair), Viriginia Buysse, Janette Klingner, Tim Landrum, Robin McWilliam, Melody Tankersley, and Dave Test—and aimed at serving groups or individuals who understand educational research design and methods, the standards provide a means for categorizing practices as (a) evidence-based, (b) potentially evidence-based, (c) mixed evidence, (d) insufficient evidence, or (e) negative evidence. To make these determinations, groups or individuals will need to apply quality indicators, which the document also identifies to studies, to ascertain the extent to which individual studies are methodologically sound.
Continue reading ‘CEC standards for evidence-based practice’

Teaching computer coding

A well-resourced effort to promote instruction in coding has been underway since about 2011 or so (my guess about when I first heard of it?). In December 2013 it’s slated to hit a big crescendo, the hour of coding. The effort is founded on the growing importance of computer science in contemporary science, and it features many recognizable people from many different walks of life in the pitch. Check it out.

Now, however, help me with this question, please. What do we know about effective instruction in teaching students about technology? Much? How about the relative effectiveness of different ways of teaching coding (i.e., programming)? I’ve not researched the literature on this matter. I hope the folks at have.

I like the idea of helping students become proficient users and producers of technology…a lot…a heckuva lot! Let’s do it effectively.

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