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In an increasingly data-driven and competitive society, the public demands results from the educational system. Therefore, for students to receive the best possible education, then instructional strategies, curriculum and classroom management systems must have proven track records, demonstrating sustained success. Teachers, administrators and staff members in every school understand the importance of academic achievement, and they acknowledge the importance of research-based approaches to accelerate learning and the implementation of new ideas.

What Is “Research-Based?”

According to the U.S. Department of Education (DOE), scientifically based research “gathers information about significant questions, uses objective methods of observation and applies rigorous, systematic, and objective procedures to evaluate whether a program is effective.” The DOE has identified the five qualities necessary to qualify for the “scientifically based research” label:

  1. The research begins with a significant question, addressing a core issue related to education.
  2. The methods and measurements used in scientifically based research are reliable and valid. Results are consistent. In addition, the research measures what it claims to measure.
  3. Scientifically based research conclusions are based on logic, not opinion or bias.
  4. Sound scientific research is subject to peer review or evaluation by others who have expertise in the field.
  5. Scientific research reports include adequate information that the results can be replicated to verify conclusions and extend the application.

Research-Based Instructional Strategies

The need for a common understanding and definition of “research-based instructional strategies” led Mid-Continent Research for Education and Learning to conduct scientific research on the issue. Educational researcher Robert Marzano, school consultant Debra Pickering and educator/researcher Jane Pollock all detailed the results of this research in their book, Classroom Instruction That Works.

The book identifies nine instructional strategies that would help teachers improve student achievement across all content areas and grade levels. The nine strategies discussed in the book can be grouped into three components of instruction:

  1. Creating the Environment for Learning
    • Setting objectives and providing feedback provides direction for learning, acknowledges student interest and investment, and encourages students to complete assignments.
    • Reinforcing effort and providing recognition demonstrates to students that effort, even without accomplishment, is worthy of recognition.
    • Cooperative learning results in positive effects on learning.
  2. Helping Students Develop Understanding
    • Cues, questions and advance organizers help students focus on what is important and prepare for learning.
    • Nonlinguistic representations — such as models, symbols and physical movement — may be used to represent information in ways that increase brain activity.
    • Summarizing and taking notes requires that students identify what is essential, recognize the structure in which information is presented and learn to paraphrase.
    • Homework and practice provides students with the opportunity to extend learning and become more independent.
  3. Helping Students Extend and Apply Knowledge
    • Identifying similarities and differences, as is accomplished with Venn diagrams and charts.
    • Generating and testing hypotheses reduces student dependence on teachers.

These instructional strategies, when consistently used in a timely manner, have been proven to make a difference in the academic achievement of students at all grade levels.

Research-Based Curriculum

Research-based strategies are methods implemented during instruction — or the way material is delivered to students. Curriculum is defined as the materials used and how the lesson is planned, designed and constructed. Evidence-based curriculum is another integral part of educational practices that promote reliable instruction practices and high student achievement.

According to The Wing Institute, when selecting curriculum to best meet the needs of students and teachers, these criteria must be met:

  • The scope and sequence of the materials align with grade-level standards and lead to increasing levels of difficulty.
  • Levels of competency are defined.
  • The curriculum allows for high rates of student response and provide for corrective, supportive feedback and remediation.
  • Formative assessments are specified and provided.

Importance of Research-Based Education

Medical professionals cannot ignore the sound conclusions of drug testing or successful surgical practices when dealing with patient concerns and illnesses. Likewise, professional architects must apply the foundational principles of engineering when creating a design and subsequent building plans. Just because an artistic mind can create the idea of a beautiful and innovative building does not mean that it will be fit to occupy.

The same is true for teachers. Despite the allure of seasonal or topical activities and units, teaching concepts and providing a positive learning environment can best be accomplished with a base of sound, research-based practices.

Determining what is sound and research-based, however, can be a complex process. Considering the easy access to online information that may or may not be credible, teachers must bear responsibility to seek out information and practices that are truly research-based. According to Keith E. Stanovich and Paula J. Stanovich from the University of Toronto, “[Teachers] need tools for evaluating the credibility of these many and varied sources of information; the ability to recognize research-based conclusions is especially important. Acquiring those tools means understanding scientific values and learning methods for making inferences from the research evidence that arises through the scientific process.”

Importance of Teacher Training

Experienced teachers interested in developing their ability to separate valid research from useless fads or gimmicks can find answers in the Mississippi College Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction program. One of the core courses required for graduation is Research — Methods and Procedures. This seven-week online course is described as “a survey of the basic research methodologies in the social and behavioral sciences with emphasis on critical reading of published research.”

There are no substitutes for research-based strategies and curriculum. Because student success is the goal of educators in every position and location, teachers are obligated to take the best information and present the best materials in every class and subject. As Stanovich and Stanovich state in their publication Using Research and Reason in Education: How Teachers Can Use Scientifically Based Research to Make Curricular & Instructional Decisions, “Researchers and educators are kindred spirits in their approach to knowledge, an important fact that can be used to forge a coalition to bring hard-won research knowledge to light in the classroom.”

Learn more about the Mississippi College online M.Ed. in Curriculum & Instruction program.

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