Studies, research papers, doctoral dissertations, conference presentations - each year academia churns out thousands of pieces of research on education. And for many of them, that's the end of it. They gather dust in the university library or languish in some forgotten corner of the Internet.
A few, though, find their way into the hands of teachers, principals and policymakers. Each year the American Educational Research Association - a 99-year-old national research society - puts out a list of its 10 most-read articles.
We've looked over that list and compiled a summary of some of what we learned from the ivory tower in 2014.
1) What's The Best Way To Teach Math To Struggling First-Graders? The Old-Fashioned Way
Math teachers will often try to get creative with their lesson plans if their students are struggling to grasp concepts. But 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.
The researchers from the University of California, Irvineand Penn State examined more than 13,000 first-grade math students in 1,300 schools nationally.
They found that first-graders who scored in the bottom 15 percent on math tests were more often subject to activities that have no evidence of fostering retention or improving performance. For example, teachers with lots of struggling students often sought to liven up their lessons by adding movement or music. But the researchers found little evidence that those methods worked.
Instead, they found that the only activity associated with gains in performance on an adaptive, untimed, one-one-one administered test is what we think of as traditional instruction. Namely, a teacher demonstrating how to solve a problem, followed by repeated opportunities for students to work by themselves, replicating the procedure with worksheets and drills.
These results run contrary to some interpretations of the Common Core, where students collaborate, talk through a problem and dissect the different ways to reach a solution. The researchers found that while this kind of learning can work for some students, those already struggling in math failed to grasp concepts as easily as they did under more traditional lessons.
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