Identifying gaps. Gaps in current research can be identified by considering questions that could be (but have not been) asked about elements and relationships within the Framework. By highlighting where research attention has been most and least focused, the Framework can help researchers—and sponsors of research—target issues and areas of concern that merit more study.
As noted earlier, relatively few studies have investigated the relationships among professional development, teacher knowledge, instructional practice, and student achievement, either generally or with regard to national standards (Kennedy, 1998; Wilson and Berne, 1999). This paucity of studies regarding potentially important avenues for standards to reach classroom practice and student learning may signal a need to fill the gap.
Even, in areas where substantial numbers of studies have been completed, the Framework can highlight additional questions not yet extensively posed or answered. For example, a nagging concern within the broader standards-based reform movement regarding the equitable distribution of standards-based practice and equitable accountability systems (McKeon, Dianda, and McLaren, 2001) suggests an aspect of the story about the influence of national standards that may deserve greater attention. The relevant question in the Framework—Who is affected and how?—encourages researchers to explore possible differential effects of standards within diverse student populations and settings, while taking into account the varied capacities of teachers, schools, and districts to engage in standards-based practice.
Other examples can be readily envisioned. One important advance in cumulative understanding of nationally developed standards in mathematics, science, and technology education would be to assemble and map current knowledge using the Framework so that gaps and opportunities for further study emerge.