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6
Recommendations

In this chapter, we gather together and present the board’s recommendations on three types of international comparative education studies, categorized according to their initial, primary purpose:

  • Type I studies typically include large-scale surveys that aim to compare educational outcomes at various levels in two or more countries.

  • Type II studies are designed to inform one or more particular U.S. education policies by studying specific topics relevant to those policies and their implementation in other countries.

  • Type III studies are not designed to make direct comparisons between the United States and other countries in terms of specific policies or educational outcomes. Rather, they aim to further understanding of educational processes in different cultural and national contexts.

Recommendation 1: Funding for international comparative education research should reflect a balance among the three types of international comparative education studies and should encompass a broad array of methodologies, scales, purposes, and topics. Specifically, the United States should increase investments in studies that focus on understanding the education experiences of other countries in their own context (Type II and III), to provide a broader context for U.S. experiences and efforts to innovate (Chapter 2).

Recommendation 1.1: U.S. funders should foster closer links among practitioners and researchers so that both participate in the formulation and



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Understanding Others, Educating Ourselves: Getting More from International Comparative Studies in Education 6 Recommendations In this chapter, we gather together and present the board’s recommendations on three types of international comparative education studies, categorized according to their initial, primary purpose: Type I studies typically include large-scale surveys that aim to compare educational outcomes at various levels in two or more countries. Type II studies are designed to inform one or more particular U.S. education policies by studying specific topics relevant to those policies and their implementation in other countries. Type III studies are not designed to make direct comparisons between the United States and other countries in terms of specific policies or educational outcomes. Rather, they aim to further understanding of educational processes in different cultural and national contexts. Recommendation 1: Funding for international comparative education research should reflect a balance among the three types of international comparative education studies and should encompass a broad array of methodologies, scales, purposes, and topics. Specifically, the United States should increase investments in studies that focus on understanding the education experiences of other countries in their own context (Type II and III), to provide a broader context for U.S. experiences and efforts to innovate (Chapter 2). Recommendation 1.1: U.S. funders should foster closer links among practitioners and researchers so that both participate in the formulation and

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Understanding Others, Educating Ourselves: Getting More from International Comparative Studies in Education conduct of research, and both take responsibility for creating effective ways to use international education research. Recommendation 1.2: U.S. funders should routinely support international components in domestic (state, local, and national) education policy and practice studies that draw on experiences in other countries. Recommendation 1.3: U.S. funders should evaluate proposals for qualitative or historical studies and for quantitative studies by somewhat different criteria, conforming to fundamental principles of sound research for both and accommodating the different canons of systematic inquiry and different warrants for generalization in each discipline. Recommendation 1.4: U.S. funders should encourage multicomponent research studies with longer time horizons, using a variety of qualitative and quantitative methodologies. Recommendation 2: The United States should conduct systematic analyses of costs of the expensive Type I and II studies (including financial cost, respondent or participant burden, accommodating design shortcomings, etc.) and benefits (services received, information provided, topics studies, etc.) so that a more complete picture of impact can inform future program and funding decisions. These analyses should be “internationally comparative” in that they compare impact in the United States with impact from the same or similar studies in other countries (Chapter 3). Recommendation 2.1: U.S. funders should move away from piecemeal, ad hoc support of international studies, and toward incorporating explicit considerations of relative cost, benefit, and impact in both the planning and the proposal review processes. Recommendation 2.2: U.S. funders should give highest priority, of all the possible impact studies that might be undertaken, to an impact analysis of TIMSS 1995. This analysis should address TIMSS in terms of (a) its efforts to serve as both an indicator and a research study and (b) its impact on the U.S. education system. Recommendation 2.3: U.S. funders should support reviews of the impact of different study methodologies on different audiences. Recommendation 2.4: U.S. funders should support reviews of the impact of ongoing and completed international comparative studies on the practice of education on a planned and continuing basis to determine how effects can be enhanced. Recommendation 3: On a continuing basis, the federal government should plan, coordinate, monitor, and modify studies in the

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Understanding Others, Educating Ourselves: Getting More from International Comparative Studies in Education government’s portfolio of international comparative education research (Chapter 4). Recommendation 3.1: The U.S. government should support a broadly knowledgeable body, independent of both the funders and study designers, to oversee coordination of complex and competing large-scale studies. Recommendation 3.2: U.S. government sponsors should establish the purposes to be served by each component of individual studies, so that single studies will not be asked to do too much and so that expectations are clear regarding the study’s potential to inform policy, produce databases appropriate for different types of primary and secondary analysis, and serve other specific functions. Recommendation 3.3: U.S. government sponsors should avoid duplication of studies that create unnecessary costs and demand too much time from respondents. Recommendation 3.4: U.S. government contractors and grantees should provide rapid release of quantitative data and codebooks, curriculum guides, and study artifacts from all types of studies. Federal sponsors shall assure that these materials are archived in such a way that, to the extent possible, scholars have opportunities to reanalyze primary data, and that archives are kept open and available for a decade or more. Recommendation 3.5: U.S. government sponsors should set aside funding for data analysis by state and local district participants in future international benchmarking projects. Recommendation 4: The U.S. agenda for international comparative studies in education should include a prominent place for interpretive analyses that aim to enhance public understanding of education in other countries (Chapter 4). Recommendation 4.1: Analysis plans should be developed as part of study plans so that the sampling plan, the construction and inclusion variables, and links with other datasets will support these uses. Recommendation 4.2: U.S. funders should support analyses from multiple perspectives as soon as possible after data have been collected so that the public can be exposed to a range of perspectives and interpretations, some complementary (addressing differing questions) and some competing (addressing similar or the same questions). Recommendation 4.3: Special activities, publications, and other media should be planned to showcase the results of international studies in formats that are intelligible and engaging for practitioners, the public, and policy makers, and, when necessary, producing reports individually targeted to just one of these audiences.

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Understanding Others, Educating Ourselves: Getting More from International Comparative Studies in Education Recommendation 5: The federal government should create a broadly participatory infrastructure to plan and conduct its international comparative education studies (Chapter 5). Recommendation 5.1: Although no single federal office can encompass all the responsibilities entailed in building up international comparative studies in education in the U.S. government, the U.S. Department of Education should take the lead in developing a distinct program of international comparative education research studies for the U.S. government. Recommendation 5.2: In efforts to create a more balanced portfolio of education research, additional funding for international comparative education studies should not be approached as a zero-sum game, with increases for international coming only at the expense of domestic, nor with increases for Type II and III studies coming only at the expense of Type I studies. Recommendation 5.3: Funding agencies, both governmental and nongovernmental, must take the lead in encouraging the next stage of international comparative studies, which go beyond generating high-quality education indicators and correlations, to basic education research and comparative social science. Recommendation 5.4: Additional funding for the secondary analyses of international comparative education surveys and cross-national syntheses of important topics should be used to attract a critical mass of scholars to these relatively neglected areas. Similarly, long-term investments are needed to encourage a critical mass of education scholars to develop geographical expertise in the full range of regions, countries, and research methodologies. Recommendation 5.5: U.S. funders should support all stages of academic development for international comparative education scholars and encourage foreign scholars to study the U.S. education system.