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Learning and Instruction: A SERP Research Agenda
subject areas inform each others’ work. Indeed, a good deal of the value added by a SERP organization is the opportunity created for the accumulation of knowledge, and the coordination of research protocols and data collection efforts across subjects that will make that accumulation possible.
Among the many cross-cutting issues, assessment deserves specific mention at the outset. The development of effective measures of the outcomes of learning and instruction is critical to producing high-quality evidence that can support the work of practitioners, policy makers, and researchers. Without an initial investment in developing reliable measures, even good-quality research leaves critical issues unresolved. Different assessments may show different instructional approaches to be beneficial, and often none of the assessment instruments is designed to fully capture the range of competences that are the desired outcome of instruction. Appendix A describes the nature of the work that in the committee’s view needs to be done in the area of assessment research, development, and testing.
In the agenda described below, then, both cross-cutting and subject-specific topics are integrated into a program of research designed to support educational practice in the specific subjects targeted. The schematic questions posed in Table 1.1 provide a starting point for evaluating what is known currently that can support effective practice and where the research and development foundation is weak. We portray learning as a journey, using a travel metaphor to illuminate certain features of the schematic questions. Planning the trip requires first that one is clear about the destination, although it may change for a variety of reasons. There are multiple routes to get from a departure point to a destination, but routes will differ in the opportunities they afford for interesting experiences along the way, as well as in their efficiency at reaching the endpoint. Yet to reach the destination, the directional options are constrained, and there are likely to be critical points (passes) through which the path must lead. As with the route, there is no single vehicle required for a journey, but some work far better than others over a particular terrain. Finally, the challenge of monitoring progress is very different for different journeys. When a route is well marked, it can be a simple effort to clock the miles; but when the area is poorly mapped, frequent assessment and course correction are critical. For any subject matter taught, one can assess the quality of the research base by the knowledge it provides to