OVERARCHING THEMES

Adopting the perspective of use-inspired, strategic research and development focused on issues of learning and teaching is a powerful way to organize and justify the specific project areas described below. Five overarching themes can serve to guide our understanding of the change that is required to bridge research and practice more effectively. Three of these themes point to the consolidation of knowledge that would help link research and practice:

  1. Elaborate the messages in this volume at a level of detail that makes them usable to educators and policy makers. The findings presented in the preceding chapters and their implications need to be substantially elaborated and incorporated into curricula, instructional tools, and assessment tools before their impact will be felt in the classroom. It is not enough to know, for example, that subject-matter information must be tied to related concepts if deep understanding and transfer of learning are the goals. Teachers must recognize which particular concepts are most relevant for the subject matter that they teach. And they need curriculum materials that support the effort to link information with concepts. Similarly, policy makers need to know quite specifically how the principles presented herein relate to state standards. In this sense, the development aspect of the agenda is critical.

  2. Communicate the messages in this volume in the manner that is most effective for each of the audiences that influences educational practice. For teachers to teach differently and administrators and policy makers to support a different model of teaching, they need opportunities to learn about the recommended changes and to understand what they are designed to achieve. Research must be done on effective methods of communicating these ideas to teachers, administrators, and policy makers, each of whom have different information needs and different ways of learning. Similarly, teachers, administrators, and policy makers who participated in this study all emphasized that the public’s beliefs regarding education influence how they do their jobs. They recommended research aimed at effectively communicating key ideas from this volume to the public.

  3. Use the principles in this volume as a lens through which to evaluate existing education practices and policies. As discussed earlier, many existing school practices and policies are inconsistent with what is known about learning. But havens of exemplary educational practice have also been described. The education landscape is dotted with reform efforts and with institutes and centers that produce new ideas and new teaching



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