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6 Summary of a Research Agenda American research funding traditions appropriately emphasize multiple sponsors and multiple agendas. We believe those traditions will continue to serve the nation well. Within that framework of variety, we commend a research agenda focused on the amount of time devoted to active teaching and learning of reasoning skills--called "quality learning time. in our report. Learning to reason is central to learning mathematics, science, and technology. We contrast reasoning with recalling facts in essentially the same form as they were learned. Reasoning involves making inferences from organized facts or using them to solve problems. It includes the ability to apply scientific concepts use- fully. Understanding how to increase the amount of quality time devoted to learning to reason is a primary objective of this research agenda. Quality learning time affects the development of reasoning ability through basic psychological processes occurring within the context of lessons. The learning of concepts or skills from lessons is mediated by instruc- tors, peers, curricula, and equipment in a learning situation. Learning situations, in turn, are embedded in larger contexts of schools, school systems, families, social norms, communication systems, and political institutions. Understanding the ways in which students learn, or fail to learn, mathematics, science, and technology involves an appreciation of how these factors and their nested interactions affect quality time devoted to learning to reason. Within such a perspective, the agenda recommended here includes four separable, but closely related, categories of research: ~1
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52 Research on the development of reasoning; Research that facilitates increasing the amount of quality learning time through better instruction; Research that facilitates increasing the amount of quality learning time through better settings for learning; and Research that facilitates increasing the amount of quality learning time through the development of new learning systems. . Separating the agenda into these categories has the advantage of identifying relatively coherent clusters of possible research, tapping relatively clear disciplinary strengths and traditions. It has the potential disadvan- tage of underestimating the linkages among the clusters, and of research that explores those linkages. Education involves a complex combination of experiences and institu- tions interacting over relatively long periods of time. A thorough understanding of how children learn or fail to learn to reason will require fundamental research that involves the highest order of both disciplinary and interdisciplinary research skills. It is also clear that each of these research cate- gories includes projects that range from research that is unambiguously basic to research that is equally unambigu- ously developmental. Historically, the understanding and improvement of education through research has confounded simple distinctions. Basic research feeds applications, and experience with applications has generated material for the most fundamental research. RESEARCH ON REASONING A major research challenge is to understand better the dynamic process through which reasoning skills are acquired, the relation between domain-specific knowledge and general skills of thinking and reasoning, and the possibilities for precise learning interventions in the development of such skills. Specifically, the committee recommends: . Research on how competence in reasoning skills i acquired, including: -- the mechanisms of reasoning skills, particularly as evidenced in the differences between novice and experienced learners;
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~3 . the dynamic processes -through which reasoning skills are acquired in the context of specific domains of knowledge; and the scientific reasoning skills of children. Research on reasoning in particular disciplines, aimed at understanding how abilities to make inferences, to reason, and to generate new information can be fostered by ensuring contact with prior knowledge that can be restructured and further developed as learning takes place. Focused research on self-regulatory or metacog- nitive capabilities--what they are, how they develop, and how learners can be helped to acquire them. Systematic tracking of outcomes resulting from efforts to teach generalized thinking and reasoning skills. RESEARCH ON INSTRUCTION The development of practical procedures for the acquisition of reasoning skills in mathematics, science, and technology requires an understanding of instruction. This includes attention to the capabilities and motiva- tions of teachers, to alternative modes of instruction and materials, and to the effective assessment of the outcomes of instruction. Specifically, The committee recommends: A research program to develop improved understanding of: the response to various monetary incentives designed to attract able individuals to mathematics and science teaching and keep them in these fields; how to improve the subject-matter education of both pre- and inservice teachers, including optimal volume and pace of subject-matter coverage in different sciences and experiences that develop and enhance abstract reasoning capacity; and the effects of alternative requirements for entering and being certified in the profession, particularly with respect to developing an adequate pool of teachers competent to teach mathematics and science.
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54 The development of a national data base on teacher preparation and qualifications suffici- ently detailed and appropriately stratified to reflect conditions in different types of school districts and for varying student populations. Research on how societal pressures, school organization, and educational policies affect teacher effort. Research directed toward effective instructional strategies based on explorations of: the design of pedagogical theories that students can test, evaluate, and modify; the techniques of ingenious teachers who are able to devise such temporary models or pedagogical theories; and the design of intelligent computer-assisted instruction that incorporates interrogation and exploration. · Research targeted at: providing characterizations of the cognitive skills and knowledge needed for understanding of and successful performance in techno- logical systems; based on such characterizations, development of usable school curricula in computer literacy; and investigating the effects of computers on the knowledge structure of mathematics and various sciences and the implied changes for the school curriculum. . Research on the importance of curricular orientation and context to learning, including: how important tasks can be embedded in contexts that reduce the tome needed for learning; under what circumstances and in what ways activity systems using physical objects and "real. events (whether hands-on experience, models based on systematic laws, or story lines that mirror common experiences) can be used to enhance learning; and what makes theory-oriented instruction work, especially with individuals from some minority groups and women generally said to require a more pragmatic, utilitarian approach.
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55 . A concerted research effort on how educational curricula and materials are created, their content, and how they're used, specifically, on -- whether and how the treatment of substantive content in current textbooks and software supports the learning of reasoning, thinking, and problem-solving skills as well as lower-order recall and memorization tasks; the exploration of new content areas within various fields and at various grade levels that might be productive additions to promoting higher-order skills; the abilities, skills, and perspectives of those who write textbooks and software (for example, to what extent do they understand the importance of curricular context?) and the means for attracting better prepared individuals to those fields; the development of consensus on appropriate subgoals, content, and sequencing by grade level to facilitate greater emphasis on higher-order skills; the effects of state approval processes on content issues; and further studies on the relation between what is tested and what is included in textbooks and software and between the intended and the implemented curriculum. · Research on: __ __ __ __ the development of practical tests that reliably assess reasoning ability, perhaps using interactive testing made possible by microcomputers; improving the testing of mathematics and science achievement to reflect important instructional goals and objectives; and techniques for educating teachers to become better writers of test questions, particu- larly of questions that test for the higher-order intellectual skills and levels of learning. RESEARCH ON SETTINGS Formal instruction takes place in classrooms, but classrooms are not isolated from the rest of society.
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56 Classrooms are subject to school policies, explicit and implicit educational goals, and the mundane realities of making a school run. Schools, in turn, are shaped by the social and political context in which they operate. More- over, schools are not the only settings for learning. Children and teachers come to class shaped by their homes and by informal learning and relations outside school. Thus, a research program directed to augmenting quality time devoted to learning to reason must include attention to the social settings of instruction. Specifically, the committee recommends: . Research on how to make student activity groups successful in multiethnic classrooms for a range of mathematics and science tasks, including: improved understanding of the ideological and pragmatic reasons teachers group their students by ability and prefer teacher-led groups to cooperative student-led groups; investigating systemic factors relating to societal and institutional pressures on schools and teachers to arrange their classrooms and instruction so as to produce easily measurable performance results; and developing kinds of teacher training that facilitate widespread adoption of activity- centered curricula when this approach is appropriate. o Research and development: __ __ to explore the relationships among the cultures of various student subpopulations, the culture of the classroom, and the cultures of mathematics, science, and technology and to understand the role of language and culture in the teaching of science and mathematics. Research on the effects of the policy-making system on learning experiences in the classroom, particularly those related to the teaching and learning of higher-order skills, including: the effects of federal, state, and local district policies and procedures; the understandings that teachers and administrators have of goals proclaimed at the national and state levels; and
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57 the decision-making processes of classroom teachers regarding the amount of time spent on and emphasis given to various aspects of the curriculum. . . . More focused research on the extent to which the conditions for specific changes exist in educational institutions, including: loci for change and how they vary in different schools; how curricular and instructional changes are related to specific conditions; and special attention to the processes of change involved in the introduction and use of computers and information technology in schools. · Research on factors associated with the home that bear on mathematics, science, and technology education, including: identification of critical variables and development of a theoretical framework that relates them to different types of learning outcomes; disaggregating effects for different segments of the student population, e.g., by age, ability, ethnic group, and type of school district; and studies that distinguish factors associated with the home from those in the wider community (e.g., influences of peers, neighborhoods, mass media) but examine their interactions and joint effects on learning. Research on the effects of various nonschool instructors on children's knowledge and perceptions of mathematics, science, and technology, including: the effects of intentionally educational programs provided outside school and unintentional learning or mislearning acquired through science fiction and other entertainment programming through the mass media, especially television, film, and print; Research to determine how the effects of instruction that children receive in the school are influenced by the informal instruction they receive in the larger world.
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58 RESEARCH ON NEW LEARNING SYSTEMS The committee believes that modern computers and tele- communications provide an opportunity for a significant increase in the amount of effective learning time devoted to mathematics, science, and technology education if properly used. Since there is evidence that improper use aggravates, rather than relieves, disparities among groups in the society in their knowledge about mathematics, science, and technology, a substantial research effort both to develop information technology as an instrument of learning and to ensure that it contributes to reducing reasoning disabilities throughout the population is essential. Specifically, the committee recommends: · A systematic program for the development of pilot . . . educational systems using computers to create microworlds and tutoring strategies that engage learners in science- and mathematics-linked tasks and thereby advance both The acquisition of knowledge and the learning of reasoning and problem-solving skills. Research on how to create "hardy" varieties of activity-based instructional systems for mathematics and science education so that they will be taken up and institutionalized in a wide variety of school systems. Research designed to exploit the potential and discover the limitations of various forms of after-school activity centers through the development and evaluation of several pilot models. Sophisticated systems analysis on how to create mixed institutional systems for mathematics and science education that are sustained rather than diminished by bureaucratic and social structures. Design of appropriate models for education analogous to systems design and engineering institutions in other fields that would use an integrative systems approach in applying research and development to educational improvement. Characteristics seen as essential to the integrative function include: -- strong interdisciplinary teams to design, develop, and test comprehensive teaching and learning models in science and mathematics;
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59 extension of successful experiments and findings arising from local school operations; evaluation of new educational models in the reality of the classroom and development of effective implementation strategies; and an efficient communications network linking administrators, teachers, university faculty, book publishers, and public bodies to important findings and developments. As a necessary first step, we recommend that the Department of Education, in concert with the National Science Foundation, convene a task force or similar group to think through the best means for carrying out the integrative and systems design function that is missing in current efforts to improve education, including consideration of such issues as organization, staffing, budgets, and linkages to other institutions. The research agenda outlined in this report builds on what is already known to suggest basic, applied, and developmental research that will advance the capabilities of American society to increase scientific knowledge among Americans and reduce disparities in knowledge among groups within the country. m e task we propose is not a small one. It demands substantial commitment, not only on the part of the society through its political repre- sentatives, but also on the part of the research commun- ity. This committee believes that such a commitment is possible. We also believe it is essential. We think that investment in educational research and development is vital to mathematics, science, and tech- nology education; we think that more is known about education than is currently being utilized effectively, either in research planning or in educational programs; we think that the research community can respond to a coherent, relatively focused research agenda that will make a difference; and we think that the educational community can improve education by more effective integration of research and professional experience.
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Representative terms from entire chapter: